What are your expectations of your staff?
As leaders we sometimes find ourselves in a situation that somehow has, without us knowing it, escalated out of control and has grown a head, teeth and giant claws. Or it reaches your attention that something you had instructed is not happening. Quite often this reaches your radar when something goes wrong and you are left thinking…”WHAT???”….
It may be something you did not feel required checking because you assumed that, as you had told staff to do it, they would just in actual fact do it. Well we all know that to assume makes an ass out of you and me!
A recent experience of this was signing in an out of the room: when a practitioner enters the nursery unit and takes responsibility for the children in the room they should sign in, and when they step away from that responsibility by leaving the room, they sign out…simple. This is a practice that I had not been checking: it was set in stone. Then something went wrong.
During the course of the subsequent investigation I interviewed four members of staff. Each gave entirely different accounts of the times of events and of who was in the room at what time. Without the aid of a signing in and out sheet there was no evidence to support any of the accounts.
Anyway back to the stall. In any profession practices that leaders take for granted can fall by the wayside because someone forgets to do it once, they are not challenged, they continue to forget or they decide the practice can’t be important. They tell a colleague, train a new member of staff, and before you know it ‘no-one has done that for years….’
Within early years the amount of things we expect practitioners to do on a daily basis and the amount of things we as leaders are required to check are vast. Two years since returning to the role of nursery manager I only just feel I have a grasp of all of these.
Knowing what you want, what your expectations are and assuming that by telling people your wishes will be carried out is a myth, so here is my suggestion.
Decide what you want
There will be things written into legislation or required by Ofsted that need to go at the very top of the list, for example there must always be at least one member of staff present for every four 2 year olds, it is a given. There will be things that you, as the leader must decide are the rules, you study the guidance and conclude that x needs to be done this frequently, by this person, in this particular way. Sometimes the rules we want to put into place cannot happen due to other factors, for example you want free flow play available from 10am every day, however the room does not have access to an adjoining outdoor space, so you adjust your rules.
Write it down
Once you have set your rules, you need to decide how are you going present them, written policies and procedures, presentation at a team meeting, during induction, in a handbook etc. I can say without a doubt that if you do not write it down somewhere you cannot guarantee everyone will use their common sense and do it…they won’t.
Decide on the level of detail
Next you need to decide how much detail you need to include in your written or verbal communication. ‘Signing in and out of the room as you enter or leave’ was not enough detail, the communication needed to say EVERY time you enter or leave the room. “What if I am only going to the toilet”…YES, because if something happens whilst you are in the toilet do you want to be held accountable?
Communicating the rules
Once your rules are written, in as much detail as needed, you need to communicate them to staff. Again I hear you thinking, well it is written into the policies, and of course people will follow them. In my experience there is no single effective way to get that message across and most people need the information in at least two different ways and there will still be some who don’t get the message. I have studied learning styles and have tried each and every medium possible, written, verbal, showing etc and my conclusion was to do all of the below:
- Write it down
- Tell people
- Show people
- Check understanding
- Get them to write it down
- Ask for them to tell you what they understand
- Check daily until you believe it is being followed
- Challenge consistently when it is not followed
This is all very time consuming and draining but in my experience is the only effective way to ensure your rules are followed each and every time.
What are the things in your setting that your team seem to constantly struggle with?