Everybody is Somebody’s Wingman

I’m feeling devastated by the announcement from my Wingman yesterday that she is leaving to take up a role in another school. Of course, as is the accepted way in Education, I knew she had applied and that she had an interview. I’d written her a reference and we’d had a discussion about what this new role might offer, but I never dreamed that she would actually go!

You see, in all my 15 years as a School Business Manager, this last year has been the most challenging. It has been a hard slog of almost constant change throughout the year. Together, my Wingman and I have had to find new ways of working, introduce new policies, cover for colleagues for whom the changes proved too much, as well as maintaining the day-to-day functions and the morale of other staff. I know it can’t have been easy but she has demonstrated such enormous resilience and, to my mind, she is leaving just when we are about to realise the benefits of all our foundation building work.

I know that I can’t expect to keep my Wingman forever; she isn’t the first one of mine to have grown sufficiently in confidence and skill to enable a move into a position of responsibility commensurate with her capability. Of course, I am thrilled for her success. But for a few days I am going to indulge in feeling bereaved, disorientated and unprepared for the future, so that I can move into a place that understands and accepts her choice.

When I told Barry, he helpfully reminded me of a recent statistic that (whatever they may tell you) 75% of employees leave because of the Boss! So as part of my grieving process, maybe I better spend some time reflecting on whether I could have anticipated and averted her desire to leave.

Am I a Team Player? One of the challenges of being an SBM is that you have to be an active member of a few separate teams. I consider that leading the Finance Team is one of my most important roles and my Wingman takes on all the day-to-day Finance function and staff. I like to do the budget and monthly MI, maybe sharing this will enable my Wingman to be more involved with the whole picture.

Do I push too hard? I accept that I am probably demanding to work with, not in a “do as you’re told” kind of way, but I’m conscious that I set quite a challenging pace. I expect my team to tell me when they have reached capacity. I’m happy to share work, I know there are peaks and troughs in our office and I can input a purchase order or count the non-uniform day bucket. But maybe they can see me working at capacity and don’t like to add to my workload, perhaps I should be more aware of this.

Am I too ‘hands-on’? As an ex-auditor my Wingman bought with her our saying ‘Trust is not a control’. Together we have set up some pretty tight controls, segregation of duties and risk management initiatives. She enforces these controls in the office very effectively and it does mean that I must take my role in the process and not try to do everything, perhaps I need to work harder at this.

So, after this weekend of feeling sorry for myself (and hoping she’ll come to her senses and stay!) here is the Wingman personality (in order of priority) I will be looking for,

Resilient – Not everything will go right, accept , resolve and move on.

Good listener – If I’ve got a problem, I like to talk it through. I find that explaining the issue to someone else is often the quickest way to discover a solution.

Policy enforcer – I recognise that I need someone to remind me of policy and protocol while I am in ‘solution-mode’.

Attention to detail – I need someone to help me control the minutiae. I find little, and avoidable, mistakes annoying. We just haven’t got time for them.

So, unless a miracle happens, I will need to demonstrate my own resilience and put an advert together next week. I need someone as soon as possible of course, but I don’t like rushing this process, the SBM Wingman role is too important to the wellbeing of the whole team and I also have to consider the person for whom I am Wingman. So, as I love to quote from Top Gun, you should be aware that, when it comes to choosing a new Wingman, “I will fire when I am goddamn good and ready.”

What do you look for in a Wingman?

Note: My wonderful Wingman who has been massively supportive, proactive and patient throughout our years together, doesn’t know about this blog. I have, of course, told her how much I value her contribution (and don’t want her to go). Feel free to share this with your Wingman. We need to look after them!

Postnote: HOORAY! She decided to stay!

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