If you are the Director of an Early Childhood Program, much of your work centers around finding and hiring your team—and then working together effectively. Building and growing your team will take time. But, if you know some of the indicators of success, you can look for these traits in the people you interview.
One of these indicators is having a high degree of Emotional Intelligence (or EI).
EI is the ability to recognize our own emotions, understand what they’re telling us, and realize how our emotions affect the people around us. EI also involves our perception of others. When we’re able to sense and understand the emotional needs of other people, we are better able to build strong working relationships and manage difficult situations more effectively. For the director of a childcare center, having emotional intelligence is essential. And having a high degree of EI, even better!
You probably know people who are masters at managing their emotions. They don’t get angry in stressful situations. Instead, they have the ability to look at a problem and calmly find a solution. They’re excellent decision makers, and they know when to trust their intuition. Regardless of their strengths, however, they’re usually willing to look at themselves honestly. They take criticism well, and they know when to use it to improve their performance. These people have a high degree of emotional intelligence!
There are five elements that define EI:
- Self-Awareness—People with high EI are conscious of their own character, feelings, motives, and desires.
- Self-Regulation—This is the ability to control emotions and impulses. People with high EI think before they act.
- Motivation—People with a high degree of EI are usually motivated.
- Empathy—This is the ability to identify and understand the wants, needs, and viewpoints of those around us.
- Social Skills—It’s usually easy to talk to, and like people with good social skills, another indicator of high EI.
The good news is that Emotional Intelligence can be learned and developed! A worthy goal for every director or aspiring director.
Here are some EI strategies to get you thinking:
- Observe how you react to people. Do you rush to judgement before you know all of the facts? Do you stereotype? Look honestly at how you think and interact with people. Try to put yourself in their place—and be more open and accepting of their perspectives and needs.
- Look at your work environment. Do you seek attention for your accomplishments? Try practicing humility. It can be a wonderful quality. You know what you did, and did well, and you can be quietly confident about it. Give others a chance to shine—put the focus on them, and don’t worry too much about getting praise for yourself.
- Examine how you react to stressful situations. Do you become upset every time there’s a delay or something doesn’t happen the way you want? Do you blame others or become angry at them—even when it’s not their fault? The ability to stay calm and in control in difficult situations is highly valued. Keep your emotions under control when things go wrong.
- Take responsibility for your actions. If you hurt someone’s feelings, apologize directly—don’t ignore or avoid the person. People are usually more willing to forgive and forget if you make an honest attempt to make things right.
- Examine how your actions will affect others—before you take those actions. If your decision will impact others, put yourself in their place. How will they feel if you do this? Would you want that experience? If you must take the action, how can you help others deal with the effects?
In my new book, Beginning to End: The Life Cycle of a Child Care Center, I devoted two chapters to “Building your Team.” There is so much you need to know, and it is all important! I included many strategies that I used as director while interviewing, hiring, orienting, and training each new person on my team. And I included those specific traits, characteristics, and behaviors that would build a solid, professional team. Emotional Intelligence is just one of many. These are my real-life examples, time-tested tips and techniques, and all of them worked successfully in my four child care centers. I am pleased to share what I have learned! Take what resonates with you and then, one day, pass on what you learned to the next generation of early childhood colleagues.
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”
Check out, Beginning to End: The Life Cycle of a Child Care Center—A Director’s Story, at Amazon.com.