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.