Leadership & Training

Harvest time!

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Alice Lewes, Early Years Leadership Consultant

12 October 2016

Because my partner is a farmer, the ‘harvest’ is a MAJOR part of our year.

We can really tell it’s now autumn here on the farm. The fields no longer have their crops – the drilling of the next years produce is happening, the hedgerows are full of different coloured berries and rose hips and sadly the leaves are changing to brown too.


Harvest time!

Photograph by Linh Nguyen via Unsplash

I’m not a great fan of winter, I dislike the early darkness and the cold, but I am grateful this year for our ‘Indian summer’ so am prepared to greet the change of season in a positive way!

“I’ve been struck by how you can compare the successful sowing and growing of crops to the high performance of effective teams who are led and managed in a positive way to create great results.”

The comparisons are obvious – the fields have to be prepared properly before you can begin to drill the new seeds into the ground. Do we always ensure that those we are proposing to move up to a leadership position are fully aware of the challenges of these new responsibilities? Are we just promoting them because they are excellent with the children, or have been with us the longest?

Berries from the harvest

Did we pick the berries too early, too late or are they perfectly ripe?

Photograph by Nick Sarro of Downeast Cheesecakes via Unsplash

Once the seeds have been sown, we are then at the mercy of many more challenges. The weather, birds, beetles and others issues that can either destroy or have a big impact on the crops quality and growth.

Having promoted someone do we try to ensure that the support systems are in place to help them in their quest for effective leadership and management? We know that there will be times we are at the mercy of the outside elements (occupancy, recruitment, Ofsted etc). How do we help ensure that they get the help they need to deal with these challenges – or do we just blame them when things don’t work out?

Throughout the year the crops are continuously sprayed with fertilizers, sprays to prevent some kind of beetle (not quite sure what it’s called!), slug pellets and more to try and ensure that the crops have the best possible chance.

How does this transfer to our settings – do we have effective processes in place to help ensure that we are able to provide the quality needed for the children in our care?

Do we have an effective management system that helps with all the admin (I know these can be pricey but I hear they are well worth the investment).

Do we have rigorous ‘supervision’ schedules that help us pick up any issues that might be happening?Do our team feel that they can raise any issues that need to be dealt with, or do they carry on feeling increasingly unhappy and demotivated?


These are ready – how about your team?

Photograph by Priscilla Fong via Unsplash

In farming, there is one element that is totally beyond our control – THE WEATHER!

In 2012 the yield was way down because it rained throughout June and July, so the crops did not get the sunshine they needed. In 2013 we had the most glorious Spring – but what the crops needed at that time was rain to help them grow!

In the same way, we can’t control the Government’s decrees or new initiatives. The problems being caused by the decree that all those in a level 3 position must have maths and English GCSE grade C and above is causing major issues. However, what we can do is to value the staff team we already have, and through our leadership and management try to ensure that they are able to be the best DESPITE these challenging conditions.

And lastly the really good bit – the celebration! In farming terms this is our ‘Harvest Festival’ – a time to thank everyone for their tremendous hard work in helping to bring all the crops in. How often do we celebrate our successes with all those who have been instrumental to the success of our business? Those who have given the children the love and care they need to grow and develop, the cook who has ensured that the meals have been healthy and nutritious? I’m sure most of us do this – it’s really helps to ‘feed’ the motivation of our team in the same way we feed our growing crops!


Celebrate the harvest and celebrate your team!

Photograph by Dave Lastovskiy via Unsplash

And very impressively I have found out that I am not alone with these thoughts! I did an Internet search for quotes about leadership with a harvest theme – and these are a selection that I came across.

“Striving for success without hard work, is like trying to harvest what you haven’t planted” David By.

“If you are too lazy to plough, don’t expect a harvest”. Proverbs 20.4

“Remember that creativity and peak performance are seasonal: There’s a time to plant and a time to harvest.” Robin Sharma.

And lastly my favorite one:

“Success each day should be judged by the seeds sown, not the harvest reaped” John C Maxwell.

So as the nights draw in, let’s all appreciate what is already in the ground. Let’s think, do we have everything we need to ensure that we are doing the very best we can? Or could we do with some external assistance?

If you think you could benefit from leadership and management training or coaching, I’ll be happy to help you in your quest for the best possible results in any given circumstance!

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