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Treat Your Staff Like Children

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Group of playful preschoolers with teacher having fun

Have you ever wondered how an Educator supports a child into becoming a loving, independent, self-confident learner, ready to face the challenges of the world?

Can you imagine how a typical manager might treat that same child? They’d set some goals. No sense celebrating poor performance. We’d call that appraisals or performance and development reviews. Then we have to figure out a way to motivate the child so we’d set up a bonus system for success and warning letters for poor performance.

Would they thrive in this culture of fear and intimidation? Nope, they’d just learn to do what they’re told, when they’re told to do it.

So how do Educators do it?

They set reasonable expectations and then celebrate success. They start with tasks making sure that the child can’t fail. Every time the child succeeds they get positive reinforcement, supported and congratulated. But what happens when they fail? Nothing. No constructive criticism, no developmental feedback, no warnings in the personnel file. Educators celebrate the process not just performance.

Children are taught that their appropriate behaviours will receive positive reinforcement. Children learn that negative behaviours will not be acknowledged.

When Educators speak to children, they don’t bark instructions or micro-manage. Educators instead, focus on building trust and positive relationships. They work with individual strengths and they keep the child challenged.

Treat your staff like children. Over celebrate, make a big deal out of the good and little stuff that we want constantly repeated. Under-criticise. People know when they’ve screwed up. What they need is help and support. Most staff are doing things right more than 95% of the time. So why do we waste all our time giving feedback on the 5% of things we never wanted to happen in the first place.

We need to set up the circumstances where people succeed, over celebrate the good and little stuff we want constantly repeated. Celebrate strengths, set high expectations and coach for excellence. Treat your staff like you treat the children and see your team succeed.


Are Bad Attitudes Causing Your Team to Crumble?

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Castelers at La Merce

Hopefully, you work in a team of amazing Educators who take responsibility and make things happen. When Educators work together, take ownership, and show accountability teams can thrive. Sadly, however many teams are stuck playing the blame game.

The blame game starts by Educators denying that there is a problem and when they do admit it, they make excuses for the poor performance. This is then compounded by the poor performers’ leader who makes excuses for their own inaction and accepts excuses from their team. When leaders condone excuses from their team and fail to hold staff accountable, teams can spiral into gossiping and deep disfunction.

The first step to combatting poor attitudes is to be able to name and describe the attitude or behaviour and explain the gap between the current behaviour and the desired behaviour.


  1. Miss “Denial”

 Miss “Denial” refuses to believe anything that might be remotely negative about her performance. She rebuts any feedback and seems oblivious to obvious facts.


  1. Mr “Excuses”

I forgot. You didn’t ask me. Was that my job? These are the go-to phrases for Mr Excuses. Mr Excuses will create stories of fiction to ensure he doesn’t have to complete his allocated tasks.


  1. Mr “Blame”

Mr “Blame” takes pleasure in pointing his accusatory finger at the closest person. Mr Blame is an expert in dumping the blame on someone else to avoid taking responsibility for his own behaviour.


  1. Miss “It’s not my job”

Miss “It’s not my job” is best friends with four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. Miss “It’s not my job” avoids all responsibility and successfully creates a hostile work environment.


  1. Miss “I know”

Miss “I know” is closed off to new ideas and baulks at the idea of critical reflection. Her attitude is sometimes demonstrated as arrogance—she thinks she doesn’t need to learn anything from anyone.


  1. Mr “I’m always right”

Mr “I’m always right” is that know-it-all who, right from the outset, wants to declare himself the infallible champion. Mr “I’m always right” is a terrible listener and only hears his own ideas.


These 6 attitudes will cause your team to crumble. Real growth only comes when Educators stop making excuses and take responsibility for their weaknesses, and when managers and leaders take responsibility for holding Educators accountable.

Changing attitudes can be difficult. Attitudes are rooted in beliefs about a particular topic. Beliefs are based on our previous experiences unfortunately, they may not necessarily be based on logic or fact. Some beliefs are formed through rigorous study, others are borrowed from people we respect. Beliefs serve as a frame of reference through which we see our world. Although they can be changed, it often takes time or strong evidence to persuade someone to adopt a new attitude.

As leaders and managers, we see a variety of attitudes in play for every staff member. From their attitude toward teamwork to their attitude toward management and feedback. Roger Connors, the author of Fix It: Getting Accountability Right, says that their “belief system needs to include the idea that feedback from others should not be feared but desired”. Without a positive attitude toward feedback, it’s going to be difficult to hold educators accountable. Interestingly, most evidence suggests it’s much easier to have Educators adopt a new attitude rather than change an old one.

When leaders take the time to understand the story that comes with the Educator’s attitude it proves a powerful tool for supporting change and coaching for accountability.

Adrian Pattra is a management consultant with a Master of Education (Ed. Psychology). He is currently facilitating a new webinar series designed for managers and leaders “Educator Accountability: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide”

Successful Teams Start by Having the Right Attitudes

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Successful Teams Start by Having the Right Attitudes


Attitudes might be the most important factor in determining an Educator’s success. Educators who are open to learning, work as team players, and are adaptable are destined for success. Positive attitudes are infectious, they can motivate, engage and inspire others. However, negative attitudes can destroy the best of intentions.

Good recruitment can often separate the wheat from the chaff but what happens when qualifications trump attitude and you’re faced with the prospect of having an Educator with a less than optimal attitude on your team?

Leaders need to ensure that they are making behaviour and attitude expectations explicit. What does a good team player look like? Are we going to say no to brilliant jerks (technical experts who are poor team players)? An Educator’s attitude affects their work performance and can impact the whole service culture. Generally, Educators with good attitudes have stronger performance and Educators with poor attitudes demonstrate less than optional performance.


Creating an Environment That Supports Positive Attitudes

At the beach, being between the flags is the safest place to swim—the flags represent a safe, supported environment. Experienced surf lifesavers choose the safest location for the flags and are there to save you should you get into trouble. If you swim responsibly between the flags they form somewhat of a safety net should something go wrong.

Some beachgoers decide to swim beyond the flags. Their decision to swim beyond the flags is a product of their attitude toward risk, their perception of their own competency, and subjective norms. Swimming beyond the flags is not only dangerous for the individual but also for other beach goes as it diverts the attention of surf lifesavers in the area. Ultimately, swimmers who choose to be beyond the flags put everyone at risk.

Clearly Stating Expectations

As managers and leaders, it’s our responsibility to set the flags with our teams. By deciding what’s between the flags you can create a common and acceptable definition of accountability, foster strong commitment and increase personal responsibility. Accountability is like quality, you only notice it when it’s not there. We need to decide and clearly articulate which attitudes and behaviours are between the flags and which attitudes and behaviours are beyond the flags. The attitudes we place inside the flags will depend on our team’s current state, beliefs, strategic goals, and pedagogical philosophy. Some behaviours and attitudes are obvious and others are less so. The behaviours and attitudes that are between the flags are those that support a high-performing team and personal responsibility.


Ownership, responsibility and accountability fit firmly between the flags, so do seeking solutions, taking action and seeing possibilities. If all team members demonstrate behaviours that are between the flags, then the team succeeds. Putting certain behaviours and attitudes between the flags is clearly articulating what high performance looks like. When the whole service acknowledges and agrees with these behaviours it increases psychological safety and supports a culture of accountability. Without the desired behaviour being made explicit, Educators are left to flounder and manage shifting behavioural expectations.

The attitudes and behaviours that are beyond the flags are those that destroy team cohesiveness, undermine trust and create a poor sense of positive belonging. Attitudes such as blame, excuses and denial all belong beyond the flags. Negativity, fault finding and ignoring problems are also common behaviours teams choose to put beyond the flags.


Supporting Accountable Attitudes

When people exhibit behaviour between the flags, they take responsibility for mistakes and see them as learning opportunities. They are supported by their team and collectively they find better ways to ensure mistakes don’t happen again. When mistakes are made between the flags the manager takes overall accountability for the error. Courtney Lynch, the author of Spark: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success, says that, “Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place blame”. The role of the manager is to rescue any Educators who make mistakes but remain between the flags. Much like a surf lifesaver who saves a drowning swimmer, the role of the manager is to support their Educator who has remained between the flags, to accept that something hasn’t gone to plan, and to provide a solution to the situation—one which is free from punishment or blame.

Leaders can support high performance by holding Educators accountable for remaining between the flags. Educators who drift beyond the flags should be prompted to return between the flags. They should be held accountable for their poor performance and coached to return to the desired performance. Services that support between the flags behaviours will create Educators who have positive attitudes, take responsibility, see solutions, and make things happen.


About the author:

Adrian Pattra is a management consultant with a Master of Education (Ed. Psychology). He is currently facilitating a new webinar series designed for managers and leaders “Educator Accountability: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide”

The Pitfalls of Peers Accountability

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With support swelling for Black Lives Matter and greater transparency into Aboriginal deaths in custody, the spotlight has been thrown onto the Policy of Peer Intervention.  We see Images of detention guards and police standing around doing nothing as their colleagues use excessive force. Within our teams often Educators are expected to intervene if they see someone not performing. In our latest post, we examine the failure of the Peer Intervention Policy as a tool for accountability and its persistent use in our sector.


Too often, leaders and managers are reluctant to call out poor performance when it happens. When the time comes for an annual appraisal they tick all the boxes indicating satisfactory performance. This lack of accountability decimates the service culture and destroys respect. When laziness or underperformance is condoned by the silence of the manager, good Educators become disengaged, eventually fleeing the service.

Imagine a Lead Educator uses inappropriate language to a child in the yard. A few other junior Educators are around but no other senior staff are within earshot. Whose responsibility is it to tell the Lead Educator that their language isn’t appropriate?

The responsibility to manage the poor performance falls squarely and directly with their supervisor. Leaders who declare, “We all have a duty to intervene if we see someone not performing” are making excuses for their own inaction.

In response to BLM protests across America, police departments are looking for ways to crack down on poor practices, including excessive force. Slowly they are trying to change the way they operate, but will it have the desired effect?

Dallas Police Department has adopted a “Duty to Intervene” policy to prevent abuse. The City’s chief of police states that all police have a duty to intervene whenever a fellow officer is using excessive force, regardless of rank. The new policy is meant to create a more accountable police force and prevent another death like that of George Floyd.

Unfortunately, this policy won’t work and hasn’t worked in the past. In fact, Minneapolis has had a duty to intervene policy since 2016 but it did nothing to prevent the death of George Floyd. The policy requires officers to intervene when they believe force is being inappropriately applied or is no longer required. However, the truth is that the department doesn’t reward officers for interfering with their colleagues or reporting that they broke policy. If they do follow the ‘Duty to Intervene’ policy they risk being ostracised from their department and a loss of trust from their colleagues.

A 2006 VitalSmarts survey found that 93% of people would prefer to put up with a colleague’s poor performance than have to address it. It’s unfair and unreasonable to expect junior Educators to engage in peer intervention. Furthermore, asking everyone to call out poor performance makes it even more difficult to hold the supervisor accountable for performance management.

Kerry Patterson, the author of Critical Accountability, says, “As much as others may need to change, or we may want them to change, the only person we can continually inspire, prod, and shape—with any degree of success—is the person in the mirror.”

To achieve exceeding in 4.2 we have to show critical reflection on how we operate as a team. Some teams may choose peer intervention others will adopt a more hierarchical approach. However, my preference is clear, when the responsibility to call-out poor performance is left to everybody, nobody steps forward and the team flounders. When leaders are skilful at holding Educators accountable the conversation becomes less of a reprimand and more of an inspiring conversation showing them the value of their work.

In our services, it’s the responsibility of managers and leaders to hold their staff accountable for poor performance. The burden of responsibility cannot be shifted or diffused. As leaders, that’s what we sign up for when we accept the role.


About the author:

Adrian Pattra is a management consultant with a Master of Education (Ed. Psychology). He is currently facilitating a new webinar series designed for managers and leaders “Educator Accountability: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide”