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Success Story Interview with Missy Griffin




– Hello everyone and welcome to the backstage pass of successful early childhood leaders. We are pulling back the curtain of the what, the how, and the why they do what they do to get these transformative results. I’m Chanie Wilschanski, your host, and today we have founder and director Missy Griffin of the Growing Room Preschool in Cincinnati, Ohio. We’re gonna be talking about how she created a culture of accountability and buy-in by shifting her mindset. Missy, thank you so much for being here. I am so excited to chat with you today.

– [Missy] Thank you for having me.

– Awesome. Let’s go on a little trip down memory lane, probably a little over 12 months ago when we got on our first chat together after you filled out an application to join us at the live event last year. What was going on in your school at the time before coming to our event?

– [Missy] Oh gosh.

– [Chanie] A loaded question there.

– We always say putting out fires, but it was literally, not literally, but it was a mess. I was chasing my tail, I was forgetting things that were important, I was not taking care of my staff, some of the parents weren’t happy because the staff wasn’t happy, it was just kind of a hot mess. It was a big pot of a hot mess.

– On that first call, I remember clearly you had told me that you were also a teacher at the time.

– I was. I started the school 20 years ago in a one-room school teaching. It’s been my passion and my love all these 20 years so I was really reluctant to give it up when the school grew. I acquired a team of 14 people and I’d always just had one employee up until that point. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t think there was anything to it. I thought you would tell them what to do and they would do it. I was happy ’caused I’d smile and it just wasn’t happening at all. I made a mess of it. I decided to look for some help somewhere and I got all over the internet. I didn’t even know these kind of things existed because I had never needed them before and I felt silly ’cause I had been in business so long and never really looked for help. Everybody recommended you and I’m so glad they did ’cause it’s been life changing.

– Awesome. You stepped out of the classroom and now you’re the director, you’re the founder, you’re really running the place. You’re really putting on those owner shoes now. I wanna talk a little bit about before coming to the event, and this is something that we all struggle with as leaders in whatever industry you’re in and it’s something that you’re always going to be working on, is difficult conversations. How to lead the staff meeting, how to run that really challenging conversation. You’ve had a lot of challenging moments this year just like everyone has. Teachers doing this, or things happening, and we all have this going on. Talk to us a little bit about how you shifted the way you show up to these staff meetings, to these confrontations that everyone needs to be having.

At the core, I feel like I stopped and started to build relationships with them because I feel like rather than just coming in and telling them what to do now, I care about them, they care about me, which I’m seeing now. It took awhile because for awhile it was just me caring about them, and caring about them, and caring about them, and it wasn’t really coming back. I was like, this kind of sucks. Then it started to come back to me and now it’s kind of pouring in to the point where yesterday I had a flood at my apartment and every teacher offered to come and help and I could stay with them. It’s this support system I didn’t even know that I had to where I thought I was just supporting them. There was a relationship there. I feel like just as human beings, if you care about someone, you wanna do you best for them and you don’t wanna let them down. To me, not that many issues where something’s not getting done or something’s being subpar. The thing that we kind of see a lot of, if we break it down, it’s something that seems so tiny, but it’s actually a bigger issue of trust has been broken between two teachers, but it seems like, they’re arguing about a bucket? What’s the big deal, but then you stop and think. You’re like, it’s because she feels disrespected. I try to commit everything with empathy so that I can kind of break it down and figure out what’s really happening and help out. A year ago, I probably would’ve been like, get over it. Do you know what I mean?

– Exactly! Your mindset now is there’s always something underneath and relationships are everything. Yes, when you see two grown adults fighting over a bucket, there is something underneath there. They’re not three. When three year olds fight over a bucket, it’s purely about power and possession. I want this bucket now. When grown-ups are fighting over a bucket, there’s something very, very different that’s going on over there. I love this piece. Let’s unpack this even further because this is a hard breakthrough to come through. Awhile ago, it might’ve been harder for you to kind of confront your staff, or hold them accountable to what you wanted, but now you really come with a very different confidence. There’s been a massive ripple effect in that, and we’ll talk about the ripple effect in a second, but where is that confidence coming from? How are you activating that when you come into staff and say, these are the things I have to get done, these are the standards?

– I think as far as that goes, setting up the standards. That was something I didn’t even have. We have been slowly, it’s a lot of work, but we’ve been setting up standards. We now have one for meetings, that was the first one we did, we have one for attendance, all the little hotspots that kept coming up again and again. We handled those first. If you need to call in or if you need to reschedule a day or get a sub, then there’s an ABC thing you have to do. It’s not my opinion, it’s the standard. It kind of takes me out of the scenario, which I’m not in the middle of everything like I used to be. Everything was kind of a judgment call before I had that. Now I just feel like when somebody comes to me, I say, our standard is, instead of saying, I think you should because who cares what I think.

– No, no, no, it’s true ’cause from the teacher’s perspective, what are you saying?

– Right, and I don’t care. That’s not what I wanna do. Now I can say the standard here is this and you need to at least meet that standard or rise above it, but we don’t accept below that standard. What I’m noticing is they’re much more proud to work there too because I feel like it’s more professional. I’m getting a vibe that it just feels like more of a career than it did before when everybody was kind of floundering a little. I think they’ve watched me go through a metamorphosis with my leadership skills. I think they’re kind of, now that they have an actual leader, I think it’s helped. I don’t know, it’s been amazing.

– I think that’s such a big point that you’re bringing up here because when we raise the bar and we hold people accountable, we have this little voice in the back of our head or this little fear of they’re gonna run away, I’m putting too much on top of them, they’re not gonna wanna do this, I don’t pay them enough for them to rise to the standard or whatever it is. What you’re sharing is, no. By raising the bar and by raising the standard, they look at themselves now as professionals. They look at this as a career. When someone looks at something as a career, they bring a whole different ownership to the table. They rise to challenges, they text director and say, let’s help you, we wanna be here for you. That’s culture. This is everything. I’m so glad that you’re just sharing this and again, this is the whole point of the series is bringing to the forefront that raising your standards, raising the bar, holding people accountable actually makes people want to be better, makes them want to be better people. I love that. I wanted to emphasize that. Let’s talk a little bit about your shoes. I know, right? Let’s check out your shoes Missy, but your proverbial shoes because we’re all trying to fill bigger shoes for ourselves. We all wanna consistently raise the bar, have higher expectations, we’re climbing this mountain with really full backpacks. Sometimes when we step in front of the room, we’re like, I don’t belong here, and we kind of feel this imposter feeling. We feel like I don’t really know what I’m doing, what am I saying, I should just be in the classroom, I should just be this, I’m not a business owner, we all have our own little tapes that we play. Where are you holding now? You’re in a very different place and so I’d love for you to share a little bit about why you feel like you own your shoes more now and you own who you are as a person.

– It’s most prevalent at meetings, staff meetings when I walk in, I’m always the first one there so I’m not really walking in, but I feel like I’m wearing my own shoes. I’m coming in as the owner of a company that survived 20 years. We’re opening our third school in June, we’re successful, we’re one of the best schools in Cincinnati. I walk in like I own that. I feel like my attitude has changed a little bit about you say that people will run if you confront them. I feel like my attitude’s changed to where I’m not just trying to get bodies in there, to keep ratios, I actually feel like it’s a privilege to work for this company.

– Yes! Oh my God, I love you. Yes, yes!

– I feel like if you wanna be here, that is fantastic, but I’m not settling for anyone who doesn’t wanna be here because other people will wanna be here. I kind of wanna be done with that we can’t piss them off thing. I’m only bringing it up because the ball has been dropped. I don’t own that, they do.

– Again, who owns the problem? That’s a huge part about our mindset shift that we have to make is, who owns the problem, me or them?

– We bring up a lot when somebody comes to me with a problem and I say, we talk about putting things down instead of carrying them all day. They’ll come to me and they’ll say, I don’t wanna carry this all day. I’ll say, what is it, and they tell me. I had somebody just call me just last night and she said, I know what you’re gonna say. You’re gonna say you shouldn’t of carried this around all day. I said, yep, I am because it’s 10 o’clock at night. Also, can I just say, when I came up with the carrying it around thing.

– I think that’s amazing, I love this.

– When somebody spits back out what you said, it’s so empowering.

– It feels like I got this. Yes, yes, yes.

– I feel like I’m capable of this, where a year ago I can tell you, I was actually physically ill. My blood pressure was up, I was working a 60 hour week and then I’d come home and work until 11 o’clock at night and then get up at seven and start again. My husband, he was just beside himself of how much I was working. I just wasn’t present for anybody. It was rough. I was kind of in emergency mode. It was not good. I can’t thank you enough. I just think what I learned from you has just, like a landslide, fixed my life. Thank you.

– You’re very, very welcome. The biggest thank you goes to that version of yourself back then that decided to feed the future Missy and said, I gotta get better again, I gotta bring my blood pressure down, my partner needs me, my family needs me because what you did is not easy work. It was hard work.

– I wanted to talk about that. I wanna say that you have to put in the time. I thought I’m paying this money and I’m coming to this thing and she’ll fix everything. That’s not how it works. You do have to do the work. You have to take it seriously and you have to do the work. I feel like we’re coworkers.

– Exactly! I like that, we’re coworkers. That’s a good one. Another coined term by Missy, I love that. Just a couple things you said that I loved. One of them was about not carrying everything around all day and I think that’s such a little mindset shift about having just even in your own head as an owner, as a director of I’m feeling my heart rate up, I’m stressing out, I feel like I’m growing white hairs as we’re speaking, what am I carrying around with me? What’s the baggage that I’m holding on? What can I just put down, even just ’til the end of the day, and I’ll come back and pick up all that crap later, but right now I need to put it down and I need to step into this meeting. Right now I need to put this down and I need to run this tour. I need to put this down, I need to talk to my whoever it is, my spouse, my child, or whatever it is. I love what you shared there. I think that’s a really amazing nugget for someone to take away with them from our conversation here. Let’s go back for a minute, before we started talking here, is because your mindset has been focusing on my job is to take care of the teachers so they can take care of the kids. You spoke about how your budget is better, how your time blocking is better. Because we’ve already heard how it’s affected your health, how it’s affected your marriage, how it’s affected your own personal relationship, which is amazing and that is what the ripple effect is about. How has it affected your budget ’cause sometimes people listen to people like you and they’re like, no. It can’t be that something so simple can have a ripple effect and so many effects, but it does.

– I wouldn’t of believed it a year ago. I wouldn’t of believed it. I was kind of taking a shot in the dark and just hoping that it would work.

– You took a good shot, good gamble.

– [Missy] Good aim.

– Good aim. I gotta talk to you more often. You’ve got good slogans. Tell us about this budget change and how it’s gotten for the better.

– I think it’s just a ripple effect. Because I respect my time more than I used to, I used to think it belonged to everybody else, but now if I need to say I’m working on something, then nobody bothers me while I get that done. I took a day to work from home to do all my financial stuff. My budget is better because of that. Invoicing is going out on time, all kinds of financial gains from it. I have time to do advertising and marketing and things that I never had time to do before to the point where we’re actually opening a new school, which I’m so excited about.

– I’m so happy for you! It’s so exciting.

– We’re just growing. It’s exciting to see it thriving instead of floundering like it was. One of the drawings that you did at the thing was the roof being culture with the pillars and that stays in my head because every time there’s a little crack in culture, I get a call from a parent. It’s visible, you can see it. When the culture starts to change, the whole building.

– The whole building. It is, the whole building starts floundering. You get those leaks everywhere because here’s the thing. No pun intended. We don’t need to worry about culture until you have to worry about it. You don’t wanna get to that place because the damage control is tremendous that you need to be doing afterwards. As we bring everything here together, for someone that’s thinking about coming to this event, maybe they’re an owner, they’re a founder, they’re a director and they’re thinking, maybe I should come, I don’t know, it’s in New York, I gotta travel, I gotta this, what would you tell someone? You’ve been to the event, you’re coming back, you’re bringing back your leadership team, I’m so excited to hug you again. Tell us what would you tell that person.

– You just gotta go for it. Take the risk. If you do the work and take it seriously because I think people can come to it and not necessarily do the work and I’ve seen that. You do the work and you’re all in and you believe in it, I think it’s just amazing what you can gain from it. Believe me, when you first told me the amount or whatever, I was like, oh my God!

– I’m not gonna charge you more, don’t worry.

– I would’ve paid double had I known what the gain would’ve been. It’s worth every penny of it. Plus, you get to go to New York City.

– I know! And we’ve got a gorgeous event this year. We have a stunning rooftop terrace.

– And you’re the one taken care of. You feel so pampered at this thing so that’s nice too.

– I’m glad you felt that way.

– It’s a big message that you get, but it’s nice to be taken care of for awhile ’cause we’re usually the ones doing the care taking.

– Yes, yes. For me growing up in a European household where food and hosting is a huge part, I take food very seriously, making sure that everyone who’s there is very well pampered and very well fed and has everything that they need. Missy, as we bring everything here to a close, what is a strategy or a little pro-tip, maybe even a mantra or something that you keep for yourself to consistently get these transformative life-changing results that you’ve been seeing?

– I have two. In my head, I always think WWCD, which is what would Chanie do ’cause I always think there’s so much accountability with this program when you’re in the inner circle where we have to on Fridays, tell you what a win was and a loss, or something we’re struggling with. You have to be accountable for what you’re doing to this group of women. That helps. Also just always having in my mind that I’m here to take care of my teachers so my teachers can take care of the kids. That rings in my head constantly.

– [Chanie] I love that.

– It’s been a big shift for me. That’s really what this beginning of all of it was.

– I love that, I love that. Missy, thank you so much for being with us here today. Thank you for sharing your personal story, for sharing just the transformation that you’ve seen and I’m really excited to see you again.

– I can’t wait to see you either. See you in New York.

– [Chanie] Awesome.