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How To Thrive During A&R

Recently, a well-established and highly regarded Early Childhood Centre received news that quickly sent the entire team into overwhelm.

They instantly went from being engaged, focused and productive to a place of heightened ‘distrust’. Distrust is not tangible nor something we can see, but rather it’s a feeling or negative energy which can breed quickly within a team.

In fact, based on the life’s work of organisational anthropologist Judith E. Glaser’s, Conversational Intelligence, “within 10 feet of another person, the process of connectivity begins and through this connection we feel what others feel”.

In the instance of ‘distrust', this feeling can permeate a team just as easily as the common cold.

So, what was it that moved this effective team of Early Childhood Professionals to a state of ‘distrust’? Simply, it was a written notification that their assessment and rating process had commenced. A regulatory authority email of less than 20 words sent an entire team into a place of perceived danger and uncertainty!

As human beings, we are programmed to anticipate and protect ourselves from threat and harm. For many Directors and Early Childhood Leaders, personal and professional identity is intrinsically caught up in the success of their Centre.

The very thought that they could be heading towards a less than exceeding rating can throw a Director and their team into overwhelm.

The impact at times like this can be extremely detrimental to the operations of a service, but also very harmful to the overall health and wellbeing of the team in addition to the children and families supported by the service.

Because let’s not forget Glaser’s observations that feelings can be shared between people just by physical proximity alone.

Impact of uncertainty

It is vital for educators and service leaders to understand the neurological impact of uncertainty and threat.

The Assessment and Rating Process is a useful example because it can be such an intense process experienced over a set period. The really important work that educators and service leaders perform, all their energy and time investment, ends up publicly measured under a few distinct headings (NQS Areas).

Like exam conditions, the Assessment and Rating Process can place people under an enormous amount of pressure.

Everyone wants to present the best of themselves and their services.

This is a time for educators to celebrate and showcase the multidimensional aspects of their work and the profound impact they have on the children and the families they support.

However, there is often a gap between what people want to portray and what actually transpires. And this can largely be explained by the nature of the Assessment and Rating process itself and a lack of understanding of the neurological impact of threat. That is, people don’t have an awareness of how their brains respond under that kind of pressure.

After the visit from the assessor, people nearly always say there were things they omitted or didn’t even think to include in the QUIP.

What this suggests is that during the assessment process, Directors and their teams are operating in an elevated space of distrust. They are coming from a place of protection rather than a place of high trust. In a high trust environment, they might otherwise be primed to share, explore and be open and receptive to the assessor.

This facilitates them sharing the information that the assessor needs to hear. Instead what happens is they shut down and lose the ability to highlight the often obvious and key details the assessor needs. Under a threat environment, people lose their voice and, with that, the opportunity to showcase the wonderful work of their centre.