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Being Too Valuable At School

Being too valuable at school

At school, what's the thing you're really good at that you're known for? Where are you highly valued in the school community?

For me, it was my ability to analyse raw data, draw conclusions through triangulation of data and then use that data to create faculty/school wide strategies. My [thing] were big spreadsheets that allowed teachers deep knowledge of the patterns of students achievement and then helping them prepare their plans for differentiation.


Being known for something at school feels good. People value you and your expertise. For this blog, I'm going to use the term [thing] for the [thing] that people come to you for, your zone of genius.


I know you love helping people. You love sharing what you do.  Getting the same rush from hearing your students say, "Oh, I get it now! Thank you for your help" but it's coming from an adult!


And I want you to keep chasing feeling and interaction. It keeps us inspired and motivated to show up at work each day and make a difference for our students and colleagues.


I also want you to notice something else. There is a pitfall when always chasing that feeling of being of service. I want you to take a minute and ask yourself:


Are you THE person for that [thing] at school?

Do you become the 'One Stop Shop' for advice and help? So much so that staff stop thinking for themselves and just come to you?

Are you the only person who deeply knows that [thing]?


If this is the case, it's time to start becoming a leader in this space, rather than the expert. Being an expert will mean the chances of you moving into leadership will reduce because no one else is the expert. And being promoted into a leadership role will mean you'll be responsible for other portfolios at school and the time available to help staff in your expert area will reduce.


You're too valuable where you are so why give you a promotion and cause a problem for the school.


But you have 100% control over changing this situation.



Here are 3 strategies to start today that will ensure you will not become irreplaceable or too valuable.


Succession Planning


Put in place a succession plan. The monarchy has one. So can you.


Ask someone who you may think is interested in learning more about your area of expertise. Perhaps they are someone you helped in the past and they have moved on to using those skills regularly. Perhaps they are someone like you who just loves to help people.


You could also put out an email asking for someone to be working with you closely on this area of expertise. Perhaps you choose several people to work with...now that is being a leader.


Once you've established that this person is competent and keen to help, make it known that the both of you are available to answer questions on the area of expertise. Raise their visibility up so that you are starting the ball rolling on an eventual hand over.


The biggest resistance I see and hear from this advice is that aspiring leaders are afraid to start a succession plan when they themselves have not secured a leadership role yet.


That's the point. By you establishing yourself as the person with expertise, mentoring others as they build their capacity in this area, you're now leading. That is how you'll get a promotion. That is how you can show the [thing] is valuable, not just you.


If you leave succession planning until you have secured a position, there will be little time to do a proper hand over. If you have an established 2IC, then the baton is passed flawlessly and you can introduce them as the new leader of this area of expertise as you move into your new role.


Prepare to Leave


Capture your expertise and get it into a documented form. Create videos, templates and resources to help people do what you do and pop them in a common drive. Allow the infomation to be easily accessible by staff. Share where they can find it.


When people come to ask you questions, answer them and also remind them of the resources you've placed  in the shared drive. This is a great strategy for a few reasons.


  1. You've got something in place to help build teachers capacity that you can use in your application.
  2. If you're not there, teachers can still learn and get help. Especially good if you suddenly gain a position and don't have lots of time available, the work has already been done.
  3. Allows you time to fill in the gaps. Often we need a few goes at something to make it perfect. By having these shared resources available, you will be able to hear what teachers really need from those resources and create them from feedback. Meaning that when you do leave to be in a leadership role, the body of work you're leaving behind is comprehensive and relevant.
  4. You start making the staff around you self sufficient and able to solve their own problems rather than constantly relying on you.


This strategy also can be established if you are not getting time or support to actually mentor a person to take over the role one day.


Open a dialogue with leadership


Book in a time and sit with someone in admin and have a frank conversation about the situation you have found yourself in. You recognise that you're the go to person for [thing] however, you're career aspirations are to move into leadership. Communicate to them that you find yourself doing the role, rather than leading, and start to open a discussion about moving from being the expert into leading an expert team.


There are a few outcomes during these conversations so be prepared for any response. These can vary from being fully supported in preparing to bring more people on board to "Sounds good" and then left to your own devices.


Also be prepared for some harsh truths. There are times when what we see as invaluable in our schools is not supported by admin. Be ready to hear that your priority is not theirs. That they appreciate what you're doing but it is not something they want to support in the longer term or that they support going whole school.


Even with set backs from an admins point of view, there are still actions you could take to better your position, such as the previous two strategies.


In conclusion,

If you find yourself being THE go to person, pivot so you are in a position to lead, rather than be the expert.

You can do this by:

  1. Succession planning
  2. Prepare to leave
  3. Open dialogue with leadership

If you'd like to discuss your current situation and who to turn your knowledge into leadership stories, book a call with me.