Early in my leadership journey I understood the importance of mentoring those around me and enabling them to be successful in their own right. This can be a space where many leaders come unstuck. I am not afraid of others being better than me. It is about truly understanding where your genuine strengths are. I surround myself with very competent and skilled people that teach me daily as much as I no doubt teach them. Being in a leadership position does not give automatic respect and it certainly doesn't mean that people will engage with you. Respect I believe, comes from a sense that they are part of something special together with you, not for you.
From the time I have operated Rosie's I have been consistently watching to see who is popping their head up in search of more. This is where investment really pays off. Over time I have gained a clearer idea of what a future leader looks like. My biggest learning was that if someone doesn't want to do it, you will never convince them to. Hence the reason I watch for those who are intrinsically driven to look for more.
Remember though, just because someone wants to be a leader, this will not always translate into effective leadership. When I talk about investment, this is not just about the financial investment. It is about time. Your time and their time and time is the hardest element to find. Being a leader is busy work and trying to find the time to mentor another often falls down the priority list.
Ken Wright writes about 'EQ2 - Engagement Intelligence' in his book The People Pill. He states 'people don't leave organisations, they leave leaders.’ Make the time to invest in others. In fact prioritise it!’ When you find the right people, investing actively demonstrates the value you place in their contributions.
How do you find the right people?
Finding the right people is one of the hardest elements when leading any high quality, functional team. There are many different types of people. Three general ways to describe personalities might be:
- passionate and driven
- resistant to reflection and change or
- those who just do it for a job
Varying personalities are in every workplace and at all levels, so recruitment is the first step to getting the right people. I started to understand the importance of the 'type' of person to recruit rather than focussing on the qualification or experience. As an example, many people identify themselves as 'passionate' but what I discovered is that ‘my passionate'and ‘their passionate'can have two different meanings. For example, I believe lead educators must be reflective, able to take on new ideas and change their practice, even if something has been their practice for a long time. Trust me this is easy to say at an interview, harder to do in practice.
So how can you identify at an interview the authenticity of what is being said? My experience is that to do this there must be multiple strategies and layers to the recruitment process. Although a person’s early childhood experience and qualification may get them the interview, this should not be the only criteria for the position. Understanding how the person will integrate into the team is a critical element. I have also found that just because a person has a higher qualification or more experience than other applicants this does not always translate to the applicant being a successful addition to the team and work culture.
Firstly, well-considered interview process that draws out the applicants personality begins to give insight. To develop a team of reflective educators takes time, patience and plenty of feedback. The recruitment process I now use is centred around how the person 'fits' with the culture of the centre, regardless of how much experience they have. I back myself and the competence of the team that we can teach them the skills they need to be successful at Rosie's if they are open to learn. The probationary period is crucial for this. You might consider integrating the following ideas into the recruitment process:
Applicants complete an online personality test before the interview. (There are many free
online test available and this will give insight into traits of a person)
Applicants are required to do a small (10 min) presentation on their early childhood philosophy
and why they believe in this.
Applicants are given notice that they will be with a small group of children and an educator for a 20-minute period as an opportunity to demonstrate how they engage children. It is expected that they will come prepared for this. This is an excellent way to engage the children in the recruitment process by asking for their feedback on each person.
Secondly, testing out someone's ability to take on feedback and make change can only really be assessed practically. During the interview I will always give the applicant verbal feedback to improve on their resume to identify how this is received. A person’s response may be ‘thank you for that’ but their body language may tell a different story. In addition, those first few months are about spending time to shape practice and gain perspective on their emotional capacity to receive feedback.
As a leader I work hard to reflect on how successful the transition for a new team member has been and how adjustments can be made to improve the process. This reflection has guided a very detailed and integrated recruitment process, meaningful orientation process and a 6 monthtraining program during their probationary period to lay a platform for success. Ensuring the new person has time to settle in, a buddy to rely on to ask questions and quality 1:1 time in the first few months sets people up with the best chance of being successful. The more ad-hoc the process, the less likely it is to be successful. As a leader I see that building other’s capacity is my role and I need to prioritise my time to lead this type of discussion.
In conclusion I will leave you with this parting piece of advice: Investing in people is not quick and easy. It’s not giving feedback 'on the fly'or as we pass each other in the staffroom but prioritising focussed reflection, allocating uninterrupted time and being in the moment with your people and the processes.
Excerpt From: Creating, Developing and Sustaining a Collaborative Team of Educators. Rose. C, (available in e-book version @ www.therosewayplanning.com)