This is part seven of a series, covering the Education sessions at the Microsoft Australia Partner Conference.
Start at part one (The Microsoft Australia Education Team) here…
So far, we’ve looked at an overview of the Australian education market. And although this is part seven, we’re only about 15 minutes into the sessions. But the whole point of sitting down to write these summaries was to provide more depth to the sessions, for both attendees and those of you that didn’t make it to the conference.
Clayton Carnes, Principal of Hermit Park State School in Townsville
As luck would have it, we were running an event for innovative teachers just down the road from the Australia Partner Conference, so we were able to invite one of the Principals - Clayton Carnes from Townsville - to come along and share some of his thoughts on life from a school leadership perspective. We explicitly asked him to give our partners advice about dealing with schools, and Clayton dealt with that in his usual inspirational and humorous way.
Clayton started by talking about the context for the learners in his school - who are starting in a primary school today and will be entering the workforce in 2023. He talked about the skills they will need for that workplace, and how the education they are receiving today needs to prepare them for that. And he also talked about the many roles that a school, and a school Principal, play in the local community (outside of the big cities, schools can often be the biggest employer in town).
In terms of procurement, Clayton talked about the factors that influence their decision making, including the various local framework schemes for suppliers - are you an approved GITC supplier, do you appear on the Queensland Education Preferred Supplier list (EDPSA)?
Then he gave a cracking list - a self-described list of 10 Claytonisms, giving practical advice on things to know when dealing with education customers up and down the country. It was a mixture of advice and humour, but there’s an underlying value in the list:
- Approach schools in Terms 2 and 3
They’re so busy getting everything started in Term 1, and then Term 4 is all about the Christmas production and preparation. So the middle of the year is the right time to be talking to schools
- Beware of the implementation dip
Any change management manual will tell you that all change will have a period where things seemed worse than before. So make sure that you, and the users, are ready for it, know that it’s going to happen, and know that it’s not going to last. This isn’t ICT specific, but a great piece of advice for any change management project.
For a deeper understanding of this, watch Michael Fullan talking about Motion Leadership
- Results require long-term investment
The full results of a project are only likely to be returned when there’s a sustained investment in time, resources and professional development. (I think that could also be applied to a relationship between a supplier and a customer too)
- Identify your principal patriarch
You’ve probably read more than one book, or attended a course, which has focused on the politics of customer relationships. Clayton’s point was that even in a small school, there’s relationships that you need to understand, and know who the real sponsor for projects will be.
- Always dress one level above your client
I’ve observed that education is more formally dressed than most other industries, and Clayton’s point was that you never damage yourself by being dressed one level better than the people you’re meeting. But don’t be completely overdressed or underdressed (if you’re the only person in the room wearing shorts, that’s bad!)
My old rules of thumb from England appears to work in the winter here:
- University faculty/IT: Shirt, no tie
- University leaders: Suit & tie
- School IT teams, event out of school: Shirt, no tie
- School IT teams, in school: Shirt & Tie
- School leaders: Suit & tie
- Professional development must be linked to real life
Clayton’s advice was that all training should be scenario based, rather than theoretical. Want to train teachers on using SharePoint - then show them how they’ll really use it with a scenario like sharing documents with a student, or group editing. Clayton included a quote from Richard Elmore: “The success of any professional development is inversely proportional to the square of its distance from the classroom”
- Develop a living resume
Basically, know your story, and know it succinctly. If you only have 30 seconds to talk when you meet your next school principal, what is it you say? What is it your company does? How do you help your education customer succeed?
- Establish a clear educational reason
Yep, if you’re selling to education, then it’s all about education. And education is all about teaching and learning. So how does what you do help teaching and learning?
Clayton’s slides included a table he’d shared with others before- how the Microsoft software they were using matched up to the educational goals of the school
- Don’t forget the power of coffee in a relationship
There was a time when taking a couple of coffee mugs to a school visit would get you remembered. These days things have changed. Clayton’s advice was to get to know the coffee tastes of the person you’re meeting, and arrive at the meeting with their favourite skinny-cappucino-mocha-soy-caramel. (I reckon that it will make the next appointment much easier to book too!)
- “How will I remember you?”
Clayton said that he meets around 600 people a day. 600. So how would he remember you from a meeting? What value are you going to give him back that he can use? Quite a daunting prospect - you’ve got to stick out from 600 others, so that what you say is acted on!