5th April 2024 All Posts

10 Tips for Mastering Early Years Nursery Leadership

Nursery Leadership Blog

Guest blog: from Heidi Wright, Nursery Manager of Brook Farm Children’s Nursery.

In this week’s guest blog, we welcome Heidi Wright, Nursery Manager of Brook Farm Children’s Nursery. Heidi has worked in the early years sector for 28 years, with 20 of those years spent in nursery leadership, managing nurseries across the UK. Here, she shares tips on becoming a great leader and manager in a nursery.

Being an early years nursery leader is similar to orchestrating a symphony of giggles, learning, and growth. It’s a role that demands authenticity, empathy, and a touch of magic. Here are ten essential strategies to help you become an inspiring leader in your early years setting:

1. Know and live your values:

Authenticity serves as the foundation of effective leadership. Take the necessary time to comprehend your values and allow them to shape your actions. Values serve as the guiding compass throughout your leadership journey.

Values hold significant importance in early years settings, offering fundamental stability and consistency amidst frequent changes within the education system. Maintaining an ingrained system of values that remains steadfast, regardless of external uncertainties, provides a consistent anchor for educators, parents, and children to rely on. It’s what sustains many professionals’ passion for teaching during times when external factors may pose challenges.

Being clear about what your environment offers, everyone — staff and parents — knows what they’re signing up for. This leads to a more engaged, rewarding, and supportive community for all involved.

2. Build meaningful relationships:

Beyond knowing names, understand the hearts of your team members. Build knowledge of their joys, frustrations, dreams, and aspirations. Build a culture of positive relationships by celebrating individuality and offering personalised incentives to help your team members succeed. A robust early years leader not only comprehends the priorities of their team members but also supports them in achieving their full potential and desired goals.

Utilise one-on-one sessions to explore the essence of your team members and gain a deeper understanding of them. This approach enables you to construct personal development plans, motivating them to strive toward not only their individual goals but also the collective objectives you share.

3. Harness team strengths:

A high-performing team is built on recognising and leveraging individual strengths. Encourage self-awareness among team members and provide support to help them maximise their potential.

4. Empathy as a superpower:

Empathy is the secret sauce of effective leadership. Take the time to listen, understand, and validate the feelings of your team members. Cultivate an environment where everyone feels heard and valued.

Early years leaders and senior practitioners hold a significant influence in shaping the ethos of any setting and determining whether the emotional wellbeing of all individuals is a priority.

For a staff team to effectively care for the children and address their emotional needs, they must first experience this level of care themselves. A successful nursery depends on managers and senior staff who can demonstrate good work practices by being visible throughout the setting and accessible to staff, children, and parents alike. When staff members are content and feel valued in their roles, this positively influences the likelihood of the children under their care feeling content, settled, and secure.

5. Kindness: the glue that binds:

Kindness is not just a virtue; it’s a catalyst for positive change. Nurseries led by compassionate leaders experience lower turnover and foster a culture of collaboration and trust. Embrace gestures of kindness, big and small, to create a nurturing environment for your team.

6. Empowerment through collaboration:

Involve your team in decision-making processes and empower them to drive change within your early years setting. This goes beyond simply delegating tasks; it means creating a culture where team members feel valued, heard, and capable of making meaningful contributions.

Encouraging autonomy is key to this empowerment. Instead of maintaining a traditional top-down approach where decisions are made by management alone, shift the language and mindset towards collaborative problem-solving. Create an environment where team members are encouraged to voice their ideas, concerns, and suggestions freely, knowing that their input is valued and respected.

By inspiring innovation and ownership at every level of the team, you foster a sense of investment and commitment among your staff. Encourage them to think creatively, explore new ideas, and take ownership of their work. This not only boosts morale and job satisfaction but also leads to more efficient and effective outcomes for the nursery as a whole.

7. The power of observation:

Become a keen observer of your team’s practices. As a leader, it’s essential to become a keen observer of your team’s practices, interactions, and dynamics within the nursery environment. By closely monitoring these aspects, you gain valuable insights into areas of strength and areas for improvement.

Providing constructive feedback is a crucial aspect of the observation process. When offering feedback, focus on specific behaviours and actions, highlighting both commendable efforts and areas where adjustments can be made. Constructive feedback should be delivered in a supportive and non-judgmental manner, emphasising a shared commitment to growth and improvement.

Empowering team members to reflect on their performance and make improvements autonomously is another key component of effective leadership. Encourage team members to engage in self-reflection, identifying areas where they excel and areas where they can strive for improvement. By fostering a culture of continuous improvement and self-assessment, you empower team members to take ownership of their professional development journey.

8. From group to team:

Transform your team into a cohesive unit by investing in individual growth and development. Understand the aspirations of each team member and provide opportunities for leadership and skill enhancement. By fostering a culture of inclusivity and support, you create a resilient and thriving team.

9. Embrace change, lead Change:

In the dynamic landscape of early years education, change is inevitable. Leaders must embrace innovation, stay ahead of the curve and foster a growth mindset among their team members. By encouraging a culture of continuous learning and adaptation, you equip your team with the resilience and agility needed to thrive in a dynamic environment.

Being proactive in identifying areas for improvement is essential. This involves regularly assessing current practices, gathering feedback from team members, and staying informed about emerging trends and best practices in the field. By remaining vigilant and responsive to evolving needs, you position your nursery for success and ensure that it remains relevant and effective in meeting the needs of children and families.

10. Self-care: the ultimate priority:

As a leader, your well-being sets the tone for the entire team. Prioritise self-care, set boundaries, and model healthy work-life balance. Remember, by taking care of yourself, you become better equipped to nurture the wellbeing of others.

Allocate time for activities that rejuvenate and energise you outside of work responsibilities. Whether it’s spending time with loved ones, engaging in hobbies, or simply taking moments for relaxation, ensure that you prioritise activities that promote your overall wellbeing.

It’s important to take time for self-care practices that nourish your physical, mental, and emotional health. This may include regular exercise, mindfulness activities, journaling, or seeking support from a therapist or counsellor when needed. Remember that self-care is not selfish but rather an essential component of effective leadership.

Top Tips

  • Start with self-awareness and authenticity.
  • Recognise and celebrate the achievements of your team.
  • Empower your team by delegating responsibilities and encouraging autonomy.
  • Create a culture of kindness and positivity.
  • Promote a culture of continuous learning and reflection through peer observations.
  • Inspire others through your actions and words.
  • Practice empathy and understanding in all interactions.
  • Embrace change as an opportunity for growth and innovation.
  • Prioritise your health and well-being to be the best leader you can be.

In conclusion, being a great early years leader is a constant journey of self-discovery, empathy, and growth. By embracing these principles and building a culture of collaboration and kindness, you can create a nurturing environment where both your team and the children in your care can learn, develop and grow as individuals.

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