My New Adventure …

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.
Seneca the Younger

For more than forty years, I have immersed myself in the field of early childhood education! I have been a teacher (infant, toddler, preschool and kindergarten); a director of four early childhood programs, and then a consultant (my own business) to numerous other directors, owners, and programs throughout Massachusetts. I also took advantage of many other early childhood volunteer opportunities that complemented my fulltime career. And I learned a lot. I am passionate about the field of early education and care—quality early education and care—and I have spent my life advocating for the youngest among us.

Working with other directors of early childhood programs (after I had already been a director for 30 years) was, I thought, the ending of my long (and satisfying) career. I would share all I had learned with these colleagues, work with their leadership teams, and even do quite a lot of training. After all, I had lived their life! I knew the joys and satisfactions. I knew the problems and pitfalls. And I also knew the solutions and strategies to successfully work through them. My consulting work with directors gave them a roadmap to follow—to help them create a vision for their programs; to build, grow and develop their teams; to work effectively with parents; to set the stage for the children; to make changes when they were needed; to think strategically when necessary and execute those plans.

The last childcare center I opened was in Boston at John Hancock—for their employees’ children. I was the Director for twenty years. While there, I listened and learned from my business colleagues and was able to use several of their business strategies in my own department—the childcare center. And I shared these with other directors in my consulting work. 

Many directors asked along the way when I would be writing a book—with all of this “stuff” in it. I smiled, but did some serious thinking about the possibility. The timing was right.

So, ending my consulting business after eight years, I retreated to my new “writing cottage,” to begin to write my early childhood leadership book. I completed my manuscript, sent it to a publishing company, and they accepted it! The writing of my book took about nine months to complete. And my work with the publisher has taken about nine months as well. 

Beginning to End

The Life Cycle of a Child Care Center
The Lessons Learned
A Director’s Story

is the soon-to-be-released book that I have written. This is the book I needed when I accepted the director position of my first childcare center. I could have used a how-to book that was clearly written with details and specifics, guidance, and know-how—to help me be my best as director and leader. This is that book! It is filled with hands-on, real life experiences, and expertise. What I have learned along the way, I pass on to you—the next generation of early childhood professionals. 

Throughout the pages of this book, I hope to assist, guide, support, motivate, and inspire you. I want you to succeed! This is the mission.

If you are a new director, starting your first child care center; or, if you are a new director, walking into an already established program; or, if you’re already a director, but looking for guidance; or, if you are a teacher aspiring to hold a leadership position in the future, this book is filled with information, technique, strategy, and yes, a roadmap to navigate the life cycle of a childcare center! I have already tested everything in this book—many times over. I have put in the time for you.  Take the ideas—they work! Make them your own. If you can learn from my successes and mistakes, this book will have succeeded.

To you, my early childhood colleagues, thank you for the work you do. Teaching and caring for young children is an honorable profession. It is also an awesome responsibility; a humbling experience; life-changing work. And, it demands the best we have to give. 

What I have learned during my career as early childhood teacher, supervisor, director, and leader, I am pleased to share with you.

I wish you much success on your early childhood journey!

Marcia Hebert

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Success…

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words are ever timely and always inspirational.

How would you define success?

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Leadership…

For all my Director colleagues around the world …

13 Inspiring Traits of Exceptional Leaders

  1. They trust you to do the job you’ve been hired to do.
  2. They seek your advice and input.
  3. They find opportunities to let you shine.
  4. They recognize your contributions.
  5. They have your back during tough times.
  6. They are master storytellers.
  7. They challenge you to do bigger and better things.
  8. They express appreciation.
  9. They are responsive.
  10. They know when to apologize.
  11. They give credit where credit is due.
  12. They treat others with dignity and respect.
  13. They care.

Glenn Leibowitz

Sometimes a little quote is just what we need!

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Inspiration …

Whether it’s a beautiful sunrise, or a special message, each one has the power to move us, emotionally. I discovered this power long ago and began collecting inspirational quotes that spoke to me.

I placed them around my home—near the mirror in the bathroom for my first uplifting thought of the day; on the fridge in the kitchen; inside cabinet doors. I sometimes purchased quotes on strips of wood and three-dimensional blocks and placed them strategically where I would just come upon them during the day—on the fireplace hearth; on the top jamb of doorways; on shelves; or, if the quote was especially inspirational, on a wall.

As the director of several early childhood programs, I posted quotes here and there in my childcare centers as well. They were relevant to our life and work, and in the course of a day we saw and read several.

And, you know, they served a valuable purpose. They set the tone. They shifted our thinking. They lifted our moods. They brought us peace. They made us smile. 

Just reading a good quote can quickly take us from the moment we’re in, to another—and positively change our focus. Reading a quote provides a quick and timely burst of wisdom—often, just what we need. And, it only takes 10-20 seconds. Yet, the message it contains can propel us for months or years. 

This is powerful inspiration.

These messages appeal to our subconscious mind, where creativity resides. And in the reading of these messages, our entire thought process can change—directing our energy toward a more positive path. For me, a win-win!

So, yes, I have always been a big fan of inspirational quotes because with very little effort on my part, positive things happen. I have watched the subtle changes take place—the aha! moment, the epiphany—all because of a posted quote.

Here are some of my favorite inspirational messages:

Wherever I am, be all there.

When writing the story of my life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen.

When the decision is clear, the doing is effortless.

We are the sum total of everything we have experienced.

I must stand guard at the door of my mind.

Thoughts become things – choose the good ones!

Light up every room I walk into.

Dear Past,
Thank you for all the lessons.
Dear Future,
I’m ready!

Trust the timing of my life.

The mind is everything –
What I think I become
.

Notice what I notice.

When it comes to the words I choose,
Whether in my mind
or amongst friends,
Let them be of what I like and love
What I care about and cherish
What makes me happy
What gives me wings
What makes me dream—
And very little else.

Be careful how I am talking to myself, because I am listening.

I am going to be very, very, very happy,
And then do everything I have time to do after that.

Tell the negative committee in my head to sit down and shut up.

Good night,
Sleep well,
Dream of possibilities,
and behold the magic that is within me.

If I can imagine it and I can visualize it, I can create it.

Go confidently in the direction of my dreams. 

Before we are leaders, success is all about growing ourselves;
When we become a leader, success is all about growing others.

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.

What we send out to others returns to us magnified.

Say what we mean,
Do what we say,
Own what we do.

How do we know when we have arrived, if we don’t know where we are going.

People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Seek first to understand, and then, to be understood.

Do not get upset with people or situations; both are powerless without our reaction.

Leadership is not a position or a title. It is an action and an example.

Surround ourselves with people who push us to do better. No drama or negativity. Just higher goals and higher motivation. Good times and positive energy. No jealousy or hate. Simply bring out the best in each other.

Passion + Persistence = Results

Go farther.

Reach for the stars and we may hit the treetops.

In everything, give thanks.

Did you find an especially good quote for you?

I’d love to add to my collection. So, send along your favorite inspirational message/s—and I’ll post them as well. We can call it a team project! This I know—we need all the inspiration we can receive.

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Planting Your Garden …

Summer is here—in all of its glory!
The sun is strong, the rain is gentle, and the flower and vegetable gardens are thriving.

I don’t know who originally created the following “garden,” but beyond the play on words that brings a smile, there is wisdom and guidance here for all of us. This is a perfect reflection for this season. Enjoy!

Remember, what we sow, we later reap.

The Garden

Rows of “P”s
purpose
presence
promptness
preparation
perseverance

Rows of “Squash”
… gossip
… indifference
… criticism
… negativism

Rows of “Let Us”
… be true to ourselves
… be loyal and unselfish
… be faithful to our purpose

Rows of “Turn Up”
… your enthusiasm
… your conviction
… your determination

This is the time of the year to reflect—upon the school year just completed, and the new year to begin. This summer, during this planning time, this goal-setting phase for both directors and teachers alike, consider planting this “garden” in your early childhood program. It’s a great way to set the tone for the year to come.

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Keys to Success … Attitude

The longer I live, the more I realize the tremendous impact of attitude in a work environment. As a means of emphasizing this, I have used the following little formula with my teams. I’m not sure where this came from originally, but my thanks—many times over—to its author. 

We have all been to those meetings at work where someone wants you to produce at least 100%. Here’s a little math that might prove helpful in the future.

What makes the 100%?

If:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
is represented as:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

then:
H-A-R-D-W-O-R-K (8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11) = ONLY 98%

and,
K-N-O-W-L-E-D-G-E (11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5) = ONLY 96%.

But,
A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E (1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5) = 100%.

It stands to reason that HARD WORK and KNOWLEDGE will get you close, but a positive ATTITUDE will get you to the top.

Attitude is said to be more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, say, or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill.

It will make or break an organization, a child care center, a home.

The remarkable thing is that we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace—just for that day! We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we CAN do is play the one card we have—and that is our attitude.

Some say that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it. So, I offer the following invitation to you:

Join me, especially now in this uncertain time, in working on our collective attitude—wherever you find yourself, in whatever work situation, in whatever position you hold. It begins with one! And, it is contagious.

Your thoughts?

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Keys to Quality …

Working Together: Characteristics of Effective Teachers

Every now and then I come across an article that fits beautifully with our work toward quality early education and care. Here, then, are the “Twelve Characteristics of Effective Early Childhood Teachers”, compiled by Laura J. Colker, and published in the Young Children journal. The key word here is effective. If we’re going to teach, our aim should be high!

These personal characteristics, which are often based on feelings and beliefs, are sometimes difficult to identify. But, when one combines these characteristics with both knowledge and skill, you have the makings of an excellent teacher.

The twelve characteristics are:

  • Passion about Young Children: Enthusiasm is one thing, but something stronger, drive and passion, set the excellent teachers apart. When you feel you can make a difference, passion is ignited!
  • Perseverance: Dedication, sometimes tenacity, but always the willingness to advocate for something better for the child.
  • Risk-taking: Sometimes thinking “out of the box” makes the difference when working with children – despite the fact that it has never been done before.
  • Pragmatism: Compromising moves the plan along. Even if the gains are small and steady, effective teachers know they will eventually accomplish their goals.
  • Patience: A long fuse is necessary when working with so many. Patience is a must!
  • Flexibility: The expectation is that a teacher will be able to deal well with change and unexpected turns. That is the nature of the work.
  • Respect: In thought, word, and deed!
  • Creativity: Essential! The hallmark of an effective teacher!
  • Authenticity: You know who you are and what you stand for. Children are very good judges of character – they know who is real, authentic, and they respond accordingly.
  • Love of learning: To inspire this in young children, the teacher must also exhibit the characteristic.
  • High energy: Most children respond positively to the teacher who has energy, physical stamina, and the ability to play.
  • Sense of humor: Isn’t learning supposed to be fun? There is nothing better than children’s spontaneous laughter in a classroom. Enjoyment! Besides, laughing feels so good!

A pretty good list. Do you agree?

And when you have one or more teachers on your team who display these characteristics, you have the makings of an exemplary early childhood program!

As Director, I used this article with my teaching teams – as a basis for reflection and as a tool in setting professional goals. Reading, thinking, and talking about each of these characteristics reminds us why we love the work we do, and why we continue to grow in the field.

If you would like to read the entire article, you can find it in Young Children (March 2008). NAEYC members can access the article via www.naeyc.org.

Thanks for reading – please share with other colleagues if you’d like.

Posted in Early Childhood, Early Childhood Curriculum, Early Childhood Leadership, Early Childhood Teachers, For Early Childhood Directors, Managing Early Childhood Programs, Performance Management Skills, Quality Early Education and Care, Training for Early Childhood Directors, Training for Early Childhood Professionals | 2 Comments

Working Together: Building a Team

I love to watch flocks of geese flying over my house in their familiar “V” formation. Graceful. Perfectly spaced. And honking. Within this post, I’ll share what some believe about why geese fly the way they do. And then, and more importantly, what we can learn from them. Enjoy the quick read!

  • As each bird flaps its wings, it creates uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in “V” formation, the flock adds at least 70% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.

Successful teams share a common direction and sense of community, and can get where they are going more quickly and easily, because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

  • When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone—and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front.

There is no “I” in team. Successful teams stay together and learn to work well together by building on the strengths of each person on the team. There is great advantage to this—for everyone involved.

  • When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back in the wing and another goose moves in to fly point.

Successful teams share the work. Each person knows the others’ jobs and can jump in at any time, as needed. Each can lead and each can follow. The team works together and gets the job done—every time, without fail.

  • Geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Successful teams cheer their colleagues on, and celebrate the successes of their teammates.

  • Finally, when a goose gets sick or hurt, and falls out of formation, two other geese fall out with that goose and follow it down to give help and protection. They stay with the fallen goose until the crisis has passed, and only then do they launch out with another formation to catch up to their group.

Successful teams stand by one another, offering support, assistance, and help when needed. Teammates know they can count on one another. There is a give and take in the relationship, a respect for one another, and a knowing that we all, at one time or other, “need.”

A perfect metaphor for building a team, isn’t it! I would love your thoughts on this one!

Stay tuned. My next few posts will be about building a successful early childhood team. It is, perhaps, the single, most important work of the leader of an organization.

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Spring Cleaning …

Happy Spring!

Each year I look forward to the first day of spring—longer daylight, peepers, tree frogs and, yes, spring cleaning! 

Part of my spring-cleaning ritual has always included reflecting about my life, and taking stock. Spring is my time for tossing out what doesn’t fit or work anymore, and thinking about what I might add instead. Re-assessing my long-range goals always gives me the big-picture view. From that vantage point, I can then add the details that will take me there.

If my earlier goals no longer seem realistic or important, what should I do with the rest of my life? Where do I picture myself in the next five years? What do I need to do to get there? Can I do this in my current position?

Sometimes, reflection will reveal to us that we want to stay on as the leaders of our programs. But we need to make some changes in how we do our work. We need to do some spring cleaning in order to get ourselves back to our original sense of purpose.

Dream a little. What would your ideal workday look like? How much time would you spend on professional reading and writing? How much time would you allocate to talking with your staff? When would you arrive and leave each day? How would you put your peak performance times to their best use? Sometimes it helps to keep a log for a few days to get the true picture of how your day is spent. Reading the log is usually eye opening. It generally provides some “Aha!” moments. And, it is a good first step in making thoughtful changes.

So, here are some other thoughts for you to consider:

Make yourself unique. Work to acquire a set of skills and talents that no one else has—things that interest and excite you, and might become your next work. The more we can reinvent ourselves in our lifetime, the more options we will have—and the more successes we will enjoy.

Seek professional outlets. If you find that your skills and interests are not being fully challenged, explore other sources of professional inspiration. Reading in depth the topics that interest you, writing for publication, consulting, offering local workshops, or teaching at the college level, are all options and opportunities open to you.

Cultivate new relationships. Look beyond your child care center director colleagues and establish rapport with licensing workers, college professors, and others in our early childhood field. By getting to know a larger variety of people who work, in some capacity, with young children, you increase your chances of being inspired, challenged, and supported.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Become involved in non-job activities. If your entire life is consumed by your job, you will be overwhelmed when that job is going poorly. On the other hand, if you have many gratifying activities in your life, your frustrations on the job are more likely to be balanced by the satisfaction in these other areas.

Indulge yourself. Being an early childhood director should not make you a martyr. Treat yourself to an afternoon at the art museum. Plan an exciting vacation. Go to the  conference at Disney World. All work and no play make directors no fun to be around.

Remember that you set the tone for your early childhood program. You are the role model for every teacher, parent, and child at your center. Give thought to what you are projecting and what others are observing, hearing, and absorbing.

Start today; clear out the cobwebs; do some spring cleaning! Take one step at a time, and breathe new life into your work. And, then, share your experience with others!

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Leading by Example …

Years ago, I came upon a blog post written by Dharmesh Shah, Co-founder and CTO of HubSpot. He is ‘spot on’ (no pun intended) overall—and his thoughts are relevant to this leadership blog. The following are selected portions of his post, which I offer to you—the leaders (directors, managers, and supervisors) within our early childhood community.

. . . Leaders aren’t given respect; they earn the respect of the people they lead. Leaders are not automatically trusted; they earn the trust of the people they lead. In cases where someone “inherits” a position or is given a position arbitrarily, they don’t really have trust—they have a title. Those are different things.

The best way to earn respect, to earn trust, and to earn the right to lead others is to lead not by word, but by example. When I know you truly believe what you say—because your actions support what you say—then I will start to trust you. Then I will start to respect you. Then I will truly start to follow you.

Here are a few ways to lead by example. But keep in mind if you simply go through the motions, everyone can tell. If you don’t believe, deep inside, that what you’re doing is important— that what you’re doing is the right thing—then don’t do it. Everyone around you will be able to tell. People have a highly sensitive Insincerity Meter that rarely fails them.

GSD (Get stuff done).

Every business preaches action and execution, yet in many there is a major disconnect: “leaders” don’t actually produce; they ensure production. Many “leaders” care more about how things are done than about finding ways to do things better. Many leaders care more about their positions than their work.

Every day make sure you roll up your sleeves and do something. Sure, you might have administrative duties. Sure, you might be in charge of developing big-picture strategies. Fine. But never forget that work requires work—and getting things done.

Don’t say execution is important. Show execution is important.

Live your culture. 

Ultimately, every business culture is, or at least should be, an extension of its leadership. (Of course, if you aren’t actively creating your culture, one will be created for you—and it may not be one you like.)

Mission statements, value statements, and culture codes are fine, but if you are not seen as a living embodiment of your culture, then all those efforts will be wasted.

You should be seen as of the culture, never above the culture.

Take blame and share credit.

With authority comes responsibility—at all levels of an organization. Do you want your employees to feel a sense of responsibility and accountability? Take the hits you deserve.

And then take some hits you don’t deserve. 

Whatever the issue, regardless of who is actually at fault, don’t throw others under the bus. Throw yourself under the bus. Accept the criticism or abuse. You can handle it—even if you don’t deserve it.

And when things go surprisingly well, always share credit. Chances are, you didn’t pull it off alone. Nothing breaks trust more than when a leader takes full credit for what everyone knows was a shared effort.

When you take blame and share credit, a couple of things happen. Your employees know you ultimately feel responsible for mistakes and share recognition with others when things go right.

And when it’s their turn, they will take blame and share credit, too.

The cycle will continue, because selfless acts are contagious.

Trust so you can be trusted.

Things change when companies grow. More employees result in increased complexity, more mistakes, and greater ambiguity.

So, in response, you create guidelines and policies with enough leeway for employees to make good decisions.

At HubSpot we don’t have pages and pages of policies and procedures. We try to guide our decisions with three words: Use Good Judgment.

We define “good judgment” as favoring the company over the individual, and the customer over the company. It looks like this:

Customer > Company > Individual . . .

If an action is good for you but bad for the company, it’s not right. If an action is good for the company, but not for the customer, it’s dubious. (generally, what is bad for the customer is always bad for your company.)

Trust is based on action, not words. Give people the freedom to make meaningful decisions, to operate in a way that is most effective for them, and to simply do the right thing, and they will trust you.

Why? Because first you trusted them.

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