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The Childcare Management Blog

Leading Your Childcare Center Through a Crisis

Posted by Jeffrey Thomas on May 14, 2020 2:37:07 PM
Jeffrey Thomas is the President of ThomasKelly Software Associates - specializing in cloud-based products ​for education and social services domains.
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lead childcare center crisis

The pandemic hit hard and fast, but as a small business owner and expert childcare provider, you need to lead through this crisis. While the world didn’t quite tilt on its axis, everyone is still scrambling to get their feet back under them.

Leading your childcare center through a crisis isn’t easy, but running a business and taking care of children isn’t easy either. You’ve got this. 

Here are some tips and tools to help you along on your leadership journey.

Leadership Is Key

Leadership doesn't mean knowing exactly what to do in every situation. It involves managing expectations (including your own), taking the initiative, and keeping lines of communication wide open. Here are some tips on maintaining strong leadership:

  • Keep your entrepreneur hat on. Look for new opportunities during this time of unprecedented change. 
  • Be proactive. Stay as far ahead of the curve as you can.
  • Avoid analysis paralysis. Don’t overthink, just go with the best solution for now.
  • Be honest, visible, and considerate. People are more likely to follow those they trust.

Nobody has all the answers, but take advantage of the resources you have to work out solutions. Get your staff in on the action and let them help with keeping things going. Remind them that they are an essential part of the business and that what they do matters. 

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Communication Includes Listening

There is no such thing as over-communicating in a crisis. As a leader, it’s up to you to seek out credible sources and ensure rumors and misinformation are stamped out.

Credible sources include the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and local governments. Use email, text, and parent portal tools to provide low-touch communication to parents and staff:

  • Include the latest news
  • Provide helpful tips
  • Offer words of encouragement
  • Review, repeat, and reinforce

Reinforcement is a crucial part of communicating. Information needs to be shared often. Send it out using a variety of delivery methods to ensure everyone sees it in a form they can digest.

While telling people what you do know, don’t be afraid to say what you don’t know. Then tell everyone when you will get back to them with those answers. If you aren’t able to find the answer, tell everyone that, too. Nobody likes being in the dark, especially during stressful times.

Remember that communicating also includes listening. 

  • Give everyone a chance to speak their mind.
  • Get in touch one-on-one if needed. Show people you are making an effort to reach out.
  • Listening gives you a better idea of the needs of the community so you can offer practical assistance.

As you put together your communications, create a routine or schedule, so people know when to expect new information. And don't worry if everyone doesn’t read all your messages. Just knowing you are there is often comfort enough.

Adapt to the New Normal

Nothing is more constant than change, but now, the world is going through it at warp speed. However, if you can adapt your services to fit new needs, you have a better chance of keeping your business open.

First, double-down on safety compliance, especially health and hygiene. Find ways to remind people of proper handwashing technique and create a new cleaning policy.

If you have closed classrooms, find other duties to give teachers. Maybe they can put together online lessons or projects children and parents can do at home. Enlist assistance in deep cleaning the childcare center and creating communications pieces.

Apply for financial relief. It may be difficult because everyone is in the same boat but don't let that keep you from applying. The government isn't the only place to go for help. Several companies that cater to childcare businesses are offering financial aid programs or assistance with filing activities.

Consider new services to offer, such as:

  • Delivering snacks and meals to homes
  • Offering special hours of operation for first responders and other essential personnel
  • Joining other childcare services to help with special initiatives and for backup
  • Creating short-term care packages for those who cannot use their usual full-time childcare arrangement

Above all, stay flexible. New information comes out every day. As the experts learn more about COVID-19 and operating during a pandemic, you may need to quickly change in order to comply with new regulations and requirements.

Plan for the Future Now

The novel coronavirus has been with us for a while now. Start considering what you want or need to do in the future.

  • Create a plan for the “back to normal” that everyone hopes is coming.
  • Keep in mind that normal is unlikely to ever be the same.
  • Resume your typical business activities like planning for enrollments, preparing documentation, and applying for funding.

You still have a business to run. Now may be the best time to make changes.

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Leverage Technology to Keep Everything Moving

Childcare management solutions and business software have provided the opportunity to communicate, provide services, and maintain continuity. 

  • Make sure your business is listed in childcare apps and that you update your information with any changes.
  • Use parent portals to provide information on your business and how you intend to cope with the crisis.
  • Make sure your communication listings are up to date and use the most suitable channel. For emergency communications, use text and phone calls. Update your website and other information outlets frequently.
  • Adapt the tools you have. For example, take pictures of your staff getting their temperatures taken when they arrive in the morning and post them on your parent portals as assurance.

Look at your software solutions with new eyes to see how you can adapt them to your current needs.

Keep It Together

Remember, as the leader, you set the example. Leadership is not a light load, but you can make some things easier on yourself.

  • Recognize and manage your emotions, so you can help others manage theirs.
  • Know that you are doing the best you can and doing the right thing for your clients and business.
  • Show respect, concern, and consideration for others.
  • Make connections and draw people together.
  • Look for the positive.
  • Take it one day at a time. Don’t forget to take a break every so often so you can just breathe.
  • Prioritize and manage your time.

Put everything you ever learned about leadership to work for you now. Strong leadership is required in times of change. Be that leader, and your business can survive and thrive.

Also, remember you are not alone. Stay in touch with others through professional organizations, local community groups, friends, and family. EZChildTrack is also standing by. If there's anything we can help you with, just give us a call.

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Topics: After School and Day Care, Childcare Management

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