The Child Care Business Podcast

Season 2, Episode 6: Shared Leadership: Letting Go and Working Toward the Same Goals, with Lisa Polk

May 03, 2022 Procare Solutions Season 2 Episode 6
The Child Care Business Podcast
Season 2, Episode 6: Shared Leadership: Letting Go and Working Toward the Same Goals, with Lisa Polk
Show Notes Transcript

We are live from the 2022 National Shared Services Technical Conference presented by Opportunities Exchange in Austin, Texas!

In this podcast, we talk with Lisa Polk about leadership. She has 20 years’ experience as an early education teacher, director and owner. She works with Georgia Alliance for Quality Child Care and is an instructor for CDA credential and director training in addition to being an adjunct professor at Chattahoochee Technical College. She has a masters’ degree in early childhood education and is working toward her doctorate in education with an emphasis on teacher leadership.  

In this podcast, Lisa discusses: 

  • the need for consistent systems
  • why you must make sure relationships with parents stay professional
  • the importance of communication
  • how to build a team and work toward the same goal
  • and more!

Reach Lisa at lisapolk@ymail.com, and learn more about her nonprofit Poly-Anna's Place on Facebook and on Instagram!

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the childcare business podcast brought to you by pro care solutions. This podcast is all about giving childcare, preschool, daycare after school and other education professionals, a fun and upbeat way to learn about strategies and inspiration you can use to thrive. You'll hear from a variety of childcare thought leaders, including educators, owners, and industry experts on ways to innovate, to meet the needs of the children you serve from practical tips for managing operations, to uplifting stories, transformation, and triumph. This podcast will be chalk full in insights. You can use to fully realize the potential of your childcare business. Let's jump in.

Speaker 2:

Welcome to the childcare business podcast. Again, this is the second day in a row that I am actually having the opportunity to interview a guest live . So I , I was saying yesterday , um , that with my guest, it was the very first time because we started this podcast in the midst of COVID and the pandemic, and it's all been done virtually that I had a chance to sit across the table from my guest on yesterday's show. And I get to do that again today. And, and , uh , one of the welcome Lisa Polk to the childcare business podcast. Lisa, how are

Speaker 3:

You? I'm great, Ryan, thank you so much. It's such a pleasure to be here.

Speaker 2:

It's super fun. We were just chatting before we started recording that at least what I like about our show, and it's also the types of podcasts that I'm drawn to. Like as a, as a consumer is just conversational and having some fun and talking story, getting to hear from a amazing people in our case, in the childcare industry. And more specifically this week, we're both in Austin, Texas at the opportunities exchange shared services conference , um, and getting to just talk about some of the work being done in this particular niche and the movement that's happening. And mm-hmm , <affirmative> , uh , it's been a lot of fun. I wanted to give you a chance to just introduce yourself to our audience. And I know we were talking a little bit prior to recording about, you know, your , your resume and your background, but would you mind just sharing a little bit about what you currently do in your role in Georgia and then maybe a little bit about your background and go from there?

Speaker 3:

Of course I laugh because I am kind of that dinosaur that's been walking this field for quite some years. <laugh>

Speaker 2:

<laugh> yeah. You were saying 20 or 21 , right? Yeah.

Speaker 3:

23, 23 .

Speaker 2:

Who's counting, who's counting .

Speaker 3:

Um, and so I've, I'm thankful because over the course of that time, I have I've of course been the cook, the van driver, a nurse, the counselor, but I've also, I've had the opportunity to work for a corporate chain and be a regional director. I've been I've own my own childcare center. I've been training and technical assistance for CC R and R. I'm currently a level three trainer and still teach at night. I've taught college. I , um, was the first director of the Georgia provider resource hub, and I just have a desire to touch children, families. And so I left my desk job and started a nonprofit working with families in Troy and I am a regional director for a small group of childcare centers, just south of the city in Atlanta,

Speaker 2:

Just south of Atlanta. So you're kind of , I know we were talking the other day when we met earlier at the conference kind of pulling double duty, which is amazing. So regional director of an organization that runs three childcare centers. Yes . Just south of Atlanta, Georgia in that area. Mm-hmm <affirmative> . But in addition to that, you run your own, you know, consulting group advocacy group. Correct. And so that's kind of done in parallel or on the side, or in addition to somehow you , you don't sleep, maybe it's two hours a night type of thing.

Speaker 3:

Well, the weekends are when you catch up . Okay . The

Speaker 2:

Weekends you hit pause and then Monday comes and it's full. Yes .

Speaker 3:

And then

Speaker 2:

Lisa, just, just for a little context, how did you get into early childhood back in the day? Like, was it something for you, like going through school that you knew this was the direction you wanted to head or was it more, I , you know, you always hear the stories of , uh , it actually chose me type of thing. How , how did it work

Speaker 3:

Out for you? That is exactly my I same story, you know, in college I was so sheltered as a young girl, my parents wouldn't allow me to work. So a school was my job. And so , um, when I got married and I moved, I had very little work experience. So I circled two ads in the paper, a grocery store and LA petite academy . Those are the two I went to Lockte academy first. And I swear they hired me because I was clean and breathing <laugh> and yeah , got the job. They're like, okay, great. Here you go. And that was it. I just fell in love with it.

Speaker 2:

And here we go from, from day one. So that was in , was that post high school then that

Speaker 3:

Was in , that was actually college. So it's 1993.

Speaker 2:

So 1993. Yes , Georgia at the time LA petite academy was

Speaker 3:

Pre pre-K, like, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Was it a teaching position or an

Speaker 3:

Assistant? Okay . I was , I was started out and two , I was willing to work part-time afternoons, which is the shift that nobody wants. Got it. <laugh> so I was like, sure. I'll take , take it . You know, I'm , I'm finishing up my degree in social work, so I'll take it. No problem. Two weeks of part-time was full-time assistant teacher was lead teacher was assistant director, was academy director and it just went from there.

Speaker 2:

Wow. And so, and so how long were you with LA petite during that initial, during that initial run at that first school? How , how

Speaker 3:

I was, oh, goodness. I, between my regional director position and my teaching position, it was about seven years.

Speaker 2:

Okay. So you were there seven years, so yeah . And did , did you know immediately, like, you know, I think for all of us, when you get into a role and , and you feel yourself come alive, like you just recognize, like, this is something about me, makes me feel like this is what I'm supposed to do. And, and it brings life outta me. Did you know that immediately or did it take time? It

Speaker 3:

Took a little bit of time because I was so shy. Like I said, I , people look at me now and go, no, this is not the least that I knew because I was that person that was sit in the back of the class in school and say nothing. So I had to talk to people and to children and parents, and I've sat on boards of our state associations and I was the conference professional development chairperson. So I really had to talk to , yeah. So one of my , um, I guess it was a past supervisor, she had said to me, she said, Lisa, this has just been like watching a butterfly come out of the cocoon for her because she's just, she just watched me grow into myself.

Speaker 2:

That's so cool. And do you remember, like as a teacher, early days, do you remember any of the , your first students from that very first classroom? Like , is there any student that sticks out from that very first experience?

Speaker 3:

Jesse would because he wanted to marry me. That's awesome . Of course he stands out. <laugh> I just hope they all made it through school successfully because as a new teacher, I didn't know. I had no clue. <laugh> ,

Speaker 2:

That's an amazing, there are always kids. It feels like that , you know, you remember many of 'em because they have an impact on you, but it does seem like every group there's the personalities that stand out. My, my daughter is a kindergarten aide in Oregon. And so it's funny to watch her , um, kind of, you know, start her career path. And she tells stories about these kids. And, you know, as a , I , I see it from her side now how much joy the kids bring her. Like, it , it they're almost like her little family and she knows all their little nuances and their , their personalities. And so , um , she'll, I think same always have kids from the first class that she remembers. What about, so after you left LA petite, then what , walk me through the progression. So that was 93 to roughly 2000. Yeah , it sounds like. And then what happened for

Speaker 3:

You? Um, I actually met , um, a group of consultants, two ladies that were , um, starting a franchise company. They had owned 14 centers of their own around Metro Atlanta had helped, oh my gosh. Tons of people turnkey start their programs. And I had a stint in between LA petite where I actually worked for them, cuz I was like, okay, you know, I want to experience something different. Um, and I worked for them for a year and they're like, Lisa, don't you wanna own your own school? I'm like, no, I'll just go shine for someone else. That's when I went back to be the regional director and manage 12 schools for LA petite.

Speaker 2:

Okay.

Speaker 3:

And I don't know what I was thinking when I do that. <laugh> and it was a lot of work. And so doing that, I was like, you know what, if I'm gonna work this hard, I'm gonna work this hard for myself. So then I went back to them and I'm like, Hey, do you guys have a school? No Lisa, we don't. But then they reached out to me within a couple months and a franchisee had fallen through. And so they're like , Lisa, we've got a school you wanna ? Yes, yes. Then, you know, just like everything, it's a tough business, especially when you're doing it by yourself. And so we opened , um, September 10th, 2001 and then September the 11th happened the next day. And so of course the country was in chaos. Yes . And so it took us a while to build because one of the things I always appreciate and my goal is I always to provide the best experiences for children we can provide. And so we went into our community 20 to $40 higher than everyone else around us. So that was a culture shock right there for that community. But if I think about the groundwork we laid in that community, the school is still there 20 years later, which is awesome. I'm still full of kids. I'm still looking beautiful. And now everybody's rates are the same.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Everybody came up to that market.

Speaker 3:

Everybody came up cause

Speaker 2:

You were which, which we might talk about a little bit as we continue our conversation. But that, that topic about having the understanding of what the appropriate rates are for a school and making sure as a provider that you're charging a rate, that's going to cover. I mean, this is like an going theme. As we talk with providers across the country and you know, consultants who work in the industry recognizing so much, so many of the challenges that providers have around, you know, running a sustainable business is some of the basic things that you just mentioned, like one of them being charging the right amount. So when you, when you did that initial analysis, if you remember back in 2001 , yeah . Did you just recognize like, look, the market is too low in order to do things the right way. Yes . We have to charge more. So was that originally then parents would come in tour and they would question mm-hmm , <affirmative> why your tuition was so much higher. Is that how

Speaker 3:

You remember it ? Absolutely. And, but then once they enrolled with us, they would go other places and then they would come back and say, Lisa, I wanna pay for the right quality. I wanna pay for a good experience because we had music classes, foreign language classes, computer labs back in 2001. Yeah. And so they would stay and then it wasn't, they were like, we should have , have just enrolled the first time we shouldn't have even tried. We should have just came on. Yep .

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Because we're looking for the right place for our child. And that is one of those things I think. I mean, that is what we hear when schools mm-hmm , <affirmative> get to that spot and realize that right . Parents wanna find the right partner to like walk through their child's education with them . And if it it's done right, they're gonna pay that the right price.

Speaker 3:

Right. And there's a need for a variety of programs because not every program fits, every family fits every need fits. Every community fits it. Doesn't. So there needs to be a variety, a variety of high quality programs out there to meet the needs of, of all children. Even from an equitable lens. It needs to be that way.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. I like that perspective because that also means for you as an owner at that time, it sounds like you got to that spot too, where you realized like not every family in this community is a customer of mine. It has to be the right fit, looking for what we're providing and that's okay too. Like you said, there's different, different approaches and different options for families. So what led you then? So you had a nine year run as an owner and were you at that point, that was your full-time you weren't doing anything on the side, no consulting running your center. So what, nine years later, just to walk through the, the , the , up a little bit , um, just ready for a change time to make a change.

Speaker 3:

I was, and I always like to do lots of different things, hence why I do so many things now. Um, and do , while I owned my center, that's how I became a trainer with CCR and R doing technical assistance. Um , and I wanted to have bigger impact. I wanted to have a bigger reach and I believe that the knowledge we're given is not meant for us to keep, is for us to share out the help for the greater good. And so I wanted to start that path and that's how I ended up the director, the first director of the pro Georgia provider shared resources hub. And then it was the Georgia Alliance and it really opened my eyes because I was able to see it was part of a national network. So I was a state program, part of a national network. So I was able to get a whole different perspective just on early childhood, across the country. And it just really empowered me to want to be boots on the ground and take all the knowledge that I had and put it into communities and just help them grow

Speaker 2:

And to share because you then transition when you, when you sold your center or transitioned outta that immediately went to work for the state in that role. And so in that role, you were working with a other providers, owners and sharing mm-hmm , <affirmative> like if I'm coming from the same background, I've owned my own center, but I want to equip you with, and those resources were just everything from how to get correct me, if I'm wrong, how to get license and how to get everything approved and how to equip your school and how to set up the right business practice. Is that right? Is that what you were doing?

Speaker 3:

Absolutely. And we also had , um, grant funding to just provide opportunities outside of Metro Atlanta that the rural schools might not have ever had the opportunity to participate in. We also had grants to, you know, nutrition is a big piece and being creative with your menus and being cost effective with them. So the , we had grants to help. Um , we started a program called young chefs academy, which is still going on there now just transitioned differently. And now it's in the food program sponsorship. And so that you can help programs to be more cost effective , have great food choices, fresh fruits, fish , vegetables, and it is still cost effective to do so.

Speaker 2:

Got it. And you, and then is that, were you telling me earlier, is that when you actually first , um, became aware of like the shared services model? Mm-hmm , <affirmative> talk me through that a little bit. Cause I know that's kind of taken a long road to talk about some of the specific things that you're even gonna be discussing here at the conference, but walk me through, remind me the first time you heard of shared services or how you had exposure to it and then maybe the work that you were doing at that time.

Speaker 3:

So , um, while I was at my , um, center, I was asked to participate in a focus group for this new project that quality care children was interested in doing shared services. And so here I am a little nerdy, me doing my research online, looking up articles. And I actually read an article by Luis Stoney having no clue who this wonderful woman is. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And so I get into the , um, the first day and we're talking and , um, John White and Louis Stoney are all in the room with us and I'm like, yeah , I read this great article by Louise Stoney and she's sitting across the table for me. That's great . And John Weiser just giggles. Oh , she read an article by Louis Stoney and then after introductions, I'm like, oh God , there she is . <laugh> that's so

Speaker 2:

Funny . And that was circa like what year? Roughly?

Speaker 3:

Goodness. That was , um, probably about 11 years ago.

Speaker 2:

Okay. Wow. Yeah, that

Speaker 3:

I met Louise .

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Early days.

Speaker 3:

Early days. Yeah. We were one of the first alliances that came online , um, to start building shared services

Speaker 2:

In Georgia. So in Georgia. So can you define, because it , you know, it's been, I , I even share this inside, you know, the four walls of ProCare and as you know, as a , I've worked for ProCare for 20 years and I , I would say, you know, maybe six, seven years ago, we started to hear about shared services and this, this model and this concept, and kind of trying to, you know, talk about the benefits of a shared service Alliance and what they could do, what that could do for a community. But can you talk a little bit, like, can you define from your perspective what shared services is like when you originally started working on this in your area and how it was presented to you and maybe even if that's changed over the years? Like, could you define what, what a shared service Alliance is to maybe the people listening ?

Speaker 3:

Yes . So, and it's evolved. So we'll talk about the evolution as well. But the, when I started, it was a web-based platform of resources, tools that design and partnerships designed to leverage the whole , um, and save you money, save you time. Let's say you needed a job description. You didn't have to sit there and rack your brain and do it Tata click on this button. And there it is . If you needed a staff handbook, if you needed a parent handbook, if you needed any form that you could possibly need there , um, any resource to actually help you with your operations there, if you're a nonprofit board handbooks, how to choose a board, when I tell you it impossible to name every resource that's there and then just , um, partnership with vendors so that there could be group discounts based on volume yeah. On volume. And that's huge. So you're saving money, you're saving time. So that allows you as a owner director to spend more time doing other things within your program that you may not normally have time to do, because you are create forms , trying to do all this search out the best price for these items. And ,

Speaker 2:

And early days when, like when you guys started in order to be a participant in that Alliance, was it, was it free? Was there like a cost to entry at that point? And was it funded at that point? I know Louise has always been involved in , in kind of being a front runner for , um, continued innovation. Mm-hmm <affirmative> at that point, was it government funded who was hosting the website? Do you remember those types

Speaker 3:

Of things? We had CCA globals hosting the platform for everyone. And then you customized the platform for your state. Um, we had a E KC funding in the beginning, and then of course over time we did start charging a fee. But then as the platform began to really , um , gain traction , um , our licensing agency would pay for scholarships one year scholarships for every program going through our Q R I S program. Okay . Um , because all of those things were things that they needed yep . For their portfolio. So they would scholarship programs into that with the hope that once the one year scholarship, a lot of the programs continue to renew.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. They would then pay the subscription cause they saw the value of it. But year one licensing would maybe subsidize or provide scholarships

Speaker 3:

For it. Mm-hmm <affirmative> yes.

Speaker 2:

And then you've said it has evolved because it has, there's been all sorts of changes and continued talk about, you know, how could we leverage, you know, the volume and the scale of a group of centers, but also then what do the centers need? How , how have you seen it change? And that I think will lead us to a little bit of like, why we're both here in Austin and sessions you're gonna be talking in, I think even later. Yeah . Um, but talk about how it's evolved. Like what have you seen happen?

Speaker 3:

So originally we had the platform, which the platforms also exist, but there was always conversation around how do we build those deeper shared services where you've got maybe a group of five or six childcare centers that worked together. Maybe they share a marketing person, maybe they share an admin person, an accountant to make their business more effective and efficient and more cost effective for them. So they're not paying the full price for an accountant by themselves or a marketing person. Um, and, but we were just not quite at that point back then because, you know, providers hold everything really tightly. And so they're like, why do I wanna share all of this with someone else? And so the platform continue to grow. And as it's evolved, now you hear talk about micro centers and there are programs actually out in Seattle, that's a group of childcare programs. That is an Alliance. So it is growing and changing from web-based mm-hmm <affirmative> to adding on business solution support so that people have support with their business budgeting, helping them, Eva , their business, and those pieces were talked about while I was there. But now it's so great to see them actually coming into fruition.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. I , I was in a se one of the sessions I sat in yesterday was about micro centers and the whole, the whole idea of, like you said, like, how can we help in some of these deserts where there's not enough spaces, smaller centers get open with less, you know, regulation, lower costs of starting and be able to provide more care in their communities, but to share resources like you said. And I think that's cuz the , the other model that we see a lot, correct me if I'm wrong is if you're in a local community and you've got five or six or, and other owners that you want to bring together and you guys create your own a shared service essentially where you're sharing resources. But then there's also a lot, like we hear about these a lot at this conference where there's a local nonprofit that kind of spearheads that. And so there's maybe government funding that will subsidize some of the cost of getting started. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and so that's a , that's another too , right . It's both the owners starting it, but then like a nonprofit that would lead the charge mm-hmm

Speaker 3:

<affirmative> absolutely.

Speaker 2:

Yes. Yeah. We see both of those. So, so talk about , um, with , with that in mind, I reached out to you and invited you and asked you to be, you know, on the show because I think you're gonna be participating or maybe already have in a breakout session here at the comp for , can you talk about the topic that you're gonna be covering and maybe any information that you can share about the content of that?

Speaker 3:

Absolutely. So , um, my based on my shared services work, so my topic at the conference is shared leadership saved me transforming the early childhood hierarchy. Um, and I found myself in 2019 , uh, you know, I laugh and was teasing yesterday that the epitome of my career was to end up on the child abuse registry in the state of Georgia <laugh> degrees, owners of centers . And I'm on the child abuse registry <laugh> yeah.

Speaker 2:

That's the , that's your claim

Speaker 3:

To fame? That's my , I should have a little statue for that. Right , exactly. Um, and so I found myself in a traumatic situation, every owner director's nightmare, where the driver leaves a child on a vehicle. And fortunately, if there can be a fortunately in that sentence, the child was only there for 35 minutes, but that was still 35 minutes too long. Of course mm-hmm <affirmative> . But in the process of knowing that, okay, now we've got licensing investigations, all of those things in the midst of that, someone felt that defect should be involved because they felt like that was child abuse. And so I had no idea that any of this was, well, we had had a conversation with defects , but it was nothing that you would think was an investigation. And my licensing consultant calls me one evening and she, and it was just before close . So then there's nothing you can do after five o'clock

Speaker 2:

Except think about it. Yeah.

Speaker 3:

<laugh> and cry, break down into tears on the phone, cuz she's like, or I waited until I got off the phone with her. Um, but she calls me and she's like, Lisa is everything OK ? I'm like, well of course , Dr everything's fine . She goes, you haven't talked to the police, have you <laugh> ? I said, no , what no, <laugh>

Speaker 2:

What are you talking

Speaker 3:

About? And she goes, well, you have an unsatisfactory criminal background check and you're gonna need to leave the premises and your , and your van drivers too. I was like, and when she said that, I knew instantly what it had to be related to. And so I shared with her , um, and she goes, you know what, Lisa, you're probably right. That is probably related to this transportation issue. And so we had to leave the facility, leave the premises. So here I am calling the owners going, oh my gosh, I have to leave the premises.

Speaker 2:

I just received the call outta the blue . I bet that was terrifying and scary. Obviously completely unexpected.

Speaker 3:

Yes. Cuz you know, I really try to follow the law for sure. Yeah .

Speaker 2:

Yeah . I mean , I just met you this week, but uh , that's my impression.

Speaker 3:

Yeah . Um , and so I was out of the school for probably almost four months and you know, trying to help from the sidelines and I hadn't really started building my team yet. And so we had started, but we weren't ne we weren't in the space that we're in now and everything just fell apart. The owners told me, they're like, Lisa, we don't know what we would've done. If you had , if you had have remained out of the program, much longer. Teachers were, were threatening to leave. Families were threatening to just enroll . I families meeting me at the library just to hug me. Wow. While I was doing my nonprofit work, they would, if they knew I was what library I was gonna be in, they were at the library to hug me. <laugh>

Speaker 2:

Just to see you because just so I have the context of that four month period, it was a fairly new center or at least you were new to the role and you were just coming in, start building your leadership team and kind of the organization. And then this happens mm-hmm <affirmative> . And during that time, the owners obviously, cuz they know you were supportive and said ,

Speaker 3:

Absolutely

Speaker 2:

We have to follow due diligence. We know that there was no, you know, wrongdoing or any like blame on your side. But during this investigation time, you can't be on the center, but you were still helping operate and administer the screw , correct ?

Speaker 3:

From the sidelines. Yes. And we had to get an attorney. We actually had to go before an administrative judge.

Speaker 2:

Wow.

Speaker 3:

And the judge cleared us. He's had clearly, you know, was there, was there , um , mistakes? Of course there were, but does it ne does it , um, support the charge of negligence? No. Um, and so we were cleared at that point, but that was a process because , um, in the state of Georgia defects , doesn't have to tell you if they were gonna put you on the child abuse registry. So, you know, I believe that everything happens with purpose. And so it was with purpose that Dr. Walton called us and said, Hey, Lisa is everything okay? Because otherwise we wouldn't have known. So we were able to address it the very next day and file an appeal or we could have lost our whole career. My whole career could have just been dashed in that moment

Speaker 2:

Because by, by filing an appeal, that means they couldn't add you to the child abuse. No , they did . They did. Okay . But you could appeal it. And then through the appeal process, yeah . They couldn't go revoke your license, your

Speaker 3:

Certification. And they had to remove us from that list. And they even went so far as to appeal the administrative judge's decision. And in the process of that appeal, governor Kemp, who will forever be on my list, no matter it doesn't matter what that man does. He's

Speaker 2:

High on your

Speaker 3:

List. He's high on my list because he dissolved the child abuse registry in that <laugh> um , just because of , um, you know, if on paper it says budgetary reasons, right? Mm-hmm <affirmative> but there were issues like that where people were being placed on this registry with no knowledge and it wasn't being used for the, and the way that it was intended to be used. Um, and so once that happened, defects could no longer appeal any decision that was made by the administrative judge. And my attorney actually said that that was the most thorough , um, documentation he had, she had ever seen. And I know that he did that. So that, that would be less of an opportunity for appeal to actually go through.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Because it was thorough and documented everything mm-hmm <affirmative> so that you wouldn't have to then worry that this was gonna come back up again. They were gonna fight

Speaker 3:

It . Absolutely.

Speaker 2:

So how did that influence then? And I know that's I interrupted you, but I wanted to ask that extra context, but then how did that influence from a leadership standpoint? Mm-hmm <affirmative> cause I think that's of the big learnings that you took from that period of time is can you absolutely speak to that and like what, how that is like yeah . Practical in your life

Speaker 3:

Today? So I knew that, and even when I used to, I was the cleanup person as a director at LA petite, they would send me to the schools that needed to be , um, kind of changed. And, but then when I would leave those schools, they would fall apart and I never wanted them to fall apart, but it was because that traditional hierarchy of director assistant director and the director is the person with all the knowledge, like you see the light on behind their crown. Oh , I have it all. I know all the answers. Yeah . And so I was entrenched in that. And then when knowing that I was evolving into letting go of that control at , even in my own center, letting go of that control. And then as I moved out to facilitate and see different aspects of our , um, field, I really wanted to, I was always reflective with myself. And so in the midst of this, I was angry. I was like, oh my gosh, here, I was held accountable for somebody else's actions. And I didn't even have a clue what was going on at the time. And so I came back with that mentality of I'm gonna hold them accountable. I'm not gonna be on a list anymore because yeah . I'm mad stopping my feet. But then I actually had to sit back and realize and go, you know what, Lisa, you can't do this. How can you lead people and be angry about it? And I knew there had to be a better way to lead so that this did not happen again because I, if let's say that, you know, I decide to just focus on my nonprofit and, and leave leap frog , been that way . I want leapfrog to be better than when I was there. And so I just reflected back on my shared services experience and created a shared services, leadership model. So there's no hierarchy. I , I do have a title because I'm listed on the state's <laugh> website as accountable person . Right. I'm the person that has to be on that list with the owners. But we, everyone has the same information. That's why I'm able to be here. And I brought two of my team with me and then two of the , the ladies are there holding down the Fort until we get back. Um, so,

Speaker 2:

And , and so do you view that as like a , a linear hierarchy that meaning, even though there has to be somebody that mm-hmm , <affirmative> officially carries the director title for the state of Georgia, mm-hmm , <affirmative> the way you view it is, Hey, we all are equal in terms of now you do you bucket different responsibilities, but it's just what you're saying is there's no responsibility that's held to a higher regard than others. Like everybody's job is equal. Is that kind of how you

Speaker 3:

View it ? Absolutely. Yes. And so I started pulling on the strengths of it's like, if you can't make them accountable, make 'em leaders. And so I started pulling on the street cuz we had some great lead teachers. So I started pulling on the strengths of that teaching team. And um, we created, we have red shirts, so everybody wants to be a red shirt now. So the leadership team all wears red shirts. Our regular , our teaching team wears Carolina, blue polos. And so

Speaker 2:

Not duke blue Carolina, blue,

Speaker 3:

Carolina, blue. All right . I really wanted it to be Tennessee orange, but orange women don't wanna wear orange.

Speaker 2:

Okay . So everybody's North Carolina

Speaker 3:

Target

Speaker 2:

Fans . OK . No,

Speaker 3:

UT I got it . Just the course . Um , and so we all had the same information. We all, all , we , there are certain things that we all share. I have high level , big picture , um, accountability, but we, we all do tours. We all post payments. We all help parents. We all go in classrooms. We all clean the walkways. We, and now when you say bucket one teacher, you know, one team member may do be responsible for our immunization notebook. That's just so that it doesn't fall through the cracks. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, one team leader may be responsible for the food program, data entry. Um, but we all do. We all know how to do everybody's job so that if, if we're not here, you know, if I'm not there, they , everything still functions. They don't have to say, oh, well, miss , Lisa's not here. That's a miss Lisa question. And even answering the phone, I tell every prospective family we lead , we lead differently here, we lead as a team. And so there's always someone here to help you. Even if I'm not present, there's always someone here to help you.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And that make your team feel empowered. And mm-hmm , <affirmative> obviously staff see that and feel like there's access to leadership and the dynamic, it sounds like works really well. Mm-hmm <affirmative> did you find, as you implemented that model and as you've continued to kind of like progress it, are there any drawbacks or challenges to that? Are there times where not having that may be single point of like, Hey, that's the ultimate say in the center, just as an example, have there been challenges with it or has it been smooth sailing the whole way? Um,

Speaker 3:

Well of course with anything there's always challenges. And when you empower them, you have to be willing to let them go and let them go and do what makes them happy because ultimately that's what you want. You want people to grow and be successful wherever they're planted and whatever it is that is their dream. And so right now we're actually in a rebuilding stage of our team because two of our ladies they've told me from the beginning, I want my goal always ask , what do you wanna do? What's your goal. I wanna be in the public school system. Okay. Let me help you get there. Yeah. So two of them went off to the public school system,

Speaker 2:

Which is a win, because like you said, that's as a leader, you're trying to help people get to that next stage in their career.

Speaker 3:

And they both come back and coach teachers for me in the afternoon. So that is something that helps me because then I can be doing something different and our team can be doing something different. Um, and so I'm rebuilding new team members and still am in the process of adding a couple more. But you have to be willing to stack the deck, always looking for like at that great sports team that has strength on the bench. You always want strength on the bench. And we actually have teachers choose us over another program because of the way we lead. And I had questions yesterday of, well, Lisa, let's say that something traumatic didn't happen to us. Yes. I'm glad it hear that. Right . Um , how do we do this? How do we get started doing this? And it is number one, the first thing is letting go of control. If I wanted to control, then I would wanna bring back one other like, oh , just let me bring on one assistant director. But that would just cause that silo again. Instead of we have lots of good , um , processes. So, you know, we , um, have consistent meetings every Monday with our leadership team to talk about what were our challenges last week? You know, what do , what do we wanna do this week? What are we looking for? What's coming up. Um, we take that time to do, do training. Since I am a trainer for Georgia, we, we, if it's communication, we may do a communication quiz and then talk about what we're gonna do with this information, how we're gonna use it going forward. How are we gonna use it to benefit the team? How are we gonna use it to benefit the teachers? Um, we have a , a big dry race board in the office. And that is one communication tool that where we put, you know, all the staff that's requested off here, they are in their days, anything that's upcoming in the center, whether it's a fire inspection or, you know, they're even so good now they handle the fire marshal for me, when the fire marsh comes through on visits, it's like, yes, you take care of that. Exactly . Um , and we put any new enrollments on there, anybody that has medication, any of those little hot points for us. And then at the front desk, we have a binder, that's a communication log. So any instantaneous things I call this parent because this child had a fever. You know, I call this parent because this child had no change of clothes or, you know, this staff person's gonna be laid this person. So we have centralized to go and get all of the information and we all have the same information. Um, and just given consistent feedback, consistent communication, consistent meetings, and consistent feedback. So then we're all on the same page.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. That's amazing. And I , I , I like what you said, like as a, to your point about the question that you got in your session yesterday, how do we get started? Like letting go control. I , I do think that's hard for a lot of leaders. Right? Cause they, you have, yeah.

Speaker 3:

I'm raising my hand. I was there.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Cause you feel a responsibility and it's not even so much. I mean, at least this is my observation for many people. It's not that I'm trying to have control, but I feel responsible. And , but the responsibility leads me to feel like I have to dictate everything, but mm-hmm <affirmative> sounds like you, you know, through your process came to realization like actually letting go of that's completely the right way to, to , to actually have more strength across the

Speaker 3:

Team. Yeah . And the , um, owners than I do the same. And we encourage that in , within our teaching teams, we co-teach together. So everyone should know how to do the lesson plans. Everyone should have a turn doing the lesson plan so that no , if we want teachers to take vacations, we want them to have time with their families. So somebody's gonna need to make sure that that class still runs the same. Yep . Um , and the owners, we do that as well. You know, one of the gentlemen , he has his set of operational tasks. Um , and then the other owner has his set of the business tasks. And then I have my set of tasks. So we all compliment each other and communicate with each other, but we all have our own set of that brings the team to together. So we're not all trying to do everyone else's position, but we're all working together to

Speaker 2:

Accomplish the goal. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and you know, when people feel like they're , you know, part of a team, like I think that is so, like, I think there's a way to build that and manufacture that then there's leaders that it just is almost inherent to the way that they offer. Right . But I do think in my experience, talking with people on my team and as we've, you know, grown our team and, and like you said, rebuilt it over different stages. Mm-hmm <affirmative> , that is a common theme for people. It , I want to be part of a team. Yeah . And oftentimes we think people want to make more money or they wanna move their career forward or they wanna , but it really oftentimes comes down to that idea of like, I wanna be a part of something bigger than myself. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and I wanna be a part of a team because tracking through life with community. And I think that's what a team is in a work environment is like, it's almost like an inherent thing that we all have. Yeah . I wanna be part of that. So I , I like the mob . It sounds like that's been a , a principle that that's built on.

Speaker 3:

It really has. And one of the things that , um, the teachers tell me a lot is that it feels like a family they're like, and we always laugh because you know, you have that fun. Yeah . And so this has enabled, you know, we have teachers asking me , miss Lisa, have , do I get a red shirt? You know, could I have a red shirt? And I'm like, of course you can have a red shirt. You know, these are what I look for in a red shirt. And so, you know, the strengths of your team. So I tell that to everyone. Um, and the young lady that asked yesterday, it's like evaluate your team. That's the first step, you know, your team, you know, who , um, what the strengths are. So pull on the different strengths of your team. At one point we had six leaders. There's no limit. I could have a leader in every room. I don't care. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know? And so, because they all have different strengths. And so you know that, and so then start to slowly give them those , um, give them a little extra task every now and again to help you. And then it just becomes natural and then have a meeting and discuss it, say, Hey guys, this is how we , we wanna lead. How can we get there? How can we work together to get there and get their buy-in and get their input? And they'll ask questions. And someone said, well, Lisa, what about favorites? You know, people are gonna say, and I said, but you know what it is? And I was thankful that my team were there cuz you know, some people are like , yeah , yeah, yeah. You can say it . Not favorites, but she goes, oh no, no, she doesn't have favorites. Trust me. She

Speaker 2:

Doesn't , we're all her

Speaker 3:

Favorite . She doesn't , we're either

Speaker 2:

All her as like a parent, like you're all my kids .

Speaker 3:

I love you all just the same. And so it , when you keep it professional, like we've talked a lot about professionalizing, our feel , you don't go to your doctor's house for dinner. You don't go to your doctor's house for birthday parties. You don't go to, you know, the nurses have the dentist, you don't go. That's a professional relationship. You go, they have great customer service. You have a great time. They take good care of you and it's fashion . So I groom my team in that way. This is not about how much I care about you as a person. This is about leapfrog academies. And this is about providing the best service for the families and what that takes to do that. And when that is our focus and our central goal, it doesn't become about people because we have favorites and it becomes personal and it's about people and it is about people in the sense that we're providing customer service. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, but we're not, it's not about going to their house and being their friend. And it's about taking care of the children.

Speaker 2:

And you're talking about between your staff and teachers and the parents of the kids. You're exactly . Yeah. I think one of, you know, those principles of first and foremost, the relationship you have with the parents at the school is a business relationship. Yes. And I think that's one of the things we've always seen as a challenge for providers is the business side of paid tuitions. Do you need to pay it? Yeah . Actually our policy is this or our expectation is this doesn't matter what the personal relationship is . The business relationship comes first. Cause that's, I , you know, I keep saying this on this show, but I, I think it was actually Monique in, in Georgia who said this originally where I thought she articulated it really well. She's like the best way for you to be a resource in your community as a provider is to build a business that's sustainable and foundationally solid <affirmative> . And , and that starts with understanding like first relationship with the parents is a business relationship. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um , yeah . I , I , I know like our time is running short and we've got, you've got sessions and, and I've got sessions. If , if you said earlier the first step to maybe starting on this path for somebody exploring their leadership model , uh , would be to let go of control any other, just as a final like note, anything else, practical advice you could give about, Hey, if you're , if you're questioning the leadership model where you wanna explore ways to be more effective for you in your experie , is anything else you can share just as kind of a parting practical tip.

Speaker 3:

I definitely think just have consistent systems that you use and evaluate and pull on the strengths of your team.

Speaker 2:

Love it. Yeah . That's exact like concise,

Speaker 3:

<laugh> consistent,

Speaker 2:

Consistent communication. Mm-hmm <affirmative> you said and evaluate the strengths of your team and then encourage those. And if people wanted to find , I know you do work outside of leapfrog , but like just as we always try to put this in our show notes too, is there a way that people can find you Lisa, if somebody listens to the show and is interested in what you're sharing or has questions, I don't know if you're willing or available, but is there a way people could find you or reach you?

Speaker 3:

Of course you can always reach me via L which is Lisa Polk , Y mail.com . Um , and you can, my nonprofit we're on Instagram and Facebook and it's Pollyanna's place Inc. So you can find us there and see what we're doing with our families in trauma .

Speaker 2:

Excellent. So, and Lisa Polk is L I S a P O L K L Y mail . Still the Yahoo.

Speaker 3:

Yes. And it is the Y the letter, Y the Y mail

Speaker 2:

And then Pollyanna's

Speaker 3:

Place place

Speaker 2:

Inc . Inc . On social media.

Speaker 3:

Yes . Social media, Facebook, Instagram.

Speaker 2:

Excellent. I hope we get a chance to maybe do a session too, and we'll continue to track along with you, but really, really appreciate you stopping by our room here at the conference. Great to have you in person and look forward to the next time we can talk.

Speaker 3:

Thank you so much. I've enjoyed talking to you as well, and it's just been a wonderful opportunity. Thank you.

Speaker 2:

Pleasure to bet.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for listening to this episode of the childcare business podcast, to get more insights on ways to succeed in your childcare business, make sure to hit subscribe in your pod app . So you never miss an episode. And if you want even more childcare business tips, tricks and strategies, head over to our resource center@procaresoftware.com until next time.