Putting Teachers First

Head Teachers, as managers, may be interested in the ideas of IT Industry boss Vineet Nayar, whose philosophy of Employees First, Customers Second is a new management paradigm that is receiving worldwide interest. In this post, I look at the parallels for school managers and argue a case for putting teachers’ needs before those of their students.

Head Teachers keeping their eye on the ball of student examination results may well be taking their eyes off a more important factor in the school’s success: the need for teachers to gravitate towards their strengths in a school culture that values, protects, empowers and nurtures them.

By far the largest proportion of a school’s annual budget is the amount paid in teachers’ salaries.

I enquired of a headteacher the other day, “How much is your annual staff bill?”  When I was given a figure between four and five million pounds I asked what the school was doing to protect this costly investment. The look and silence that resulted from this question suggested that the idea of protecting a £4 million investment was not a familiar analogy for staff wellbeing.

If a school bought a piece of equipment costing a fraction of that price, just think of the care that would be taken over its correct installation, maintenance and safekeeping?  I am not suggesting that a member of staff is a piece of machinery, but let’s say that it does no harm to be reminded of the financial cost of a carefree attitude towards staff needs.

A few months ago, I read a newspaper article about  Vineet Nayar,  CEO of New Delhi-based information technology services giant HCL Technologies.

His firm, with 55,000 staff worldwide, has a management philosophy tagged “Employee First, Customer Second”. The logic behind this philosophy is that in a service industry employees are the product that his customers are buying.

I have since read more about Nayar, and set about thinking how his philosophy relates to the management of schools.

Head Teachers and their Senior Management Teams, need to create systems and methodologies to nurture teachers and allow them to create more value than anybody else can create.

Who creates the value for the student? Who does the student want to deal with? Who is the organization for the student? The teachers. What kind of school does a student want to be in? The one where the teachers are most important.

So, how can Heads ensure that they are getting the best out of their teachers? One way is to ask them about how they perceive they are being managed. Do they feel that they are valued, listened to, given choices and enjoy working in this school?

What is helping them to be the best teacher they could be? What is getting in the way? Do you as Head seek feedback about your management and that of your Senior Leaders?

I know that a school where the teachers love to work has a great energy and atmosphere about the place, and also gets the best out of all visiting professionals who engage with the staff. Why plan for anything else?

Now Read: What your Pupils Really Want

Misbehaving on the School Bus

Choice Theory: 5 Basic Needs

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