For child care business owners, leaving your center for a few days, whether it’s to go on a vacation, due to a family emergency, or just needing a few days to recharge, can be a scary thing to do. In fact, it can be so scary for some of you to leave your centers that your fears and doubts unravel the entire time leading up to your time off and your mind creates a million different worst case scenarios that could occur while you’re gone, or you allow yourself to continuously find reasons and signs why you shouldn’t go leading up to it. In reality, the chances of something catastrophic happening while you are gone are very slim if you have taken the time to properly train your team beforehand, and many of those little reasons and signs why you shouldn’t go that you keep finding are most likely a result of never having let go and entrusting your team.
For many of you, in an ideal world you would have able to have eyes and ears in every aspect and classroom of your center at all times, and while some of you may be just starting out or are currently short staffed and you do find yourself working open to close in your center each day, it is not sustainable. In order for you to be a respected and resilient leader, you need to allow yourself time to step away from your center to rejuvenate your mindset.
But first, before you take a break and step away, to eliminate many of your doubts, you must first take the time to set your team up for success and instill confidence in them. This means providing them with systems and processes to follow while you are gone. By further continuing to train and invest in your staff, they will feel valued and trusted, which are two important factors/feelings that influence employee satisfaction and retention. Regardless of how much you build your team up though, they will never truly be able to be built into true leaders/thrive if you don’t provide them with the opportunity to put all of their training to the test and leave them in charge for a few days while you are away.
While training your staff properly is the largest determinant of you successfully leaving your center, there are a few other steps that I would like to share with you that I have personally taken and found to help ease the mind of both my staff and I when I was a center owner and had to step away that you can take to help ensure that things continue to run smoothly while you are away.
Create or Revisit Your Operations Manual
I’m sure your center already has some systems and processes in place, but do they make sense? Are they written down and documented in place that all employees have access to? Are all of your bases covered? Meaning that there is a system or process in place for everything that you as the owner do, that your director does, that your teachers do, even down to what your janitor does?
Leaving your director or person in charge with an “Operations Manual” of some sort where all of your center’s systems and processes can be found is a best practice that you should work to create before you leave. While putting together an Operations Manual might seem like a large feat in itself, in order for your team to be able to confidently and smoothly follow the processes documented in it, you should carve out time to sit down with your team and go over the sections that pertain to each one of them and give them a copy of their sections. To hold them accountable, after you have spent time together reviewing it, have them sign a document that states that they understand the information that has been reviewed with them and that they have been provided a copy of it to follow.
Delegate with Demonstration
While you’re away, every team member is going to have to pick up a little bit of added responsibility and extra duties to make up for your absence. That added responsibility and extra duties should not be left up to them to figure out and divide amongst themselves, but instead should be delegated to them by you (or your director). Oftentimes, one of our faults when adding responsibilities and duties to our team members is that we assume just because we know exactly how to do a task and it comes easy to us that it should also come easy to our team and that they should be able to figure it out using their common sense. Unfortunately, that is not often the case, and it’s not necessarily due to your team members lacking common sense but because they are uncertain and nervous.
While delegating to your team can be a wonderful thing that not only allows you to leave your center but also helps drive the success of your business forward, it initially requires you to spend time with your team demonstrating and explaining their added new responsibilities and duties. Taking this time will help put your team’s minds at ease about their new responsibilities and will make them excited to take them on and happy to feel entrusted by you, versus feeling anxious and nervous about them if you were not to train them on them and leave them to figure things out on their own.
Delegating can be one of the hardest skills to learn as a leader, but it’s also one of the most important. It’s better to run a center with a whole team rather than through micromanagement by the owner.
Use Technology to Its Fullest
While the ultimate goal is to disconnect from your center entirely during your time off, I know that there are some instances when that might be able to completely happen. Especially when you leave your center the first few times, you may be boarding a plane and have a last-minute thought that you forgot to communicate with your director that you feel is an important/useful piece of information for them to have while you are away. Instead of taking the time to step away from whatever you are doing and make a phone call and hope that whoever you are trying to get in contact with can step away to take your call, if you don’t already, make sure to have a team communication app set up and being actively used before you leave. Not all thoughts or questions require a phone call, and communicating quick thoughts in your team communication app can be much more efficient for both you and your team. Not only is it efficient, but it also creates documentation of your communications so quick conversations can be revisited at any time if someone forgets exactly what was said and your team can be held accountable to this documentation.
As challenging as it may be for you at first, do your best to NOT to only send requests/instructions in your team communication app while away; incorporate a mix of encouraging and positive messages to your team members as well. For example, you should send your director a quick message that says, “Thank you again so much for being awesome and handling things while I’m away, I really appreciate it!” or send a general message to your entire team that says, “I know you guys are rocking it while I’m away! Thank you so much, and I can’t wait to see you all when I get back!”
If you’re truly worried about any serious issues while you’re away, if you don’t already have security cameras installed throughout your school or utilize a classroom camera system, such as PB&J TV, consider getting one installed before you leave. While having a security camera system or classroom cameras in place will allow you to check-in and quickly take a peek at what is going on in your school if you are itching to know, more importantly, it will capture any serious events that take place that need to be reviewed upon your return. By having the ability to go back and review video footage from your security cameras when an incident takes place, it will eliminate much of the “he said, she said” back and forth conversations from your team and allows you to see for yourself exactly what happened.
Be a Confident, Positive Leader
It can be easy to let yourself create doubt in your mind right before you go. You have to remember to allow yourself to take a deep breath and remind yourself that you hired each member of your team for a reason; because you saw that they were capable and trusted them to care for the children in your center.
If you have been doing everything that you can as a leader to set your team up for success leading up to this point, then you have done all that you can do, and it is time for you to allow yourself to let go. Have confidence in your decisions and in the team that you have put together. Be a beacon of positivity, not only leading up to when you will be away but every day, so that positivity transfers to them and it shines through them. Recognize and thank them for taking on additional responsibilities/duties so you can be away, and let them know how appreciated they are. Your team should feel the confidence that you have in them, and if they do it will in turn make them feel confident about themselves and will excel in their job performance.