Overcoming the overwhelm
We’re all puffed. We're all stretched. We need to find ways to work smarter not harder. To help overcome the overwhelm, we have collated some ideas that have been utilised through working with a number of centres over the past 12 months.
We often don’t actually have the time or the energy to actually think about managing the workload. When we do, it can often add to the anxiety and stress that comes with being in a leadership role like yours.
Let's look at what we can do about it.
The most important thing as leaders and managers, we need to learn (and everyone else in the current environment) to put our own oxygen mask on first.
We have all heard this when we have been on a plane. The truth is, we can’t help and nurture others if we ourselves are overwhelmed and surrounded by piles of paper and never-ending to do lists. It is ok to take a minute. Will the world come to a grinding halt if you need a break?
The art of saying 'No'!
We don’t mean you should say 'no' to everything, but rather think about what you can and need to say 'yes' to. Start with 'no' as your first thought and work backwards. Instead of saying 'yes' to something and then trying to work out how to say no, just think no first.
External pressures, requests and demands
We have seen numerous examples of late, where external agencies have been putting pressure on centres to do things or change things that the centre isn’t comfortable with, or can’t see how the requests are meeting the regulations and criteria.
Here is one of our favourites and how they overcame it:-
A centre was told that a new MoE employee in a local office asked to sign off on their centre's policies and was requiring them to call Healthline each time a child was ill, before contacting the parents. This is of course, an extreme example, but the centre was stuck between a rock and a hard place. They sought external help to question further up the chain and this was then cleared up.
If you don’t know, can’t see it in the regs or you’re not sure what to do, ask for their request in writing, and ask ECC; or someone like us at SafetyNest, or other external parties.
Eat that Frog
Sometimes the tasks that we have on our to do list seem the hardest, when in reality, the mental load that putting them off is far larger than actually just doing it.
Once one of these jobs are done though, you will find that the smaller tasks can be ticked off far more easily and faster than if you have that big thing (or frog!) constantly taking up space in your brain.
The Delegator Alligator
Become the Delegator Alligator – not the Do-It-All Dodo!
This doesn’t mean just handing everything off to someone else, it means working to your strengths.
If you have someone in your team who is passionate about rostering – then let them do the roster.
If you have someone in your team who loves all things health and safety, then let them lead the way.
If you’re introducing a new system, let someone who can be an advocate for this help lead the project.
If you have someone who loves regulations and legislation, then get them to lead policy updates.
Give people breaks & opportunities by allowing them to focus on their own interests.
The dangers of empathy
You’ll accomplish more in the collective, by distributing “caring” responsibilities across your team. Although empathy is finite for any one person, it’s less of a weight when managed across your team.
The dangers of empathy – as life long learners, the majority of those of us who work in ECE have high empathy. But this comes at a risk. Remember that you can’t solve everyone’s problems, whether they be at home or at work. This includes your community as well as your team.
A good resource (and you can find lots of free examples online) is to get your team to complete a communication or leadership style quiz or survey. Things like HDMI; Getting Dotted by Amy Scott; the Eagle, Dove, Owl, or Parrot; or find an external person who can help you with this. These are actually quite fun exercises to do and will help your team to better understand each other.
Understanding your team and their styles can also help with your recruitment processes. Even though teachers are extremely hard to come by at the moment, knowing what gaps you have in your team will actually create efficiencies when you know what type of person you are looking for.