The 4 Zones Of Buildership


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined episode number 124

Welcome to the school leadership re-imagined podcast where we rethink what's possible to transform your school if you're tired of settling for small wins and incremental improvement, then stay tuned to discover powerful and practical strategies for getting every teacher in your school moving towards excellence. Now here's your host, Robyn Jackson.

Hey Builders,

Welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robyn Jackson. And today we are going to start a new series that I've been really excited about. So we've been doing a lot of work behind the scenes. And I'll give you a little bit of background we years ago, we started this whole builder ship journey, and many of you have been on that journey with us. But one of the things that we realized is that everybody's build a ship journey looks a little different. And a lot of it has to do with the zone that you're in. So what people do is when they get introduced to the builder ship universe, they try to do all the things. And what we realized is that when schools enter, they're all entering from different points. And so even though everybody's journey is unique, there are some commonalities that we're seeing across everybody's journey. And so what we've done is we've taken those commonalities, we separated them out into zones, and today, I'm going to talk you through the four zones of builder ship. Now before we jump in a couple of really exciting announcements.

We are having our first Buildership University Book Club meeting.

We are going to be talking about our first book, which is effortless, and we are so excited about that conversation. And if you are a a premium member of builder ship University, you will, you will be able to participate in that book club discussion. If you are a builder ship University member, and you're not a in the inner circle, that level of builder ship University, we're going to share with you a snippet of that conversation with some of our biggest takeaways. And what I love about the book club is that when we get together the book club, we're reading a book that is a non education book. And we are using that book to find takeaways, hidden gems that we can use to enhance what we're doing in schools. And so we'll share some of those big takeaways with you. So that's the first announcement. second announcement also, it's about build a ship University. As you know, build your ship University is now open, and membership and to build a ship University is free, it is free, which means that you can join right now. And if you want to be a member of builder ship University, you simply go to builder ship And you can sign up. Now if you want to become a premium member and be a part of the BU inner circle where you have a lot more access to a lot more resources and support and coaching, you can always upgrade your membership and we are opening up right now for our first cohort.

So what we're going to do for build a ship University premium is that we're going to bring people in and cohorts because we don't want to just kind of throw you in the deep end build a ship University premium has so many resources and, and and strategies. And we want to make sure that when you come in you have a direction. So what we're going to do is we're onboarding cohorts once a month between for October, November and December. And so if you want to be a part of the October cohort, then you need to go ahead and register now we'll be closing down registration around the second into the second week of October for that first cohort, and then we'll onboard those people and then we'll bring on another cohort November and then have a cohort in December. So you can join builder's ship University at any point but if you want to upgrade to the inner circle inside of builder ship University, then you want to make sure that you join before the end of the second week of October. If you're listening to this in the future, you can look and see what the next cohort is opening up and make sure that you're joining so that you can go as a cohort together. The nice thing about being a part of a cohort is that for the first month we have you in an incubator where you are giving intensive support for me so it's an opportunity for us to work together one on one for me to get to No you your school your situation, the vision that you have, if you don't have a vision, I help you create a vision. So by the time you finish that month, your visions intact, you've already got some work done. And then once we go through that incubator that kind of gets you acclimated to all that is build a ship University at the end of that month, and then we open up everything and you're part of it, and you can, you know, you, I mean, you can go at any point, but that incubator really gets you started.

Once you join Buildership Inner Circle, you have access to everything. 

That first month, we really do work to make sure that you are set up for success. So that's happening right now at builder ship And remember, it's free for anybody to join. So you should join, even if you don't want to be a part of the inner circle, you definitely want to be a part of builders University, because inside, we are having all kinds of free trainings, free resources, we're doing an Ask me anything inside of builders University this month. And so you want to join to be a part of that. And if you were a member of the pop up group in the past, you don't have to worry about joining, we're automatically moving that pop up group inside of builder ship University. So if you love the pop up group, you really are going to love build a ship University lot more resources, it's not going to be pop up anymore, we're going to be ongoing. So it's really exciting. So make sure to sign up. Last thing, builders lab Tickets are on sale right now, they're going quickly, you all have been waiting for ticket sales to open and now they're open, you are getting your tickets, and you should because bill, a builder's lab is happening January 30 through February 2 2022. And it is a 360 degree experience.

So we're not meeting in person we're meeting virtually, but don't worry, this is unlike any virtual meeting you've ever attended before it is a true 360 degree experience. And so you can learn more about that and get your ticket for builders lab at mind steps slash builders dash lab, that's mind steps slash builders dash lap. Okay, I think that's it for the announcements. Now. This is what I really excited about to talk to you about today. And that is the four zones of build your ship. So as you go on your journey and remember your journey is how are you going to turn your school into a success story in the next three years and do it with the people and resources you already have. As you go through that journey, you're really going to go through four zones. And so today I want to talk to you about what those zones are, what the big challenge is, and what you need to be focused on right now in that zone. Because if you can understand that it keeps you from working really hard and not seeing results because you're working on the wrong thing and instead gets you focused on working on the right thing so that you can see results.

You can dramatically see results in a short period of time. 

So the first zone that a lot of people have encounter when they're on their builders ship journey is the red zone. And this is a true of everybody. But for a lot of people, the red zone is really about feeling like your school is not just stuck, but it's actually heading in the wrong direction. And here's some signs that you're in a red zone. So you know what you want to accomplish with your school. But you really don't have a fully articulated vision statement that excites and motivates you, you may have a vision, but it doesn't excite you, you may not even know it by heart. And your staff doesn't know your vision either. So without that vision your school doesn't, it feels like you're working hard at a lot of different things. But you're not getting anywhere because you don't really know where you're trying to get you have a vague idea, but it's not fully articulated. And in a red zone school student performance is down, you and you have little clarity about the steps that you need to take in order to get it up again. So you're seeing a decline, you're seeing students struggling, or it's flat, it's been flat for several years, and you can't seem to get it moving. Your staff is divided, and it feels like you have to force people to do their work, you get a lot of complaining and a lot of foot pushback. And as a result, they're really not invested in a bigger vision. So it feels like your staff is just showing up to work every day and surviving and trying to do the least amount of work for the most amount of money, you may have a couple of staff members who are really committed. But overall, it's just kind of this feeling of everybody's just trying to survive, rather than thrive in your school. And there because of that your culture has this kind of pervasive feeling of distrust. Your staff doesn't trust you, they don't trust each other. The students kind of don't trust the staff, the parents are fighting you. So there's just a lot of stuff that's happening where you're dealing with a lot of adult issues.

You don't have the time, the space, the bandwidth to deal with student issues, or you are dealing with so many student issues that you just don't have the time, the space, the bandwidth to really move your school forward. And so there's a lot of toxicity happening. In your culture right now amongst your staff, and I mean little kind of things that are happening that are just kind of nasty or mean spirited. There. And so you feel like you spend a lot of time dealing with those toxic issues and stead of dealing with the things that you really want to deal with. And what's happening is you won't say this aloud. But in your heart, you're starting to wonder whether or not your school can actually achieve anything important or remarkable for your students. You know, this idea of 100% of your students being successful, you don't even you don't really believe that it can happen in your school. And the big mistake that a lot of schools make when they get in the red zone is that even though they know they're heading in the wrong direction, they think that the only solution is to do some sort of full scale turnaround. And so they say we got to turn everything around. You know, the problem with turnarounds is that they're really expensive. They're incredibly hard. And in their many ways, turnarounds are very demoralizing, because what you're doing is you're saying this school is broken, we just have to throw everything out and start all over again. And so as a result, a lot of times, turnarounds feel very intimidating. A lot of times they don't work, because they're so they require so much in order to make them work. Now, here's the good news.

If your school is in the red zone right now, you don't have to make a complete turn around.

What you can do is you can get away with just a simple pivot. And the pivot is really about, about about focusing on three simple steps. And so when you're trying to pivot your school, you're not trying to do a complete turnaround, you know, that's, that's a lot of work, what you're trying to do is you're trying to get your school facing in the right direction. And that's what a pivot does. And so there are three simple steps. And they involve, first of all, working on creating a strong vision, mission and core values. And that's one of the things that you'll learn inside of builder, ship university or builders lab too, if you want to attend those, if you feel like in a red zone, we teach you how to do that. So you need to create a strong vision, mission and core values, you need to make sure that you have alignment. So you're going to be doing a lot of work, getting everything aligned to your vision, mission and core value so that you have everybody kind of focused and pointed in the right direction. So once you do that your school is out of the red zone. And so it'll start to feel like success is really possible, because you know what success looks like. And you've got everybody aligned around that success. The other thing is that your teachers are going to start to believe in your vision, mission and core values. And you'll notice this new energy happening in your school, and you'll see a new commitment to the work ahead. So that's what the red zone is. And that's if you find your school in the red zone right now, then you don't need to focus on anything else.

Getting a clear vision mission instead of core values and making sure you're getting everything aligned. And usually that pivot takes somewhere between three and six months. And if you do that work, you can be out of the red zone. Now the next zone is what we call the orange zone. And the orange zone is actually where a lot of schools get stuck, because what happens in the orange zone is that you've made gains in the past. But now you feel like you're stuck, you feel like no matter what you're do and how hard you work, you're not making the progress that you want to make. And usually, that looks a couple of different ways. First of all, a lot of your success is about what happened in the past. And so what you realize is that the stuff that you did in the past to get to that point, the point where you are right now, it doesn't work anymore. You know, we always talk about this idea of new level new devil. So what's happening is you your success is mostly in the past, it's not focused on the future. And as a result, because of that your staff kind of cling to the past. So you'll hear your staff say, I wish we could just get back to the way things used to be, you know, they want to get back to normal without recognizing that there is no back to normal, there's a new normal now, people want to kind of do the stuff that worked in the past. They don't want they're not really open to trying new things. And as a result, there's a lack of confidence that you really can move forward.

People don't believe they can make progress because they keep trying to do what was in the past. 

They keep trying to keep failing at that. And so they're starting not to believe that they can do anything else. And so this is the school that feels stuck. And so if your school is in the orange zone and you feel stuck, here's what you should not do. What most people do is when they feel stuck, they try to work harder, they look for a new program, a new, a new initiative, something new to do. And that's the last thing you should be doing because all you're doing is piling on work. And you are because you're piling on that work and that work is focused on the wrong thing. As results. Your orange zone school continues to feel stuck and it becomes more and more futile because you pile on the work. It doesn't work. You see them It doesn't work. And so now you have this kind of cycle of failure that you get stuck in, and it's hard to get out of. So what you want to do is instead, in order to get unstuck, what you need right now is traction. So if your school is in the orange zone, you need to focus on gaining traction, how do you get unstuck and make some forward progress. And so the way that you get traction is that you put systems in place, you put systems in place, and we'll talk about this more on an upcoming episode about what systems you need to put in place. But that's how you get unstuck The moment you put systems in place, and you start getting those systems working, you get people and stuff, you help them to gain traction. And with that traction, your staff starts to become reenergize, you start to see gains happening. And, and you, you start to feel like, okay, we can make it we can do it. So that's what you want to do if your school is in the orange zone, and usually getting those systems in place and getting them operating again, three to six months.

So if you start your school year in the red zone, you can move through the red zone and into the orange zone and be through the orange zone by the end of the school year. Not every school starts in the red zone, some schools really start out there build a ship journey in the orange zone. And so it's about getting unstuck, and getting that traction. And usually in three to six months in the space of one school year, you get that traction, you get that energy moving, you start seeing things happening, you start feeling like you're finally in control of things. And that's a great feeling, and it starts getting started. Okay, so once you get through the orange zone, the next place that you want to be is in the yellow zone. And again, some schools start out in the yellow zone. And here's how you know that you're in the yellow zone, the yellow zone is probably one of the most frustrating zones that builders find themselves in. Because in the yellow zone, by this point, you've experienced a couple of wins, you've you've gained that traction. But it feels almost like your success starts and then it stops, you know, you can't seem to sustain it over the long haul. And so when you're in the yellow zone, you'll experience things like you know that something isn't working, and you have a vague idea about how to fix it, you may have tried a couple of things to fix it, you've seen a little bit of Forward, forward progress, but then something happens and you know, things stop.

You can't seem to get things going and keep them going for long. 

Most of your staff is committed by this point to improving, but you still have some pockets of toxicity and resistance amongst your staff that you have to deal with. And you know, as a result, your staff can be considered cooperative, they're going to move forward as long as you're driving it. But they're not driving the work themselves yet, not everybody, they're kind of waiting for you. So it almost feels like you have to kind of pull your school forward in order to keep it going. And the moment you stop, everything stops. And your staff is hard working. So I mean lets you even though you're having to pull most of it, they work really hard. And as a result, they're seeing some progress. But something always happens to kind of stop the progress and then they you have to get them you feel like you have to constantly get them restarted over and over again. And so you have had some successes in the past. And but you when you try to move those successes forward, the results are kind of bumpy. And as a result, you begin to beat yourself up, you start to say if I just had more discipline, if I could just keep focus and is try, you try hard to do that. But there's always some distraction, something that kind of takes you off course. So you spend a lot of time of the year trying to get back on course, from where you were at the beginning of the year. But it's hard to kind of stay focused throughout the year. But the good news is that your staff trust you and they trust the process. It's just that they don't always trust themselves.

You know, they believe in your vision at this point. But they don't believe that they have what it takes to achieve your vision, then they may not mention it allow, but that's how they really feel. So normally, when people find themselves in the yellow zone, they try to overcome all of the fits and starts by doubling down on the work tightening the reins pushing through new initiatives. And they do that even though those new initiatives aren't giving them the results that equal the amount of work it takes to put the initiative in place. And that's because we mistakenly believe that our real problem, the reason we're having these fits and stars is we just need more focus and we just need more discipline. But we know from the research on discipline, the discipline is like a muscle. If you can, you can fatigue it, you can't rely on discipline, if you really want to make sure that things keep moving forward, you need to put some things in place so that that keeps it moving forward without you having to push it because if you rely on your own strain, you're going to tire out. So what you need to do when you're in the yellow zone is you need to put in place some execution rhythms. That's what we call it.

These are things that make doing the right work feel almost automatic. 

So you don't have to always think about it. You know, by the time you get to the yellow zone, you have systems in place, but your systems are only as good as how well you execute them. So in the yellow zone, you really want to focus on putting all of your systems on automatic pilot, so that the work gets done regardless of whether you are pushing and pulling or not. And so when you do that, that can get you out of the yellow zone. Now that usually takes that's usually moving out of the yellow zone usually takes anywhere from, I would say, three months to nine months, depending on how much you need to get these rhythms in place. Most people get out of the yellow zone in a matter of three months. But it also depends on you know, what your staff is like, what part of the year you're in how quickly you can get these rhythms up and running. But the moment you start getting these rhythms up and running, you start to see consistent progress. And so once and then once you start seeing that consistent progress, you'll start refining and tweaking, that's why I said it could take up to nine months with all the refinements and the tweaks. But once you build these habits, and you put these habits in place, then it's not about you dragging your school towards a goal, it really is about you having a finely tuned execution machine. And that's when it really starts to work. So overall, if you start at the red zone, by 18 months, you can be in the yellow zone.

If you start in the yellow zone, then you only have a short period of time before you move from the yellow zone to the green zone. And the green zone is our last zone of builder ship. And usually when you get to the green zone, you have achieved a degree of success, you have things in place, things are running, you're starting to see consistent results, you're starting to see growth. But a lot of times it's harder to close the gap between say like 85% of your students successful and 100% of your students successful, it's often harder to bridge that last 15% than it was to go from 50% to 85%. And a lot of people don't understand that. So when they get into the green zone, what's happening is they feel like they've done everything they can, they've worked as hard as they could and they've gotten really close. And the things that got them to the point where they're at about an 85% success rate are not the same things are going to help you bridge the gap between 85 and 100%. And the mistake that people make in the green zone is they say, well, we're better than everybody else, we're way better than we were. So let's rest on our laurels. And there's that temptation to slow up. Because you've seen such progress, you've done more than you ever thought was possible. And the mistake that people making the green zone is they start satisficing, they start saying Well, I mean, we've done pretty well. But they don't continue to push, they slow down, and they don't push until they get to 100%. And this is where a lot of schools fail. But the thing that you need to do in the green zone, the thing that will get you from that 85% to 100% is not for you to work harder or push harder, what you need to do is you need to take it out of you, it's to stop being about you.

When you get to the green zone, that's when you need to be building other builders.

You can get pretty good just on the sheer force of your pushing forward on the shear force of your builder ship. But if you're going to make the move, you're going to cross that bridge from 85 to 100%, then the only way that you can get there is you've got to get other people pushing with you, you've got to get other people building with you remember the whole goal of builder ship, it's not for you to build it by yourself, it's for you to get it started to the point where other people see the possibilities and join you in building. And here is where you need to focus on that. So when the green zone, it's not about putting new systems in place, it's about helping other people put systems in place. So you have school wide systems, you need to take it down to the grade level and the team level, you have school wide architectures, you need to make sure the grade levels and team levels are building that you have a school wide vision you need a grade level and a team level vision. And when you do that, when you start building other builders, that's what can help you bridge the gap. Now, as you can see, the four zones of builder ship make the work a lot clearer. Like rather than beating your head against the wall and trying to do all the things. If you understood what zone a builder ship you are in right now, then you can focus on the work that is the most important work for you to be doing right now to work through that zone. If you understood the zone of eldership you're in right now all of a sudden the challenges that you're facing, make a lot of sense, oh, these are the challenges.

This must mean I'm in the orange zone, and then you know how to get out. And that's why I love these zones. And so over the next few weeks, we're going to do a series where instead of this bigger overview about the zones, we're going to talk in a little More detail about each zone and what you need to do to get out of that zone. Now if you want to know your zone of eldership, then I want to invite you to take the quiz if you go to build your ship slash success path, builder ship slash success path. There, you will find a quiz. And when you take that quiz, it's just a few simple questions about your school, we will give you not only a 10 minute video explaining more carefully what zone your school is in, and what you need to do to get out that zone. But we will send you a PDF of your success path. So you can see what the path to success looks like, what is the most important work that you need to be focused on right now in order to move your school out of the zone that it's in and into the next zone until you get to success. And the goal of all of these is to help you to achieve your vision for your school in the next three years or less, and do it with the people and resources you already have. So again, 

That's where you can take the quiz!

You go through these simple questions, put your email address in, we will send you a PDF of the success path. And you'll also get a 10 minute video explaining exactly what you need to do. Then, if you want help pursuing your success path, we haven't build a ship University different tracks for different success path now and build a ship University. If you're a premium member, you can go to anything and build a shipping or all those resources are available to you. But as a premium member, you also can say, Hey, I'm in the red zone. And we will show you the courses and the resources that you need for your zone so that you can complete your success pack, you'll get coaching and support around that so that you can move through the different zones and achieve your success. Because here we're about building success. That's what we're doing. And so again, build a ship slash success path to figure out what your zone your school is in right now, and what your success path will look like. And then come on over into build a ship University and let's start talking about how you get there. So that's it for today. I will look for you next time. And we will start this new series where you can figure out your zone and your success path and do it #LikeABuilder.

I'll talk to you soon.

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.

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