If you’re starting your first management job here’s some good advice from former headteacher and Ofsted inspector, Kerrigan Redman

First management position?

Schools depend on recruiting new talent as they look for a manager / team leader who will bring new ideas and energy. This can have a rejuvenating effect as experience gained in other schools can be easily transferred.

It is likely you will be managing people who are older and more experienced than you and you may even have the school’s senior managers in your team. For a few weeks at least, you are going to find your new situation demanding, so here are some pointers to help you along the way.

Ask questions. It is much better to ask about routines, where things are and to solve problems, than make lots of little mistakes. Visit other departments and draw on the experiences of more experienced managers.

Talk to your team. Try to meet each team member on a one-to-one within the first couple of weeks. It will ubdoubtedly clog up your diary but it’s a valuable investment for the year ahead.

The first team meeting. Make it positive and upbeat. Share your vision but don’t frighten everybody! Try not to dwell on previous experience but focus on how your team is going to move forward together. Take along some cakes or biscuits.

Listen to gripes and groans from the team but stay neutral on controversial issues for the time being. Try not to make any promises and if it helps, find another angle on an issue from another source. Ask the team for their views and suggestions and don’t be tempted to take ownership of their good ideas! Don’t agree to anything for at least the first fortnight!

Empower your team members. If they have a good idea help them to put things in motion but don’t take over. Give them public credit for any successes and support them through the tough bits.

Challenge the status quo without being threatening. Demonstrate that you have good reasons for doing what you want to do.

Internal candidates. There may well be a person in your team who didn’t get the job you’ve ended up in. This can be a very difficult situation to manage, especially if others in the team support them and are resentful of you as the newcomer. The existing team may show loyalty to that person and fail to hide resentment that their friend and colleague wasn’t ‘valued’. Try to be honest and friendly and perhaps delegate an agreed project or area of responsibility to them so that you are working together rather than being at odds.

Network with parents, governors, other teaching and support staff and of course, the pupils! Learn names fast.

Lead by example. A bit of a cliche but true none the less. Set high standards of yourself and others.

Find a mentor, and reflect on your progress. Learn from your mistakes and be prepared to acknowledge them.

The challenge for the middle manager is to satisfy the conflicting demands of the team that they manage, and the senior managers from which other pressures are exerted. Loyalty has to lie with both although there will be times when you have to choose who to support over a difficult issue. Finally, keep things in perspective! Set aside sacrosanct time for yourself at home and limit the hours you spend trying to move things forward. Rome wasn’t built in a day! TEX.

This article first appeared in Teaching Expertise magazine, Issue 1 Autumn 2003.

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