Working together

The young leaders have been at it again! [April 2017]

You may remember [from previous posts], our policy group is made up of young educational leaders. They work in early and middle childhood with children from 0-13 yrs and have one big thing in common – they want to make a positive impact on the sector they love working in.

In response to their initial bewilderment about how government policy (that directs their sector) actually works, we have been delving into how policy happens:

  • how government works
  • government structures and processes
  • how policy and regulation is made
  • how programs are developed, implemented and reviewed
  • advocacy and how they can contribute.

This month we have been working on how to get their professional message out – professionally.

There seems to be an infinite number of self help books and articles on how to get your message out. Linked in, Facebook, Instagram, etc are all full of  ‘10 ways to …’ type posts, with a rare few rating as original and genuinely resonating (and most often coming through the feeds of like minded peers and friends).

The group was tasked with looking past all of this and devising their own messaging priorities, speaking in their own way on topics relevant to them, focusing the message and exploring shareable language  – the language they and their audience might both relate to.

These are the rules they developed for their task; it had to be:

  1. authentic – it had to come from them
  2. a well researched need – the need had to be verifiable
  3. evidence based – the solutions had to be credible
  4. for a purposeful outcome – they had to feel that a ‘good’ was done
  5. for an achievable outcome – a real world proposal
  6. focused – no ‘we want world peace’, but rather ‘in our services/communities we want to be able to …’
  7. in language that is consistent in theme but respectfully tailored to the audience.

The research into their first ‘focus’ is underway, I will share it here next month, but the message for this story is this – these young leaders chose to come together to undertake this work in their own time and in their own way, constructing knowledge and skills as they go and remaining committed to the outcomes.

How exciting is this??!!

More next month…

Intrinsic leadership – follow-up [March 2017]

So, the professional practice (education) leadership group that I have been working with, has met again.

We are considering leadership attributes and how those attributes manifest in the real world. The talk turned to making their professional learning obvious.

This was the hardest of all of our meetings to date.

  • They could clearly see that leaders need to continue to grow and develop, but all of them were reluctant to talk about their own professional development.
  • They shared a considerable professional knowledge base but didn’t rate it as one of the most important of the professional attributes they possessed (it came behind communication and relationships).
  • They all declared an intention to continue their own learning, but also admitted that not one of them felt comfortable telling clients/parents what they were doing, or put up qualification parchments on the wall.

How can these professional women grow and aspire if they cannot articulate their own learning and development?

It was only when we made this list and analysed it that they understood. In that room there were:

  • 5 who had gone from no qualification to degree while working
  • 2 who were studying post-grad while working
  • 5 who had completely changed the direction of the curriculum in their service (requiring a complex strategy including research, analysis, planning, implementation, resourcing, stakeholder management etc)
  • 5 had slowed staff turnover by more than 50% – both saving their employer money and creating a more stable work environment
  • 5 had improved the standards at the service contributing to stabilising enrollments and attracting more families.

Each then considered how that record compared to a traditional manager in a not for profit community agency and they all realised that they are in fact professional practice managers with great track records!

Each one one is now rewriting their own resume to showcase their achievements in new language. The focus is on presenting their leadership and management skills through talking about their real world examples. This is an extraordinary group of young professionals.

Intrinsic leadership [Feb 10 2017]

A young professional practice (education) leadership group I have been working with recently got to a place where they began opening up and expressing their desire to use their current leadership experience for one outcome – to set them up to be able to leave.

I didn’t want to go down the path of ‘what does your workplace need to do to make you want to stay’.  I could see that they would get bogged down in organisational issues rather than focusing on their own leadership. So… I suggested that if they want to leave, that was OK… but I clarified that the focus of our work was for them to be amazing, innovative and effective leaders now – today.

That got their attention.

We had set about exploring what were the aspects of leadership that they held as important, and what was impacting on that.

They listed what was important to them, what held them up and gave cohesion to their leadership:

  • Professionalism: they were committed to their roles and the children’s services they were working within
  • Professional knowledge: they had all worked hard to gain their qualification and every one of them was in post graduate study
  • Relationships: They actively sought out strong, positive professional relationships and clear, available support.

They listed what was holding them back, actively obstructing them, or tugging at their cohesion as a leader:

  • Requirements made for their own sake – work place requirements that didn’t deliberately (purposefully) lead to great outcomes. This was seen to erode commitment and degrade professionalism in the workplace.
  • Not being able to have what they know, recognised and considered. This was seen a placing low value on the hard work of post graduate study and the hard won experience gained during and since that extra learning.
  • Distant senior management: Professional and geographical distance was a strong negative (“I don’t want my manager’s communication  to be limited to booked meetings and email”).

That got  my attention.

None of these leaders is over 26 years old. They thrive on communication. The rules about communication are different for them. They are so successful because they thrive on seeing those in their teams learn, grow, succeed and confidently innovate. This is who they are.

So we are focusing on that – we are looking at intrinsic leadership. Not intrinsic motivation, but intrinsic leadership. That leadership quality or set of qualities that is their template for how they carry out their role, coming from their knowledge, skills, experience and thinking on leadership.

It is this extraordinary professional strength that, when understood and applied, will carry them into being able to work through those organisational issues that are currently pushing them out the door.

And that will get everyone else’s attention.

The conversations we have to have [Jan 28 2017]

What are we doing about policy, advocacy and the next generation?

I’ve been meeting with early and middle childhood professionals who work with children 0-13 yrs. They are learning more about how policy is made. Why? Because they want to contribute.

[Can you imagine how it feels to meet with a group – some very new to their roles – who are so into making a contribution to their profession!]

They describe what they want to be able to say when policy is open for comment, such as when submissions are called for. Some spoke about how it feels to stumble over questions and others about doubting that your input is good enough. One described feeling ‘small’ when she mixed up the government agencies. Another described the emotion she felt when a known group told her to contribute to their submission – but then she couldn’t find anything like her ideas in that submission.

So we talked about how government works, about government structures and processes, how policy and regulation is made and about advocacy and professionalism and how they can contribute.

We practiced and debated some current hot topics. [More on those next time] We talked about being a passive and active policy consumer. We also got into the power of language.
After this discussion, I have to ask: When we talk about being inclusive in our profession, are we including our peers? Is it enough to expect them to participate or can we do better at empowering them to include themselves?

I am thinking – Next time there is a meeting, take someone new, but explain how things work and describe the ways that they can be involved.

So why did these folks want to come and talk about all of this? One of them heard me say to a young colleague at a meeting ‘You have things to say  – speak up’ Her friend turned to me, looked me in the eye and responded ‘How?’.

More on those hot topics next time – its nearly February and the ‘Weekly Review’, which was held over till the year got underway, is about to start – Talk then

The children’s services sector conversation [Jan 6 2017]

I have been tweeting over the last few days about a series of meetings with Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC), Family Day Care (FDC), Outside School Hours Care (OSHC), School and Health services. These meetings have been with participants specialising in working with children 0-13 years.

The meetings came out of conversations about government policy. Our goal is to look at how we can create a seamless environment for each child within current child and family policies, and learn what policy changes are needed to make our work easier.

We started with looking at what are our shared and differing professional languages and what our shared and differing professional rules are.

It was an agreed safe discussion environment. There was no project at stake. There were no funders in the room to impress. No competition for grants or tenders. There was no hoarding of information or knowledge. It was a willing and engaged sharing. It was just us.

We have a way to go but my first thoughts are … across children’s services we will struggle with working together until we all have more meetings like these.

My first ‘take away’ was that children’s services displayed a range of assumptions about what ‘others’ are doing and how ‘they’ are doing it. Many of the roadblocks are not policy (or organisational) roadblocks, they result from assumptions made about other professional groups.

We are not at the stage of scoping policy coverage and assessing policy gaps – that will come as we complete this first stage – however these discussions have the potential to impact on our practice as well as policy discussions with government, and are a worthwhile investment in time and energy.

I will let you know how the next meetings go.

What is coming up on this website?

2017 Trending in children’s services this week

  • A new, news services
  • Relevant, current , useful, informative
  • Great for those who need to know. 

2016 Annual Summary

The 2016 trends were taken from a sweep of:

  • On-line forums in Australia
  • Facebook pages
  • Sector organisation’s published meeting notes/news
  • Input from a selection of business sites on sector related topics.
  • Reading through the latest reports from government and the sector
  • Credible new stories.

In 2016, the biggest trends in children’s services topics in media and online have been:

1. Providers: Viability, ownership trends, business costs, quality

2. Parents: Quality, adequate places, affordability

3. Managers: Quality, HR, viability

4. Staff: Remuneration, career growth, leaving

5. Policy: Subsidy structures, eligibility, what quality education means, the importance of early childhood

2017 is finally getting itself under way. From next week,  I will be publishing a new weekly update with a new analysis section here and on my LinkedIn page.

More soon


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