Being a manager in a residential children’s home requires passion, focus and resilience.
You will be working in an industry that endures continuous bad press, and the good it does is seldom applauded. So much so sometimes it feels like a thankless and unattractive task.
In my opinion, this is looking at the glass half-empty, and most residential children’s home managers do a brilliant job. So much so that 82% of children’s homes in England have been rated good by Ofsted.
There are many reasons managers are leaving the profession but many more reasons to stay.
If your passion and focus are to succeed and excel, how do you find your way in a career that can be difficult to navigate and where sometimes it seems your good is never good enough?
Finding Your Balance
Before we get to the tips, we must start by being honest. The daily hurdles to be jumped in children’s care home management can throw even the most resilient person off-balance.
Even if you are new to management, you might soon be under the impression that everyone thinks you have all the skills ready to conquer every aspect of the job.
Nothing is ever that simple.
Take skiing, for example. A few years ago, I decided I would have a go at skiing. I watched just about every online video available, and I read how-to books and even took an online course.
Do you think it all made sense the minute I stepped on the snow?
I would love to say I skied off happy and graceful, but nothing could be further from the truth. I was constantly off balance, falling over and face planting in the snow more than I was on my feet.
None of it made sense.
An immediate skier I was not, and I had the bruises to prove it. It was, I realised, going to take me a lot of practice and experience to ski despite all my reading and prep.
The second problem was as soon as I got on that slope, I started to compare myself with everyone else. Take my son. He put on a pair of skis, and soon he was skiing like he had been doing it for years while I was still flopping around, gaining trophy bruises on the bunny (beginner) slope.
The inner critic started on me straight away. You are never going to learn to ski like that. You are always going to be rubbish.
The truth is we all learn at a different pace, and we need to gain experience through practice.
Rare are the managers who, like my son, just get it instantly, make no mistakes, and seldom fall.
Give Yourself Time
Do you ever get so bombarded with leadership quotes, online coaches and life gurus who sound super adequate that you are left feeling you will never measure up like a boss? You memorise their positive quotes and motivational meme’s thinking they will affect the change you want to see in your performance, only to be disappointed.
It is fantastic that so many leaders are willing to shout about just how brilliant they are, but be assured, not everyone feels like this, and certainly not all the time. If you read the responses to some of the quotes or posts on social media, you could be forgiven for thinking that you are the only manager who feels like they have lots to learn.
Qualifying on paper will help you understand management functions or technical aspects of management, but the real learning comes from experience.
You won’t gain the much-needed experience by bailing out when all the care management challenges come along, and they will, like buses, all at once.
6 Tips for New Managers
Achieving managerial balance comes from experience, and sometimes this experience is gained through the school of hard knocks, but there are a few things we can do along the way that will help us grow.
1. In times of doubt, remember, we learn from experience
Unlike a pilot who must go through many tests and trials before achieving their flying wings and gaining control of an aircraft, a care manager often gets their managerial wings before they have experienced the tests and trials they might face.
Just like my skiing experience, the ride isn’t going to be all smooth, expect it to be bumpy, and you won’t be surprised when it happens.
2. Don’t give yourself a hard time for not knowing everything
In the same way that passing our driving test doesn’t make us brilliant drivers overnight, becoming a boss doesn’t mean you have all the answers. Having a leadership qualification doesn’t mean that you instantly have every skill needed to do the job.
Everything takes time and patience.
Be kind to yourself.
3. Don’t compare yourself to others
Comparing yourself to other managers and leaders can damage your self-esteem. Yes, learn from them but don’t keep measuring yourself against all the wonderful talents they tell you they have.
Most people writing the books on excelling at everything didn’t get there overnight. If someone is doing what you want to do, practice it, gain experience, and improve.
Above all, be patient with yourself.
4. Be honest with your senior managers
Once I was given a valuable piece of advice which was always to work up the way. Be honest with your senior managers about the challenges you face.
You might not know how to deal with an issue when you experience it. Don’t wing it or try and fathom everything out on your own. Speak to someone above you.
Talking or asking for advice isn’t a sign of weakness. It is a sign that you are looking to find your managerial balance.
5. Focus on your why
It sounds corny, but it works.
- Why did you want to do this job in the first place?
- Why do you think you can make a difference?
- Why do you want to succeed?
Use your why to keep you motivated and share it with your team. It will probably motivate them too.
6. Get a system and stick with it
Chopping and changing your system every time something goes wrong is going to keep you off balance forever. By system, I mean whatever you do daily/weekly/monthly to keep the managerial wheels turning and comply with the regulations.
So often, something comes along which knocks us off balance, so we change everything or add more complex systems on top of the ones we already have. This kind of back and forth creates a state where we are never in balance.
When we are always trying to fix things, nothing ever seems to get fixed.
Stick with what you have and tweak it. Make it better but don’t keep changing direction.
When the going gets tough
Lastly, don’t forget when you are knocked off balance, be kind to yourself.
It doesn’t mean you are failing.
It does mean you are learning from experience.
At least, that is what I keep trying to tell myself every time I find myself face down in the snow.