I just got back from a cruise!! It was amazing! I was lucky enough to go on the Child Care Marketing Owners Mastermind at Sea last week, and I was so inspired by the level of sharing and participation from all of the owners and directors that attended. Probably 70 percent of what we covered and discussed had to do with our people, our staff, our teams. The owners on the cruise were very concerned with creating the best working environment possible for their staff, and that was so encouraging and inspiring to me.

In our business, our PEOPLE are the most important asset we have. Our staff need to be able to nurture and teach these precious youngsters, while juggling the thousands of other minute details required of them (such as daily reports, portfolios, classroom cleaning, bulletin boards, keeping track of socks, and overall safety

The relationships you build with your directors, teachers and other staff really sets the tone for the culture of your center!

I thought I would leave you with a few quick tips on things you can do right now to begin creating a better work environment for your staff.

1. Train & Trust – Provide thorough training to your new staff and continued training for all your staff. Then trust that your team will follow what they have learned and act in your company’s best interest. Remember people want to do their best, they want to be valued and contribute. You have to trust them and give them the freedom to do so (within the limits you set for them, such as licensing rules, and curriculum standards).

Studies have shown that when determining the amount of stress an employee feels on the job, it is not based on the type of work they do, or holding a higher level position in a company. It is based on the amount of control people feel they have in their jobs. If they feel trusted, and able to make some decisions, their stress levels are lower, which leads me to my next point.

2. Let them Make Decisions – Yes! Nothing says “I don’t trust you” like not letting staff make basic decisions. After you’ve trained them on your procedures and policies, empower them to take control of their position and make the best decisions possible.

Just remember that we all (including YOU) have made plenty of mistakes along the way. We learned and improved the next time! Your staff will too. Trust them and empower them to make some decisions.

3. Have regular one on one meetings, with direct & open communication – Building a relationship with someone requires TIME, COMMUNICATION and RESPECT. What a better way to facilitate this than planning into your schedule times to meet with each of your staff one on one.

Whether you have a planned or impromptu meeting, when you make the effort to meet with and communicate with your team members on a regular basis, you become accessible and approachable. So many child care workers suffer in silence because they either feel like the owner/director just doesn’t care or they aren’t approachable

4. Set clear expectations – Clearly communicate your expectations and consistently follow your policies and procedures. When people know what is expected of them they can work with in those parameters. They can plan, they can adjust. However, if they have no idea that the bulletin board needs to be changed by the first Tuesday of the month, how can they meet that expectation?

5. Provide the tools that they need to do their jobs well This may seem so simple but it is such a big deal to your staff. They are in the trenches, working with the children and their whole day can be ruined if the supply they need for a project is missing. I know of one program that needed to have things in their classroom labeled a certain way for one of the state preschool programs they ran. A very simple thing, right? But very important.

6. Provide the communication and information they need to do their jobs well This is key!  Did the office take a message that Johnny’s Grandma will be picking up today, or that Tommy won’t be arriving until lunch time? It is important for the teachers to get this information as soon as possible. Tiny pieces of information about children’s schedules, staff changes, pick up people and other center news are crucial to your staff’s positive feelings about their jobs

This list is NOT all inclusive, but it is a good start toward making your company culture more positive. You and your team are in this business because you want to be a part of making a difference in the lives of children and families. In order for your staff to make their greatest impact, they need to feel, safe, supported and empowered. It is our job as leaders to provide that positive work culture for them so they can make the greatest difference, in turn making our company better.