Become a Leader by Creating Great Working Relationships

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How Do You Become a Leader?

It’s a long-term process, based on strong foundations. It’s not difficult, but it requires attention, intention, persistence and the willingness to make changes.

Consistently moving forward is the key. You will need to be alert at all times and consciously seek situations to practice the characteristics you want to improve. Simply be alert and make use of the opportunities that naturally occur from moment to moment in your service.

It can take weeks to cultivate a new habit, and years to cultivate a leader. However, your educators will appreciate the effort. Keep it up until the characteristic becomes effortless, then select another characteristic and use the same process.

Characteristics of a Leader

Leading by example is one of the strongest characteristics of a leader. Not allowing your educators to see any struggles or weaknesses will allow you to present yourself as a strong, rational and calm leader. This will have a flow on effect to your team and will lay the foundation for commitment, contribution, growth and fulfilment.

Positive relationships can go a long way. A team works better when they feel secure, comfortable and have emotional connections with the people they work with. You should play a proactive role in nurturing each educator so that their strengths are maximised and their weaknesses minimised.

You may struggle to present the strong, rational and calm leader you are all the time. It’s often a learning curve for you too. However, it is best to self-regulate any feelings as your educators will feed off your feelings. If you seem stressed and overwhelmed, they’ll think something is wrong and will end up feeling that way too. It is necessary that you maintain a comfortable and confident front with your employees.

Characteristic: Role Model

You are always leading by example. The challenge is to be the best role model you can be at all times. Disney famously tells all its staff that they’re there to “put on a show” and whether you’re the person taking the tickets at the front gate or the CEO, you make sure that you’re calm, collected and that the audience enjoys themselves.

Strategy: Lead by example

If you break the rules, you can’t expect your educators to follow them. For example, if you say everyone gets programming time and you consistently forget to give your educators this time, they will disrespect you, stop doing anything and start making you look silly. They may find another job and leave without completing their portfolios.

Characteristic: Vision and the Ability to Dream

Looking at the “big picture” and developing the ability to have perspective on how things fall into place is critical. This will allow you to overcome any incidents and prioritise the right amount of attention to a task and choose the appropriate solution.

Do not let go of your vision. Your vision will guide the attitude of your team, and you should not be afraid to share it with the whole service and the community.

Strategy: Get your Team Members on Board

Collaborate with your team and incorporate their input. Agree on the goal and work together to produce strategies to enable you to get there. Outline who’s responsible for each step.

 Characteristic: Thinking Systematically

Approach problems with a view to find a solution. Work with your team to improve a system or process to allow educators to succeed in their job and meet your expectation.

Strategy: Implement and Follow Policies

You need to implement and then follow clear systematic policies. If something doesn’t work, then educators need to give feedback on what the impact was on their role. Seek collaboration and agreement on issues that need to be changed or fixed through questionnaires and discussions at team meetings and come up with strategies to manage it.

Characteristic: Honest and Open Communication

Honesty doesn’t mean sharing everything with everyone. However, maintaining open and honest lines of communication will mean that your team will learn from your standards and reciprocate by being open and honest with you.

Strategy: Act with Integrity

Ensure that there is constant communication with your educators, such as a Communications Book. Give clear and consistent direction, especially with shift changes in the afternoon. Ensure all children’s clothes are on eg shoes and socks and everyone knows who soiled their clothes and where they are because there is nothing worse than a parent freaking out about a top Max is wearing that doesn’t belong to him while no one knows where his clothes are because the Room Leader has finished the shift.

 Characteristic: Teach People How to Treat You

If you always answer your educator’s questions and become their go-to for every small thing, they’ll never learn the skills or the knowledge they need to work independently.

Strategy:  Teach your educators to come to you with solutions, not problems

If your educators are constantly asking you questions about the regulations and you’re answering them, they are not acquiring knowledge. They just know that you know the answer. Give your staff access to the Regulations and resources to empower them with the knowledge to solve their own problems.

Characteristic: Strength

Lead with your service philosophy to inspire your Educators and make them accountable to the standards you, your families and children expect. In some instances, team members may question a situation but it is always easier, fairer and more professional to fall back on the standards you have set (and communicated) with your team. They need to know what your expectations are and learn that near enough is not enough.

Showing strength is different from being stubborn. You are able to change your mind without bowing to pressure. Base your decisions on honesty, fairness, professionalism and the best result for the given situation, your team and the children and their families.

Strategy: Collaborative decision making

If you’ve made the decision to pursue something with a different approach, take the time to explain to your educators why you are changing the process. Take the time to incorporate their feedback and look at options for change that suit everybody.

 Characteristic: Fairness, Reasonableness and Consistency

Being consistent and fair with your team will build respect for your role as a leader. A leader should not call favours or privilege some team members above others. It’s important that you use balanced judgement at all times.

Remember, there’s a distinct difference between being rational and being reasonable. Do not let the rules get in the way of fairness and good judgement in unusual circumstances.

Strategy: Consistent Expectations

For example, Educators may get behind in compiling their portfolios. Your expectation in ensuring that portfolios are up to date should be the same for all educators regardless of who you may be friendlier with. Of course there will be situations which require reasonableness however what you expect from one educator must be the same for others. When you allow one educator to not meet your standard you set a precedence which allows others to do the same.

 Characteristic: Thoroughness and Persistence

At times, you will be required to make decision quickly. It is good idea to take a step back for a moment, put the decision into context, and take some extra time to make the right decision that is best for the long term operations of the room. Think critically before you act.

Strategy: Transparent communication

For example, a family brings in a child who has been unwell and they tell one of your educators the child was prescribed antibiotics the previous evening. You could just ignore it or you could investigate to ascertain the full details. The condition may be infectious and need exclusion or others may contract the illness. By being thorough and persistent and knowing the service policy, contacting the family for more detail and checking exclusion details you are protecting others and leading by example.

 Characteristic: Calmness
It’s really important that you actively listen to the full detail of the situation and then choose your course of action rather than jumping in too fast and making a rash decision. Calmness will provide reassurance to others in the team and that you have the matter in hand and are in control of the situation.

 Strategy: Approach Situations Calmly

A parent is reacting to an incident that has occurred in the room. You should calmly investigate and discuss the issue with the parent to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

 Characteristic: Protectiveness

While you lead the team, you’re also a member of it. Therefore, you must share the accountability. If things are not at your standard, share the responsibility and immediately begin to act to rectify. Remind your educators of the vision and philosophy and give feedback in a constructive, supportive way.

 Strategy: Back your team

You have to stand up for your team and your practices when you believe you are doing the right thing. For example, there is a demanding family member who is constantly criticising your educators. You have discussed this situation with the educator and believe she has followed service policies and procedures. You advise the family member that educators are following service policies and procedures, and they may raise any concerns with the Regulatory Authority if they wish.

 Characteristic: Patience

Your educators will make honest mistakes. They need to be handled with patience and tolerance.

Intentional misbehaviour and dishonesty cannot be tolerated and should be addressed immediately.

Strategy: Patient Performance Management

For example, an educator speaks English as a second language and repeatedly gets the labelled belongings of the infants mixed up and packed in the incorrect bags. She rushes because she wants to show she can do the job well and you have spoken to her before about taking her time to check and double check names. You speak to her once more but this time explain to her the wasted time, energy and frustration of the parent when the wrong items are returned home. You reassure her that taking a little longer saves time in the long run. You continue to remind her of the importance of her actions and acknowledge the improvement.

Characteristic: Commitment to Improvement and Learning
Educators must focus on continuous improvement and should be encouraged to think outside the box! At the same time, use existing ways until the newer, better, faster version is ready to implement.

 Strategy: Educators should help to compile the Quality Improvement Plan

A newly graduated ECT commences at your service and starts to discuss importance of critical reflection as a key strategy to improve teaching strategies and moral and ethical issues impacting on children’s learning. You hear another educator tell her that that is not how we do it. We have always just evaluated what equipment we had out and we have been doing that for 15 years. As the leader you cannot allow others to shut this educator’s knowledge down instead you interject and ask more about her views of critical reflection and advocate for it explaining that all educators need to commit to reflect, assess and continually improve their professional practice.

 Characteristic: Loyalty

When an employee identifies with your vision and values it as an integral part of their own personal goals, you have a powerful combination of a person’s vision, commitment and talent with those of the service. When those are aligned, you have mutual loyalty.

 Strategy: Invest in your educators’ talent

Your educators’ natural talents and interests can be assets for your room. For example, an educator who is passionate about yoga, an educator who has worked in childcare overseas or an educator who used to work in a customer service role can all bring different elements to your room and curriculum. Encourage your educators to bring forward ideas, give them time to research it, encourage professional development and support them to implement their ideas.

 Characteristic: Avoid the “Poison” of Cynicism

Thinking cynically is unproductive. It won’t earn you the respect of your team. Cynics, in the worst instances, are dissatisfied people who are suspicious of the motives of others and expect the worst from every situation. They are the sarcastic pessimists of the world and they bring down those around them with negativity.

Strategy: Be resilient

Sometimes work can feel like you’re banging your head into a wall. Acknowledge that and try not to get disheartened. Take the time to take care of yourself and bounce back from disappointments. Look at the strategy you used to approach the outcome you were trying to achieve. Try it again from a different perspective, but remember to choose your battles.

Characteristic: Analysing Risk and Making Contingencies

Developing the ability to foresee issues before they are on top of you will allow you to ensure that risk is minimised. Just as you did for your own personal goals, list the barriers and limitations you have at work and work out how to prevent them from happening.

Strategy: Plan Ahead

You have plans in place to manage the biting behaviour of young children based on advice from outside professionals, collaborations with families and other educators.

 Finally, Keep at it!


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Self Development Worksheet – Building the Characteristics of a Leader

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Take the time to evaluate which of the above characteristics are working well and those that aren’t. Select one or two of the characteristics above that you consider most important and which you need to develop. After you’ve selected the characteristics, remember situations from your past when you have behaved as a leader and then think about the positive aspects of that behaviour. Next, remember situations from your past when your behaviour wasn’t up to standard. Replay those in your mind, this time as you should have behaved. In this way, you rehearse good behaviour and eliminate bad behaviour. Don’t spend time beating yourself up for your past behaviours though.  It doesn’t achieve anything.

This worksheet can be used when starting to develop a new leader characteristic, and also when reviewing your progress during the development of a characteristic.

Date worksheet completed: _________________

Characteristic being developed:
__________________________________________________

 Successful incidents (Incidents in which you demonstrated the characteristic in a way that was consistent with being a successful leader.  You like the way you handled the incident.)

  1. _______________________________________________________
  2. _______________________________________________________
  3. _______________________________________________________

Unsuccessful incidents (Incidents in which you did not behave like a leader.  You are not satisfied with the way you handled the incident.  Think first of what you didn’t do well.  Then erase the negative mindset by visualising in detail the way you would like to have handled the incident.)

  1. _______________________________________________________
  2. _______________________________________________________
  3. _______________________________________________________

How could you improve these leadership qualities?

Leadership Qualities Ways to improve
Vision and ability to dream
Thinking systemically
Honesty
Strength
Fairness and reasonableness
Thoroughness and persistence
Willingness to listen
Calmness
Predictability
Protectiveness
Patience
Compassion
Commitment to improvement
Desire for learning
Resiliency
Loyalty
Lack of cynicism

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Self-Evaluation Worksheet Characteristics of a Room / Group Leader

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Look at each of the leader characteristics listed below and think about yourself and where your own attitudes and behavior fall on the five-part scale shown. Circle the score that best indicates your level of development.
Then total the scores and compare your score with the comments at the bottom of the page.

Self-evaluation requires complete honesty with yourself.  The only right answers are honest answers.  It’s hard for most people to be objective about themselves so you might want to try a little trick.  Imagine you see yourself through the eyes of a trusted friend or associate.  Score yourself the way he or she would score you.  Remember, you’re looking for information to guide your own self-improvement.  The more objective you can be, the more successful your efforts to improve will be.

Name:

Characteristic Major Strength True Most of the Time Average Needs Attention Major Weakness
Vision and ability to dream 5 4 3 2 1
Thinking systemically 5 4 3 2 1
Honesty 5 4 3 2 1
Strength 5 4 3 2 1
Fairness and reasonableness 5 4 3 2 1
Thoroughness and persistence 5 4 3 2 1
Willingness to listen 5 4 3 2 1
Calmness 5 4 3 2 1
Predictability 5 4 3 2 1
Protectiveness 5 4 3 2 1
Patience 5 4 3 2 1
Compassion 5 4 3 2 1
Commitment to improvement 5 4 3 2 1
Desire for learning 5 4 3 2 1
Resiliency 5 4 3 2 1
Loyalty 5 4 3 2 1
Lack of cynicism 5 4 3 2 1

Your Total Score

__________________

76 to 85    Outstanding! You are an ideal leader.
59 to 75    Very good.  You’re well on your way.
42 to 58    So-so.  You have a lot to work with, but also a lot to work on.
25 to 41    You have major development work ahead.  But it’ll be fun.
17 to 24    Don’t be discouraged.  Think of the opportunity for growth!

What people think they do and say could be completely different to how people see and hear them


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Recognising your strengths and weaknesses

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When it all goes wrong

Version 1

Below is an example of how two educators teamed up and pushed out their Room Leader because they were not happy with her performance. At every chance Educators 1 and 2 highlighted the points below informally, then formally to the Director until the Director placed the Room Leader on a performance plan. The Room Leader resigned three days later.

 Not doing her job in the room

  • Reports from Educators 1 and 2 say the Room Leader is either on the computer, in the hallway or out of the room
  • Room Leader says she is going to do something but doesn’t
  • Educators 1 and 2 enjoy highlighting the difference between their amazing portfolios and the Room Leader’s not so amazing portfolios

Not giving direction

  • Room Leader doesn’t allow Educators 1 and 2 to arrange the room, and when they do she changes it back for no reason
  • Educators 1 and 2’s ideas are not allowed or implemented eg they’re not allowed to implement new artwork ideas or activities they plan
  • Educators 1 and 2 are supposed to get portfolio/program time on a Monday and Friday but don’t because Room Leader always says she has things to do that are more important
  • Room Leader stops Educators 1 and 2 taking portfolios home to complete and fails to allocate time for them to do it at work
  • Educators 1 and 2 often have to argue for time to program on Monday and then Educator 2 never gets her program time on Friday because Room Leader takes the whole day to do programming and portfolios
  • Room Leader stops Educator 1 and Educator 2 using the material the service provided
  • Room Leader stops Educator 1 and Educator 2 using the workshop area that Educator 1’s husband built
  • Room Leader uses the excuse “Director won’t allow that” to shut down everything that Educators 1 and 2 suggest

Basically the Room Leader no longer has the confidence of Educators 1 and 2 to do the Room Leader’s job.

Version 2

No one likes working with you as the Room Leader. New educators end up in your room and leave after 3 months without doing any of their children’s portfolios, leaving you in a bigger mess than what you started with. You are tired, you become stressed and that stress comes out when you become angry and short to the children. You raise your voice and you feel terrible, and you’re always so busy with endless amounts of work that never seems to get done. You are always talking about how bad your educators are in the staff room.

Why are you participating in this Room Leaders course?

List what you love about being the Room Leader? List what you DO NOT like about being the Room Leader?

Create your dream room and list below what a perfect day would be for you
as the Room Leader.

____________________________________________________________

Return to this sheet and complete when you have learnt a new leadership skill that will create your perfect day.

Prefect Day Barriers New learnt strategies to overcome barriers to the perfect day

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