Is There Ever A Time When You Just Need
To Be A Boss?


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You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 105. 

Hey Builders, 

Welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robin Jackson. And we are winding up our series on the difference between bosses, leaders and builders, we only have a few episodes left. And so what I thought I'd do today is start addressing some of the questions that I've been getting a lot about the difference between bosses, leaders and builders. And today we want to address the big objection that I often hear, which is this. Sometimes people will hear the idea around bosses, leaders and builders and they'll think you know, build a ship is nice. But look, Robin, sometimes you just got to be a boss. And so today, I want to address that issue. and answer the question is there a time, any time when you just got to be a boss. But before I do that, a couple of really cool announcements.

Those of you who have been waiting, the wait is over!

The mind steps pop up group is popping back up for the month of May. And so if you are a member of the pop up group, just go ahead and look for an email about some upcoming trainings, we're going to be doing around finishing the year strong around thinking about your summer planning and getting yourself up to be ready for summer planning. Plus, we're bringing back the vision workshop where you can work on your vision, you get coaching around your vision, and we are bringing back office hours where you can ask me anything and get coaching for free, the pop up group is absolutely free. And if you are not a member of the pop up group, but you want to see what all the fun is about, simply go to mind steps and sign up. Now if you're listening to this sometime in the future, go ahead and go to mind step And there should be a pop up that says sign up for our pop up group. And the pop up group is an absolutely free group. It gives you a taste of what it's like to be in builder ship University, and we pop up and then we pop out. So right now we're popping up for the month of May maybe a little bit longer, usually pop up for six weeks, couple of months, and then we pop out for a few months and then we pop up again. So how many times can I say pop up in one episode, the pop up group is open right now. And you can go to to sign up.

The other announcement is that tickets are still on sale for Builders Lab. Our next one is happening June 28 through 30 2021. And we're going to do another 360 degree event. Now this is why this is important. This right now we are kind of we're kind of trying to figure out when we're going to go virtual and when we're going to go live we are going to have another live builders lab at some point. But the virtual ones have been so successful that people are asking us you know to to keep the virtual events because a lot of you who have traveled traveling or maybe you are not based in the United States and you've always wanted to go to a builders lab, this is a great opportunity. So builder's lab, the 360 degree experience is unlike any other training you've ever been to like I've been to the online conferences and little conference apps and a lot of times you're watching pre recorded events or you're watching somebody live sitting down kind of going through their slides and those other place but the 360 degree builder's lab experience is different. We built an entire studio. I am up I'm moving around, I have an entire Bank of monitors in front of me so that I can see each and every one of you it's highly interactive, probably more interactive than the live events. I see you I see what you're doing. You see me we're talking back and forth to each other. We pair you when we do breakout rooms, we pair you with people who are in like positions. If you're coming by yourself. If you're coming with your team, then we put your team in your own separate breakout rooms so that you all can strategize together. It's what a lot of people do, because it's virtually you don't have to worry about the hassle of travel people are bringing their entire teams to build your slab so think about the power of that at the at the end of the day. June, you come to builders lab with your entire admin team, and you plan for the upcoming school year, you work out all of your issues.

I'm right there with you to coach you. 

I'm popping in and out of the different breakout rooms checking on you. You can flag me down, I come in, I answer questions. But builders lab, one of the things we really love about it is that it's a highly intimate experience. It's intense, but it's very intimate. And that you come to builders lab for three days. And in three days, we help you work out your school vision, find a vision, you're passionate about one that you want to achieve in the next three years, then we figure out how to help every person in your building, get committed to that vision, and we teach you the four disciplines of build a ship. So we do micro slicing and show you how to give people the feedback that gets them committed, helps them develop the will and the skill to to pursue your vision we do we have this new Surefire support cheat sheets, not new, it's been around for a minute, but it is so cool because it shows you no matter what teacher what your teachers are dealing with, how do you find the right kind of support for them? based on their level? How do you make sure that it's differentiated? That it's developmental? Mm, that it's deliberate? And how do you do that without driving yourself crazy, we have a new tool called the teacher dashboard, which we're going to show you how to set up. And then we have we talk about how do you help everyone be accountable so that people are doing the right thing, even when you're not looking? And then how do you build a healthy culture? And how do you heal toxicity in your school culture, so that everybody has the right environment in which to thrive and, and to develop the will and skill to do the work? That's what we're really working on.

After that, once you've gotten your vision together, once you've gotten your people committed, then we start helping you figure out what's your unique pathway to success? What is it going to look like for you? How will you achieve your vision for your school in the next three years. And we start out by breaking it down into 90 days sprints. So every 90 days, you are hitting another success, you are achieving another victory. So we help you set up your first 90 days. And then we don't just you know, send you off and say good luck, hope everything works out for you. Instead, what we do is over the next 90 days, we follow up with you, we send you email reminders every week, reminding you what you should be working on that week, we have office hours every single month where you can come back and get additional support. So when you come to build yours lab, you get three intense days of training, but you get 90 days of follow up support after builders lab is over. And then we get to celebrate with you that at the end of that 90 days, you've achieved something really important, you have made tremendous progress towards your goals. That's Walter slab and I would love for you to join me, one of my favorite things to do is build your slab people kind of build a slab are just a special kind of people, they they're the ones who are really committed to this work. And because you're so committed, I become very committed to you I've become very invested in your success. So I would love to see your builder's lab. And if you're curious or if you have been putting it off and you're saying wait a minute, I need to go ahead and go, then I would love for you to come and the link to come is go to mind steps slash builders dash lab, that's where you get your tickets at mind steps slash builders dash lab.

Okay, let's go ahead and tackle the question "Is there ever a time when you just got to be a boss?"

This question comes up a lot. And we have a tool where we show people the difference between bosses, leaders and builders and people look at all the different characteristics between being a boss leader builder, many of which we've covered this season on the podcast. And although they are intrigued by builder ship, although builder ship calls to their higher selves. Sometimes they look in that boss column and they say, you know what, there are times when I have to do that there are times you know, we talked about this, this idea But boss is saying go and leader saying let's go and build you're saying come and people say Are there times when I just need to sit back and fake go. I don't have time to go ahead that people people are stuck and and they just need to get moving. And sometimes it's a boss, I need to do that. Sometimes I need to to go ahead and give people direction and an order people around because they won't do their work otherwise. And so people think that the only tool that's available to them is to go into boss mode. But I can't think of a single scenario where that's going to work out for you. You see, bosses play the short game. It's all about immediate gratification, right? So someone is acting up someone is not doing what they should be doing. Whether that someone is a parent or student or heaven forbid a staff member.

That's someone who's earning a salary and benefits. To be there to do a job, it feels sometimes that you have to just go into boss mode. A lot of times when people think they need to go into boss mode, they think about their worst situation, the teacher who is resistant the teacher, who has had chance after chance after chance to improve and has never done so the teacher who is openly defiant the teacher who is who is not doing their job. And they feel that in order to protect the children that they have sworn to serve, in order to make sure that their building is running the way it should run. The sometimes you just gotta go and be a boss. But think about that for a moment, think about what that means. If you feel that you can abandon builder ship sometimes, because sometimes you just have to be a boss, then build a ship isn't really serving you build a ship doesn't work if you have to leave it. So I would never encourage you to do something that you'd have to leave. And we all all season long, we've been talking about how builder ship makes you prices, proof that if you have to abandon your plan or your your strategies, every time there's a crisis, then you can't depend on it.

I believe there is never a time that you should go into boss mode. 

Let's look at some of those scenarios, some of the scenarios that people kind of bring up that that they say, this is the reason why I have to go into boss mode. And let's see whether or not they pan out. The first scenario people bring to me all the time is I have a teacher, that teacher has been given multiple opportunities to be successful, I put that teacher on a success plan, I have given that Teacher Resources, we that teacher just refuses to do the job. Now I have to tell you, I have been an administrator, I have been in that situation, I've faced that frustration where we have a teacher who we're constantly working with, and that teacher is just constantly not doing his or her job stressing us out. And also you think about the students in that teacher's classroom who are suffering because that teacher is just not doing his or her job. I've been there. And I've done it both ways. I've been a boss, I've been the person who goes in and you know, harasses the teacher showing up in their classroom every single week, you know, amassing the mounds of paperwork, dictating to the teacher, you will no longer do this, you will do this, I expect to see these plans by this date, chasing checking and correcting that teacher just like a boss. And it never works. one of two things happens, either the teacher fights for a job that they really don't even want anymore. They just don't want to be pushed out. And so we get into this epic battle, where I am trying to get the teacher gone and the teacher is trying to stay the union gets involved. If you are in a union space, a the the you go through the entire process, you amass the paperwork. And let's say that you're successful, let's say that you and I'm using air quotes here, get rid of that teacher, that teacher doesn't come back to your building.

What kind of culture Have you created? What message have you sent to the other teacher? So on one hand, you can say, well, I've shown the other teachers that incompetence won't be tolerated, they don't even want that person they're in the building, because they're having to pick up the extra weight that that person leaves behind, I get that. But you're also sending another message. And that message is this. If you struggle, I'm coming after, you know, maybe you're comfortable with that. But I don't know how people can perform at their best when in the back of their minds. They're always worried that if they step out online, maybe they're next, maybe they'll be the ones you go after there's a there's a book called The ancient art of war. And one of the recommendations is that when you take over a new army, the first thing you should do is you should kill your weakest general. And there are people who subscribe to that. And in the leadership world, they feel like you know, when you walk into a situation a new school, the first thing you should do is you should go after your weakest teachers, because that sends a message. And you're right, it does, but What message does it send? If everybody in the back of their minds is worried that if they step out of line, they're next? How can they bring their best selves every day? You don't think that that doesn't factor into the decisions that they're making regarding children? Are they doing what's best for children? Or are they doing what it will take not to be fired? That's the that's the collateral damage of of going after people that way. And as a leader, maybe say, Well, you know what, I don't do that. Most of the time. I work with the teacher and I try to develop the teacher and we all know how frustrating that is because you do your best and sometimes the teacher gets better but a lot of times the teacher doesn't or doesn't in a way that it's really going to take for you to move your school forward. So we already know that that that one is often futile. And so sometimes you get so frustrated after months of pouring into a teacher and not seeing results.

I have no other option, I need to go into boss mode. 

I'm here to tell you that boss mode doesn't serve you. It's a short term game, it takes so much from you that by the time you're done, you're exhausted. And the all that time that you were focusing on that, that one teacher, you weren't focusing on moving your school forward to your vision, your mission and your core values. All that time that you were focused on getting rid of that one teacher, you weren't developing the teachers who were doing a good job. So when you talk about children suffering, it's not just the children in that classroom, it's the children and all the other classrooms, you neglect it, because you're going after that one teacher. And what you think is, well, we have to sacrifice a year, maybe, but once that teacher is gone, then, you know, there's nothing we can do about those kids. But we want to save the next group of kids who come along, really, is that you're the filthy bargain that you're making, will sacrifice the students for this year. And if I do my job, they never have to deal with it. Again, rather than giving the students this year a better teacher, and building all of the other teachers in your building so that all of your children are getting better teachers every single year. Here's another scenario. A lot of times people say, Well, sometimes people just aren't moving fast enough. And we have a sense of urgency. And sometimes you just got to go into boss mode and tell people what to do. And then they get on board and then they start moving, again, short gang, because you might get initial movement, you might go in and just dictate to people this is the this is what we're doing. This is our vision, mission and core values, we're going to go ahead and move forward. These are the things that we're pursuing this time, and you all just need to either get on board or get going because we have children's best interests at heart, we are doing what's right for children.

Okay, I've seen it I've been in those situations, guess what always happens. People get on board. And again, I'm using air quotes. But the best you're gonna get is compliance. And what happens is, if you push, you will always have to push, because the moment you stop pushing people stop moving. Why? Because you never converted their hearts, you never helped them commit to it. They are simply doing what it takes to survive to keep their jobs. So to make sure that you're not going after them, you might get a few incremental gains. I've been in schools where, you know, there's test scores have been low, and then they've pushed, they've gone into boss mode, they've made everybody conform and teach a certain way and follow, you know, be on this page by this date and use these strategies. And they'll move their scores incrementally. But they never experienced sustained improvement. In fact, they keep everybody in a constant state of emergency and crisis. And over time, that gets exhausting. And so you're scrimping and scraping for, you know, a 5% gain here or a 10% gain there. And everybody's exhausted. Everybody's just worn out. You can't sustain that over time. And here's the thing about going into boss mode. Once you go there, you can't jump out and go back into build a ship because they are diametrically opposed. Buildership is Invitational boss is a boss ship is about being mad ordering people. You can't jump back and forth between the two. People have to feel like they are part of building something better. The moment you come in and start ordering people around the moment you come in and say, you know, scratch that we're going to do it my way because I don't have time for you all to come aboard. You've completely destroyed everything that you were building. 

You're starting over. 

If after people get moving, you're like, Okay, all right now that people are moving now I'll go back to Buildership. People don't trust you. They don't trust it. And they're right. It's an all or nothing proposition builder ship. There is never a time when you can be a boss. The moment you're tempted to be a boss, you have to take a step back and say no, wait a minute, what is my long term goal? You see a lot of times we become bosses I was about to say boss holds but we become bosses when we are under stress when we are feeling the pressure. And a lot of it is because we don't trust build a ship yet. But having practiced Buildership for a few years now I can tell you that every single challenge you face has a builder ship solution. And that builders ship doesn't just play the short term game. True Buildership is always playing the long game. You know I had a friend who used to say everybody out here is playing checkers, I'm out here playing chess. And that's kind of what build a ship is. It's, it's, it's chess, you know, in checkers, you're looking for instant gratification, I jumped you King me, in chess, you are playing strategy, you are thinking about the long term goal. And so you have to stay five, six moves ahead of everybody else. When you jump into ball ship, you're not ahead of anybody. In fact, boss-ship is an admission of defeat, I can't make it work any other way. So I am now going to take away all of your agency and ownership, I'm going to take it all back. Because I can't figure out how to get you to do what I want you to do. Buildership never thinks that way, Buildership is not about me getting you to do what I want you to do. Buildership is about our vision, mission and core values and our collective pursuit of those three things. And it's funny, whenever you do that, whenever you put that out in front of people, whenever people start to fall off, and you get them recommitted, not to you not to your strategy, not to your program, but to your vision, mission and core values. 

It's amazing what happens, people get so so committed, that they start doing the right thing, even when you're not looking, they start doing the right work the right way they start developing the will and the skill, not because you're pushing them, but because what you're inviting them to is so compelling that they make the decision to do so on their own. So you can make a decision. A lot of people say sometimes you just have to be a boss, it's because they've been a boss, because they know that it works, it gives you a temporary relief. But a lot of the challenges that they are facing are the direct consequence of all of those times when they just had to be a boss. I'll give you an example. You know, one person was saying, you know, my staff, they just, they're there, you know, most of my staff is good, but I've got a few bad apples, and they're ruining the whole bunch. And so I have to go after them. I remember talking to one principal, and he said, you know, listen, I came here three years ago, this place was a mess. And I came in, and I immediately got rid of all of the bad teachers, I still have three more that I have to get rid of, and then this call is gonna be going well.

He was so focused on getting rid of the "bad apples", that he didn't address the conditions inside the school.

The culture of the school that created the bad apples to begin with. And so what was happening is he would get rid of a couple of teachers. And then there'll be some other teachers who were just kind of waiting in the wings. And they'd step in and start behaving in exactly the same way. Why? Because the culture was creating that behavior, those quote unquote, bad apples that he was getting rid of, some of them, not all of them, but some of them went to other schools and did great, because they were in a different culture context. And the others who were struggling, they were getting passed around by the district, and never being successful. So if you're really worried about the children in those classrooms of those teachers, passing them on to another school, getting them out of your school, it's just passing the problem on to another school. And it's subjecting other students to ineffective teaching, when you could have addressed it so that no child had to deal with that kind of ineffective teaching. Now I hear people saying, they're just some people who should not be in teaching, I'm going to do a whole episode on that. Don't worry about it. Right now, I'm talking about how you deal with people, and whether or not someone should ever be subjected to boss ship.

So back to this principle, he got rid of the quote unquote, bad apples, other teachers started to act up, other teachers started to step in and act up not only that, they were constantly in a state of crisis, because he was trying to make some movement in their school. So they were working hard and they were, you know, hit a milestone and they'd celebrate and then they start sliding back. And then he hit another milestone and they celebrate, and then they start sliding back. And every they were in a constant fight for teeny, tiny incremental gains. He created a culture that kept people in a constant state of, of crisis, he created a culture that kept people in a constant state of alertness. And I'll be honest, he liked it that way. He wanted people to be a little bit fearful of him. He wanted people to worry about whether or not they were going to be next because he thought that was the only way that those people were ever going to do their jobs. And what he didn't realize is that it was creating not only a culture of fear and blame and judgment and shame, but it was also creating a lot of extra work for him because he felt like he to be in classrooms every day, not because he was helping teachers grow, but because he was monitoring to make sure that teachers were doing what he said he needed to do. He had to be the only one thinking in the building. No one, everyone else was afraid to bring an idea or suggestion because it had to be his way. And so rather than being collaborative, people just waited to hear what order what edict, he would issue next. And the weight of the entire success of the school, lay on his shoulders. And that's what being a boss does. 

You assume all of the responsibility and all of the stress, and you keep people from being partners with you. 

Instead you just tell them what to do. So, no, there's never a time when you just have to be a boss. There's never a time when being a boss is the best option. Sure, you may get some short term gratification, but the long term consequences. The tough on you, they're tough on your teachers, they're tough on your students. Build a ship has an answer for every situation, if you have a teacher who's struggling, build a ship has an answer, because build a ship is about building the will and skill of every single teacher. Remember, the goal is to help every teacher grow one level in one domain in one year or less, and to increase their commitment every single year. And there are tools to do that, if you have a teacher was frustrating you right now, because they're not doing what you want them to do. Rather than making it a conflict between you and the teacher, bring it back to the vision mission and core values. When you get people committed to those three things. That's what holds them accountable, not you the vision, mission and core values. So instead of going to someone who's saying, hey, you didn't do what I asked you to do, you can say, listen, your behavior is inconsistent with our vision, mission and core values, do you no longer believe in those are you no longer committed to those, that's the real conversation. And it keeps him from being personal. It keeps you from feeling the stress of having to bring somebody in line that keeps you from personalizing their their resistance. Because it's not about you, it's about something bigger than you that you all are building together. Those conversations are a lot easier to have, you can still help people be accountable. But it's not your responsibility to hold them accountable and to make them be accountable.

Your responsibility is to remind them of your vision, mission and core values to make sure that they're committed to that and to be someone who helps them stay committed to that. If you're dealing with a situation and you've got to make a quick decision, and you feel like I don't have time to get to get everybody on board, and I don't have time to get anybody committed to the vision, mission and core values we've got work to do. Well, let me tell you, if you don't do that work first, all the other work you do is going to be in vain. The moment you take the time to get everyone committed to the vision mission and core values, you clarify for people, this is what we're building, this is why it's important. This is the role you must play. And then people can step into that role and they can occupy it and they can become more and more successful in that role. And so you're not doing everything, everybody's building together. So sure, you can choose being the boss. But when you do recognize that you are creating more work for yourself, because it's all on you. And you're never going to get where you want to go. Because you have to drag so many people to get there. It's exhausting. It creates a culture of fear and shame and blame. And it doesn't work.

If you feel yourself tempted to just be a boss, take a step back and think about the long term consequences of that behavior. 

Then invest in Buildership. Invest in doing the right thing by your students, and by the people that that that you are working with your colleagues, the people you are building, do what's right by your vision, your mission and your core values. Invest in that not only will you get the short term gains, but you'll get the long term payoff. Because what you are doing is not tearing down chinking away at your dream. Instead what you're doing is even in the process of addressing resistance or or or you know, foot dragging or teeth sucking or all the other things that kind of make you want to go into boss mode. Even in the process of addressing that you are building you're always building. So I'm going to challenge you this week. When you face a situation where you feel like I just need to be a boss I just don't have time for builder ship, take a step back and weigh the cost. Don't give in to a temporary gratification. Because you think you're making the problem go away, you're not. Instead, think through the long term consequences. And then choose to invest and build your ship so that you can play the long game. Not the short game, the long game #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 and get started writing your school success story today.

I'll talk to you again next time.

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