Section 2: Establishing your professional needs print

Sun 5. Jun 16 13:32


School business managers fulfil complex and ever-changing roles. As such, they need to commit to their professional learning on an ongoing basis, and ensure that they remain up to date with policy developments and statutory requirements impacting on schools.

They also need to know themselves personally, to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and able to plan for their further professional development and the emerging challenges posed by the needs of their school.

This unit focuses on the personal and professional skills needed to lead and manage the business of the school.

Learning outcomes
On successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:

demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of key concepts and techniques related to professional self-assessment and development planning
apply that knowledge and understanding to the assessment of your own development needs and the preparation of plans to meet those needs
evaluate your strengths and development needs and reflect on personal learning
articulate your personal learning and construct professional development plans in an appropriate manner

Section One: Establishing your professional needs

This unit looks first at your personal skills and the way in which you learn and manage your time. These are skills which are central to the effective school business manager's role, particularly in terms of organising their work and sustaining their professional development. The first section of the SBM Competency Framework focuses on 'managing self and personal skills'.

There are four aspects of this competency area:

Managing own resources: this is about managing personal resources in order to achieve work objectives.
Maintaining CPD: this is about your career and personal goals and maintaining your continuous professional development.
Developing personal networks: this is about developing personal networks to support both your current and future work.
Maintaining professional values and ethics: this involves upholding the reputation of the profession of school business management, by raising its profile and being an exemplary role model.


2.1: Reviewing your personal skills
A good starting-point for evaluating yourself in this area is to conduct a simple review of your professional competence in 'managing self and personal skills'. Use the managing self and personal skills diagnostic (based on the SBM Competency Framework) to assess your current level of expertise and experience in relation to each of the four aspects of this. Use a 1–4 scale (low–high) to evaluate yourself again each of the indicators then aggregate the scores to gain a view of your level of competence in each of the four aspects.

The scoring mechanism is primarily designed to get you thinking about where you currently stand in relation to the four areas and help you identify any areas for further development.

Consider the following questions:

What have you identified as your key strengths in terms of your self-management and personal skills?
And your key areas for development?
Any initial thoughts on how you might practically go about developing those skills?

You will be able to draw on your written reflections and your findings from the diagnostic when you complete the second section of your professional learning portfolio.


Quadrant I
Represents things that are both urgent and important. Here's where we handle an irate client, meet a deadline, repair a broken-down machine, undergo heart surgery or help a crying child who has been hurt. We do need to spend time in Quadrant I – this is where we manage, where we produce, where we bring our experience and judgement to bear in responding to many needs and challenges. If we ignore it, we become buried alive. But we also need to realise that many important activities become urgent through procrastination or because we don't do enough in the way of prevention and planning. This is the Quadrant of Personal Leadership

Quadrant II
Includes activities that are important but not urgent. This is the Quadrant of Quality. Here's where we do our long-range planning, anticipate and prevent problems, empower others, broaden our minds and increase our skills through reading and continuous professional development, envision how we're going to help a struggling son or daughter, prepare for important meetings and presentations or invest in relationships through deep, honest listening. Increasing time spent in this Quadrant increases our ability to do. Ignoring this Quadrant feeds and enlarges Quadrant I – creating stress, burnout and deeper crisis for the person consumed by it. On the other hand, investing in this Quadrant shrinks Quadrant I. Planning, preparation and prevention keep many things from becoming urgent. Quadrant II does not act on us; we must act on it.

Quadrant III
Is almost the phantom of Quadrant I. It includes things that are urgent but not important. This is the Quadrant of Deception. The noise of urgency creates the illusion of importance but the actual activities, if they're important at all, are only important to someone else. Many phone calls, meetings and drop-in visitors fall into this category. We spend a lot of time in Quadrant III meeting other people's priorities and expectations, thinking we're really in Quadrant I.

Quadrant IV
Is reserved for those activities that are not urgent and not important. This is the Quadrant of Waste. Of course, we really shouldn't be here at all but we get so battle-scarred from being tossed around in Quadrants I and III that we often escape to Quadrant IV for survival. What kinds of things are in Quadrant IV? Not necessarily recreational things because recreation in the true sense of re-creation is a valuable Quadrant II activity but reading addictive light novels, habitually watching mindless television shows or gossiping around the water cooler would qualify as Quadrant IV time wasters. Quadrant IV is not survival; it's deterioration. It may have an initial candy-floss feel but we quickly find there's nothing there.

Note: The diagnostic 'The urgency addiction' has been removed to comply with copyright law. It was based on Stephen Covey's book 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People' (Covey, 1989).

You may wish to read this, or other works, that will help you to evaluate how effective you are in managing your time.

Analysing your learning styles
Throughout the programme you will experience different methods of learning. Some will feel more comfortable for you than others, but in order for you to operate effectively as a participant on the programme you need to understand your preferred learning style(s).

This knowledge can then be used to help you work to your strengths in terms of learning styles. It can also be used to recognise the importance of extending your skills in other approaches to learning. As a school business manager, much of your work involves collaboration and team-work with others; the ability to identify other people's preferred learning styles will also help you to work more effectively with them.

The learning styles diagnostic was developed Dr Peter Honey and Professor Alan Mumford in 1986; it is designed to help you to better understand the way you learn. This self-knowledge is very useful in helping you to make best use of your study time by focussing on the kinds of activities that will best suit your personal learning style. It will also help you to make sense of why some aspects of the programme are more enjoyable and more accessible to you than others.

This knowledge may also help you to make sense of why you find some parts of the programme particularly challenging. When you meet your colleagues at workshops and in online sessions you will discover the variety of learning styles that exist in your group. This means that different parts of the programme will suit some participants better than others but by working together, using your different strengths, you will be able to help each other more effectively with a better understanding of each other's learning styles.

Clearly, this is also applicable in your workplace. Usually when we try to explain something to someone else, we tend to do it from within the perspective of how we work best. If the other person's learning style is very different from your own, you may find that the communication fails in some way, for example, they may misunderstand what you want them to do or they may not respond as positively as you might like or expect. Often we put negative interpretations on this behaviour of others, without realising that it is not the other person's attitude, willingness or intelligence that is at fault but the nature of the communication which is failing to make a sufficiently effective connection with the way their brain works.

Understanding more about our own and other's learning styles can make our communications with each other much more effective as we learn to adapt our communications to the learning styles of those we are trying to communicate with rather than working within the framework of the way we ourselves work.


2.3: Analysing your learning style

To help you to identify your preferred learning style and the potential implications for working with others, complete the 'Learning styles diagnostic' (see 'Resources' below).

When you have completed this diagnostic, consider how your preferred learning style(s) may help or hinder you in your CSBM journey and, more importantly, how you work with your colleagues in the work place.

Learning Styles.doc

Section Two: Analysing your professional role

Your current and future responsibilities

This topic focuses more directly on your professional role and analyses different aspects of your contribution to the life and work of the school.

As a competent school business manager you will understand how to promote the progress of all students through the efficient management of the school's operations and resources in order to provide a safe, efficient and effective learning environment. In order for you to be able to operate effectively and further develop your skills, you need to understand your role in the school. This involves thinking about the scope of your current responsibilities and the ways in which you contribute to the life and work of the school.

This knowledge will help you target the key areas in which you would wish to develop your role and enhance your contribution further. This will then help you identify activities for further professional development, through discussion with your school mentor and/or other members of the leadership group. There are a number of stages to this, to help you build a systematic and objective analysis of your professional role and your scope for further development.

In bullet point or note form, provide a short review of your past, current and potential future professional position. Your job title, job description and number of years in post are relevant here; as is an overview of any major changes in your professional situation, in terms of hours worked, range of responsibilities, line management and position within the school's administrative and support structures. This can build on the work that you did for Unit 1 of this module.

You should reflect upon the contribution that you feel you have made to the present circumstances of the school as a whole. You should also review your options for further career development: that is, the ways in which you could seek to develop your role as school business manager, including any strategies for you to make progress. This is a somewhat more personal, as well as professional review, and there is great value to actually writing down some of the things that you may have often thought, but never put down in words.

A SWOT analysis is a useful tool that can help to define areas of strength and weaknesses, as well as identifying potential opportunities and threats to your professional/career development. You will note that the Strengths and Weaknesses sections will tend to focus on your personal and professional characteristics, whilst the Opportunities and Threats sections will tend to focus on the characteristics of the school as an organisation and other external factors.

To help you with your thinking, an example of a completed SWOT analysis is shown below.

Example SWOT


2.4: Completing a personal SWOT analysis of your professional role
Refer back to your reflections on your school setting, professional situation and career history to complete a personal SWOT analysis (a template is available for this in 'Resources' below). Identify areas of strength and weaknesses, as well as recording potential opportunities and threats to your professional/career development.

Some questions to consider:

What key strengths do you bring to your professional role?
And key weaknesses?
What opportunities for further development have you identified?
And the threats?


Leading and managing as an SBM

The business of the school, the organisation of its resources and the various services it provides, all have to be led and managed efficiently and effectively. This is increasingly the role of a school business manager, who has an overview of the various systems and services across the school and co-ordinates their delivery and development.

From this perspective, the SBM is a leader and a manager, as well as someone who directly administers these systems and services him/herself. To further develop your thinking with regard to your role in school business management, it is important to consider three dimensions of it: leadership, management and administration.

Note: A table which includes some key statements defining leadership and management has been removed to comply with copyright laws. It was drawn from 'The Intelligent School' by MacGilchrist, B et al (1997).

It is clear that leadership is primarily about the school's vision and values, and the way in which the leader builds commitment of key stakeholders to these.

Management is primarily about the school's structures and systems, and the way in which the manager plans for the future, builds the organisation and establishes clear systems and processes for others to use.

You will find that there is a great deal of literature about school leadership and rather less about school management. However, they are both vital components and should be seen as complementing one another.

The 'professional role analysis' enables you to analyse the current balanc
e between leadership, management and administrative roles within your work. This should also enable you to identify specific areas in which you could strengthen or extend your contribution to the school's leadership and management.


2.5: Professional role analysis
Complete the diagnostic 'Professional role analysis' (see 'Resources' below).

Compare the findings with your current job description. The shape of the diagram the analysis gives you indicates the balance of time you are spending on leadership, management and administrative activities.

Once you have completed the diagnostic, write a short reflection responding to the following questions:

What is the overall pattern in terms of your leadership, management and administrative roles?
Why have you placed yourself where you have? What is the evidence for your self-assessment?
Does your self-assessment match your current job description?
Do you feel the balance of time is appropriate for your role? If not, how would you wish to change it?
Does the self-assessment exercise enable you to identify some key areas for development? If so, what are they?


Section Three: The professional development plan

Putting together a professional development plan

All of the diagnostics and analyses you have encountered to this point in the module will provide you with sufficient information to identify how you are currently operating and the potential areas for further development.


2.6: Putting together your professional development plan

To help you define your next steps for developing your role, you are asked to produce a professional development plan (PDP). This will identify your particular priorities for development in the context of your professional role.

By following the steps below you will be able to create a meaningful and purposeful PDP. Once you have completed these steps you may find it useful to use the template professional development plan provided in 'Resources' below.

Step 1: Identifying the priorities

First you will need to reflect upon your particular priorities for development in the context of your current professional role. This is to identify where your individual needs coincide with the professional context in which you work and to reconcile your vision of the role of an SBM, and your values, with those of the school.

A key question is: which responsibility areas and professional competences would you most like to develop as you work through the programme?

You might wish to consider:

the ideal role of the SBM in your school
the areas of responsibility or activity that are particularly important in terms of the school's vision and improvement plans
the areas of responsibility or activity in which you would like to extend your skills
those school business management competences that you would most like to develop further
the way in which those competences will be important in terms of the areas of responsibility you will need to focus on

Be realistic, and focus on not more than three or four key areas or professional competences that you intend to develop. This is the draft framework of your PDP. It sets out your key issues

Step 2: Checking out your needs and priorities

If at all possible, try to check your perception of your needs and priorities with others in the school. You might like to carry out a simple 360-degree check by showing your choices to:

a peer
a team member
a line manager

Ask each of them independently to give you feedback on whether they think that these are competences that you need to develop. Their comments could provide an alternative perception of your role. If they think your needs are different, you could either alter your plan, or stick with your chosen priorities.

Step 3: Writing the plan

The purpose of your PDP is to help you identify the practical and specific steps you need to take to progress your studies on the programme. It should set out your current strengths and weaknesses and identify how you expect to address your areas for development over the length of the programme.

You will need to draw upon all the evidence that you have gathered about yourself from your work on the programme so far, and on your reflective analyses. Use this information to help you to think about how your PDP ties in with the school improvement plan and your learning objectives.

The following questions may help to clarify your thinking. List the three or four key areas or professional competences that you identified through your diagnostics.

What are your specific needs in terms of knowledge and understanding?
What are your specific needs in terms of experience and expertise? Do others agree?
Whose support do you need to help you in your development and what specific contribution might they make?

Now summarise your findings into three or four targets that are as specific and concrete as possible.

Decide what you will need to do meet those targets over the course of the programme.

Making further entries in your PDP

You are required to complete your pofessional development plan as part of your assessed work for Unit 2 of this module. However, your PDP should also be treated as an ongoing journal which will evolve as you work through the programme.

Try to share your plan with one or more of your colleagues, review progress periodically and celebrate success.

Use the documents provided for a PDP template and an example.


Unit summary

In this unit, we have focused on the personal and professional skills needed to lead and manage the business of the school.

You have been invited to use a number of analytical tools to help you evaluate your current experience and expertise, and to set out a plan to identify and meet your professional development needs.

The assessment requirements for this unit include writing a summary of your personal skills and characteristics based on the diagnostics, analysing your professional role and preparing a development.

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