If you are a leader of a small or large business then most likely I am going to guess you are busy, to say the least. Being busy is what all of us have to manage as leaders. Those of us who remain busy without a purpose or systems to help us, simply will fail to thrive.
While managing a team of 53 employees, this was a constant battle. So often I would come to the end of the day and think, what did I do today? I would and could spend my whole day “fighting fires” as I called it, rather than intentionally building my center and team. It wasn't until I activated the systems and procedures listed below that I started to see movement towards my goals and objectives.
Today I am going to take some time to address a few ways that I managed my “busy world” as a Preschool and After-School Director. It was because of the systems and practices below that I stayed afloat and managed to grow the school exponentially at the same time. It’s my hope that you can take one or two ideas to help you out today. Remember, leaders take action and action produces results! If you are ready to transform the way you lead, take a look at my list below.
When I first started leading my center, I would spend every morning answering emails and returning phone calls. By the time I finished, my brain was mush…
Start your day off right! For me, this was goal setting, brainstorming, and dreaming. Often, the morning is the best time for our brains to create.
Take some time each day to dream about where you want to go with your business. For me this meant more classrooms, more children and more vans for after-school pick up. I would dream and brainstorm new marketing ideas and ways to grow our school or expand our building. Growth is essential for a well run center, so I spent the majority of my time focusing on this aspect.
Schedule your day! Tell your time where to go, don’t let your time tell you where to go. We are most productive when we work on one item at a time, unlike most of us who spend our days multitasking. By creating a schedule, this will ensure that you have made the time each day for the items that are important to you and also limit multitasking, which in turn will make you more productive.
Here is the schedule I followed each day as a Preschool and After School Director:
8:00am - 9:00am Brainstorm, Goal Setting, Vision
9:00am -10:00am Connect with Staff/Families
10:00am -12:00pm New Interest/ Marketing
1:00pm - 3:00pm Emails/ Tasks
3:00pm - 4:00pm Meet with Teachers/Families Individually/Welcome After School Kids
Yes, there were times and days when this schedule was interrupted and when I was caught multi-tasking but overall, I followed the same flow each day. This helped me stay focused on my end goal and to not get caught up with the daily problems that could take all my time.
Before I started using Sandbox, in my center I spent so much time managing lists, counting payroll hours and manually running invoices and payments. If you are a busy leader like I was, don’t waste your time doing this manually! I would get a software program to assist you. When our center started using Sandbox, I found that many of my daily tasks went away. I found extra time available for connecting with customers and staff. Find a software program that works for and with you! A new software program can literally transform the way you lead.
The best thing I ever did for my team was to place someone else in the role of dealing with the daily issues regarding the staffing team and school, or what I like to call “fighting fires”. This person was our Program Manager. Their job was to make sure our classrooms where staffed, breaks were taken accordingly, snacks were handed out, parents were happy and other daily surprises were handled. I can’t say it was easy for me to give up this role, as I was accustomed to having these responsibilities, but it did wonders to my effectiveness as a leader.
I was once told at a conference “only do what you can only do”. This phrase alone shook my leadership to its core. I was so used to doing everything. Week-by-week I would hand-off tasks to my team members. It felt so weird at the time and I often wondered what would be left for me to do. I had such an awesome team there really wasn’t much left once I had finished delegating!
What I realized is that when the leader of a team is “only doing what they can only do”, creativity sets in. Once I had this freedom, I was able to look at the program and creatively solve problems, create solutions and plan for the future. Before, I was so busy with daily tasks that this wasn’t even on the “to do” list.
This last one was the hardest for me. I thought that in order to be more productive and successful, I had to be available at the drop of a hat. Yes, there are certain times when working longer hours is required. That being said, working after hours from home daily will do nothing towards your productivity. When you work all hours of the day, you don’t give your brain a chance to relax and you actually spend more time doing less work. Work hard while your “on the clock” and then relax afterwards. This will also be a benefit to your team, as a leader you set the standard!
It’s my hope that as leaders we can learn to be as effective with our time and resources as much as possible. When we sit back and spend some time planning, we can really make a huge difference in our productivity. Spend some time today thinking about where you are spending your time and energy where you shouldn’t be, make a plan! Be proactive and set goals, and start today!