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How Do You Stop People from Leaving: Staff Retention in Early Childhood

In the dynamic realm of early childhood education, staff retention is a critical factor that can profoundly influence the quality of care provided to children and their families. Effective leadership in this field requires not only an understanding of pedagogy and child development but also the art of nurturing a motivated and engaged team.

Judith E. Glaser's groundbreaking framework of Conversational Intelligence® offers valuable insights into fostering an environment that encourages staff to stay, thrive, and contribute positively to the growth of both the organisation and the children in their care. I have used this framework with hundreds of early childhood educators and have created my own style of implementation, underpinned by neuroscience of conversations.

My Conscious Leaders framework supports staff retention through empowerment, alignment to the service philosophy, nurturing positive emotions and building a culture of trust.

Self Leadership: row of faces on different colours managing their own emotions

Self Leadership:

Empowering Individuals to Flourish

The foundation of effective leadership in early childhood education is formed by self-awareness and self regulation, what I call "Conscious Leadership". Leaders who cultivate self-leadership within their team members provide a platform for personal growth and professional development. It's not just about managing; it's about empowering individuals to take ownership of their roles. By creating a safe space for open dialogue, leaders encourage team members to voice their thoughts, concerns, and aspirations. This approach fosters a sense of belonging, where each staff member feels valued and heard leading to high levels of staff engagement and motivation. Conversations are transformed from mere exchanges of information into opportunities for mutual learning and growth.

Download my self regulation tool by clicking the pdf below to start practicing and opening your capacity to connect.

Download PDF • 236KB

Awareness of Service Philosophy:

Aligning Conversations with Purpose

Framing the vision of your team through the lens of the service philosophy brings everyone's reality together under one umbrella. This creates a sense of belonging by helping them feel a sense of mutual purpose and that what they're doing matters. Their efforts on a day to day are important. Without meaning we have nothing. The stronger meaning we have around what we're doing the stronger our sense of connection to the children, families and colleagues in our workplace. Like a compass that guides the team's actions, it also draws them together.

How can you achieve this cohesive vision among your team? By consciously aligning your conversations with the service philosophy and gathering input from team members. Leaders who infuse conversations with an awareness of the service philosophy instil a collective sense of purpose within their team. This alignment ensures that every interaction, whether with colleagues or children, reflects the organisation's core values. Conversations become infused with intention, leading to a deeper understanding of the impact each staff member has on children and their families and service outcomes.

Emotional Contagion: repeated photographs of a woman with different expressions

Emotional Contagion:

Nurturing Positive Vibes

Emotions are contagious. Leaders set the emotional tone of a workplace whether they are doing it consciously or not. When you are aware of how you are showing up in the world you can change the impact you are having on everyone around you. This is why it is so important that your intentions match your impact.

You can walk into a classroom with a stern face when you are in deep thought and don't talk to anyone when you walk through which can make the people in the room feel uncertain, concerned and sometimes even unsafe.

Leaders who use emotions to create the results they want in a conscious way can have profound impact on team dynamic, workplace culture, staff retention and a whole host of positive side effects you may not even realise. To do this you need to be self-regulated and be able to think about what is needed in the situation versus just how you feel. It's about showing up how your team and families need you to in order to create the best outcome.

These tools are a large part of all the programs I run because they are such a fundamental part of being able to create a safe workplace and an environment of trust.

Culture of Trust: wall of masks with different patterns painted on them

Building a Culture of Trust:

The Foundation of Retention

Trust is the cornerstone of any successful workplace, and in early childhood education, it takes on heightened importance due to the nature of the work. Think of it this way, parents are dropping off to your service their most prized and loved children, so really trust is the most important factor of any successful early childhood service culture.

When we feel high levels of trust we can be more of our authentic selves and are able to communicate more openly and honestly about what our perspectives are. Everyone wants to feel seen and heard but in environments where someone doesn't feel they can trust others, they'll never feel safe or understood, they shut down and move into distrust behaviours and will struggle to contribute meaningfully. If someone doesn't feel understood they will struggle to build a sense of trust. The more trust and understanding that resonates between leaders and team members the more loyalty and commitment to the role everyone involved will have.

Conscious Leaders use trust to foster healthy relationships and enable effective collaboration. Collaboration leads to a sense of empowerment. It helps moves us from an individual "I" perspective into a sense of the collective. This

neurological state facilitates access to higher parts of our brain. The ultimate state of connection and the ultimate the goal for co-working. What this does for staff retention may seem obvious, but not only does it help people feel connected and valued, it also helps overall wellbeing and our physical health.

Leaders who create a culture of trust inspire open conversations, where feedback is embraced as an opportunity for growth rather than criticism. By demonstrating vulnerability, leaders pave the way for team members to express their ideas without fear of judgment. This openness nurtures a collaborative environment where knowledge is freely shared, resulting in enriched teaching practices and an increased sense of belonging. Through candid and respectful conversations, leaders cultivate an atmosphere where staff feel valued and invested in the organisation's success.

Try the handout below to start building these conversations and ask your team questions to enhance your culture of trust.

Questions To Build Trust & Demonstrate Curiosity
Download PDF • 1.03MB

By fostering self-leadership, aligning conversations with service philosophy, harnessing the power of emotional contagion, and building a culture of trust, leaders create an environment where individuals thrive, children flourish, and the organisation prospers. In embracing the principles, Conscious Leaders can pave the way for a future where staff retention becomes a hallmark of excellence in child care and education.

If you want to level up your leadership skills and start Consciously Leading your team I have a range of upcoming programs to support your professional development. These programs are designed to support Leaders and whole teams. If you want a program tailored especially for your workplace please get in touch.

Checkout upcoming programs or book a consultation at the link below.


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