With society essentially coming to a screeching halt during the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone has been feeling a combination of confusion, anxiety, stress, fear, frustration, and pretty much every other emotion.
More than ever, people need strong leaders to guide them through these troubling times. They need an assuring voice to make sense of all of the noise around them and let them know that they’ll be alright. Parents, who are now juggling working from home with being full-time caregivers, need to know they’re not in this situation alone. Early childhood educators facing job insecurity need to know that they have someone in their corner doing everything they can to support them.
In this unprecedented moment in history, child care owners and directors have a unique opportunity to step up and be the leaders that their communities need. Below are some techniques that you can begin using today.
Rally Your Team
A leader can only exist if there are people to lead. Find ways to make your staff feel like they’re part of an amazing team that’s there for each other.
With child care classified as an essential service in most regions, families are beginning to recognize all of the ECE community’s hard work more than ever. Remind your team how important their work truly is and how parents likely have a newfound respect for everything that they do. You can even ask parents to create appreciation notes or videos to send your team for an extra motivation boost.
One easy way to think like a team is to create a team name that you refer to yourselves as. You can even take this one step further by creating a logo or mascot and have them printed on t-shirts.
Speaking of t-shirts, many centers have been posting photos of their teams online with shirts that they’re wearing just for the crisis like these ones:
Whether your center is still open or fully closed, there are many changes affecting every child care business. The way things are normally done are meant for normal situations, and so a different scenario will require a different approach.
The specific will vary from center to center, but the most important takeaway here is to accept the new reality and adapt accordingly. For example, this could be in the form of:
- Giving your teachers different responsibilities while classes are closed.
- Starting an online program with at-home lessons and activities while your center is closed.
- Applying for financial relief to help your business survive the crisis.
- Changing your services entirely while you are closed (e.g. delivering the meals and snacks that parents normally rely on you for).
- Empower your team to be creative in suggesting projects that can engage families at this time.
It may be impossible to imagine now, but COVID-19 is just one moment in time that at some point we will look back on. While you are working hard to survive today, don’t lose sight of tomorrow. Most of us scrambled to keep up once COVID-19 hit, but you have an opportunity now to plan ahead so that you are fully prepared for once things go back to normal.
Create a “back to normal” plan that you can roll out once we are all given the go-ahead to open up the economy and see each other again. You can also resume any future planning activities that you normally do like finding new enrollments, preparing documentation and policies, applying for funding, and anything else you normally do that doesn’t impact your day-to-day operations.
Many national and local officials are providing daily updates throughout the crisis to keep everyone informed of the latest developments and to assure them that they are doing everything they can to support them.
You can take this same approach as well. Don’t be afraid about messaging parents and staff too often. You can also establish a consistent schedule where your team and families can expect to hear from you. Whether you’re sending the latest news that applies to families and child care, helpful tips, or just words of encouragement, keeping the lines of communication will reinforce your dedication to your community. Even if they don’t read every single message, people will be comforted simply knowing that you’re working hard to support them any way you can.
Communication goes two ways, so make sure you are also taking the time to hear what everyone else has to say. The best way to know how to help your community is by giving them the chance to let you know. You may have to go out of your way to hear from people by giving them a call or sending a text message or email, but make sure that you are regularly making an effort to speak with people so you can really understand what they are going through and how you will be able to help out.
Know of any other qualities of great leaders? Let us know in the comments below!