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To Be Fair or Kind? 

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How to overcome internal conflict (and be a better stress-buster)

Conflict. Typically, we think of this as an interaction between two people, or groups of people. But conflict can also occur within a person. Ever been in “two minds” over making a decision? “Should I do this, or should I do that?” Sound familiar?

We each have a unique composition of 24 Character Strengths. These strengths fight for our attention leaving us flip-flopping between options and unable to solve the problem. We sit in our conflict and we inevitably feel stressed too. This is when our strengths clash – within ourselves.

 

Here’s a problem I faced with my team.

 

Be fair or be kind?

Let’s talk about Fairness and Kindness. I often struggle when these two strengths come forward and split my mind over the next action I should take. I had a team member who was hardworking and loyal. A solid performer. She had started coming to work late, then sometimes not showing up and only contacting us mid-morning. Her mood had flattened, but then I also saw some unusual outbursts of laughter at very inappropriate times. She was simply not the team member I know and love and her contribution to the team was lowering every week. I had approached her a couple of times to offer an ear, to find out if there was anything going on that I could assist with. I was shut down every time. When I listened to my strength of Fairness, it was telling me to take action to put a stop to this behaviour, her mood was impacting the team. In a negative way. I wanted to protect our team culture – this was only fair to everyone else. But how could I do that when she wouldn’t open up to me?

When I tuned into my strength of Kindness, it was encouraging me to show more compassion, give her more time. Cut her some slack. But Fairness wanted to put a quick end to this negative behaviour that was impacting the team. I was torn over what to do next.

Wrestling with my own two points of view, I realised I was at an impasse because my strengths of Fairness and Kindness were clashing and I couldn’t make a decision.

 

Strength Spotting

Remembering that strength spotting overcomes strengths that clash, I did some strength spotting of my own. I tapped into one of my Top 5 Signature Strengths – Judgement. Using this strength, I could take a step back and consider the bigger picture to put this situation into perspective. This strength is where one considers all information before making a decision. For long-term and lasting gain, I had to offer assistance to help my team member through whatever she was experiencing. If she could overcome it, then it was likely I would get the value from her again. We talked and I made it clear that things needed to change, so we agreed upon external support through our employee assistance program.

 

Just as we do strength spotting in our teams, it’s also helpful to exercise strength spotting on ourselves when our strengths clash. If you are struggling to make a decision, take look at your strengths profile, and bring forward another strength to help overcome the hurdle. You can resolve those clashing strengths by letting go of the dilemma and drawing from another strength to help you through. Not only will you overcome your conflict, strength spotting also helps to Build Resilience. And confidence.

Be a better stress buster

Resilience and confidence help us to better cope with the natural stressors in our jobs and in our lives. We can build these traits by getting to know our strengths, and then using them at every opportunity. This might sound like hard work, but honestly, it’s not. Our strengths are the things we do with minimal effort and the bonus is they have the biggest impact to the environment we use them in.

Here’s the good news. The more you practice strength spotting, the more capable you become at solving problems and making decisions. Guess what that means?

You are better able to deal with stress.

Here’s a recap:

 Feeling conflicted?

Identify which of your strengths are clashing

Do some strength spotting to find another strength and apply it

Take action

Reflect and be proud that you handled the issue

Smile because you solved it.

You’ve got this.

 

To learn about how Strengths Spotting can build a Trusted Team, click here to take a look at our team workshop.

About the author:  Nicole is an organisational psychologist who believes that when people understand their strengths, capabilities and motivators, they can unleash all their brilliance to perform at the highest level and create high performing teams.  Nicole is an integral part of the Farran Street Education facilitation team, and currently facilitates team workshops including Understanding Yourself and Others and The Trusted Team.

Forget The Pecking Order At Work 

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Check out this amazing talk by business leader Margaret Heffernan at TEDwoman. She suggests that it’s not intelligence but social cohesion and team members asking each another for help which creates a high performing team.

Did you love the video? Then you’ll love The Educator Leadership Academy. This 2-month program focuses on a fresh approach to leadership, motivation, feedback, delegation, and assertiveness. Kicks off on 18th October. Click here to reserve your place today.

From Friend to Boss 

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What’s the quickest way to lose a friend? Become their boss.

Becoming a boss is an exciting time, but it’s also fraught with dangers. Managing people who used to be your peers can be a minefield just waiting to explode.

New managers need to take the time to establish their credibility and authority without seeming like they are now drunk with power.

Let’s look at five (5) quick tips which can help you navigate the minefield of going from peer to boss.

 

  1. Announce the transition

Your role has changed. Ideally, your current boss will announce the change to the team and parents. It’s really important that everyone understands your new role and responsibilities. You can also help to announce the transition by having 1:1 meetings with each of your team members. These can be awkward at first, but if you make them casual meetings and start by asking; “what are your expectations of me as your manager?” “How can I best support you?” You should also take this time to establish your authority as a leader. This doesn’t mean that you should start telling people what to do. Rather you should take the time to listen to their concerns, and assert your authority in a positive way….think extra annual leave, additional resources, learning and development etc.

 

  1. Be a butterfly

Fly around. Be pretty, say nice things, make no enemies for the first 3 months at least. You probably have lots of new ideas about how to lead the team, but you want to avoid making any big changes in the first 3 months. You can make a few small changes in the first few months, especially if they are seen as positive. However, delay any big decisions until after you’ve had time to chat with the team and seek input from them.

 

  1. Distance yourself from your former peers

When you become the boss, the dynamic between you and your former peers changes completely. People start to watch you like never before. You need to recalibrate your existing friendships. Unfortunately, you can’t continue to have the close relationships you had before. Failing to recalibrate those relationships will leave you open to the accusation of playing favorites. You want to avoid staff-room gossip sessions. You might need to be less available for social gatherings. You don’t want to become unapproachable. You just need to signal a slight change in the relationship. You’re no longer their peer. You are now the person who delegates work, gives feedback and manages complaints.

 

  1. Build your new network

You may need to distance yourself from your peers, but a whole new network of people has just opened up to you. You have a new boss to build a relationship with and new leaders who have now become your peers. Think about how you’re going to build your leadership network. You can see the development of your leadership network through 3 different lenses. Operational, personal and strategic networking.  Operational networking is building relationships with people who are going to help you succeed at getting the tasks done. This could be suppliers, families and other managers. Personal networks are largely external to the service and are comprised of people who have similar interests or responsibilities. Finally, and most importantly is your strategic network. This is your network of influences, industry leaders, change agents, experts and people who may seem unconnected to your current role, but will provide invaluable information in keeping you ahead of the game.

 

  1. Demonstrate your leadership style

Now that you’ve been promoted you have a great opportunity to try out different leadership personas. We are not one, but many selves. Our leadership style will be defined by many things, who we hope to become or even who we fear becoming. When you become a leader, you have an opportunity to try out different selves, different leadership styles. Try new things, tell different stories, use trial and error with your leadership practice. Just like you have developed a style as an Educator, it’s now time to develop a leadership persona. How will you delegate? How will you celebrate? How will you communicate? You as a leader, what do you stand for and what do you believe in?

 

Going from peer to boss can be a minefield to navigate, but with the right support and guidance, you’ll become a leader that’s respected and admired.

 

Are you learning to lead? The Educator Leadership Academy is the place to start.

 

About the author:
Adrian Pattra is the Education Director of Farran Street Education. In this role, he manages the day-to-day operational and educational outcomes. Adrian has been involved in adult education for the past 15 years, he holds a Bachelor of Education and a Master in Educational Psychology. Adrian has worked with a range of Children Service’s organisations, providing them with the tools to improve their competency and learning frameworks, while creating a culture of continuous learning.  For the past 20 years, Adrian together with his family has a small long day care service on Sydney’s lower north shore.

Is being a Certified Supervisor the worst job ever? 

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In the best magic trick, the magician places a white rabbit on a solid table. He then covers the rabbit with a black cloth. Finally, to complete the trick, the magician waves his hands, removes the black cloth and to everyones surprise, the rabbit disappeared!

I can’t help but think that the rabbit is a little like a certified supervisor, one moment you are the responsible person with all this authority, the next moment you are not.

The law requires most services to have a responsible person on the premises at all times. During certain periods this responsibility will fall to a certified supervisor.

If the nominated supervisor is absent, the certified supervisor will be bestowed the mantle of “responsible person.”  When the nominated supervisor returns, the certified supervisor is stripped of their title and the nominated supervisor once again regains the mantle of the responsible person.

Similar issues occur in OSHC, where sometimes team leaders are given non-team leader shifts.  It’s an unworkable situation. It’s like Adel singing backup for Beyoncé. Image being told your in-charge for the next 3 hours, then you’re not in charge anymore, like a discarded branch, now stripped of authority.

The issues have arisen due to people assuming that responsibility and authority are the same thing. Therefore, when someone becomes the responsible person they also seem to be given extra authority.  When the title is removed so is the authority.

Removing authority from people creates all sorts of issues. Roles and responsibilities become unclear, levels of motivation plummet.  Miscommunication increases and there is a lack of clear leadership whilst Educators fail to thrive.

Being allocated responsible person should not mean that your level of authority increases.-Similarly, the removal of the responsible person title doesn’t mean that your level of authority decreases.

Levels of authority need to remain stable. Levels of authority should not change in the short term. Pilots and 1st officers don’t switch seats half way through the flight. Their level of authority remains the same even though their responsibilities may change during the flight.

This should be the same for the leadership team at your service. Their level of authority, (the level of power) should remain stable. Authority such as; power to command a situation, move or commit resources, give direction and expect them to be obeyed, should remain stable and not change regardless of who is the responsible person.

The “responsible person title” should be nothing more than an invisible cloak worn by one person at any time. Best practice suggests that you form a leadership team. A strong leadership team is at the core of all successful services. Leadership teams help you maintain consistency and minimize miscommunications.

The role of the leadership team is to lead and guide the staff. They decide on the direction of the service and manage special projects. Everyone on the leadership team has the same level of authority (except for the Nominated Supervisor). The invisible cloak of responsibility is passed seamlessly among the leadership team.

By creating a leadership team, with a clear level of authority, you’ll reduce miscommunications and increase mutual respect and understanding. This way, it becomes clear to staff that everyone on the leadership team has a clear amount of authority and it doesn’t change from hour to hour.

The responsible person title is a way of ensuring that one person is untimely responsible for the running of a service at any given time. Being a certified supervisor doesn’t have to be the worst job ever, but if it comes with sporadic levels of authority, then you might want to pull a Houdini and disappear in a puff of smoke!

 

For more information on how to manage staff like a pro, check out our upcoming workshops “Hiring, Firing and Everything in Between

 

  • Update – In October 2017 changes to the NQS (in most states) will remove the need for certified supervisor certificates and certified supervisors. However, they still require Approved providers to ensure that a responsible person is present at a center-based service at all times.

 

7 Time Saving Tricks for Centre Managers

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Being time-poor is perhaps the biggest hurdle in being an effective manager in an early childhood education and care setting. So many people say “If I didn’t get so many interruptions, I might actually be able to get something done!”

In this post we explore and look at time-saving tools to significantly improve communication with Educators / Teachers and families. These tools can literally save you hours each day.

1. Reduce interruptions by talking to your staff more

Having regular catch-ups with your team 1:1 will mean less interruptions. Ideally, you should meet with each of your staff once a week for 5 to 7 minutes. In this time, you can give them your undivided attention, find out how their weeks been, follow up on any feedback and check in with them. As your weekly meetings become more and more regular, you’ll find your Educators / Teachers interrupt you less. They hold their ideas waiting for the weekly meeting. You can even get them an A4 exercise book where they can jot down their ideas during the week

2. Delegate

Make sure the right person does the right job at the right time. You shouldn’t be the person ordering nappies and baby wipes. Having a manager ordering stock is a poor use of resources. Giving an up-and-coming staff member the responsibility of managing the stock levels is a more appropriate use of human resources. You can relieve that staff member whilst they order supplies and you can use that time to coach and mentor staff in the room.

3. Have morning briefings

How many times do you have to deliver the same message each morning? First into the babies room, then into the toddlers, then to the preschoolers and don’t forget the kitchen and the office. Take the time to have morning briefings., Do them over an intercom system. The room leaders listens on the intercom to the morning briefing, often no longer than three or four minutes. Then they’re responsible for passing on the message to their teams. Absent children, messages from parents, lunches or changes in shifts, they can all be delivered over the morning briefing. At Farran Street we call them the morning POW-WOW.

4. Schedule other people

At Farran Street, we invite potential families to make an appointment to tour the service. Tours are conducted every Monday between 9 and 11am. If potential families pop into the service outside these times, they are greeted and invited to make an appointment for the following Monday. Sales reps, booksellers, handy men, potential families, everyone needs to make an appointment. Reminder emails are sent two days before meetings to minimise no-shows.

5. Use technology to save time

Create a closed Facebook group to help your Educators / Teachers keep in touch. You can post rosters, notices, questions and reminders all to the Facebook group. Staff will receive notifications when the group has been updated, and you’ll be able to see who’s viewed the material. A closed Facebook group is just like the whiteboard in the staff room, only this way, it can be accessed from anywhere at any time and it becomes a discussion rather than just a way of delivering messages.

6. Schedule reactive time

If you have eight hours of office time and you know that normally you’re interrupted at least a quarter of the time, then you should only be scheduling six hours’ worth of work. In the morning, list down all the things you plan to complete that day and leave time for interruptions and reactive tasks. This way you won’t feel frustrated or demoralised when you have to deal with an issue immediately.

7. Use geo-reminders on your iPhone

The iPhone’s reminders App is pretty handy., Add in its location-based abilities and it becomes an absolute lifesaver. You can set up reminder alerts to go off at a certain place. For example, if you keep forgetting to collect those art and craft supplies, your iPhone can remind you the next time you’re within 100 meters of the supermarket. It can also remind you of things before you leave the house or set a reminder to take work home before you leave for the day.

For more time-saving tricks join us for the Early Childhood Management webinar series which starts on 23rd August. Click here to reserve your seat.

Educators at War: A Tale of Zest and Self-Regulation 

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Strengths are the blueprint to finding success in life – both at work and at home. When we focus on strengths within ourselves and in the people around us, we can help build better workplace relationships and improve communication in all aspects of our lives.

 

But here’s the catch.

Our strengths can get us into strife too! Strengths do clash. Let’s face it, we have all encountered conflict with another person in some shape or form. No matter how many policies and procedures we develop or how well we craft a position description – we will always have to deal with people. We can’t run a successful Centre on our own (We could try, but this may lead to insanity. But that’s another story….).

Strengths clash and it is because of this that we can achieve genius such as breakthroughs in problem-solving or novel inventions or amazing musical lyrics and song. But in the ordinary world when strengths clash, it usually indicates two people approaching the same situation from different perspectives. It can be really frustrating and the impact can reach all areas of the Centre.

 

Recently I spoke with a client who told me of some problems she faced within her team. Two of her educators were in conflict. She had tried talking to them, she tried asking them to work together on a project, to encourage them to get to know each other better. They were even sat together at the last Tasty Thai team dinner. Nothing worked. Upon exploring the issue further, I asked some questions relating to their individual strengths and what they were doing well. Both educators made valuable contributions in their own right, so what was going on here?

 

This was a classic tale of Strengths that Clash. One of the educators, let’s call her Miss Zest, full of life, adventure and energy liked the morning routine to commence with three activity tables set up by 8am. One for play doh, and two tables for baking – cookies or cake that could be eaten for morning tea. Miss Zest believed that when the children arrived, joining an organised activity straight away made the drop-off and goodbye easier. Easier for the parents, easier for the educators and for children. This meant the early morning was a mad scramble between wrapping up breakfast service and setting up the three activity tables. Miss Zest found this exciting.

 

Miss Self- Regulation, the co- educator in the room, did not like being made to madly race around so early in the morning believing this stressed out the children and that instead, they should be allowed free-play on arrival. Self-regulators monitor their feelings and behaviours closely, they are controlled and disciplined. Miss Self-Regulation preferred to ease into the morning and not be drawn into the ‘madness’ just so the kids could bake some silly cookies – they already ate too much sugar and shouldn’t be encouraged to over-indulge anyway.

 

Miss Zest complained that her colleague lacked energy and enthusiasm and always took the fun out of her ideas. Miss Self -regulation felt her colleague was adding unnecessary pressure to the morning, after all she would need a constant stream of energy to sustain the entire day’s schedule. Why over exert oneself so early? – we had a whole day to get through.


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How would you approach this situation?

Insist Miss Zest abandon her morning activity tables? Force Miss Self- Regulation to participate? Both of these options allow one educator to thrive whilst the other continues to be unhappy. Split them to different rooms? You’re only moving the problem around.

A better approach is to encourage a culture where strengths are celebrated. Everyone has a unique profile of strengths. When we get to express them, we feel valued and connected to our work. Not to mention happier at the end of the day. So try to remind yourself of the contributions your colleagues make, to the Centre, to the team, and to the children. It shifts your mind set from negative to positive.

 

We call this Strengths Spotting.

And when we spot the strengths in our adversary, we can curb our frustration and begin to work on a solution.

 

So, back to Miss Zest and Miss Self Regulation…..

After learning to spot strengths, Miss Zest recognises that her co-worker simply wants to exert her energy in equal amounts throughout the day so she can operate at her best – consistently. Miss Self-Regulation now sees that Miss Zest’s energy is contagious and can see the children and the parents love walking in to the buzzing room.

Our two educators now thrive at work. They enjoy being themselves and being valued for their contributions to an overall successful day at work. Their relationship has improved taking the tension away from the work day. (Miss Zest now prep’s the activity tables the night before and breakfast service has been moved to another room, removing the morning stress).

So, when strengths clash, try some strengths spotting instead. You may just be surprised at what your colleagues value in you.

 

It feels good. Try it!

 

 

To learn about how Strengths Spotting can build a Trusted Team, click here to take a look at our team workshop.

Too much or too little chocolate? 

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Too much or too little of your strengths? How to find the balance?

Character strengths are a little like chocolate. Eaten in a balanced way, it can be a well-deserved treat. But over eat and all the pleasure disappears.  Under-eat and you’re left disappointed.

Similarly, your character strengths need to be demonstrated in a balanced way. Too much and you’ll destroy the relationship, too little will leave you feeling uninvolved.

Character strengths are the qualities and virtues that enable you to thrive. They are the way you think, act and feel and you exhibit these in different amounts.  This is what makes you unique. Focusing on the things you are good at, is a positive approach that we can all benefit from. This builds our resilience in a time where life is crazy – busy with demands on our time like never experienced by previous generations.

There are 24 Character Strengths which can be drawn upon in different degrees. Your strengths might be kindness, love, perseverance, fairness or zest. In fact, you generally have five signature strengths that you utilise when being your natural self. It’s almost unconscious. Other strengths are curiosity, perspective, or creativity. What are your strengths?

When used in the right amounts, your strengths improve your enjoyment of work and overall levels of happiness.

Sometimes, however, we can draw too strongly on a strength, or even too little. Like anything in life (think chocolate!) balance is the key to sustained enjoyment or satisfaction and success.

Honestly……

Let’s take the strength of honesty, and imagine it on a continuum where too much honesty becomes overuse (like being outspoken) and too little is underuse (not saying how you really feel). The middle area is the “optimal zone” where the strength is expressed in just the right amount to be effective in a particular situation.

Let me give you an example of what overuse and underuse can look like at work. My top strength is Honesty which can be both a blessing and a curse.

A blessing because my colleagues value that with me, what they see is what they get and I will give them the feedback and praise that they genuinely deserve. This is when I am expressing honesty from the middle of the continuum or optimal zone. Everyone is happy.

Why can it also be a curse? Because sometimes, when under pressure, tired or cranky, I can overuse my honesty, forget my filter and come across as blunt. So, last week when my colleague forgot to bring her resources which she had promised for our group activity, I snapped. “Now the session is ruined. We can’t proceed without the resources. I texted you a reminder. You are always so unreliable.” I said. Now even though this was honestly what I was thinking, it does nothing to sustain a secure relationship from which we can both thrive.

I had damaged the relationship with my colleague by overusing my honesty in that situation.

What would an underuse of honesty look like in that situation? The interaction would probably have gone a little like this “That’s fine, the activity will still be effective without it. It doesn’t matter,” when I really know that not to be true.

Finding the Optimal Zone

So how do you know what the optimal zone looks like? In my experience, it helps to pay attention to two things:

 

  1. Your feelings post interaction.

“I wish I didn’t say that. I came on too strongly and I regret that” indicates Overuse

Whilst “I am so happy with how that went” indicates you were in the Optimal Zone.

 

  1. How the other person reacts.

“I can see I offended my colleague. They look really disheartened.” indicates overuse

Whilst, the next reflection is a signal you were in the optimal zone,

“My colleague appreciated that open discussion and they are motivated with an action plan to take away.”

Taking a moment to reflect on an interaction will provide you with the clues to assess what the right balance of your strengths look like. The balanced expression should leave all parties feeling satisfied, comfortable and valued.

It can be difficult to walk the fine line between over and under use of our strengths. After all, a strength is a behaviour that comes naturally to you. Most of the time you are unaware of it. But if you focus on the interaction between you and others, you’ll soon find the balance. This will create a more cohesive and engaged team.

And then, you’ll deserve more chocolate!

 

 

About the author: 

Nicole is an organisational psychologist who believes that when people understand their strengths, capabilities and motivators, they can unleash all their brilliance to perform at the highest level and create high performing teams. 
Nicole is an integral part of the Farran Street Education facilitation team, and currently facilitates team workshops including Understanding Yourself and Others and The Trusted Team.

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