School Business Leadership

Ask Anna – I’m finding collaboration difficult. 

Dear Anna, I’ve been an SBM for a long time and my problem is that I find working with local SBMs difficult. They all seem to be so much more organised, authoritative and in control than I am and I perceive that they have built a clique, which I am not part of.  I worry that it hinders my ability to be part of a wider team, to support others,  to collaborate or to informally benchmark. I’ve now stopped going to the regional meetings because I was finding them so stressful. Am I the only SBM to feel like this? How can I get over myself? Secluded SBM

Dear Secluded SBM,

This question is quite close to my heart as I too felt like this for a long time. The first thing you must do is be reassured that you are most definitely not alone in feeling this way.

Let’s break down your letter a bit. You imply that everyone else is a better SBM than you, “more organised, authoritative and in control”, I sincerely doubt that this is actually true. Some people do have a knack of presenting like a swan (serenely calm above the water, paddling like fury underneath) but often if you look a bit deeper, you’ll see that their job and situation is very different to yours. Your skill set is what your school needs from their SBM and that is what matters. If you convince yourself you are inferior, it doesn’t much matter how high a level you are working at, you will always see yourself as inferior and that is a very difficult downward spiral to get out of. Concentrate on your own goals and growth, and work to improve appreciating, and making the most of, yourself and your skills.

With regard to cliques, a useful marketing mantra to remember is that ‘perception is truth’. It doesn’t matter what the reality is, if you perceive there to be a controlling clique within an SBM group, then that is what there is. What you have to do is accept that this is a problem for the group, it is not a weakness of yours. By projecting a “closed shop”, they are failing in their own primary objective to support SBMs in the area and you will probably find that other members have the same, as yet unvoiced, concerns.

I need to say here that regional groups are valuable sources of support for many SBMs and it is difficult to see how they could realistically be all things to all SBMs and cater for everyone. You need to decide whether the benefits of being part of it outweigh the negatives. For example, could you still be involved without going to meetings?

In your last point you are absolutely right. By not accessing other SBMs you are missing out on many advantages of being part of a supportive group, including your wellbeing, your own CPD and the ability to use your skills to support others. But a regional group is not the only place to find this. There is NASBM, Twitter (an incredibly vibrant source of support – just key in #SBM and follow the influencers to join conversations) as well as other SBMs out there who would be more than pleased to engage.

So, what to do?

1. Accept that this is not your weakness or a problem of your making but, because it is effecting your ability to do your job, it needs resolving. You are in no way “less” of an SBM. Stop comparing yourself to others, think positively, concentrate on your own career path and proactively find groups that you enjoy being part of.

2. For your own piece of mind, try to let the group know how you feel.  If you don’t want to go direct, there will be a neutral-ish member who you could confide in with the expectation that it will get back to the leaders. Find them, tell them, and see what happens. If nothing does, at least you have flagged it up for them. Then you can move on.

3. You don’t have to be part of only one group. Join other groups, talk to other SBMs, form your own group supporting each other and work to regain your self-confidence. I can’t recommend Twitter highly enough, it has been a revelation to me.  I would advise every SBM to join in, even if it is just to listen.

Of course, everyone’s experience is different. A lot depends on your school, your role in it, your local group structures and objectives, and the history of SBM interaction with the LA. But, you must remember that your own wellbeing is paramount and there are lots of ways to achieve your desired collaborative aims.

You’ve got this.

If you’d like to ‘Ask Anna’ please email All emails will be read and I hope to be able to answer some of them via this blog. I look forward to hearing from you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s