Throughout our days we share a lot of information with members of our teams, but do we always pay attention to the way in which this information is shared and the impact that this can have on the employees receiving the information? I have put together some tips that may avoid misinterpretation of information being shared and also allow for greater understanding of the information. These tips also allow educators to connect with the information and engage with the process because they feel it is being done with them, not to them, which can go a long way when working with large teams comprising of varying skills and abilities.
- Provide the rationale: While we may know the thought process behind what we are asking others to do, it may not always be apparent to them. The more information employees have about why they are being asked to modify practice, or adapt new techniques, or reflect on current practice, the more they are likely to connect with the request. It may take a little longer to explain the information, but it can avoid issues in the long run. Empathy goes a long way. Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see how the request appears to someone without your experience, knowledge and thought processes behind it can lead to a realisation that the information could come across as confusing, frustrating or even rude. Imagine the following interaction… “I need you to move the block corner to a different area of the room.” “Ok, can I ask why?” “Because I said so” “But the children really enjoy the space they have to play there” “Don’t argue with me, just do it”. How would that feel as the person receiving that instruction? Then imagine the difference being told this… “I’ve noticed that the children are spreading the blocks out into the doorway and this is potential hazard, especially as it is one of our emergency exits. Can you have a think about where a better place for block corner would be to minimise this risk and still let the children play with the blocks in creative and meaningful ways?”.
- Align the information with the philosophy/vision: We all have a service philosophy, it is a compliance requirement, but if the philosophy is just something that sits on a wall and isn’t referred to, discussed and shared, does it really guide practice? When making decisions for the service these should align with the philosophy and/or vision of the service. If you state that “we have a play based, open ended program where educators support children’s development through role modelling and playing alongside the children” then this can be used when discussing appropriate interactions with children. The philosophy should also be considered when making decisions for the future. If a request has been made to purchase a large play structure for the outdoor environment “because the children are bored and just run around” then the philosophy can be used to assess whether the purchase would align with the example statement used above. Are the educators aware of their impact on the children’s ‘boredom’? Do they think the large structure would provide open ended learning? Are there alternatives to alleviate the issues in the outside playground that better align with the philosophy?
- Be mindful of how you present information: Often information is shared as we see things, which may have annoyed or frustrated us, so they can be shared in short, sharp ways. The information may be shared at staff meetings, when everyone is generally tired and drained from a full day at work, so information may be shared in a matter of fact way, read off an agenda and discussed without much enthusiasm or energy. Or the information can be shared via text based mediums such as emails or signs, which allows for interpretation from the reader based on assumptions and their current mood. When it comes to interpreting information, the way in which information is shared is often more important than what is being said. If the person receiving the information feels it is negative, based on the body language and tone of voice used, they may feel like it is going to be difficult to implement or impact their current role negatively and therefore push against the changes. On the other hand, if information is shared in a way that makes it sound like a positive challenge that will develop skills, knowledge and the overall outcomes of the service, then employees are more likely to engage with the information and connect with the requests. Positive facial expressions, cheery tone of voice and open body language (avoid looking down, crossing arms, hands in pockets, fidgeting, etc.) can impact the message being received, so it is important to be mindful of how we feel and present ourselves when sharing information.
- Provide support and guidance: If we expect educators to work on their documentation to get it up to scratch, because it is lacking, do we provide examples of what we are looking for and time for them to achieve this in? If we ask the educators to move the room around to reposition block corner do we give them a time frame on when this can be achieved? If we expect room leaders to add articles in the newsletter each month do we go into the room and replace them on the floor so they have time to achieve this? If educators do not have the tools and resources required to complete the tasks they are being asked to do they may feel frustrated or overwhelmed and this can cause issues in the workplace such as disengagement, attention seeking or other negative behaviours. By supporting educators to complete tasks they have been given, whether it be through role modelling, mentoring, training or rostering additional time, this can help employees feel valued and empower them to achieve positive results.
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