This post was contributed by Child Care Business Success Expert, Julie Bartkus.
If the title of this article caught your attention, perhaps you can relate to the feeling of staff members who are more robotic in their functioning as opposed to being passion-driven with a deep sense of purpose for the work they do daily. If it has happened to you, please know there is hope and there are solutions.
I was inspired to write this article after a coaching call I had this week with one of my Child Care Program Excellence Members. She just started with our program and is trying to figure out why she has to give her staff commands in order to get little things done. Things like following policies and procedures. And throughout my time working in this industry, I’ve heard from so many owners and directors who feel the pain associated with having staff members who show up to do the minimum amount of work required and staff members who show up merely to get their paycheck. That’s what child care owners and directors feel like anyways.
But rest assured, almost every employee I’ve ever interviewed during my private consultations has shared with me that they want to show up and make a big difference in someway. They want to be on-fire and passionate about the work they do daily. They want their light to shine. The problem is they just don’t know how to make it happen by themselves. This is why I love when I go on-site and facilitate full-day day team programs like my Positively Professional Team Retreat. I love seeing and feeling the energy at the start of our time together and then, seeing how things have shifted by the end of the program. Staff literally sit there…not wanting the day to end.
So what turns staff members into robots? It’s not like you hire a bunch of robots to work for you – right? And actually the good news about the child care industry is that the important roles that child care staff have, can never be taken over by a robot. This is an industry where the demand for human interaction will never cease to exist.
If you’re not hiring robots, but then they turn into robots while working for you, there must be something that happens in the workplace to cause this transition to occur. Are you thinking about a few things that might cause this to happen right now?
What I’ve found are several specific things that are the root cause of the robotic transformation in the child care workplace.
There’s a lack of vision.
I talk about this endlessly because it’s so very critical for a leaders and his/her team to be alive with a BIG, BOLD, DREAMY vision that expands and grows daily. If your staff aren’t feeling the vision growing and you being on-fire about it, their excitement will dwindle. There will just be a big,huge list of things to get through during the day as as opposed to a BIG why that’s the guiding force.
There’s a lack of empowerment.
Many child care leaders are hanging on too tight and not letting go of control. They’re fearful of things not being done right and therefore, don’t let people make mistakes that will ultimately help them grow and feel empowered. Because of their fear and inability to let go of control, staff become dis-empowered and disengaged. Staff members have shared with me how on their day off, their leader will go into their classroom, without discussion, and start changing things around. This only one of many examples I could share with you where a staff member is left feeling like: Hey, I don’t matter much. Your staff need to be able to make mistakes and have some good conversation with you about the mistake so they make better decisions next time. When staff members stop thinking and stop being empowered, they shut down and become robotic.
There’s a lack of teamwork.
With this point, I’m talking about teamwork between the leaders and their staff. In this day and age, staff members want to be part of something big. So when their ideas and opinions are sought out and then dropped with no mention, it makes them feel like they don’t matter. So if you put out a suggestion box and don’t have a process in place to read suggestions, have discussion about them and plot your next action steps, then why ask? The same thing is true when leaders ask a staff member: Hey staff member, what do you think about ___________? And then, their opinion is discounted or not mentioned again.
There’s a lack of questioning.
It’s so easy to say: Do this. Don’t do this. But that style of management doesn’t lend itself to empowering your staff members to think. So when information is continuously crammed down a staff member’s throat or they are given constant orders and commands in terms of what they should or shouldn’t do – they stop thinking and become robotic. So when I say there’s a lack of questioning – I mean that leaders need to ask staff members good questions and see how they think. **Seeing how your staff members think is incredibly valuable. Questions you ask might be related to your vision – if your vision is alive as I mentioned in point 1. So if you have a staff member who hides in the closet to use their cell phone, ask them: How does being in the closet on your cell phone contribute to bringing our vision to life? How does it deter us from getting closer to accomplishing our vision?
There’s a lack of consistency.
Staff members are trying to understand how your child care program is run until they find out there is no consistency with policies and procedures being followed . Or your staff meeting date is constantly being canceled or changed. Or their evaluation was missed and never mentioned. This really makes them feel victimized by a leader’s whimsical way of managing their child care program. Add some consistency back into your staff motivation plan of action and watch team members excel as they get the routine down and start striving to reach greater levels of excellence.
About Julie Bartkus
Julie Bartkus is an internationally known Child Care Business Success mentor and author who helps child care owners and directors create their Positive, Productive and Profitable Child Care Businesses through her on-site customized programs, publications and her ground-breaking Child Care Program of Excellence Mentorship. Julie is known for her personalized approach in helping her clients achieve the levels of success they desire including filling enrollments in record time, transforming your workplace culture and attracting & retaining DREAMY staff and clients. She is quickly able to access the problems you’re experiencing and help you gain clarity as to what your next, best steps are so you can experience results. Your child care program is your baby. Julie meets you where you are and helps you take your personal and professional success to a whole new realm of possibilities.
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