Having joined Badminton School in July, what has the experience been like so far?
Hectic! I naively assumed that DFOs (bursars) were busiest during summer recess with all the infra projects to manage. In reality, of course, it is busy all of the time.
That said, it has been fun getting to know all the staff and what makes the school ‘tick’. Each school has its own way of approaching things and discovering the ‘Badminton way’ has been hugely interesting.
What is the best and most challenging thing about being director of finance and operations?
The people. I guess it’s the same in all organisations, but it is the interpersonal relationships that have been the greatest challenge and the most rewarding experience. The people here have been very tolerant of my military terminology and eccentric military jargon, though I am mindful that I need to move on now and fully immerse myself in a whole new educational language.
My greatest challenge has been finding enough time to spend with each person so that I can really get to know them, but that is the nicest part of the job too, and a nice relief from thinking about the money.
What was it about Badminton School that appealed to you?
The three Cs espoused and headlined by the school: confidence, curiosity and courtesy. I thought that if this was what the school was about, it matched my own values and I hoped we might make a good fit.
What was your favourite subject at school?
Geography. How could it be anything else – with an entire planet comprised of such diversity right in front of us?
Different people, places, nations, cultures, environments and the entire natural world. Absolutely fascinating, occasionally harsh, but incredibly and exponentially rewarding for the adventurous.
What are you currently reading?
Turn the Ship Around! by David Marquet. I like it because it seizes on a fundamental military truism – that telling people what is to be done and allowing them the freedom of how to do it is a kinder and more efficient way of leading.
The book spends less time than it ought (volume two perhaps?) on exploring the critical importance of a leader being known by their people so that real efficiency and harmony exists where people operate within the specified and unspecified intent of their leader. This is not an easy task for leaders but is really worth the investment.
What has been your career highlight?
Well, if I politely exclude DFO (having spent only three months in the role), I would say running the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Witnessing first-hand the commitment, selflessness and discipline of young people from over 40 countries is truly inspirational and a great lesson in humility.
I do not sign up to the ‘it was harder in my day’ mentality. It is far harder for youngsters today, and for the most part they cope with it far better than I (we?) ever could.
What are Badminton School’s strategic and development goals going forward?
I would really like to say, but I would be in deep trouble if I did! The governors and senior staff are head down right now rethinking exactly how to take the Badminton Group and brand forward, and we aim to take these plans to parents next year for endorsement. Suffice to say, though, that we don’t plan on standing still.
The school roll has expanded significantly over the last few years and we plan on building on this success in a sensitive, innovative way. Exciting times ahead for sure.
Michael has an MA from Cranfield University and a diploma in strategic direction and leadership from the Chartered Management Institute. He has a long army career, having served in 40 countries, most recently as commander of British forces in Ukraine. He has been deputy commandant of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and a director within the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom.
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