Nursery Management

Nursery management – 10 lessons learned from COVID-19

  • Nursery management – 10 lessons learned from COVID-19

The idea of a catastrophic event isn’t new, but few saw 2020 coming.

Businesses have risk assessed for all sorts of eventualities: bird flu, swine flu, climate change, terrorism, the Millennium bug, foot-and-mouth.

Some risks disappear with a whimper – planes didn’t drop out of the sky on New Year’s Day 2000, for example – while others are more impactful.

COVID-19 has been off the scale. It’s changed everything.

Here are 10 business lessons we’ve learned…

l. We must expect the unexpected and be as prepared as possible. It does mean that some of those mind-numbing risk assessments actually come in useful – sometimes.

2. In many ways the COVID experience will make us stronger, but it has exposed all sorts of vulnerabilities as well. We need to be prepared to nimbly let go of what has been before.

This means not sitting in denial, instead acting swiftly and appropriately to change. Current business models simply might not be relevant any more, to us or the families we serve.

3. There should be lots of talking, all the time, with everyone – the management team, staff and volunteer team, parents and children. This helps people feel involved, and helps us to think through implications from all perspectives and identify useful ideas.

4. Leadership behaviours are needed. They support teams and customers to consider what could and should happen, and help allay fears, moving to solutions that people endorse. This has been especially useful for health and safety, PPE and new fee structures, for example.

5. We need financial resilience to survive. Financial reserves should be built up over time to represent at least three months’ operating costs. Such funds, if they existed, might be depleted now. It’s a priority to grow them again.

6. We need emotional and physical resilience too. We should invest in wellbeing, notice the effects of stress (in ourselves and others) and adopt good self-care practices routinely for the benefit of all businesses and customers.

7. There needs to be planning capability. This includes ensuring you make the time to plan and don’t hide in the day-to-day distractions that inevitably occur. Be prepared to completely rethink plans or change them as things develop – this can happen overnight!

8. We need skills to identify the need for change, lead the process, and make it happen effectively, bringing team and business along with us.

9. Letting go is a necessary skill. It might include becoming smaller in the short term so that sustainability is protected, and your business has the capacity to grow again, or to change and adapt to new opportunities.

10. Take and make difficult and timely decisions. As a leader this can be a lonely place. I find it helps to build a ‘difficult decision network’ of people with whom you can talk such dilemmas through, or at least a network to support with the emotional effects of such pressure and the associated fallout.

James Hempsall OBE is director of Hempsall’s training, research and consultancy. Visit or follow on Twitter at @hempsalls.

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