5 areas you can develop to take your center to the next level
There is no time like the present. And this especially reigns true for this delicate time in a child’s life. The early years are the foundation of child development. They set the tone for the rest of a child’s journey through life. Children need a solid foundation for both cognitive and social-emotional development.
It’s a big responsibility to provide a high-quality learning environment. You know how important it is for children to receive the care they need for healthy development. Every staff member must dedicate their time and skills into creating this nurturing environment.
Directors – you are key in ensuring program operations. You support the needs of families enrolled, staff development, you name it. You lead all the daily functions necessary to run an effective program. Sometimes this means multitasking, dealing with crises or new, unexpected occurrences.
Amidst all this chaos, a strong leader remains calm, organized, and able to communicate. A positive mindset, along with leadership development, is how you can lead your program to success.
What does leadership development for a director consist of?
ProSolutions Training offers tips on 5 areas you can develop to take your center to the next level.
1. Knowledge Building – Are you aware of every facet of your program? If not, take time to get to know your center’s curriculum, enrollment, health and safety standards, financial practices... Don’t let even one area become muddy to you. You want to be the first to find out about things and the first to solve things so that everything is seamless.
Hands-on directors who participate in the center’s daily functions and activities can make a huge difference in the lives of children, staff, and families. Because directors have the power to resolve issues and provide assistance. Ultimately, as a director, you want to be aware of a program’s state so you can implement changes that lead to improvement.
To remain on top of the game when it comes to awareness about your program, consider implementing:
• a suggestion box
• meetings with parents and staff
Take surveys bi-monthly, quarterly, or twice a year (at the beginning and end). They can give a chance for feedback on recent changes, or on existing policies. Offer them to parents, teachers, and other staff.
Sometimes people would rather remain anonymous when sharing a complaint or offering feedback. That’s where a suggestion box may come in handy. Keep it in a discreet and convenient location so you can get plenty of honest feedback from parents and staff.
Parent meetings can give you some great insights. You can come prepared with outlined topics, or even ask questions to delve more into their thoughts. They want the best for their child, and so do you.
Staff meetings not only create a sense of unity within the center but also can be a great place for discussions. Have a meeting agenda to stay on track, but design it in a way where staff feedback is encouraged and conversational.
2. Conduct Observations – Observations may not always be viewed as a positive thing, but let’s face it, they are an excellent tool. There is no better way to personally view what’s going on in each classroom. And intentionally view the operations of the center and how each of your employees is carrying out their job. If you’re able to, give immediate feedback and support to have the most impact.
It's best to be inclusive when conducting observations. That way, you can spot even small things that could use change to make a big difference. Think about all areas of your program, like people, health and safety, curriculum, partnerships, enrollment, even marketing/finances. Schedule observations at times where they won’t interfere with the flow of your center.
We know there are always a lot of thoughts and ideas running through your head. Taking notes can help you remember and keep these organized. Especially if you’re unable to give immediate feedback. This can also help you organize your plan of action.
Helpful Tip – Give praise! Acknowledge great practices observed in the moment. Being an early childhood professional is exciting but also very challenging . Remember, your team is essential to running your center. Giving them verbal recognition in front of co-workers/peers or families can go a long way!
3. Sharing Knowledge and Implementing Change – Giving feedback and openly communicating with your team will create a sense of transparency and trust.
Think about a time when you had to implement a big improvement or policy change at your center. It may have been overwhelming at first, but surely your team stepped up to the plate to help.
When your team trusts you and is committed to the effort it will take, the change won’t seem so difficult after all. Your team provides different perspectives, and may have some excellent ideas for implementing the change. Getting their input gives a sense of partnership, and will contribute to growth and success of the program.
Brainstorm together in creative and fun ways, like:
• outdoor team building exercises
• inviting a facilitator/trainer to host a training
• having teachers take a stab at leading activities
• sending staff on retreats
Involve your team in planning. Ask where they want to go, what they want to do, and what they want to talk about.
4. Reflection – Take a breather and reflect. Growth is dependent on improvement. And improvement relies on you taking steps to address issues that are brought to your attention. It can sometimes take time to think about the best course of action to address these concerns.
Reflection can also give you a chance to come up with ideas for your center. Think of ways to better engage staff or improve the learning environment.
Leading the initiative starts with you. But you have powerful tools in your people. You can delegate and include your team with collaborating on issues. Reflect on who the best person would be for each part of the puzzle. Give them responsibility when implementing changes within the program, and pride for when those changes succeed.
5. Professional Development – Professional development doesn’t just apply to your staff. Stepping outside of the box allows you to see that it applies to you too. Growth and development are vital to being an excellent leader. Stay informed about industry best practices and continue to build your skills and knowledge.
Creating an individual training plan can help. It’s a strategy to organize training needs and set deadlines for training goals.
Enroll in every training, seminar, or conference that you think will help your program. Staying up to date with information, skills, and tools will give you the power to lead your team.
Important Reminder: Being a leader, you have a lot of responsibility and stress at work. That’s why it’s important to take time for yourself to decompress and recharge. Carve out small moments throughout the day. Do something that helps you to relax, feel calm and take your mind off things. It will have positive effects on your well-being and make a significant impact on the work you do!