I do not subscribe to the L’Oreal line ”because you are worth it”. I reckon you have to earn that accolade. But at last weekend’s Nursery World awards there were many who really are worth it because they had earned their stripes. Celebrating the few who represent the many was definitely the approach and it was a nice, warm cosy feeling. It was that fleecy rug you pull around your shoulders when you feel the chill wind of negative policy, business strain and tetchy customers.
I was pleased to be a guest of Cache which meant I could enjoy the company of Julie Hyde while discussing all things qualification, apprenticeships, panels and chefs. She had also provided me with a guest invitation which meant I could have the company of Feryal, a LEYF manager of Townmead nursery. She was keen to put her hair up to let it down on the dance floor with the LEYF team from the House of Commons nursery whose manager, Anjali won the Nursery Manager of the Year Award. She accepted the award as a tribute to her team and kept telling us she wasn’t worth it but in this case she really was!
The thing about the Early Years sector is that despite the sector having 18,000 nurseries it feels quite small and neighbourly. I often say to staff “never be rude to colleagues in the sector as they will come back later on as your new manager”! At an Awards “do” it is also great to celebrate the success of ex staff like ex LEYF Mine Conkbayir who was commended for her book in the professional book category.
Someone who does not work for us but very often works with us to deliver training is Marie Richardson from Experiential Play who won Trainer of the Year. Just goes to show what good judgement we have!
I am definitely a fan of celebrating our successes and using it to better understand what we do and what it looks like when we do it well. What makes someone ‘Nursery Manager of the Year’? The judges noted that Anjali was chosen not just because she goes the extra mile on a daily basis but because she could also lead in a crisis. She led the team during the Westminster terrorist attack with calm, strength, humanity and competence and repaid the parents’ trust in her by keeping their children safe. For me she aligned her values with that of LEYF – she was inspiring, nurturing, fun and brave. The children thought they were on a sleepover not a lock-in! The power of capable and credible leadership can never be underestimated. I was so impressed by the importance of leadership to create the kind of organisational culture and values which drives excellence at every level of delivery that I wrote a book about it.
So, this is the only time I will ever agree with L’Oréal because sometimes only a public accolade will build the value of what we do.