Whether you are new the position or a veteran director, you have probably realized that you set the tone for the entire program. Just as teachers act as role models and set the tone in classrooms, you are a role model for your employees. You also have the power to act as a role model for families. That is a very powerful position to be in, especially in regard to communication and challenging conversations.
Let’s take a moment to explore how you can be a role model during challenging conversations.
• Reflect on the desired outcome of the conversation prior to entering into the conversation. Share those desired outcomes with the other person at the beginning of your conversation. It might sound something like this: “I want to talk with you about you interactions with Joel. My goal is to work together to come up with some strategies you can use to build a stronger relationship with him.”
• Ask questions. Invite the other person to share their perspective on the issue at hand. Practice active listening. You may discover that there is a simple solution, or that many steps need to be put in place to address the issue. Prioritize and create a plan that takes into consideration and builds upon the abilities and beliefs of the other person.
• Rather than telling people what to do, invite them to consider alternative actions or behaviors. Remind them of the expectations for quality care and offer several options that they can focus on.
• Practice empathy and perspective taking. Acknowledge the feelings and struggles that others experience. As a leader, you have to be able to relate to others, while still holding them accountable. Empathy will help you with this balance.
• Be direct in order to address issues when they arise. Don’t wait until the monthly staff meeting to address all of the issues that should be addressed with individual staff members.
• Develop a personal communication commitment such as, “I believe that open and honest communication builds strong relationships and ensures the best quality care for the children in my care.” Share this with every parent and employee during orientations and meetings. Let them know what to expect at the beginning of the relationship. Encourage staff to create communication commitments as well.
• Keep it light – whenever appropriate, use humor. Not sarcasm, but good-natured humor to communicate.
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