It’s no news that we are currently in the long vacation in many countries of the world, while it is also the start of a new school year or session in many other countries. And of course, we all know that this period comes with resignations and change of jobs for some school administrators and leaders, while others are promoted to get their first taste of a school leadership position.
Whether it is your first experience as a school administrator, or if it’s a change of job, one thing that is certain is that you would definitely want to make a good first impression on your new team. You’ll also most likely want to provide value that will make your employers and boss, as well as the school community, pleased with you.
To be candid, starting out as a new school administrator could be both exciting and challenging. I remember too well a few of the mistakes I made on my first-time school administrator position in 2005, and that is why I’m usually very understanding and readily willing to help new school leaders and administrators.
So here are about ten or eleven tips which I have put together, and I really believe you’ll find them immensely useful as you assume your new school leadership role.
1. Ensure you build confidence and trust in the teachers, admin team, students and parents. It’s good to be reminded that they have their fears about seeing a new face as their school administrator or head of school, and they may be wondering what it will be like to work with you. Calm them down, and reassure them that you quite understand their concerns and fears. So spend time getting to learn and understand the school’s mission, vision, values and past achievements. Work hard at earning their trust. This is very important!
2. No matter how much you know, or how much you’re bringing in in to the team, ensure you acknowledge the achievements of your predecessors. No matter the challenges or problems you observe, refrain from running down or downplaying what was achieved before you arrived on the scene.
3. Know it like you know your name that henceforth, you are now responsible for everything that happens in the school. Don’t play the blame game on anyone. Rather, ask yourself what you can do to solve the problems and challenges you have observed. Do not murmur or complain. You do not get any medals for complaining as a leader. Besides, you do not need any special talent to observe there are problems. Everyone knows there are problems; what they need would be the problem solvers. And that is why you have been hired for the role in the first place.
4. Ensure every staff member has a properly documented job description, and that they understand their role. If you have issues with this, please reach out to me and I’ll definitely help out here. There’s nothing as confusing as running a team where each member does not have or understand their job descriptions. They cannot deliver where there are no proper expectations.
5. Ensure the school’s policies and procedures as well as the mission and vision are clearly understood by everyone on your team. You want to be sure you are all heading in the right direction, don't you?
6. Never think you can do it alone. You definitely cannot! So, develop a high performing team. Look out for unseen talents in your teachers and the administrative staff. Learn to delegate on time or you’ll soon have a burn out . Believe me, school administration is a lot of work! Ask me about it, and I’ll tell you about my experience without holding back. As you delegate, train your staff and begin to stretch them gradually to increase their capacity and nudge them out of their comfort zone. It will definitely save you from getting overwhelmed on the long run.
7. Encourage professional development and learning, and make useful resources available to develop the team members. Also exemplify learning. Your team must see that you constantly learn.
8. Establish proper boundaries while keeping a very open door policy. Make yourself very accessible and make time to listen to everyone, but watch out for those who come in to gossip to you. Start taking note of the ones who may want to take on the role of sycophants. Hear less from them eventually without sounding harsh, but listen attentively to the ones who bring in meaningful contributions and make these ones part of your inner circle (not necessarily your favorites!).
9. Surround yourself deliberately with positive-minded staff, who believe the work can be done and demonstrate it in their actions and body language.
10. As the academic session commences, ensure to set proper goals/performance objectives for each staff member including the teachers, admin staff, management staff, school bursar or accountant. There should be clear KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for each goal or objective. These goals should be reviewed at the middle of the academic session and at the end of the school year. If you do not know what KPIs are, reach out to me personally or check this up on the internet.
11. You seriously need to consider enlisting the support and professional services of a coach or a mentor you admire and trust. Believe me, leadership can be a pretty lonely path! You may reach out to me on the Whatsapp-enabled number 08035880367, if you need me to mentor or coach you on school leadership and administration.
12. Did I forget to mention that that you need to hold several meetings, to introduce yourself and make sure everyone understands the goals you've set out to achieve? Do a lot of listening at these meetings; and document them.
13. Work with the team to develop a school development or improvement plan (SIP) which will help you focus on the key areas that need to be improved in the school. Send me a message if you need assistance with this.
Wishing you a successful leadership tenure.
Nancy Ekpezu is a seasoned school administrator, management consultant and coach in Lagos, Nigeria and has over twenty-five years’ experience in the education sector. You may contact her on the Whatsapp-enabled number +234-8035880367.