As quite a number of people may be aware, I was a school administrator until October 2019 when I finally left to start working at Pezu Smith Consulting as a Management Consultant and Life Coach. I must say being a school administrator in four reputable schools in different cities in Nigeria has helped me to grow immensely and there were also learning points and curve balls. On the whole, these are not experiences I would trade for anything else as they have shaped who I am and who I am becoming on my journey in life!
During my jobs as an administrator, I learnt quite a number of things about myself and I’ll be sharing them here. I hope you’ll pick a thing or two to help you on your journey as an administrator.
Firstly, you need to know that you need to be a coach to the workforce. Instead of approaching everything strictly from a policy standpoint, decide early enough to be a coach to your subordinates whether you are a principal, school administrator, head of school or whatever title your position goes by. The fact is, the quality of graduates being turned out yearly leaves much to be desired. You’ll find a lot of gaps in your expectations of their skills and attitude to work and ethics. Decide to make each subordinate who works with you, a better person even though it is likely they will resist you when you start. Do it just because they met you, and let this be the added advantage they enjoy for having you as their boss. Coach them to make them perform better.
Incidentally, I am not sometimes very liked by the staff I lead until I leave the organisation. I guess because I am basically a task-oriented administrator who want s to see results and put proper processes and structure in place, it usually rubs on the wrong side of the staff. I demand excellence and good work ethics wherever I am an administrator; your guess is fine - a lot of people do not like this! But interestingly, I usually become very highly respected and liked when I have left an organisation to another. Far more respected than when I was working there! I suddenly begin to hear testimonials of the excellent work I did while in the previous organization. I get to hear about how the employees have developed better skills and a better attitude to their jobs as a result of working under my supervision. This gives me a lot of fulfillment.
A case in point was when I was called and given a gift and introduced to the school community in January 2020. I had left the organisation ten years ago! So. I ask of you that you be a coach to the people you lead.
Secondly, you need to be decisive. Taking good and sometimes tough decisions comes with the job of being an administrator. If you are so busy trying to be liked by every staff member that you forget why you are there, then that is on you! There comes a time when decisions have to be made by you, no matter the input you get from your team members or subordinates.
It doesn't matter whether everyone would like the decisions sometimes, always adopt a holistic and long term approach and view to your decision making. I recall a few tough decisions I had to make in the course of my jobs, such as suspending a staff member who inflicted pain on a child, while deciding whether he would be retained or fired. I also recall reviewing and stopping staff lunch for the management staff of a school as it was not a cost I was comfortable with the school bearing any more. This sent everyone involved feeling really bad and getting upset with me for this decision. Well, what’s got to be done has got to be done by you as the administrator, so prepare for such moments.
And then, of course, you need to be committed! I mean that you’ll need to be totally committed to the job if you are going to perform very well as a school administrator. While you make every effort to work smartly, there is no need to pretend about this; being a school administrator involves working long hours and a lot of times staying back even when all the staff have gone home just to check things out. And it is even more demanding when your school operates a boarding house. That means the children in the boarding house are in the school’s custody for 24 hours! You need to keep an eye on the boarding house staff, and get feedback from the boarding students regularly.
Then, there is the need to respect confidentiality. In the course of your job, you’ll come across matters that you must not discuss openly, except directly with the people involved. You should not share information that you know. Parents, students, staff and even the school owners will share info with you that are not meant for the general house. Respect this always!
That’s not all; learn to be calm as an administrator. Luckily, this is one of my greatest strengths as an individual. I have had tough cases to handle and I did so in the calmest manner that everyone was surprised. I’ve often had staff members ask me if I attended a special training to be so calm and unruffled always.
I recall a day there was a fire outbreak in the kitchen in one of the schools I led. Amidst the panic when this was brought to my notice, I was calm. I asked what had been done since I'd had invited a team to have a fire drill with the staff just about a month ago. I knew a good number of the teachers had mastered the skill of using the fire extinguishers, and before I knew it, they had put the fire out before my arrival on the scene.
You need to be organised as an administrator. Your level of organization will show in the way things are done in the school you lead. Plan adequately for events and activities and keep a calendar on your desk and mark important dates, events and activities. Set your digital devices for reminders, and make adjustments whenever necessary. Your work areas in your office also need to be organised.
Be a resourceful person. When you are an administrator, your team members look up to you. Have relevant books, resources, journals and useful websites handy to help out the staff. Ensure you keep developing yourself to stay ahead of the game, and share with the staff. Train them to develop their capacity or they’ll make your job difficult. Remember you can't do everything alone.
Be approachable! This is a necessary piece of advice especially if you are a task-related administrator. Make yourself accessible to the staff and let them be comfortable enough to visit your office to have a chat about their work-related issues. But do not encourage them to back-stab or gossip about one another to you.
Mind the office politics. I am almost sure you are surprised I’m including this here. Yes, mind the office politics. No matter how good you are at your job, find a way to get on well with your employer and the board members. Ensure you let them know the progress you are making, as they'll always be people who may want to pull you down and downplay your efforts. This could be very frustrating especially when you are forthright and very professional. Do not join anyone in displaying toxicity. Approach office politics in a very professional manner without sucking up or backstabbing others.
I hope you found this useful.
Nancy Ekpezu trains, coaches and mentors school administrators to be their best and to enhance their career, while becoming invaluable to their organisations. You may want to book a coaching session by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. WhatsApp +234-803-5880-367.
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LESSONS FROM BEING A SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR