Here’s another question that’s almost always asked at any leadership interview at subject leader level or above.

“How do you manage somebody who is not performing in their job?”

Any leader or manager needs to have an approach to this situation. Before you get to a leadership position you need to know how to answer the question well at interview!


I like to start by saying how I know that the person is not doing their job:

  • Observation
  •  Keeping eyes and ears open
  •  Line management meetings
  •  Parents/student complaints (although ideally I’d know before then)


I then talk about my diagnosis, i.e. why aren’t they performing well – talk to them, other colleagues and consider their circumstances. I’ll then be in a position to decide whether this is a colleague who needs support, firm support or what I call ‘the bottom line’ which is “do your job, no reason for you not to do it so are you up to it or not”. I show as much understanding as possible but my job is to help the students and that’s the only reason to help the adults.


I then give an example. At the moment I’m firmly supporting my Head of Science. I know lessons weren’t quite right in Science, the modular results for Year 10 were lower than expected and there had been some complaints from students – mainly that they were bored and also that they didn’t know how to revise for their next module. All of this adds up to the Head of Department’s not keeping on top of her team.

I know she can do her job and that she knows what a good lesson looks like. I also know, because I make a point of keeping up with ‘gossip’, that things are going well at home so why isn’t she doing her job? Well part of the reason is because her job’s changed over the past year – timetabling and part-timers mean that her department has gone from managing 4 ½ people to managing 7. She doesn’t have any more admin/technician/second-in-charge of science time and yet somehow we’re both surprised that she’s not coping …….


Anyway that’s my example – I’d then go on to talk about trying to find innovative ways of supporting him or her (in our school the innovation involves spending the least amount of money possible).  I’ll do a seperate post about how I’m supporting our Head of Science.

The example you use can be something from your own experience of leadership, something you’ve observed or something you’ve heard about. The important thing is to be able to reflect – would you do anything differently, how successful the intervention was (and why) and the reasons it was so important to intervene in the first place (because the kids only get one chance). It’s also useful to show an understanding of how the same thing is almost guaranteed never to work twice because no two situations (people, school, managers) are the same.