The challenging art of delegation by Sarah Jones

The challenging art of delegation by Sarah Jones

Hello! Allow me to introduce myself… My name is Sarah. I am a school business manager, and I am a control freak.

I like to know EVERYTHING about what is going on in my school because I firmly believe forewarned is forearmed. Experience has led me to a working practice where I like to have things done my way, to the standard that I expect so that I am not greeted with nasty surprises.

This attitude has been formed over the years as I have moved around the system and found often that appropriate systems were not in place, those present were not adequate and necessary information has simply not been there. In the SBM role, this just can’t happen. There is too much at stake.

In most of the smaller schools I have worked in, financial constraints have meant that admin staffing is minimal at best. Those in post are stretched to capacity and the SBM basically does everything non-teaching related. And that’s good to a degree because an SBM in that position knows what needs to be done and just gets on and does it.


There are many benefits to having effective delegation skills

Whilst the ‘control freakery’ approach has served me well over the years, I have found now that I am in a much larger setting - a large secondary school with thriving sixth form and approximately 2,000 pupils. The increased scale and scope of the role means that it is becoming less and less tenable to operate in this way. This past year has led me to the conclusion: no man is an island. No SBM can or should be doing it all.

As a consequence, I have had to learn to delegate to a) survive and b) be as effective as possible. And it has been one of the best things I have ever done.

Middle-aged woman leading a team

Upskill. That’s what I have learnt about delegation…

  1. By delegating you empower and upskill people in your team. In doing so, you build a stronger team. Not only could the team function if you were run over by a bus, but they feel more secure in their role and become more proactive in developing it.
  2. Done correctly delegation builds knowledge amongst your team. They feel invested in, valued and trusted.
  3. By upskilling your team, you are creating a skilled resource base that can free up your time to allow you to do some of the eleventy-billion items on your to-do list.


Manage delegation in bitesize chunks

I am not going to lie - it is really hard to delegate effectively if you try to do it all in one go. Here are my top tips:

  1. Be secure and clear in what you are asking the person to do.
  2. Be explicit in your expectations but give as much help as needed to establish the framework of what you are trying to achieve.
  3. Repeat daily at timely intervals - do not micromanage.
  4. Put regular “check in” points in the diary and establish what needs to be done, by when, until routines are established. This will build confidence in both of you and maximise the possibility of success.
  5. Ask regularly (but not every 30 minutes) if there is anything that the person needs to do the task. Do they need some CPD? Do they need some more time?
  6. Ask for feedback.


It may seem to go against our natural instincts to keep it all close but trust me on this; get it right and it’s a game changer.

Sarah Jones is the school business manager at a large secondary in Surrey, you can follow her on Twitter @accidentalSBM.