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Program Design, Development, and Quality / Staff Leadership and Management

7 Specialties of the Afterschool Program Director

success-7 specialties

The director’s job can be very complex.

We’ve come up with a powerful yet simple way to articulate what the job entails, illustrate how to effectively manage your time, and leverage your efforts to maximize your success. We have identified 7 Specialties that help bring simplicity to understanding a challenging and complex job.

When directors only specialize in one of these areas (such as… “MY specialty is parent relationships”), they add value, but they never really experience success. They fall short. All 7 of these specialties are crucial for success. You must make ALL of them YOUR specialty if you want to succeed in this job.

We have witnessed time and time again that when directors become specialists in all of these areas they have less stress, more joy, and more success at work.

1. The Basics

The First Specialty is the Basics. This specialty is all about a consistent and superb execution of the basics of your programming standards – your state licensing standards, accreditation standards or organizational standards. It is about a complete and UNCOMPROMISING devotion to delivering a basic promise of quality.

What does it look like? Well, you know it when you see it. It is very recognizable. When you walk in, it feels welcome and inviting. It is obvious from the first moment that this is a clean, organized, carefully planned environment. Artwork, signage, and the décor all tell me I have found the fun afterschool program known for being a model of quality. There is an attractive and up-to-date information area with activity calendars, notices, newsletters, and school/community events. There is a cute sign that tells me about all the staff. There are soft spaces where kids are relaxing and chatting. There are enriching activities happening and address academics and promote higher-order thinking. The voices are pleasant, and positive, and fun. The staff seem to love working here. They seem like pros at what they do. It feels good.

2. Essence of Leadership

The Second Specialty is the Essence of Leadership. This specialty is all about being a responsible, trustworthy, caring leader. It is not about charisma. It is about values-based servant leadership. It is about being the ultimate role model of a critically-reflective professional. It is about honesty, personal responsibility and hard work. It is about helping people decide where they want to go and how to get there

When you show the essence of leadership, people will follow you and support you and help you succeed. When you develop the skills necessary to “exude” the essence of leadership, those skills will help you to gain friends, influence people, and take advantage of the opportunities that come your way in life. The communication skills and coaching strategies you develop will help you to build strong, lasting relationships.

3. Cultivating Leadership

The Third Specialty is Cultivating Leadership. This specialty is all about facilitating the development of leadership in others. It is about recognizing, supporting, encouraging, and celebrating the goals and achievements of others in a spirit of facilitation and caring. It is about acknowledging and utilizing the experience and education of others, and encouraging their continued development by providing opportunities for training, mentoring, and professional and personal growth. It is all about positivity and hope and the desire to help people develop their skills.

Cultivating leadership at all levels of an organization is crucial to creating a great place to work. We hire people based on our culture and their character, then we develop them and help them grow. We know that not ALL people want to continually develop themselves. We believe that in afterschool, this is not acceptable. It is not acceptable if our kids do not develop and grow while with us. It is not acceptable if our staff does not develop and grow while with us.

If you make ALL 7 of these YOUR Specialty – if you manage your time and priorities in alignment with these critical areas of focus, you will experience legendary success as a director

4. Business of the Business

This specialty is all about protecting and nurturing the business of the business. We have an important mission. No money means no mission. We give our people knowledge and information about our fiscal resources; we empower them, and we trust them to control costs and provide quality and value. It is about leading in good times… for bad times.

It is about looking for ways to improve the financial health of the organization as a whole. It is about being innovative in finding new ways to increase program enrollment. It is about fundraising. It is about finding and utilizing new resources. It is about identifying and eliminating waste. It is about providing the highest possible quality for the lowest possible price – doing more with less. It is not about making sure you get your slice of the pie; it is about making a BIGGER pie.

5. Proof

Good leaders pay attention to the details, and when it comes to details, the proof is in the paperwork. This specialty is all about documenting evidence of all the great stuff that we do. We have great experiences with other people’s kids; parents miss important moments. We do important work, but as time passes, as staff turnover happens, as we learn new things, our memories fade and become malleable.

Successful organizations know how to keep track of important data, details, and records. Proof is about taking notes and pictures and writing up curriculum ideas. Proof is all about consistently keeping an accurate record of important details. It is not about “red tape.” It is about producing paperwork that is meaningful and communicates important information. It is about thorough, professional, on-time record keeping.

6. Storytelling

Telling our story changes the nature of the relationships we have with our stakeholders and opens doors to new resources and new possibilities for accomplishing our mission. We tell our staff, “When you are on the job, everything you do or say is public relations; when you are part of our team, you are ALWAYS telling our story, so tell it WELL.”

This specialty is all about sharing the proof of the great things we do. It is about ensuring that people know our organization and what we do to serve the community. It is about celebrating the work that you do in as public of a way as possible. It is about creating proactive systems and strategies to engage stakeholders and promote and market our organization and our work. It is about making sure that the teachers, nurses, custodians, PE teachers, cafeteria managers, counselors, support staff, and all the families in our schools know that we are there and what services we provide.

7. CQI = Continuous Quality Improvement

If we are not improving constantly, then we are slowly and steadily deteriorating toward our short-term irrelevance and our ultimate demise.  This specialty is all about constant improvement even when things are going swimmingly. It is about an insatiable thirst for knowledge and growth. It is all about continuous purposeful change. It is all about constant strategic progress and transformation.

Successful directors must be future-focused thinkers – insatiable lifelong learners that consider the learning process to be active, not passive. They must embrace the acquisition of insight and knowledge, and hold dear the views of potential futures as well as those of the present and the past, all being elements of continuous improvement. The biggest room in the world is the “room for improvement.” CQI is about remembering this simple fact.

If you make ALL 7 of these YOUR Specialty – if you manage your time and priorities in alignment with these critical areas of focus, you will experience legendary success as a director and that means you will have met your mission of facilitating the positive development of children with equally legendary success.

For breakfast today, I’m having a large cup of iced coffee and a peanut butter sandwich – extra crunchy.

Author Profile: @mikeashcraft

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