Transformation from Micromanager to Confident Leader – Nicole Langdo

Transformation from Micromanager to Confident Leader – Nicole Langdo

Nicole Langdo is the Founding Director of Painted Oak Nature School in New Jersey. Over the past few months, she has experienced an incredible transformation, from a self-proclaimed micromanaging director, to someone who is in tune with the vision and mission of the school and is confident in laying it out.

“I feel an increased level of clarity in regard to my decision making that was not present before being in the Inner Circle.”

Transformation from Micromanager to Confident Leader

Here’s a quick picture of where Nicole is at now:

  • Clear boundaries with her staff so that she can focus on important tasks
  • Confidence in the abilities of her teachers, allowing her to work at home occasionally
  • An incredible outdoor play program for the children at her school

But it wasn’t always like this… Nicole Langdo self-describes the way she acted as a micromanaging director:

“I got angry at the littlest things. I didn’t understand why “they” didn’t respond to my emails (and I sent A LOT of them!), speak up at staff meetings, show up on time for work, or seem energized to be innovative.”

It was a huge frustration for her, and she vented constantly with her assistant director – even though there was no real purpose or focus for it. Most importantly, there was definitely no positive outcome! Overall, she was plagued by self-doubt and confidence issues. She shared:

“I was worried about what the parents or staff would think about a decision that I had made. And if there was push back – even a tiny bit – it confirmed my fears.”

Since joining the Inner Circle, Nicole Landgo had experienced an incredible transformation, in herself and her school. This shows up in the day-to-day running of her school and in the way the teachers interact with her and the children.

“I feel more in tune with the vision and mission of the school and feel pulled confidently down a path. If there is any push back, I kind of don’t care and don’t listen for it, because I know that I’ve done/said what needs to be done to keep the school growing.”

Breakthroughs in the Way She Acts as a Director

#1: Boundaries to Focus on Important Tasks

As any director knows, there are bids everywhere for your time. If you let them, interruptions can take up the majority of your day… Leaving the important tasks to slip by day after day (and week after week!). Nicole has focused on setting clear boundaries with her staff in an intentional way, so that she can set times where she focuses on important tasks. Of course, she makes time for her staff when they need it, but she now has the confidence to:

  • Shut her door
  • Tune out on the day-to-day activities
  • Focus on important tasks that have a tendency to be put off

The most significant thing is that she does this WITHOUT being concerned about “what they think”. She knows that taking time to focus on the bigger picture tasks is important for the growth of her school, and her teachers understand that too.

#2: Confidence in the Capabilities of Her Team

Gone are the days of micromanaging and being involved in each and every decision – no matter how small – in her school. Now Nicole TRUSTS her team enough to allow them the freedom to make decisions on their own. She is comfortable enough to work from home some days when she need to be more efficient. She does this WITHOUT worrying that they won’t be able to figure it out without her. Why? Because she’s laid down the groundwork, and now trusts her staff to hold the fort, even when she’s not there in person. This is a true mark of a good leader – your legacy lives on even when you’re not physically present!

#3: Reclaimed Personal Time and Weekends

The responsibilities of being the director of a flourishing school can all too easily spill out into all other areas of your life, including evenings and weekends. Nicole has been able to reclaim that time by becoming more efficient and working out her top priorities on a daily basis, so that the important things get done as a part of her work day – not at home.  

“On a personal level, my weekends have felt more personal, and less like “time that I need to get caught up on work.”

This is a HUGE breakthrough because Nicole has a young family, and her children relish the time with her (as Nicole puts it, they’re still young enough that time spent with them is met with enthusiasm!).

“I have been able to be more efficient and prioritize what needs to happen in any given day so that I have my evenings free for my family.”

This means that when she gets home from work, she’s free to spend the time with her husband rather than working late into the night!

#4: Teachers Committed to the Mission of the School

Another big shift in Nicole’s school has been the way her  teachers have begun to take more initiative and handle problems on their own.

“They look forward to sharing their classroom wins with me because it’s a win for the school. I feel like we are all playing on the same team as opposed to every woman for herself.”

But there have been positive changes in her teachers across the board. Attendance has increased, and on-time behavior of staff has improved. They are more committed to the mission of the school, which shows in the way they show up each day:

  • They respond to emails
  • They ask each other for help before asking administration
  • They prepare and show up for professional meetings

This, in turn, is palpable for families, as evidenced by the complimentary, grateful emails that Nicole receives from parents on a regular basis. Her school has also got returning enrollments going into next Fall, allowing it to grow from a preschool into a grade school! One of Nicole’s favourite leadership quotes is:

“A leader speaks about the future as if it has already happened.”

The reason she loves this quote so much is because she now practices this level of confidence to guide her decisions on a daily basis.

#5: Assistant Director Taking on Leadership Roles

Nicole Langdo asked her Assistant Director to take on the task of leading one-on-one goal-setting meetings with each teacher, held once every 6 weeks. Not only did she take on the leadership role, but she did an incredible job including to set up a nice environment for the teachers with the right atmosphere. Check out the story about this below that Nicole shared with the Director’s Inner Circle, as well as some pictures of the environment for what she calls fireside chats.

The Framework to Make Change Happen

There is no doubt that Nicole has some incredible milestones to celebrate. Any director would be ecstatic to get these results in her school! How did she do it? Nicole joined the Director’s Inner Circle with Chanie Wilschanski in December of 2017 and implemented the strategies that are taught inside the program. Not only did she join, but she made a commitment to go ALL IN. She showed up to almost EVERY support call to ask questions and get feedback on how she was going. Each month, she continued to grow and flourish as a leader… And the results showed in her school. She also utilized many of the systems that we advocate in the Director’s Inner Circle for her school. Let’s dive into a few of the systems that she applied:

#1. The Gratitude Map

A significant change that Nicole made as a result of the Inner Circle was to prioritize gratitude and appreciation for the people in her school. She followed our gratitude system on how to do this CONSISTENTLY by automating part of the process so teachers always feel valued. She now understands that compliments and recognition (and food treats!) need to happen on a regular basis.   More importantly, Nicole used the Teacher’s Language of Appreciation resource inside the Inner Circle Vault so that she could express gratitude in a way that her teachers respond to (her personal needs are not necessarily representative of what her teachers’ needs are!).

#2. Master Of Time

Either you rule the day, or the day rules you! One of the biggest changes that Nicole implemented was to make time blocking a priority. She is now clear about what needs to be done and schedules in time to knock out those tasks at work. The master of your time system and all its mini lessons has helped her to get more done in the time that she has available during the day, so that she can be more present for her family when she’s not at work.

#3. Self-Care Challenge

Before joining the Inner Circle, Nicole felt as though there was no time to engage in such a “selfish” activity as self care. But the the Self Care Challenge brought this front and centre and showed her the importance of looking after HER first to be able to GIVE to others. Working with other director’s in the Inner Circle community who are all doing this together gave her the motivation she needed to create real change. This concept has stuck with her and self care is now more of a consideration for her on an ongoing basis.

#4. Monthly Goal Planning and Support Sessions

Another significant piece of Nicole success was her involvement in the monthly goal planning and support sessions in the Inner Circle. She showed up consistently every month to troubleshoot and really hash out any problems that she was having in her school. As a result, she got direct feedback from Chanie, who coached her through each situation and helped her to overcome each obstacle as it came her way.

Are You Ready to Become a Confident Leader for Your School?

Nicole Langdo has shown how a director can change their course of action to become a confident leader – someone who is strong and intentional in the growth of the school. And she is not alone. EVERY director is capable of this if they have the tools and support to get them there! When you commit to being intentional about setting boundaries and how you spend your time, you can experience real change in yourself, your teachers, your school, AND your personal life. The ripple effect starts with YOU as the director and then ripples out to affect every other aspect of your school. We’ll be going into great depth about how you can make this YOUR school’s reality at the EC Summit of Excellence in NYC this July 15-16.

Are you ready to start with yourself and then create a RIPPLE EFFECT and lead your school to excellence?

Apply for the EC Summit of Excellence:

“My Testament to the Power of Investing in Myself as a Program Administrator” – Stephanie Kottwitz-Rino

“My Testament to the Power of Investing in Myself as a Program Administrator” – Stephanie Kottwitz-Rino

Stephanie Kottwitz-Rino is the founder and director of her school, Foundations ECE in Casper, Wyoming.

Her journey as an EC Leader is one worth celebrating, Stephanie’s school has recently been identified as one of the top EC programs in Wyoming, and Stephanie has been invited onto a 4-person committee whose purpose is to improve EC programs across the state.

What an incredible win to be recognized as one of the top EC leaders in her home state!

She’s in a position to help support and develop other EC programs, and influence change because of her own program’s success.

And what does she attribute her success to?

Investing in herself as a program director!

Let’s take a look HOW Stephanie transformed herself as a leader, from feeling isolated and unsupported, to being recognized as one of the top EC leaders in her home state.

Two years ago, this is what Stephanie told me:

“I felt like I was all alone in my little corner of the early childhood world. I didn’t have anyone to problem solve, share wins, and work through challenges with that truly understood what I was talking about.“

She knew where she wanted to go, but she didn’t have the support network to take her there and share the journey.

The turning point for Stephanie was when she began to network with other EC Leaders.

Stephanie attended the very first EC Live Event in June 2017 with Chanie Wilschanski.

At the event, she was able to connect with other directors like her and talk about things that were going on, and people actually understood what she was talking about.

Shortly afterwards, she became a founding member of the Director’s Inner Circle and joined when we first opened the doors to the program in August 2017.

This was a significant invest for her, to invest in herself as a leader rather than the school or her team. But the payout was even greater for herself, her teachers AND her school because she had the confidence to lead each everyone in the right direction.

It opened her up to an entire community of directors who have her back!

Of course, after the great experiences in the past, it was a no-brainer for her to attend EC Live Event in 2018.

She said that one of the biggest changes from attending the Live Event in 2018 was her confidence and willingness to push outside of her comfort zone.

Here are just a few of the incredible wins that Stephanie since she began investing in herself as a leader and program director.

Win #1: Innovative Teachers Go Beyond Expectations

After all her hard work week in and week out, the results started to show.

She was focusing on pushing her team enough to keep them growing and was amazed at what they were capable of.

Recently, her school had their first Curriculum Showcase and her staff put their heart and soul into it.

They even surprised Stephanie by transforming one of the classrooms into an enchanted forest, which brought her to tears.

The amazing thing about this was that it was completely the teacher’s initiative.

  • She didn’t ask them to do the transformation
  • They came up with the idea and took action independently
  • Everyone on the team is contributing to the school culture and direction

Win #2: Like-Minded Vision With Entire Team

Stephanie keeps in contact with her staff regularly on a forum page and she recently asked her staff a question:

“The plan is a compass, not a train schedule. What does this mean in relation to the way we plan for learning at our school?”

She was pleasantly surprised when it was her youngest employee who responded and she was spot on.

This showed that:

  • Everyone on her team is getting on board with the school mission
  • Conversations we are having as a team are really taking hold
  • Veteran teachers are helping newer teachers to step up

Win #3: A Cohesive Team Who Enjoy Quality Time Together

Every director want to lead a team who works well together, right?

Stephanie Kottwitz-Rino hosted an end of the year holiday party at her house, cooking and baking food for the team to have brunch together.

She even invited a local artisan to teach a home decor making class so that they could enjoy the time together creating, and everyone was able to go home with a handmade piece that they could use to decorate their home or give away as a gift.

This was such an engaging and successful event that really helped to build her team and relationships within the school.

What an incredible feat that she has built up an environment in her school where this is possible!

Win #4: Culture Where Staff Send HER “You Rock” Messages

One of the big focuses in the Inner Circle is on expressing gratitude to your team so that they feel appreciated and are motivating to continue growing.

One day Stephanie got a dose of her own medicine when two teachers sent HER a little gift with an uplifting message.

They took time out of THEIR busy days to thank Stephanie for her hard work and let her know that her efforts were not wasted.

This is the type of culture that EVERY director wants to build in their school.

Stephanie lead the way with gratitude, and got back in return.

Win #5: Inspire Creativity In Teachers Approach In The Classroom

At one point, Stephanie noticed that her teachers were using the same old crayons and markers in the art center…

She had already:

  • Purchased a range of  amazing materials for the supply closet
  • Asked them to use a variety of materials
  • Reminded them how important it was to use different materials

But they weren’t using it, and she was tired of asking them!

After a training with Chanie, highlighting a creative idea of a mystery box challenge.

Stephanie took action right away and she created the mystery box next to her office.

She filled a box next to her office with “magical items” from the supply closet and sent an email out to her teachers with instructions for the next day.

Each teacher was expected to come to the box and choose at least one thing that she will put on her art center that morning.

It was up to them to figure out how to integrate into the lesson.

The next morning, every teacher took one item. Some integrated really well and for others it was about trying.

But every teacher did it, which was a huge win of itself!

This “Mystery Box Challenge” is something we teach in the Director’s Inner Circle because our focus is on the HOW of everything you desire in your school.

The Power of Investing in YOU as an EC Leader

Stephanie Kottwitz-Rino is a testament to the power of investing in yourself as a program administrator or EC leader.

When you invest in yourself, you can:

  • Show up with confidence, knowing you are leading your team in the right direction
  • Look to other program directors for support when you face challenges as a leader
  • Give yourself the tools you need to grow and give back to your team

Stephanie has really prioritized herself in her investment decisions over the past three years, and the results are evident.

Her program has been identified as one of the top EC programs in her state, and she has been invited onto a 4-person committee whose purpose is to improve EC programs across the state.

This puts her into a position where she can support and develop other EC programs, influencing change because of her own program’s success.

None of this would have happened if she hadn’t invested in herself.

She was betting on her own success to

We’ll be going into great depth about how you can make this YOUR school’s reality at the EC Summit of Excellence in NYC this July 15-16.

Are you ready to start with yourself and then create a RIPPLE EFFECT and lead your school to excellence?
Sign up for the FREE 4-part masterclass series here:

Setting Up Your Calendar for Success

Setting Up Your Calendar for Success

Hello, and welcome to the School of Excellence blog. I’m Chanie Wilschanski, and I work with EC owners and directors who want to build a school of excellence.

We’re in the second month of the year, and I want to talk about how to set up your calendar to truly accomplish that one goal that you really want to get done this month.

My number one rule for setting goals is specificity. If we want to successfully track our outcomes, we need to get really specific as to what the problem is and what we want to see happen.

In today’s training, I’m going to walk through four goals from our director community, and break them down for success.

1. Laura wants to get rid of paperwork: “I want to get rid of the pile of paperwork that’s been on my desk since the fall.”

Paperwork is my all-time favourite! It’s not really a goal, it’s something that’s consistently coming into your life. What’s the key to success with things that consistently come into your life? We want to create a routine around it.

One of the biggest reasons directors don’t accomplish their goals is a lack of routines and habits that are aligned with where they’re headed.

Todd Herman, my mentor and creator of the 90 Day Year leadership program, talks about creating routines for every area of life you want to succeed in.

So how can we create a habit around paperwork?

Say you have four days a week where you’ll do paperwork (we’ll give you Friday off). We want you to do 10 minutes of paperwork every single day. We want it to be part of your routine.

Setting Your Calendar for Success

Laura wants to do her paperwork in the morning, and make it part of her morning routine. So every day, before parents walk into the building, Laura will have completed 10 minutes of paperwork.

The key thing here is to set a timer. You only do 10 minutes of paperwork, and then it’s off your to do list. Even if you’re in the moment and you’re enjoying it – that timer goes off, and the paperwork is done for the day.

8am – 8:10am for four days a week, paperwork is part of your morning routine. And when it’s part of your routine, when you’re doing 10 minutes of paperwork every day, you won’t have any clutter left.

2. Shalon’s wants her teachers to be confident in the end-of-day system she has set up in her school.

Shalon’s teachers keep coming to her to check in on what they’re meant to be doing, even though there is a set system and routine in place.

How can we get the teachers to go from messaging and calling Shalon to check what they’re meant to be doing, to being confident and following the system without needing a lot of extra support?

The first thing is this – have you done something very visual and concrete for the teachers to tell them exactly what is supposed to happen? They need a visual roadmap they can go back to and check on so they don’t need to call Shalon.

When you create something visual, it’s a lot easier to hold someone accountable to it because you say hey, you’re Teacher A, right? Great, you need to be here.

So it isn’t really a confidence issue, it’s a competence issue – we haven’t spoken to the teachers in the way they understand.

It’s like teaching a pre-schooler in the way you would teach high school. But they don’t understand frontal teaching – you need to be using materials, visuals, auditory, kinaesthetic, and so on – all the different languages of children learning.

It’s the same thing with teachers – you want to give them information broken down in different ways.

Once we’ve created that visual guide and communicated it to them in that way, then we could talk about accountability and implementation.

3. Sabree wants her teachers to use more sensory materials in their day-to-day classes

A lot of directors want their teachers to start using more sensory materials in their classes. Sabree is one of my 1-1 clients, and we were working on this goal for her school.

Jim Rohn said, “Success is nothing more than a few disciplines practiced daily.”

OK? So you want your teachers to be more innovative – you want to give them a routine (or a “few disciplines to practice daily”) that will reflect that.

This strategy is from the Director’s Inner Circle, where all of this is broken down systematically as part of our training roadmap.

One of the things you can do to get your teachers to use more sensory materials in their day-to-day classes is The Mystery Box Challenge.

If you’ve ever watched Chopped, or Masterchef, or Hell’s Kitchen, you’ll know that one of the iconic challenges of a food show is the mystery box challenge. Participants are given a box of ingredients – they have no idea what’s inside, and then they have to create a Michelin-standard meal out of it.

When I saw that, I was like, that is GENIUS. Let’s bring it into early childhood!

So what you do is pick one area of competency you want to raise with your staff – in this instance, we’re looking at sensory materials. You will never get them to use more sensory materials by talking at them, unless you create a routine that reflects bringing them into the classroom.

Inside, you’ve got 12 different items, and your teachers know that Tuesday is Mystery Box Challenge day. So they have to pick an item out of the box that they need to use in the classroom that day.

Now here’s what happens: in the beginning, you put things in the box that are not scary – cotton balls, straws, maybe some slime, anything that’s sensory-related.

The beauty and the magic is going to happen in the follow-up. You want to go in and see how they’re using the sensory material, and take a picture of it. Then at the end of the week, send out an email (or put it in your secret Facebook group) and highlight all the amazing ideas people had.

Do that every week, and all of a sudden, your teachers are doing innovative things and taking risks in the classroom. Four weeks later, teachers who have not tried anything new in over a decade, just tried four new things!

Teachers get ownership by using an item in their own way, so it build morale and confidence with them as well.

4. Deb wants her staff meetings to stay on track.

Deb has a big staff meeting, and she wants to help teachers stay on task at the meeting with minimal disruptions, and keeping it under an hour long.

The meeting is set to cover going over goals, checking in on the curriculum, and reflecting on progress so far.

If we have too many different outcomes, we will end up struggling to stay on track. So Deb’s meeting is going to be difficult to keep under an hour and have it be an effective use of time because it’s got three different outcomes.

We want to be super clear on the specific outcome of each meeting, as that’s what helps us stay on track.

Deb is a member of the Director’s Inner Circle, so she has access to the Effective Meeting Blueprint, where I cover things like how to get teachers engaged and showing up on time, how to inspire your team, and how to translate meetings into action and accountability. Deb went and watched that training after this session, and it helped to clarify how to keep her meetings on track.

This blog post is taken from a live session I delivered in The DiscoverED Director’s Lounge on Facebook. Join us over on Facebook to watch my Live videos every Sunday!

Let me know in the comments what your biggest goal is that you need to get done by the end of February. 

Celebration of EC School Leaders

Celebration of EC School Leaders

Celebration of EC School Leaders

Each day of the year, EC School Leaders are showing up to guide their teachers so that they can create excellence for the children and parents in their school.

As any director knows, this is NOT an easy task.

And that’s why it is so important to take a moment to reflect and celebrate the wins throughout the year. As the guide of the Directors’ Inner Circle, I see the progress of some incredible directors as they share their experiences throughout the year.

These are real life stories of amazing school leaders who have removed the overwhelm, chaos, toxicity, and excuses from their day-to-day work life.

The Directors are living their mission and values, with high retention, high morale, and phenomenal culture.

As a result, they get to spend more time with their family, spending time on projects that have been on the back burner for year, being the leader they only dreamed of and enjoying a culture of collaboration, risk taking and innovation!

This post is to highlight the achievements of some of these EC School Leaders. We will celebrate their wins and look at the toolbox they used to get these results, so that other school leaders can follow in their footsteps.

Who am I?

Chanie Wilschanski, Early Childhood Leadership Coach and Culture Specialist

I began my journey over a decade ago teaching toddlers at the acclaimed Preschool of the Arts in NYC.

Continuing my path into higher studies and receiving my Masters in EC and Special Education, I started training teachers and school leaders on the HOW part of creating excellence in their school.

I created the 3 Pillars to Build a School Of Excellence Framework to help directors and EC leaders to know what to focus on so that they can confidently lead the way forward. 

Pillars To Build A School Of Excellence

When working towards building a school of excellence there are three foundational pillars that you need to build. When these are strong, the everything else in your school culture will begin to fall into place. These pillars are:

  • Daily Operating Principles (DOPs)
  • Standard Operating Principles (SOPs)
  • Leadership Operating Principles (LOPs)

I created this framework to explain the underlying principles that will help you to build your own school of excellence.

In this post, we are going to look at real life examples of EC School Leaders who have implemented these principles and the results that they have experienced. We’ll also look at the tools they used to get there so that you can implement similar ideas to build your school of excellence.

Story 1: School Culture And Creating Standards Of Excellence

Let me introduce you to Sharon Hopson from La Bella Vita Montessori School. She joined the Directors’ Inner Circle at the start of last year (January 2018) and has completely revolutionized the culture in her school since then. Below are just THREE BIG WINS for her school culture since joining the community one year ago.

WIN #1: High Retention Rate Of Great Teachers (Even In The Face Of Competition)

When you find a great teacher, you’ll do whatever you can to keep them on board with your school. And it’s no wonder why. The estimated cost to hire and train a new teacher for your school is $6,000. (conducted by recent national study) For every year you keep EACH teacher – you save the center the $6,000 cost of replacing that teacher! One day this year, one of Sharon Hopson’s teachers came to her to tell her about an offer she’d received from a different school. They offered her $2 more per hour. To put this into perspective, this is a teacher who is:

  • Single and living at home with her parents to save money
  • Working on the weekends as a babysitter
  • She NEEDED that money!

Despite this, she told Sharon:

“The culture here is so much better, and I want to stay here with you.”

Busting the myth yet again:

Teachers do NOT leave a job for more money. They leave because they don’t feel valued and appreciated.  

All of these are symptoms that are easy to find an excuse because the teacher knows that this is “acceptable” as a reason to leave. Because if she told her peers or her parents: “I left the job because they didn’t appreciate me.” It doesn’t sit well with your average person’s perception of a job.

People say they leave a job for things like:

  • Better hours
  • More money
  • Shorter commute

But there are always other things under the surface that are the real reasons that people stay ago. Things like:

  • Great culture
  • Values
  • Appreciation
  • Being part of a bigger mission

As a director, you need to be aware of what is under the surface so that you can address what really matters.

Don’t just look at the tip of the iceberg, but consider the whole thing.

Tools and strategies used to get these results:

The Gratitude Map:

The GPS system for creating happy, excited and passionate teacher who are working towards the same goal.

Community and Support:

The private, members-only community is a SAFE SPACE to ask all your questions without being afraid of people’s’ reactions.

Only 8 spots remaining.

WIN #2: Building Teacher Ambassadors Within Your Culture

At a staff meeting, there were two teachers waiting in line to get food from the buffet that Sharon prepared for her team.

One was a veteran, and one was a new teacher who had only been at the school for a just a few weeks. The veteran turned to the new teacher and said: “You see, I told you, Sharon always pulls out the VERY best for her team. You’ll love it here!”

I know one of your core desires as a school leader is to have veteran teachers who mentor the new ones without significant input from you.

What typically happens is the veteran teachers “poison” the young fresh ideas with the old and set ways to ensure that no real change happens.

But in this scenario, the veteran embraced and ensured that the young teachers saw the value and incredible nature of their leader!!

Tools and strategies used to get these results:

Standards for Communication

A set of standards for everything from weekly emails to your teachers, to newsletter standards, to communicating with parents.

Fireside Chats (1-to-1 meetings):

The blueprint for meeting with every staff member every month to maintain excellence across the board.

Reflective Questions PDF:

A selection of conversation starters to audit the wins and gaps of each teacher and set concrete goals.

Only 8 spots remaining.

WIN #3: Repelling Teachers Who Don’t Fit The School Culture

  • “There is a shortage of teachers”
  • “I can’t find quality staff”

You see and hear this at every conference and event you go to. If you’re a member of EC Facebook groups here, you’ve probably heard it there too. You buy into the scarcity mindset and hold onto to anyone that has a heartbeat so you can fill your ratio in the classrooms. But that is NOT THE CASE in every school. School leaders that are on the pathway to excellence know that: “We attract who we are!” And when we raise our standards of ourselves and we have the confidence to lean into those values and live them truly:

  • The right people will be attracted to us
  • We will repel staff who aren’t aligned with our values.

About a month into a new teacher’s role, she said to Sharon.

“I can see you’re a school of excellence and you invest in your people, and I’m not ready to go down that path.”

She could immediately see the difference in Sharon’s Montessori school and the standards that she was setting for her teachers.

She understood that Sharon was willing to invest in her teachers to help them grow and shape the school culture.

One of the ingredients in Building excellence and a great culture is having a COMMON LANGUAGE amongst all the people on the team.

Ultimately, the teacher was able to understand that her goals didn’t align with the position and school culture so she removed herself from the school.

This was a huge win because the teacher self-selected herself based on the culture in the school to follow a different path, making room for the right teachers to come into the school.

Similar to pruning a plant, focusing on your school culture will cut back the unwanted parts to make room for the healthy parts of your school to flourish.

How much time did Sharon save by repelling the teacher who wasn’t a good cultural fit?

How much:

  • Gossip
  • Toxicity
  • Back talk
  • Frustration
  • Sleepless nights
  • And endless anxiety

How much of these things did she remove from her everyday life, simply because a teacher who wasn’t a good fit isn’t there anymore? It’s not hard to imagine – think about one teacher in your school who you know isn’t a fit, how much is that costing you? This result came directly from Sharon’s actions as she completed the Leadership Sprint as part of the Inner Circle.


Tools and strategies used to get these results:

The Culture Audit:

The step-by step framework how to audit the current state of your culture and how to choose goals and projects that are in alignment with the culture you want to create.

Guest Expert Session With Todd Herman

Performance Coach for Pro and Olymipic Athletes shares strategies for Mindset and Productivity

Ask Me Anything Hour:

An opportunity to text any questions once a week to get Chanie’s back and forth feedback on any problem.

Only 8 spots remaining.



Click below to start buidling a excellence in your school!

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Story 2: Developing Leadership With The Three Stakeholders: Director, Teachers And Parents

Before joining the Inner Circle in March of 2018, the culture in Elie Hoffman-Estrin’s – Jewish Intown Preschool (Reggio-Inspired), was very fragmented. There was a divide between the veteran teachers and newer teachers to the school.

It was a fend for yourself and hoard your supplies kind of environment.

Teachers were all hard working and dedicated, but not supportive of each other and didn’t necessarily feel supported by Elie.

Since then, she has shifted the culture in her school and right now I’m going to walk you through how she did it, step-by-step, using the community and resources available inside the Inner Circle Vault.

Here are some pictures of Intowns’s outdoor classroom:

Support and Community

At one point, a teacher confided in Elie that she herself and many other teachers (mostly newer staff) did not feel supported by her or each other and didn’t feel heard.

At first she thought: “What? I spend most of my day working to support you guys!”

But then she took a step back and swallowed her pride so that she could just listen and be present as the teacher shared her thoughts wholeheartedly.

This ended up being a big moment of awareness.

The teacher knew that Elie wanted to create a positive environment and she wanted to work in a positive environment, but it just wasn’t turning out that way.

When Elie reflected on the constructive feedback she received during this meeting she went straight to the Inner Circle community to ask for advice and Chanie gave her the blueprint about what to do differently.

The Gratitude Challenge

She wanted to know what to do to be productive, without spinning her wheels getting nowhere, or at best being reactionary. She decided she wanted to change two things:

  1. Shift the culture to being supportive, collaborative and connected.
  2. Make sure the teachers felt heard, valued and supported by her.

Elie was able to tap into so many resources and documents from the Inner Circle that gave her the tools to observe the classrooms and to have quality meetings.

The Gratitude Map (Module 2 of the Inner Circle) also her next go-to, which helped break down appreciation for teachers into action steps and made it more attainable.

Elie made it part of her routine to share something positive I noticed about each teacher once EVERY WEEK, and also buys treats or goodies randomly once a week to show gratitude. She literally schedules it into her calendar and MAKES it happen.

Since implementing this, she has received such positive feedback from the teachers and everyone involved feels like they are able to be more successful in creating a school of excellence. 

Tools and strategies used to get these results:

Community and Support:

The private, members-only community is a SAFE SPACE. Here you can ask all your questions – without being afraid of people’s’ reactions. Besides direct support, I give weekly steps so you will get consistent results.

The Gratitude Map:

The GPS system for creating happy, excited and passionate teacher who are working towards the same goal.

Monthly Challenges

Create momentum and accountability to implement whatever it is that the directors are working on that month.

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The Culture Shift

Another big turning point was when Elie start the Culture Sprint as part of the Leadership Challenge in the Inner Circle.

It made her examine and reflect on the culture in her school, literally doing an audit to get a pulse of the current culture and what she wanted the culture to become.

Going through each of the sprints has brought the culture on a whole to an amazing place.

Teachers are noticing each other and celebrating each other.

They notice what other classes are doing and seeing strengths in other teachers they didn’t realize before. It has brought the teachers closer together!

The Leadership Challenge is broken down into stages and builds on each step over a 3-month time period, which Elie found especially helpful.

It breaks down the process step-by-step into action items that she can hold herself accountable for, turning it from theory into practice.

Tools and strategies used to get these results:

The Culture Audit:

The step-by step framework how to audit the current state of your culture and how to choose goals and projects that are in alignment with the culture you want to create.

The Culture Dashboard:

Highlights your 3 key performance indicators (KPIs) or activities are you tracking to get the culture you desire.

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Becoming More Proactive

Elie wanted to set the tone that collaboration and connection is her biggest value, so she threw her conventional meeting agenda out the window!

Chanie was so helpful with this in particular because she brainstormed the idea of sharing core values, which was really the start of all the positive change. Each of the teachers shared their core values at the meeting, which was fascinating.

Sometimes some people were surprised by someone’s core value but others were no surprise at all.

Then the magic happened…

People started to speak up and share thoughts or ideas to continue creating a connected and supportive culture.

Some people even took jobs.

Each of the follow up staff meetings continued to dedicate the bulk of the time to team building activities.

Now they have a ritual of sharing the WINs for the month at each meeting!

They do an item swap from our classrooms and recently wrote down their unique super powers on jenga blocks (an idea shared by a fellow Inner Circle Member) to demonstrate we all have skills and to know who to go to when we need help with something specific.

Recently, a teacher are posted a picture of a tray another teacher created and responded: “Hey, I have a great book that might go with that tray. Let me know if you want it”.

That was a huge win! Of course, Elie is still working and growing the culture in her school, but the shift is palpable now!!

Tools and strategies used to get these results:

Guest Expert Session with Linda Fogg:

Linda walked them through the step-by-step on how to create routines and habits so that consistently take action that is aligned with the school mission and vision

The 4 E Framework (Part of the 90 Year Framework)

Routines and habits are enforced when you follow the Four E’s Framework, which is part of the 90 Day Year Framework from Todd Herman.

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Story 3: Developing Leadership With The Three Stakeholders: Director, Teachers And Parents

Lisa Sciabica is the director of Mariners Church Preschool (a faith-based Christian school). Her story is deeply personal.

She fell under the common belief that as the director, she had to do everything and be there for every moment and for every person.

Due to prior circumstances in the program leadership, staff was stressed, traumatized and not functioning well.

There were too many 7am-6pm days and then continuing to work all night and on weekends, which was stressful, isolating, defeating and frustrating.

It wore her to the ground and she got sick.

It was a huge wake up call in hospital when she was diagnosed with rare condition called Ramsay Hunt Syndrome: partial facial paralysis, vestibular/balance issues and vision issues.

She went back to work just a week after release from hospital and then had relapse 3.5 weeks later, which took her out of work for 3 months!

Intentional Changes To Protect Boundaries

When Lisa returned in September, she joined the Director’s Inner Circle because she knew she needed more support and better systems throughout the day if she was going to last.

Here are some of the things she implemented:

  • Created a new workflow plan and moved all daily operational duties to her admin team (AD, registrar, greeter and curriculum coordinator).
  • Set up calendar with theme blocking
  • Created a sign for her office door to protect uninterrupted time
  • Decided to come in a bit later or leave early at least 2-3 times/week WITHOUT GUILT.
  • Held an admin team huddle 2-3 times/week and delegated tasks via Asana to get things done!

These changes made a huge difference to the way everything else in her school ran.

Now, the staff meetings are engaging, with active teacher participation. Teachers are solving problems independently or with one another and they have become a much tighter, professional and engaged team.

“Thank you, Chanie from the bottom of my heart. I cannot imagine where I would be if I hadn’t started with the Director’s Inner Circle before I got sick. Before, I felt like I was putting out fires constantly and managing squirrels. Now, we have a plan and clear direction. We have standards and a cohesive vision.”

She shares that the weekly thank you cards, adapted from the Gratitude Map in the Inner Circle, have been a game-changer.

Julia Salmon from the Courthouse Academy took it a step further and create thank you cards for all of their 210 families.

This is an adapted strategy for the Parent Partnership Blueprint in the Inner Circle, which includes simple daily actions that build incredible trust over time and meaningful, authentic relationships with parents


Stop Putting Out Fires And Get More Time Back In Your Day

In this short clip Lisa shares how she:

  • Shows up in her day in a way that supports her team
  • Maintains what she has created
  • Continues to grow her school culture.

ALL while not putting out fires!

Tools and strategies used to get these results:

The School of Excellence Door Sign

A sign that field and manages teacher interruptions so that you can focus on what

Daily Door Time

Specific times during the day that teachers can come and ask questions

Block & Tackle Method

Blocking of a portion of your day to tackle something valuable to the growth of your school.

Theme Days

An organizing principle for how you show up in that day, plugged into the 90-day framework.

Lead With Confidence and 100% Engagement At Staff Meetings

In this video Lisa walks you through:

  • The exact wording and scripts that she uses to get teachers on the same page
  • How that has affected her confidence
  • Examples of how staff engagement at meeting is at an all-time high

Here’s the video for you to watch now.

Tools and strategies used to get these results:

Difficult Conversation Template

Exact scripts that you can use to work through difficult conversations and make sure you are on the same page.

The Gratitude Map

Specific times during the day that teachers can come and ask questions

Classroom Observation Guide

step by step of how to observe in classes, give feedback, follow up and hold teachers accountable.

The Teacher Audit:

An assessment to help your teachers to audit their own performance in 5 key areas.

The Teacher’s Goal Tracker:

The system of how to guide teachers to choose goals create milestones and ensure follow through until the end of the year.

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Master of Your Time

As a director, you know what it feels like to do a thousand things at once. But all that multi-tasking can actually be counter-productive, especially when you factor in all the time that you are interrupted from working on important tasks. On average, directors are interrupted from what they are doing for up to 3 hours per day. 

It’s scary to think about how much time we are wasting and how quickly it adds up! 

  • 3 hours a day
  • 15 hours a week
  • 65 hours a month
  • 690 hours a year

That can be 11.5 weeks’ worth of interruptions each year – that’s almost three months per year of your time!

If you learn to manage your time effectively, you could clear up to 15 hours EVERY week to focus on the important things for your school to grow. 

“The Inner Circle has ERADICATED organizational chaos!”

Before joining the Inner Circle things always got done when they needed to,  but… I had no real set schedule for how I spent “my time” getting things done. The result? Feeling overwhelmed and out of control. That’s now a thing of the past.

Brenda Gill

Director, Gillam Preschool & Child Centre in Gillam, Manitoba

“No more rush to get the year started!”

It’s August, and unlike other school directors? I’m not feeling frazzled and overwhelmed to get the year started! I feel in control because with Chanie’s help, I’ve set up the right systems & strategies. I’m ready!

Rivka Wineberg

Director, Chabad of Long Island City

In Control Of Your Finances

We’ve already covered how much time you could save, but what impact does that have on your finances?

If you’re spending 3 hours a day, 15 hours a week, 690 hours a year on interruptions, it’s costing your school tens of thousands of dollars.

Directors might make a salary of anything between $40,000 – $100,000. Add onto that any benefits, health insurance, a company car, as well as your share of the office overheads (like rent, electricity and heating, equipment, and more), and the cost of your time is a minimum of $50-$75 per hour.

3 hours a day? $225.

15 hours a week? $1125.

65 hours a month? $4875.

690 hours a year? $52,750.

That doesn’t even take into account the amount of future revenue you lose by being overwhelmed, tired, and behind on work. What about the cost of retention? A recent study showed that teachers leaving the profession costs the nation $2 billion each year. When you add in the cost of replacing teachers who move to other schools, it rises to $4.9 billion. That works out at a cost of $6,000 per teacher you have to replace. How many teachers have left your school in the past 3 years? How much could you have saved by retaining those teachers? How much could you save next year, and the year after, by improving your staff retention? Sharon’s culture changed for the better in incredible ways when she joined the Director’s Inner Circle. Even keeping that one teacher MORE than paid for her membership for a year! 

Can you afford NOT to join the Director’s Inner Circle?

“This investment transformed the retention rate with my staff!”

“Game-changer! I’m more proactive, and encourage and empower my staff, instead of trying to “solve” the issue for them. They love the ownership this gives them. And they are far more happy working with me!”

Barbara Labotka

Director, Cardinal Bernardin Early Childhood Center in Chicago

 Positive Culture and Environment


Building Confidence and Status

Becoming a strong leader is an ongoing process that involves constant challenges that you need to face and overcome. 

Sometimes you need support from other leaders who understand what you are going through, who just “get it”. 

The Inner Circle brings together a network of EC Leaders who come together and help each other through and and every challenge. 

Ultimately, this gives you the confidence, pride and status that you need to lead your school to excellence. 

The change I’ve experienced in a year is mindblowing.”

“I have to send you a quick message because I just had this huge mindshift moment and realization. I’ve been regularly going to a coffee shop close to work to minimize the distractions. In a hour I can get an unbelievable amount of work done and my mind is so clear and sharp (plus lattes – WIN). I’m just leaving and my mind is swirling with the upcoming things I want to work on. I realized though I’m not overwhelmed or stressed. I’m excited and energized! I’ve gotten to the point where I’m working on the ‘big picture’ stuff and the daily managing operations is running so smoothly with everything implemented that I’ve learned from you over the last year. Thank you. The change I’ve experienced in a year is mindblowing. You’ve opened up my world to everything I was absolutely craving and searching for everywhere but always coming up short and just couldn’t find. What you provide to Directors is extraordinary. Thank you for your work – I’m so incredibly grateful I found you.”

Jillian Farris

Director, A Tiny Lab for Early Learning

More About Chanie

Through my journey, I got married and I have 4 children ages 1, 4, 6 and 8. My hands are full! I know what it takes to lead a large center and have a full-time job at home as well.

I used to run FB Lives while feeding my 4 month old baby!



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