Let’s be honest, child care can be a toxic field to work in. It’s a high-stress job that involves wearing many hats, keeping the kiddos safe, and being present enough to support parents when they need help. That said, leadership has become a hot topic of focus in the field recently. Directors strive to create an environment that reduces employee turnover as early childhood educators become a precious resource.
Building a superstar child care team can be challenging but extremely rewarding. A team that comes in every day happy and motivated makes a huge difference to how your center operates. When people on your team have a sense of belonging and ownership, your center takes on a homey feeling and you’re immediately raising the quality bar.
Working in child care is tough, which makes a tight-knit team that is on the same page regarding mission and values so key. It all starts with remembering that we are all human and tapping into that. Here are some foolproof ways to build the team of your dreams!
Motivate Your Team
There is a common misconception that leaders need to be “in the driver’s seat.” Many leaders in child care take that approach and end up burning out because there is so much on their plate. The reality is that being spread too thin leads to poor decisions and administrative bottlenecks.
Effective leadership focuses on building a team that you can trust to make sound decisions on your behalf. Taking the approach that everyone is a leader helps to reframe your purpose on the team. When you create space for your teachers to have ownership over their work, you will free up your time to focus on growing the business. Motivating a team that you trust gives your teachers purpose and pride in their work.
Let your team drive and support their improvement. You’ll start to see people going the extra mile because they enjoy the work they do. That’s the difference between business as usual and taking things to the next level and constantly improving.
Build Partnerships Within Your Team
As a leader, it is so important to know your people. This starts right from the questions that you’re asking in the interview process. Really get to know your team on a human level – what drives them, how they communicate and work together.
Good leaders know how to be authentic so that people can be honest about their thoughts, opinions and hesitations. Building trust is the first step to being a leader that people can depend on and want to follow.
Once you’ve established a good working relationship with your team, use what you know to build partnerships within the group. Many leaders make the mistake of assuming that everyone on the team will be able to resolve their differences “like mature adults.” Don’t take this for granted as a third voice of reason is extremely helpful for conflict resolution.
Teams that perform well have people who are solution-oriented and able to resolve differences early on in their working relationship. This builds an environment of mutual respect, trust and alignment in your team.
Going Above And Beyond
The best leaders know how to ask more of their team in a way that motivates everyone to work towards the same goal. There is a fine line between creating stretch goals and being unrealistic though, so be mindful of this.
A good way to do this is to identify areas in which your team members would like growth in. Do you have a teacher in the infant room who is a social media whiz? Let them take on more responsibility in owning your center’s social media pages for marketing your center.
Do you have someone who is hyper-organized and great at coordinating logistics? Ask if they would like to move into a more admin-focused role.
Have a teacher that is creative and LOVES coming up with fun activities? Help them spread their passion by creating mentorship opportunities for them within the team.
There are so many ways to support your team in getting to the next level. Sometimes, all it takes is to listen actively and identify opportunities to help them! The better your team is, the better your center becomes. It’s a win-win for you, your team and the families you serve.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Building a team that is on the same page requires you to define what that looks like. If you don’t have a mission statement, making one will help you reflect on the kind of environment you want to create at your child care center.
A good leader has a crystal clear vision and is constantly communicating it to their team. In this case, more is more! Think of your vision as a foundational piece when building your team. Every single member on your team should know what your center’s core values are and have them inform decisions.
Is your center somewhere that prioritizes creativity; is all about the family-feel; or do you stand for inclusivity? Solidifying this will be helpful to get your teachers on the same page and working towards a clear goal.
Face Up to Non-Performing Players
This is the hardest part of being an effective leader. Creating a good culture is hard work and maintaining it should be on par in terms of priorities. A team dynamic that is working well can easily be disrupted when the wrong individual is incorporated. Don’t be afraid to identify individuals who might be pulling the team apart because they aren’t a good culture fit.
It is one thing to give someone the time to learn how to be a good team player, and quite another thing to turn a blind eye when someone is consistently causing discord or being inappropriate. Of course, work with them to understand the cause of their behavior and offer opportunities for improvement.
Sometimes, the best judgement call is to let negative nancy go.
Are you working on building a superstar team? We have just the resource for you! The Complete Guide to Hiring & Retaining Early Childhood Educators covers everything from the interview to keeping staff motivated. Get it here!
- Addressing the Issue of Preschool Teacher Turnover
- Why Invest in Child Care Staff Training and Development
- Why Employee Engagement Matters in Early Childhood Education
- Early Childhood Employee Engagement Survey Results (Part 1)
- How to Support Teachers as a Preschool Leader
- 7 Ways to Build Trust at Your Child Care Center