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Are you leading TEAMS, or TODDLERS?

I wouldn’t mind a dollar for every time a client said “I’m supposed to be managing projects, but I feel like I’m running a daycare”. 

It’s a common theme among the people that hire me to run short, sharp punchy training that holds a mirror up to our leadership styles, but here’s the kicker … without even realising it, it’s these managers that are slapping the “daycare open” sign on their businesses.

So if you’re keen to migrate from sippy cups back to strategic results, then you might like to go grab a box of Band-Aids, because, well … this is gonna hurt! (But not for long.)

Your team is holding a mirror up to your leadership style.


*Have a Band Aid*

But here’s a bit of salve for you – you’re completely unaware of how you’re contributing to the dysfunction and it is 100% unintentional … but we can play “there there, it’s not your fault” or we can give blame the day off, and actually do something about it (instead of reverting back to those default patterns of denial, avoidance or taking sides (all regularly found in sandpits BTW).


So, let’s delve into what happens when workplaces start to feel like daycare centres and how we can get everyone out of time-out and back into greater emotional intelligence, mature accountability and consistent productivity.

Loss of Professionalism: When the line between work and play blurs, professionalism can take a nosedive. Sure, it’s important that people enjoy their work and the people they spend their workday with, but that should not come at the cost of professionalism.  When it does, you’ll get silos, “mean girl” groups, boys clubs and people who used to be besties, who now can’t stand each other and invest more time corrupting people’s perceptions of others than realising that they’re adults being paid to do a job. 

We need to be friends with the people we work with, and great things happen when we are, but professional boundaries are a non-negotiable if you want toxic factions to f&%! off.

If you’re a leader, with poor boundaries, you’re going to find dealing with some people difficult, so maybe you don’t deal with them at all.  If you do, maybe you’ll beat around the bush, you’ll drop hints (and hope they get picked up) and you’ll be as clear as squid, talking underwater with a mouth full of marbles.

What you ARE making clear though, is that the more unruly people behave, the more powerful they are and the less likely you’re going to do anything about it.

NOT because you don’t want to deal with things, but simply because you don’t know how to … so the only thing you end up really doing well, is watching the good people leave, while the tyrants continue to take over.

*Handing you a Band Aid*

Decreased Productivity: When you’re not giving your team clarity on what’s expected of them, workplaces can become daycares where people are more focused on socialising or engaging in non-work-related activities.  Not because they don’t give a toss about you or the business, but because they aren’t being taught to do anything different. 

You’ll know if this is happening in your workplace, because you’ll have a few people doing the majority of the work and others tagging out but taking home the same pay each fortnight.  Resentment will be festering, and people will be taking the p*ss.

Again, NOT because they don’t give a toss, but because clear expectations haven’t been conveyed and uninspiring leadership results in missed deadlines and subpar work quality with the only thing people really investing effort into, is revamping their CV.

Here – have another Band-Aid.

Accountability Goes AWOL: In a daycare-like environment, accountability often takes a backseat. When employees are treated like children, rather than responsible adults, they may start to shirk their responsibilities and pass the buck when things go wrong.  A lack of accountability breeds a culture of excuses, finger-pointing, and tantrums being rewarded.

Poor accountability hinders teamwork and poor teamwork hinders success.

You’ll know if this is in your sandpit, if you’re saying (or you’re hearing people say) “that’s just how they are” … or if you’re all becoming what I call, a Brigade of Becausers.

This happened because you…

This didn’t happen because they …

I’m upset because ….

Because, because, because.

We can have reasons, or we can have results.

When your workplace becomes an Excuse Bank, it’s because people have been taught that those excuses work.

*handing you the whole first aid box*

I’m not going to go on, because I’m sure you’re depressed enough by now as it is and you’re probably connecting the dots all by yourself.  The increased conflict, the tension, the underperforming, the undermining … it’s all a direct result of leadership. 

The GREAT news, is that if you can create THIS without knowing what you were doing, just IMAGINE what you can create once you DO know what you’re doing.

Here’s how you’re going to do it.

1. You’re going to establish clear expectations – STARTING with yourself.

What kind of leader do you want to be?  If you’re not sure how to answer that, think back to that teacher, that coach, that family member that you admired.  The one that made you feel good, and more importantly, the one you really respected and lifted your game for.  What are three things about them that really made an impression?  How can you incorporate those things into the way that you lead?

Or to simplify it even further – if you could get that person to come and manage that sticky situation you’re dreading, how would they do it?

Then go do that!

2. You’re going to be a cheerleader for professional development – STARTING with yourself.

You’re going to realise that you don’t know what you don’t know, and that curiosity is the key to success in work and in life. You’re going to ditch the need to be right and embrace a desire to be better.  You’re going to start realising that everything that’s making life hard right now, is actually holding a mirror up to something within you that’s inviting it. 

You’re going to realise that asking for help isn’t weak, it’s the purest form of courage and an essential ingredient of inspirational leadership.

Stare down that thing that you’re dreading – get curious about why you’re dreading it. 

What’s that thing that you’re worried will happen? 

Then, think – if that thing DOES happen, what will it mean about me?

Take some time to ponder this … then decide – is this belief or feeling something I want to protect, feed and preserve, or is it something that I could ask someone to help me move past?

What will life be like one year from now if I do nothing? 

What could life be life one year from now if I didn’t have this compromising me any more?

3. You’re going to lead by example – STARTING with the way you lead yourself. 

Culture is like gravity; it flows from the top down. You are literally the Pied Piper and the tune you’re playing is what everyone will be following. 

When you don’t buy into yourself, you’ll be followed by people who don’t really buy into you (or themselves) either.

So, you’re going to do the hard things.  You’re going to have the tough conversations and openly share that you’re sh*tting yourself.  

You’re going to challenge your assumptions, question your beliefs and put a leash on the six inches between your ears where ALL the issues start.

You’re going to realise that growth can feel hard, but you don’t need to get it perfect to still get ahead. You’re going to stop focusing on how other people are making your life hard and start getting curious on how you’re inviting them to.

In conclusion, while it’s essential to create a positive and enjoyable work environment, we have to stop normalising eggshells and start normalising self-awareness.  You’re going to stop making other people responsible for your emotions and start learning how to regulate them yourself.

You’re going to stop blaming other people for doing your head in, and start realising that the ONLY one who can access that freak out switch in your head …. is you!

*Handing you one more Band Aid*

You’re going to teach your staff to be mature, positive, respectful, self-aware, courageous people who are aware of (and care about) the impact they have on others.

And you’re going to do this by learning how to be all of those things yourself.

Even if you start being one of those things consistently – you’ll notice a huge shift.

You’ll think better, you’ll feel better, you’ll BE better, and you’ll leave the experts to run the real daycares while you get back to work.

If you’d like some information on my Lead The Way training – which is a three-hour intensive on leading by example, tap here to complete my 60 second questionnaire.

Leanne Shaw
Senior Coach/Trainer
Leanne Shaw

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