What I have learned in managing hundreds of people is that ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ In other words, if I can prevent something from happening in the first place, then I won’t have to deal with it later. Time is a precious commodity to the director of a child care center; how to make the most of it is the never ending quest!
Many directors struggle with giving constructive feedback to their teachers. Many try to avoid it and hope that poor performance, or even missing a deadline once, will somehow improve on its own. I’m here to tell you that it does not happen on its own. Directors must intervene in some way to bring the problem to light, and to set the appropriate expectation for future performance.
I am a big believer in setting specific and clear expectations for my team. Knowing what and how we must do our work sets the stage for success. On the first day of employment, teachers must receive clearly written policies, procedures, and job tasks. They must also receive a copy of a self-assessment or evaluation, so they know from day one how they will be evaluated, and on what criteria.
A couple of my earlier blog posts address setting expectations in more detail. Take a look at the January 2011, April 2011, and May 2011 posts to build a solid foundation.
I think it’s important to present performance expectations to the entire team at the start of each school year – for everyone to hear once again. In going through the job tasks and responsibilities, be sure they are written in detail, and specific enough so that there is no question as to what you expect your team to do. From the start of the year, each teacher should know that there will be rewards or consequences – that evaluations will be based on performance expectations – and that some part of compensation (perhaps a bonus) will be linked to performance. This is the cause-and-effect tool missing in most child care programs – a tool that is, by far, one of the most effective for managing a program.
Drawing from our very generally written program job descriptions, we developed a more detailed, specific list of job tasks and responsibilities. These were the expectations for teachers who worked at our program – this is what they did.
We also created teacher competencies – a notch above the job tasks. And, this was how the most effective teachers performed their tasks at our program.
Of course, the most effective teachers were rewarded for their greater efforts by receiving higher bonuses; having two levels of performance proved to be a quality strategy in our organization. Awareness that those who worked more diligently, more effectively, were then recognized for their performance that exceeded expectations, spread through our organization. After a while, those who simply did enough to get by looked like they were not working very hard, because the others were all moving into the higher level of performance – the competency range. At this point, the performance bar in the organization was raised. And, it continued to do so.
Who benefited? Everyone – but especially the children!
So, we’ve set the stage for performance. Clear expectations are in place and have been communicated in several ways to the entire team. The rest becomes a pattern of supervision. And this supervision is critical to your organization’s performance.
What happens, then, when someone doesn’t follow the expectations set? My next two blog posts will give you specific tips, appropriate language to use, and guidelines for giving feedback.
Stay tuned …