When Your People Are Hurting


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You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 104. 

Hey Builders, 

Welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robyn Jackson. And today we're going to talk about what you do when your people are in pain. This is a tough subject because pain is messy. And a lot of times we feel ill equipped to deal with adult pain in the building. We we have some some tools, some strategies to to deal with students pain, we expect a lot of times to have to deal with students who come to school in pain, and we have training around that. But we often aren't trained on how to deal with adult pain, adult trauma, what do you do when your staff is experiencing some sort of deep pain. And the reason I'm bringing this up is because lately with the global pandemic, with the racial reckoning going on, there are a lot of things that are happening that are serving as triggers for your staff, things that are happening that that are starting to trigger painful responses in your staff.

We're not equipped to deal with it. 

We were never trained on how to deal with it. And so I want to talk about some strategies today, I don't have all the answers I am this is not I'm not a trained clinician. But I don't know that you have to be to be able to deal with people's pain in a way that's sensitive and in a way that's restorative. And so I want to talk about the difference between the way that bosses, leaders and builders address painful topics in the school, and the consequences of each of those approaches. But before I do that, you know that I have to talk about builder slab. Our next filters lab is coming up June 28 through 30 2021. And we are doing another 360 degree virtual experience. That means that you don't have to book a flight, that means that you don't have to get all of your paperwork in order, it just means that you can get your ticket from builder's lab and experience it in the comfort of your own home or in the comfort of your office if you prefer. And the reason that I love the 360 degree experience is because it really we've worked hard to make it a 360 degree experience. A lot of people are like, Oh, I just can't do virtual training. And having been to some virtual training, I get it. I know why you can't do it. It is a slog. But Builder's Lab is different. We've been intentional about making it different making it three days of highly interactive, highly thought provoking work. And people are telling us all the time, we've been doing this for the last year now. And I think we've done 810 builders labs total over the last year that have been 360 degree experiences.

People keep telling us that that it's just the time flies and they can't believe how interactive and engaging it is they don't, they don't realize they're sitting in front of a screen they're getting worked on. And that's by design. So when you go to the builders lab, 360 degree experience, we try to make sure that everything is taken care of. So we send you a box in the mail that not only has all of your materials so that you have things physically in front of you, but simple surprises and a little swag as well so that every day you're opening up something new inside of your box. And so that's really fun. Not only that, but we keep it small so that I can see you I can talk to you directly. It's very interactive. So it's not me dragging you through my slides instead because we keep it small. And because we built out a studio that I have everybody's picture in front of me. I can be in tune with you. I can say Hey, does that make sense to you, Mike or you can raise a question. Hey, Robin, real quick before you go to the next point. Can Can I ask a question about something that's going on in my school. We have opportunities for you to work as a team. So if you come as a team, we grew up together. So you have your breakout room where you're doing that work. But if you come by yourself, we match you with other people who are working at your level so that when you go to a breakout room you are with that person.

The entire experience is really interactive.

The time flies, but it's meaningful, we call these intensives for a reason. And the reason we call them intensives is because when you kind of build your slab, you get a full immersion into the entire builder ship model, from start to finish, you start out by assessing where your school is right now, then you go to figuring out what your vision is for your school and what you want your school to look like. And we really work hard on your vision. People come to builders lab, and they think they may have a vision, but by the time we're done, you have a vision you're so excited about you can't wait to get started. And then we walk you through the process. Okay, once you have that vision, how do you get your people committed to that vision, and that commitment involves both their will and their skill, and we show you strategies for doing that. And then the next piece is okay, now that I know what my vision is, and now I know how to get my people committed to it. How do I what's the right pathway for me, what what should be my next step, and we help you weed through everything, all your data, all of your experiences, all the noise and find the right next step for you. And then we help you develop a plan for the next 90 days on how you're going to achieve that first big win for your school. And then we don't leave you we don't once you're done, we don't say good luck with your plan. We follow up with you over the next 90 days giving you opportunities for support reminders to keep you focused on your plan, so that you actually do have a win in 90 days.

Let me tell you the success stories that come out of builders lab, they don't take 90 days to start happening. we you know we after that first month when we have our first meeting, about three weeks after builders lab, people are already getting on and saying it's been incredible. I can't believe this, my staff is so excited. You know the success stories start coming in that early and they just keep coming. So right now we have our window for tickets available for builders lab. But it'll be closing shortly. Because we need to get your box together, we need to make sure that we're customizing the experience for you. So we need time to do that. So you need to go ahead and get your ticket. And if you have a PEO and you want to you want to purchase your ticket with a PEO then we you can there is not there, there's instructions on the website to be able to do that. But if you get stuck, you can always call us at the office at 1-888-565-8881. And the team member will help you get everything squared away. So what your first step is, you need to go to mind steps inc.com slash builders dash lap. I know that's a mouthful. So I'll say it again, mind steps inc.com slash builders dash lap. And we'll also make sure that we put the link on the show notes. And that's your first step to get your ticket to Builder's Lab. 

Now, let's talk about pain.

I'll be honest, this is not comfortable, I am never comfortable when something happens and it triggers people's pain. But unfortunately, things are happening now where a lot of people are getting triggered there. There are people who have been carrying their pain for years. And now it's coming out. And it's coming out in some some interesting ways. And so I think if we don't talk about this, if we don't start thinking about how we handle this, not only do we risk, handling it wrong and making people's pain worse, but we also risk missing an opportunity to make our schools better because we take care of the people in our schools. So let's talk about how bosses deal with pain. And I'm not going to spend a lot of time here you know the deal by now with bosses, they avoid it, they don't deal with it, or they deal with it on a very cursory level. So if they're in a district that is dealing with race, they do the book study with everybody else, they let other people lead out in the discussion. And then after that, they move back to their agenda. They're not dealing with the real pain and the real trauma that a lot of the adults in the building are feeling. They feel like that is something you need to do. If you have trauma, then go see a therapist, but we're not dealing with it here at the school right now. We need to just focus on children. But you can't do that. Because when people are hurting, they are not bringing their best selves to work every day. They're not serving children and you can't reach your vision with the staff of the walking wounded.

So what bosses do is when they brush over, they gloss over it, they try to make it go away, they ignore it. All that pain begins to fester and it starts to manifest. It's really, really toxic ways. So a lot of times bosses are reigning over a very toxic organization because they never dealt with some pain when it showed up the first time. Don't be a boss. Now leaders know not to do that. But the problem is, leaders don't really have a skill set or toolkit for what to do when pain shows up. So we just respond like human beings, when that pain shows up, we often try to create spaces for people to voice their pain. And while that is a good start, a lot of times, if you don't manage those spaces correctly, you open a wound that you can't, that you don't heal. And so it's now it's open, and it's festering, and you don't do anything about healing it. So leaders will say, you know, listen, this has been a really tough week, we've had some tragedy happened, or there's something happening in the national narrative that has that as predict something's happening in our school.

I want to have a place where we can talk about it. 

First of all, you may not have the safety established in your organization for people to feel safe enough to express how they feel. So that's dangerous, because you think you're creating a safe space, but not everybody feels safe in that space. And so there are some voices that go herd. And there are other voices that go unheard. And that can breed resentment. So you have to be careful about that. The second thing that happens is, once you open it up, and people start talking, you get tears, you get anger, you get frustration, people start expressing themselves. And then what you can say, thank you for sharing, but you haven't solved anything. You've created the space. And yes, the space is important. But people have just opened up their souls for everybody. And then we're like, thank you for sharing. And okay, now, let's go back and try to teach kids. But now those wounds are open, they're open for everybody to see. And while you have maybe put a little salvo on it by just saying, you know, you, I hear you, I understand you they you didn't heal anything, you they're still walking around wounded, and nothing gets done until the next trigger happens. The next incident happens the next, the next tragedy happens. And then we have another forum where everybody voices, their pain, and then we're done.

How many of those conversations can we have? No, the other thing that leaders do often is they say, Listen, I'm ill equipped to deal with this. So they find some sort of national expert. And you have to be careful about your experts. And I say this as someone who is, you know, who provides training and support. We're very careful about screening who we support, because depending on the problem, we may or may not have the skill set to help you solve it. So we don't want to go into a situation that we're ill equipped to support you with. But not everybody does that. And so you might grab an expert book a day book two days, because you've read a profile, or you've heard it from a colleague that they did something in your school. And the challenge with a lot of these experts is they come in for a day. And they facilitate a conversation. Sometimes it's a courageous conversation or a cleansing conversation or crucial conversation. And they open up these walls, they bring up issues around white privilege, they bring up issues around unconscious bias, they bring up issues around race and racism, they bring up issues around sexism or homophobia or other issues. They have the people in the room, share their experiences, their lived experiences with any of these isms.

Without even realizing it, they make those people do the emotional heavy lifting for the group. 

Those people have to come out and be or their souls bear their pain while other people watch. And then hopefully experience some sort of, of recognition and, and, and and change by watching other people bear their pain publicly. What normally happens is people bear their pain publicly. So people watch, it becomes very uncomfortable. And so they don't want to deal with the discomfort. So they might watch it for the day. They may feel that empathy, they may feel something then they go home that night. They think about they're like, whoa, wait a minute. What are you trying to say that I'm a racist, or I'm a homophobe, or I don't I don't care about kids who are transgendered or I don't care about poverty and the effects on students are, you know, you're trying to say that I have privilege. I grew up poor, and they start to kind of revert and they get even more entrenched in those views because you open the wounds but you didn't do anything about it. So, yeah, as a leader, great job. You want to facilitate the conversation, but if the conversation is just about rehearsing pain without ever coming to any kind of resolution about healing it, if a conversation requires some people to bear their pain for everybody else's education, if the conversation is about offering people temporary catharsis, but not actually dealing with the issues that are raised by their pain, then you've actually re traumatize people, you've actually made things worse, without even realizing it. So what do you do? How do you deal with people's pain? When your people are hurting? And you're building? How do you respond to that in a way that's sensitive, especially when you are ill equipped or not trained on how to deal with it?

Look, I don't have all the answers I, I don't have a prescription do A, B and C, and voila, your your staff is heal pain is messy. But what I do know is that builders ship offers you some tools that can help you deal with people's pain in a way that that is honoring of the person. And in a way that's appropriate to the fact that you're still in the workplace and in a way that actually helps make them and your organization better. So the first thing you have to understand, and we're going to do a little wall driver work here is that when people are expressing their pain, you can't just listen to the pain, you have to listen to the wall driver behind the pain. So if you're not familiar with wall drivers, and recognizing the wall drivers and your staff, I spend an entire half of a book talking about well, drivers in my book, never underestimate your teachers. So if you want to go and take a deep dive into understanding, well, drivers Never underestimate your teachers breaks it down. Or you can go to builders lab, we spend an entire session talking about well, drivers and how that affects the will and skill of the people that you are serving. So I won't go into a long kind of explanation of all drivers here. But what I will say is that when people express their pain, they usually do it through the lens of their will driver if you listen. So therefore we'll drivers, there is mastery and people who are driven by mastery. They want to get good at the things that matter there. And their primary question is how do I do that? How do I get good? How do I make this work? How do I solve this problem? If your will driver is belonging, you're driven and motivated by knowing that you matter to people who matter to you?

The big questions that you walk through life asking is Who am I to you? Who are you to me? Who's my friend? Who's my enemy? 

That's your big question. Now, if your will driver is purpose, it means that you are motivated the most by being involved in something that matters. And so you walk through life asking the question, why? Why is this important? Why does this matter? Why does this matter to the bigger picture? Why does this matter to me? And if your will drivers autonomy, then you're motivated about having meaningful choices around the things that matter to you. So you walk through life asking the question, okay, what are my options? What do I have to do? What can I kind of go on my own and do? What do I feel? What do I think you're not so worried about what other people think you're worried about what you think. And so when you express pain, typically you express pain through your will driver. So if your your your staff is in pain, right now, you can often listen to their pain and hear the will driver in their pain. People who are mastery driven, the their pain often sounds is expressed in ways that says, you know, we've tried this, it hasn't worked? How do we resolve this? How do we fix this? I'm tired of these solutions that don't work, you know, they're gonna express their pain in bite, but by talking about the unanswered question for them with regard to that issue, which is how, how do we fix it? How do we get better? How do I stop feeling the pain, they're going to be solutions focus, they're going to be like, what do we need to do? So this doesn't happen again? If they're belonging driven, the question is who, and the pain is rooted in the fact that they don't believe that they're being seen or heard.

They don't believe that you see or recognize their pain, that who they are has been fundamentally hurt. And that unless you recognize that they can't, they can't move on. And, and what does that pain say about who they are? So they they're asking questions, like, you know, as as a group, what is this pain reveal about who we are? And so they're also looking at who am I to you? So if you respond to their pain in the wrong way, they take that as, Oh, you are you're identifying yourself as my enemy. And that's going to be a problem. Now, if the people who are expressing pain are purpose driven, they're asking why they're exploiting the bigger issues around the pain. They're looking for the root cause of the pain. They're looking for the tangential issues. That are the consequences of the pain. They're looking at the historical narrative around the pain, they're connecting that one incident to the five incidents that have happened before. And they're trying to see the pattern in that pain. And so when they're expressing their pain, that's what they're there. They're probing and exploring. If they're autonomy driven, they may not be even willing to share their pain with you, because it's private, it's theirs. But what they are looking for are choices around how they express their pain. They're looking for choices around how that pain gets resolved. They're looking for what choices they have left after they've experienced a painful incident. And so sometimes they're not ready to talk. And so having a meeting where you go around the room, and you know, talk everybody talk, why aren't you talking may be really oppressive to somebody who's autonomy driven. Now, why is this important?

The reason this is so important is because Builders don't want to rehearse pain. 

When people are expressing pain, when people are in pain, it's a sign that something is broken in your organization, you are not going to solve every cultural issue, you're not going to solve every political issue, you're not going to solve every social issue. But what you do want to pay attention to are how those issues affect your pursuit of your vision, your mission, and your core values. And when those things outside of school begin to impact what's happening in school, then you have to find a way to help people function in school, in that, in that culture, in that social situation, in that political climate, you have to find a way to help people in school function. Knowing that you're not going to be able to solve the issue. So stop trying to solve the issue and you know, make it about something bigger than what's happening in your school, what you want to do is inside that pain, hear the impact that it's going to have on people's ability to pursue the vision, mission and core values every single day, listen for that, and then start looking for solutions, you're not going to fix everything. And it's not your job to fix everything. But it is your job as a builder to build a place where people can still be productive, in spite of their pain. And it is your job to build a place where people can come and not get re traumatized in your your building, by the things that are traumatizing them outside of your building.

It is your job to build a place where people who are hurting, can come and and still pursue something bigger than themselves and be a part of building something that matters. And so the first step is, you have to listen to people's pain. So the inside their pain is always the solution. So last episode I talked about the problem is the solution. Well, this is another instance of that, when people are expressing pain, when they are in pain, to listen to their pain, listen to the will driver inside of their pain. Because they're telling you this is what it will take for me to be able to resolve things enough so that I can come here and do what I need to do to serve these children every single day. If I'm master driven, I want to know some solutions. I don't expect you to solve the bigger social, political, cultural issue that may have triggered my pain. But I do want to know how we're going to prevent that stuff outside from infecting what we're building in here. And if you want to help people work through and resolve that pain, that's the those are the answers you have to offer people, how are we going to protect this space?

How are we going to respond as a school so that we can make sure our children are still safe, and happy and thriving.

Now, if I'm belonging driven, all that talk is great, but you still haven't heard me You still haven't heard what is personally important to me. So who am I to you? Do you care enough about me? And about what I'm dealing with? To take time to hear it to really hear it? And then who am I in this organization? Given that I've experienced this trauma or this pain? And are you taking enough time to recognize that? Are you taking enough time to to understand that I may be stressed sometimes. And even though it's I'm not looking to you to solve my stress, I am looking to you to make sure that you at least recognize it. Now, some people in your building aren't mastery driven, they are belonging driven, they're autonomy driven. So the worst thing you can do is to put them in a group and make them share when they don't feel like sharing with when their pain still feels private. The worst thing you can do is go probing for those people. You want to give them space and make It Okay, if they don't express their pain the way everybody else does. And then you also want to make sure that you look at the choices around what they what has triggered that pain, and make sure that you make those choices clear.

Now, I may need to give you an example for that one, because that doesn't make a whole bunch of sense. There have been a lot of police shootings that have been happening, and some of them, a lot of them have been happening with young men and women of color. And it's rocking a community because not only have you lost a student, but it also triggers a historical issue around police shootings for people. And it's a divisive issue, because there's some people who, who see these police shootings as evidence of, of, of some sort of sinister, racially motivated profiling thing that's happening in the police community. But there are other people who see these shootings as justified or unfortunate accidents, and that any conversation that goes beyond that is a direct attack on the police. So when you have somebody who's autonomy driven, you don't want to push one narrative over the other, you want to make space for both opinions to be expressed, the moment that you start pushing a particular narrative, and a particular interpretation around the event, then you've just shut down your autonomy driven people. And you have, you have deepen their pain, because now they realize that I don't have choices about my opinion, if I don't think or believe the way that you want me to believe, then I'm not really welcomed here, I'm really not a part of building here, what I bring to the table isn't valued or important. So you have to make sure that you give people choices, and options. And it's hard because, and a lot of cases, when you do give people choices and options, they express opinions that are offensive to you or that you vehemently disagree with. So you got to make sure that you've created a space where people are free to express opinions. And then you look at the bigger Okay, now that we've expressed these opinions, what does this mean? How does this factor into what we're building. So that's what you need to do for autonomy, different people.

Finally, you have purpose driven people for them.

They need to see the patterns and the connections, they need time to talk about it to explore. A lot of times it feels like they're going on a tangent, but that's how they process and you don't want to shut that down and say, Well, okay, yeah, let's get back to the you know, the point. Instead, you need to give them space to do that, because that's how they process and and basically, what I'm telling you with all these different little drivers is you're giving people opportunities to process in a way that's consistent with the what they need at that moment. So that's the first step. Now, you still only rehearse, you still want to give people opportunity to process. Now, what do you do about it? Well, at the end of that conversation, you have to always bring it back to your vision, your mission, and your core values. So yes, give people space to process, give them space to process in a way that's consistent with their world drivers don't shut that down. By the end of the conversation, you have to bring everybody back from their individual processing in their individual pain to the collective healing and solution. And the way you do that is your vision, your mission, and your core values.

You start by reminding people, look, this is painful. And we have all these different ways of expressing and processing the pain. And we have to do that personally first, because we're human. And before we get out in front of the children and their families, we need to make sure that we get that out. But now that we've done that, let's look at the impact that this incident this trigger has on our vision. Does our vision change? One of my favorite principals, she always does it. She says at the end of it, she says okay, now has any of that changed our vision? No. All right. Does any of this impact our mission? Well, it may because our mission is accident. And this thing happening, this, this this other pain that's surfacing under that's underneath the surface, that we can't we can't pursue that mission when there are a group of kids who feel this way or group of adults who feel this way. All right. So that shows us we've got some work to do, so that we can make sure that our work stays on mission. We've got some healing that we may have to do in our organization to make sure that our work stays on mission.

What about our core values? 

Well, some things came up today and and our core values say that we have to create x, y and z. So do we do this? You know, you know mind steps are our core values, our number one drama free work environment. So how do we deal with these issues in a way that doesn't create drama or drama for people. Our second core value is do the right thing, even when it hurts. Is this conversation having an ongoing conversation? The right thing? Yes. Does it hurt? Yes. Do we need to do it anyway? Yes. And then a third core value is to figure it out. All right. Okay. So how do we take some of the issues that have been raised that are pervasive and maybe historical? And how do we figure it out? How do we how do we address the issues in a way that helps us get better at pursuing our vision, mission and core values, because these things are standing in the way of that you see, when you can, when you can move people from their individual pain, to the collective work of building. And you can do it in a way that that is authentic, that that recognizes that we all have different ways of processing pain, giving people space to process in a way that is consistent with their world drivers. And then when it's time, bring that conversation back to your vision, mission and core values. You don't have to be a trained counselor to do that. You don't have to, you don't have to solve everything. To do that. What you've done is you've created the space for people to process in a way that they need to process without micromanaging, even how they process that pain. And you've listened. And you've looked at some of the underlying issues that that are driving and fueling that pain.

Then you take those issues, and you look at them not through their individual lenses, but through the collective lens of your vision, your mission and your core values. And that's how you begin to reckon with those issues in a way that is restorative in a way that gives us hope in a way that that keeps us focused on what we're building. I don't know that I have any better answers than that. But here's what I do know. last couple of weeks, I have been working with several clients who have had incidents happen. And I've watched the way that districts have handled those incidents. And then I've watched the the shrapnel the pain that you know that the the consequences of those decisions, and the effect that it has on people. And as educators, we're good at working through our own pain, we're good at showing up the next day for the kids. But over time that is so exhausting. And over time that takes its toll. But I started thinking about Okay, what is the builders way how to builders handle it. I've watched some builders navigate their schools through some very painful incidents. And I've seen the schools get better as a result of it. And I have to tell you, that a lot of what we're doing that we think is helping isn't, and we need to do something else. So I don't know that this solves everything.

I think it gives you a way forward when your people are hurting. 

First step, you've got to let people process that hurt through the lens of their individual drivers. You got to create the space for everybody to be able to do that in a way that works for their will driver. And once you've done that, once you've allowed people time and space to process, then you have to shift the conversation from their individual pain to your collective goals, your vision, your mission, your core values. Now knowing this callus now like Okay, everybody finished crying Good. Now, how do we get these test scores up? Not like that. But listen, some issues have come up and let's talk about those issues and how they're going to impact the way that we pursue our vision, mission and core values. what needs to change? What do we need to build differently to make sure that we learn from this particular incident? And we make sure that we don't hurt people in the future that we that we that we deal with this? How do we do it in a way that honors our core values? How do we do it in a way that keeps on work on mission and makes our work even more on mission? How do we do it in a way that that helps us pursue this vision for 100% of our kids.

It's not perfect, but it is a way forward is a way to help you not get scared or or nervous when when something painful happens when your people are in pain. It's a way to help you navigate your skull safely through a painful incident and become better as a result of it. So don't be a boss and avoid pain. Don't be a leader and try to deal with pain in perfectly but in a way that also potentially re traumatizes people, because while it allows people opportunity to rehearse their pain, it doesn't provide a solution. It also marginalizes people who may not process the pain the way you have it set up for them to process leaves those people out. Instead, take pain head on, like a builder. give people opportunities to process that pain in a way that's consistent with how they process make space for all those little drivers to come to the table. And then get everybody refocused on your vision, your mission and your core values. That's the only way I know to help your school heal from pain. And that's how you deal with people who are hurting #LikeABuilder. 

I'll talk to you next time.

Hey, if you're ready to get started being a builder right away, then I want to invite you to join us at Buildership University. It's our exclusive online community for builders just like you where you'll be able to get the exact training that you need to turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. You'll find our best online courses, live trainings with me tons of resources, templates and exemplars and monthly live office hours with me where you can ask me anything and get my help on whatever challenge you're facing right now. If you're tired of hitting obstacle after obstacle and you're sick of tiny little incremental gains each year, if you're ready to make a dramatic difference in your school right now, then you need to join Buildership University. Just go to Buildershipuniversity.com and get started writing your school success story today.

I'll talk to you again next time.

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