I have long believed that the importance of good networking is an undervalued skill and in some cases a skill that is often taken for granted. Through my career I have been lucky enough to work with some people who have been brilliant at networking - it has been a natural trait. However, for most people it is probably something that they need to work at – yet it is overlooked and certainly not something to easily find a course on – things such as time management or presentation skills traditionally take more of a priority when planning and discussing personal development.
There are plenty of books about networking but if you condense it down to its core activity then it involves a multitude of communication skills. Not surprisingly two key aspects for successful networking are the ability to show genuine interest in others and the ability to listen. You also need some courage – some people may find it genuinely challenging to open up a conversation with someone that have had no previous contact with. Some people find it easier on the phone but harder in person…either way networking is an important skill for today’s School Business leader.
Many Business managers work can be quite isolated – it’s difficult to sit in the staff room and find someone to talk to about the latest announcement on the school funding formula or latest health and safety directive. Therefore, for Business managers knowing others in different schools, or key people in the Local Authority is really important. Having good contacts is an essential part of being successful and most importantly saving time.
I remember my first day as a School Business Manager I had very few answers if any! I was not going to re-invent the wheel - so for me it was a priority to find others I could talk to.
Local SBP network meetings provide an ideal opportunity for School Business Leaders to network and discuss relevant topics. Today we have a very healthy number of networks across the country the details of which can be located on Gov.Uk. This is a major step forward and should make it easy for everyone to find a local group to them. When I started as a School Business Manger the only option was to start a group and I am pleased to say today the group is still going. However, as a profession it is vital that business managers support their group – time is always under pressure, but the success of a group comes from within the members – the more you put into the group the more you will gain from the experience. I know some people struggle to get agreement to leave the school to attend network meetings – this is a disappointing situation – I firmly believe that the gains from these meetings always outweigh the time away from school – and in the long-term help School Business Leaders to be more effective and efficient. I know there are many willing people helping to run these groups – but there is always a need for others to be supportive so next time your group needs some help with an agenda item or organising something – seek out the opportunity and use it as a chance to develop your skills and support your personal networking ability.