Is Your Next Director Already On Your Team?

Hiring a new director for your school can be one of the most important decisions you’ll make it comes to the success of your business. The director sets the tone for so many aspects of how your school will run, and chaos can ensue rather quickly with the wrong person in this role. That is why we hear from owners all the time with questions about how to find a new director, what qualities to look for, what responsibilities to delegate to them, how to trust someone you just met to get the job done, how to hold them accountable, and more. 

One strategy you can adopt is to always be developing your next director (and assistant directors or other admin roles) from within your current team.

In sports, many organizations use a “farm team” approach to give younger or less experienced players the opportunity to gain valuable experience and training with the agreement that any successful players can move on to a higher level at a given point in the future. If you adopt a similar “farm team” approach within your school, when an opening becomes available, you’ll have a candidate or two that are ready to be promoted. 

Now, I realize that this might not work in every case, and it will take some time to develop your next director, but with an open mind and some planning, you have the potential to never be scrambling for your next director again. 

Hiring from within sends a super positive message to your team. It lets them know that you value your employees and want to reward their loyalty with advancement opportunities. 

Identify Leaders

The first step to begin creating your farm team is to identify any employees that seem to have natural leadership abilities. These are people that you would view as trustworthy and professional – someone that you see the potential to move up in your organization. Let them know that they have caught your attention with their stellar work ethic or job performance. Then, invite them to participate in extra training and to begin taking on a few responsibilities outside of their regular roles. You could even give this program a formal name such as your “management training program.”

Once you’ve identified your potential farm team recruits, it may be a good idea to dive a little deeper into their strengths by using an assessment such as DISC, Kolbe, Meyer-Briggs, or Predictive Index so you have a better understanding of how they work and what makes them tick. You should also take the time to do the Unique Brilliance exercise with them.

Invest In Education Training

Many owners get caught up on whether a candidate is qualified for the director or assistant director role, so they overlook possible candidates that could do amazing in these roles if they had a little more training. If you identify someone that is a natural leader, encompasses your core values, furthers your company mission, and does amazing work for you already, INVEST in their training. Provide the opportunity for them to become director qualified, enabling them to do more for you in the future. 

I realize that every state has different qualification requirements for these positions, but in many states, a CDA with a few credits of business or center administration is enough to qualify for a director. 

You may be able to be creative with a traditional “Assistant Director” role by giving the position a different title. Keep in mind that an assistant director simply ASSISTS by taking on different responsibilities, freeing up time for your director to focus on the most important things. Try calling the position something like Operations Manager. Scheduling Coordinator, Curriculum Supervisor, Enrollment Specialist, Marketing & Communications Specialist, or something similar that fits the responsibilities that you’ve delegated to your “assistant director.” 

In states that require more formal education or training for the director role, help your candidate(s) apply for the T.E.A.C.H scholarship and support them in furthering their education by accommodating any scheduling/shift issues. If you can provide any financial help or incentive to enroll in these training programs, do so. Many times, the main reasons for an employee NOT furthering their education on their own are because of a) financial constraints, b) time/schedule concerns, c) not realizing that it will benefit them or advance their career options. 

If you are worried about covering the costs only to have your employee take their new qualifications to a school down the road, create a signed agreement stating that the school will pay “X%” of the cost of the program and in return the employee has to agree to stay employed with you for “X” years after completion or will be required to pay you back for your investment of their education. 

Investing in their education is a win-win. Your employee feels valued and becomes officially qualified to do more for your company, you’ll have the befit or more highly qualified employees in general, AND you have broadened your pool of management candidates. You are also fostering a culture of empowerment and trust! Delegating some of the responsibilities off of the director’s plate with allow her/him to get more done elsewhere and means there is more than one person on your staff that knows how to do some of the important admin-related tasks. The team members that are being trained up feel trusted and valued, and usually appreciate the tiny bump in wage that should come with the increased responsibility. 

Have a Plan for a Successful Transition

While there are many amazing advantages of promoting from within, there are also common challenges to overcome when a teacher gets promoted into a supervisory role. When you know what to anticipate, you can often avoid or quickly move past these expected hurdles. Sometimes the newly appointed director or AD will have a hard time correcting employees that were once their peers, and sometimes the staff is reluctant to “taking direction” from them. It can take a little time to gain confidence as a leader and to build the necessary trust and respect needed to be effective in the role. 

The way that the owners and directors communicate staff promotions to the team will make a huge difference in how the news is perceived by the team. The team should hear it from you first, so be sure to communicate any staff changes early. Take the opportunity to cast your vision for what is to come. Be sure that you are open and honest with the whole team about the promotion and training process. It could be that teacher Sally is just being given one small area of responsibility such as a “Parent Liaison,” or it could be that you are making a major change in leadership. 

If you’ve officially promoted a teacher to a director or AD role, you should show confidence in their abilities and encourage the team to be supportive as they transition into their new role. It would also be a good idea to be available during the transition or training period so you can continue to reinforce any authority that you’ve placed on the new director or assistant director. 

To ensure success, it is also vitally important to make sure your new director or AD has received, and continues to receive, ongoing leadership training. At least half of the job of any director is managing and leading a team of teachers and caregivers in a way that brings out the best in them as they work toward the company vision. While this can be a very rewarding position when you’ve built a great culture, it can also be a heavy, draining, overwhelming position to be in sometimes. Ensuring that your company leaders are constantly getting their bucket filled will help make sure they maintain the levels of inspiration needed to pour into your team and keep all of your positive momentum going. 

I hope these ideas have opened your eyes to a whole new way of filling the leadership positions on your team. Begin looking for employees with the potential to be more, invest in their training, give them small areas of increased responsibility along the way, and begin grooming them to move up so you are not scrambling the next time you have an open management position. Good luck!

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