Leadership - How to stand out from the crowd

Follow these tips to improve your chances of promotion and excel in your new role
7th November 2014, 12:00am


Leadership - How to stand out from the crowd


Those who move from teaching to management in further education tend to experience shock, then an overwhelming sense of "What have I done?". It's understandable. The workload increases significantly; the salary usually does not.

But management can be a great step up. Unfortunately, however, getting promoted is tougher than it should be and many colleges don't have adequate structures for progression. For some, promotion is enabled by skills that were honed prior to working in the sector, but how can teachers without such experience get a foot on the first rung of the management ladder? And how can they ensure they do the job well? Follow this guide to give yourself the best chance of getting ahead.

Be a great teacher

Excelling at teaching doesn't necessarily make you a good manager, but you won't be considered for promotion unless you are a good teacher. That doesn't mean being a maverick genius with a 100 per cent student achievement record. Rather, in addition to producing good results you need to have a solid reputation as a reliable team player. You have to be easy to manage and your superiors must be confident that you will do the job without upsetting the apple cart.

Discover and acquire the necessary skills

To determine exactly what a managerial role entails, it is worth hunting out job specifications and criteria for a number of organisations. Once you are clear on what skills are needed, you can find ways to acquire them and, more importantly, gather evidence that you have done so in advance of applying for a role.

Take on extra responsibility

Access as much CPD as you can, volunteer to take on extracurricular activities and ask your line manager if there is anything you can help with. Being proactive in key areas such as quality assurance, supporting colleagues and implementing innovative ideas will mark you out as a potential candidate.

Be prepared to take on additional work for free, but be focused and strategic with your generosity. Volunteer for tasks that give you opportunities to improve your skills and enhance your CV. A reputation for unbridled helpfulness can lead to you being perceived as a "yes-man". That may make you popular, but remember that being an enthusiastic photocopier is rarely a prerequisite for managerial posts.

Get outside experience

Opportunities to develop managerial know-how are not limited to college life. Becoming a school governor or working with a charity can offer valuable insight into running an organisation.

Be honest about the awkwardness

Once you've got the job, negotiating the transition from teaching into management can be delicate, especially if that move is within the same department. The best way to approach this is to acknowledge it. Speak to colleagues about their concerns and share your own.

Identify your weaknesses

Gaps in skills and knowledge sometimes aren't discovered until they spring up on the job. Asking a member of your own team for advice has the potential to undermine your new status, so seek out colleagues with similar roles in other departments. Knowing exactly who to talk to if things get tricky can make all the difference.

Manage your timetable

On top of your managerial responsibilities, you are likely have a substantial teaching workload. When you set the timetable, it pays to be shrewd in the kind of teaching you take on. This is not the time to be experimenting. Teach qualifications you are confident about and avoid mountains of marking.

Ask for help

Teachers who are dependable and self-sufficient can have a difficult time letting go of the urge to solve every problem, but there is a fine line between nurturing and micromanaging. Delegating some duties and learning to trust the competence of others are important skills to develop.

Expect the unexpected

No one would assume that a newly qualified teacher would instantly be an expert. Rest assured that very few managers begin their new position as an authority and even those who have vast experience can be surprised. Learning to cope with the unexpected is now part of your working life.

Sarah Simons works in FE colleges in the East Midlands. Find her on Twitter @MrsSarahSimons

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