So, You’re A New Manager!
If you’ve not worked in a managerial position before, it can be quite daunting and, even if you feel you’re ready for the role, you can feel out of your depth. Because of this, That Nursery Life have put together a list of skills you need to have, or aim for, to be a good manager in a nursery setting.
It’s important to keep an open dialogue with your team. They need to know that, when they suggest ideas or raise concerns, you are approachable, open and listen. Similarly, you need to make sure your instructions or briefs in meetings are clear, make sense to everyone and are adhered to.
“Fake it ‘til you make it” is important here. We’re not saying talk a load of BS or don’t let anyone know you’re struggling, but if you’re feeling nervous before your first staff meeting, focus on maintaining a confident demeanour. In the same way that forcing yourself to smile can actually make you feel happier, acting sure of yourself can help you feel like you’re more confident than you might be, starting out.
Along with open communication, it’s incredibly important that your staff know they can trust you. Whether this is with things told to you in confidence, or knowing that, if you’ve asked them to work in a different, maybe more complicated way, there is a good reason for it. Build trust by showing that you listen to staff and their issues and, if you don’t change things because of them, it’s not because you haven’t considered the problem properly.
There is nothing better than a manager who believes in their team and wants them to do well. While it’s a nice idea that you’ll hire a great team of practitioners and they’ll all stay in their roles forever, you need to think about what’s best for those individuals as well as what’s best for the entire setting. Build up your team and encourage them to expand their skill set. This will mean you have an even better team on your hands and, even if they decide to go for other roles now they’re more qualified, you’ll be seen as a great manager who invests in their staff.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past 12 months, it’s that we need to be flexible with our ways of working and ready to change them at the drop of a hat. While it’s not the ideal, adaptability is necessarily for good management. When things change, like the new EYFS framework (check out our article on what’s changing here *LINK*) the mentality of seeing it as a new, interesting challenge, rather than a huge, annoying upheaval will make all the difference.
We admit, this can sometimes be the worst part of the job. If there is an issue that needs addressing, it can be much easier to have to hold a team meeting than a one-to-one. However, as a manager you need to be prepared for having those awkward conversations with individuals.
None of us are the same, and you will come into contact, and manage, people from very different backgrounds and cultures than yourself. You need to make sure you are both accepting and understanding of all your practitioners. This will put you in good stead when it comes to conflict resolution and making your team feel valued and celebrated. Put time and effort into knowing more about individuals and their lives, so that you can include everyone. For example, if one of your practitioners is Muslim, maybe don’t decide to arrange a team lunch during Ramadan!
While your team are all individuals and responsible for their own actions, as a manager it’s important to remember that the buck, ultimately, stops with you. When there is an issue with one of your team you need to step up and take control of the situation, whether that be internally or with a child’s family.
Starting any new job is hard, even if you’re managing a setting you’re already familiar with. The new responsibilities and demands on your time can make you doubt yourself or feel a bit of imposter syndrome. The main thing to remember is that it will get better – you just need to stick at it for a bit longer.
Whether it’s speaking to one of your child’s particularly tricky family members, or reprimanding a practitioner, you need to be assertive. If you’re feeling ill-equipped, remember that you’ve been given the job of manager for a reason and you have what it takes. But it’s also important to remember that assertion is different to aggression; you can stand your ground quietly and calmly.
We’re all human, we all mess up and being able to own up to this is an important quality. If you’re honest about your mistakes your team will trust your successes more. Being able to have an honest relationship with your team means they will be more likely to own up to their own mistakes, which can then be dealt with appropriately.
Quite an obvious one, but organisation is key! You’re now not only responsible for yourself and the children in your care, but for all your practitioners and your entire setting. You need to make sure you’re on the ball with what’s happening when, who’s involved and what they need.
A Sense of Humour
The ability to laugh at yourself will do wonders. We spend a lot of time laughing, anyway, when working with early years, but there’s also the need to be focused and serious a lot of the time. Make sure you and your team have space for a bit of a giggle to relieve stress and encourage good relationships. Maybe don’t go all David Brent, though, as that may do more harm than good.
Ultimately, if you get the role of manager, you’re definitely doing something right! Trust your instincts, believe in yourself and don’t be disheartened when it gets tough. You’ve got this!