The Difference Between a Will Problem
and a Skill Problem


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined episode number 127

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, Robin Jackson. And today we're going to talk about a challenge that or actually a tool that I think can make your life a lot easier. And it's all about knowing the difference between a will problem and the scope problem. But before we do that, I want to talk to you about builders lab because it's coming up January 30, through February 2 2022. And I want you to be there. See, a lot of people think, Oh, I don't have time to be at builders lab, I don't have time to take three days off from school. There's just too much going on right now. But that's exactly why you need to come to builders lab we see as long as you are in the middle of everything that's going on in your school right now, you're always going to be distracted, you're never going to have time to take a step back and do what builders do, which is to kind of go ahead and start building. Coming to builders lab helps you to step away from everything that's going on in your school, so that you can start building something better. You know, those systems that you feel trapped in right now because it's the way things have always been done a you know, it's not great, but you don't have time to fix it, they'll just lab helps you to step away and take time to really think about it and fix it. And do it in a community of other builders so that you can feed off of each other's energy, you can learn from each other, you can pick up strategies and tools from each other. And by the way, I'm there to add I am coaching and teaching and helping you to figure everything out.

So I want you to think now, you still have time to plan this out. 

Think about taking three days out of the school year. So that you can take time to to envision what's gonna be next. You know, coming to builders live in January is such a great time to come. Because it's right at that point in the school year where you are starting to shift from kind of getting things going to maintaining and building what next year is going to look like and I'm coming in at the end of January to build your slab helps you do that helps you to step away, figure out how you can finish the school year strong and how you can start laying the foundation for an even better school year, next school year. So, builder's club tickets are for sale right now. And all you need to do is go to mind steps builder's dash lab to get your ticket and I really hope you come I'm looking forward to to working with a group of builders this this builders lab, it's always amazing. I love it. It's great because we develop relationships that lasts far beyond builders lab, it's not just three days you're stepping away. When you do that you go back to your school and you've got 90 days of follow up support, 90 days of follow up coaching 90 days a follow up resources to help you actually implement what you decided to do a builder slab so when you come it's a three day investment of time yet, but it you reap the benefits for the remainder of the school year. Alright, so that's the first thing. Then the other thing is, in addition to builders lab, we also have built a ship University and a lot of times people want to know what's the difference?

Well, Builders lab is three days of intense work. It helps you to get fully immersed in the entire builder ship model, it helps you to create your vision. It helps you to create a 90 day plan for going back to your school builder ship University is a community of builders and we get together inside of builder ship University and we support each other so when a lot of people do is they come to builders lab and they get fully immersed in the builder ship model. And then they come to build a ship university to get that follow up support to stay connected to the community to get the additional coaching that they need to really implement what they're doing at builders lab. Now you can also join builders ship University for free and you don't have to come to builders lab in order to join builders ship University we have opened up builder ship university so that you can get started for free. And every single month we do an Ask Me Anything session with me we do a vision workshop with me. And those are live workshops where you get free coaching Free training, free support, and they're intimate. So you can come in, you can bring your issues and you get my coaching or you bring the vision you're working on, and I can help you craft it into one that's worthy of a builder. Plus, we release free resources inside of builder ship University every single week for you to to grow and learn. And then when you're ready, you can join builder ship University at the insider level, and you get even more support, you get online and on demand courses, you get office hours with me twice a month. And with other builders, we have social events, every quarter, we do quarterly sprints, where we work together, we actually meet together, we build something together. So all of that's available to you. And I want to invite you to join us. So I definitely want to see what builders lab. In the meantime, I'd love for you to join builders ship university, because you can do that right now. And to do that, just go to builder ship That's builder ship You can join right now today for free. All right, I think that's what the announcements,

Let's talk about the issue of the day, which is knowing the difference between a will problem and a skill problem.

This became really obvious to me. While a few weeks ago, I was working with a group of principals. And I was showing them how to build a teacher dashboard. And a teacher dashboard is a tool that you can use to organize all of your efforts in helping every teacher in your building grow one level in one domain in one year or less. It helps you to identify a key area that each teacher needs to be working on and growing so that your school can grow. It helps you organize and brainstorm the kinds of supports you're giving the teacher, it also helps you to see at a glance, everything that you need to know about your teachers in terms of their professional growth, so that you can look at trends in your building, you can identify areas where you know, you might need some shoring up, it's a fabulous tool. And when you use it correctly, you can really intentionally work to grow every teacher one level in one domain in one year or less. I love the teacher dashboard. So I'm teaching this. And I'm teaching it to a group of principals who you know, they're learning it and they're trying to do it and it feels like a little work. If it is a little work up front, you have to get it set up, you have to think through how you're going to use it. Or it's just another thing to do. And so I was doing a session with a group of principals where I was just coaching them, they had already started, I'd given them a template to use to get started. They were working with their teams to fill it out. And I was doing a session for people who were struggling. And there were two principals in that session. There were more than two principal in that session. But there are two that I want to tell you about. The first principal started asking me questions like, What is the research basis behind using the Teacher Dashboard?

It's kind of an odd question, right? This is a tool that's going to help you do a better job of supporting your teachers do a better job of giving them really targeted feedback, do a better job of moving them towards mastery. She wants to know the research basis, I give her a couple of you know studies insight, some things. I don't know that the teacher dashboard itself has been subjected to research. But here is the research around why we built it and designed it in this way. She says, okay, not satisfied. Do you have any case studies of people who have used the teacher dashboard and seen dramatic growth? And I said, Well, you know, the teacher dashboard is a fairly new tool, but I can give you some examples of some principals who are using it. And the difference is making for them right now. Not satisfied. Finally, I said, What's the issue? Because you don't there's not a set of research I can give you that's going to change your mind there. There's there's not a there's not a case study that I can give you. That's going to change your mind. It seems like you're looking for reasons not to do it, rather than reasons to do it. And she says, Well, I already do something similar. And I said, Okay, is it working? Is it helping you grow your teachers one level in one domain and one year less? And she says, Well, no, I mean, I knew you're probably going to say something like that. But you know, I like the system. Okay, that was the first person. The second principle. He was sitting there, and he said, This is all done, like in a Google sheet or Excel or, you know, I showed them a way that they could do it in a program called Trello. And, you know, showed up a couple of different ways based on how their brains work. He said, Yeah, I'm a paper and pencil kind of guy, you know, so this is I'm really struggling with with the technology and trying to figure out how to do it. I'm just really uncomfortable with the technology. Now both of them had not gotten their teacher dashboards done.

Both of them were struggling to get it done, but they were struggling for two very different reasons. 

First principal was struggling because she didn't want to do it. She had a will problem. She didn't believe that it was important. She felt like it was more work. She was mad that, you know, she was being asked to do this dashboard, she had something that she really liked and with what she was comfortable, she didn't want to do it, she had a well problem. The second principal couldn't do it, he didn't know how to do it, he it wasn't a matter of not wanting to do it, the technology involved in creating that dashboard was so intimidating to him that he could not get started, he had a skill problem. Now, these will in skill dichotomies, they happen all the time. And the problem is, we don't take time to recognize what what's at play is and will problem or scale problem, we treat everything as if it's either a will problem or either a skill problem, and we make what I call the number one leadership mistake. And that's this, you cannot solve a skill problem with a will solution. And you cannot solve a will problem with a skill solution. You see, each of those principles was struggling to do something that I was asking them to do. But in order to get them to move forward, I would need two vastly different approaches. If I talked to the first principal and showed her how to create the dashboard, or gave her a simpler template, or gave her a tutorial and in Google Sheets, or in Trello, or an Excel would that have made a difference?

No. If I had even trotted out all of the research and and five different case studies of people who were using the dashboard successfully, as she asked me to do with that made a difference. No, all of those things were were just kind of smoke signals to hide the fact that she did not fundamentally want to create a dashboard. And the more time I spent trying to give her the evidence, or give her the examples, or give her a template that she could use or work with a template that she had, and try to show her how that template could be transformed into something more effective. If I spent all my time doing that, I would have been wasting my time. And she knew that she was giving me all kinds of reasons. And having me jump through all kinds of hoops, so that she could justify and stay in a place where she didn't have to do something she didn't want to do. And the more I fell for it, the more I tried to give her case studies and reasons and the examples and help and support to help her build this dashboard. The more I was wasting my time, it wasn't gonna happen. The second principal, if I had sat there, and given him all the reasons for why we needed a dashboard, tried to convince him of the value of a dashboard. Again, waste of time, his problem was that he didn't believe in the dashboard. His problem was, he didn't know how to make it happen. With him, it was as simple as getting a coach to go work with him and help him build a dashboard together so that she could handle all the technology stuff. And he could think about what he needed to do with that dashboard. And it was an easy fix done.

Once you understand the difference, you don't waste time giving people something they didn't ask for and don't need. 

You know what that first principle is asking me to give her, you know, case studies and examples. And, you know, well, what about this format? I don't like that. Well, what about this format? Not like that one? Here's another template, I don't like that one? Well, she was really asking for is give me a reason to want to do this. Because right now I don't want to do it. And I'm not going to do it if I don't want to do it. The second principle, when he was asking for it, give me help doing it. If you can't recognize the difference, you're going to be very, very frustrated. So here are a couple of ways to recognize whether we have a skill problem or a real problem. Okay. Now, the the shorthand for this is that a skill problem is always a matter of can the teacher and a wolf problem is always a matter of does the teacher. So if you are working with a teacher, and you've asked the teacher to do something, and they haven't done it, the first thing you want to ask yourself is have they not done it because they can't do it? Or are they not doing it because they won't do it. And sometimes it's hard to tell because sometimes people don't want to admit that they can't do something and so they will throw up other things to distract you from the fact that they're really struggling. So you're gonna have to dig a little deeper. And so what you often will do is if they haven't gotten started to say, alright, we haven't gotten started yet. Let's get started right now let's show me why. You've done if they haven't done anything, okay, then look at it and start saying, Well, let's start doing it together. And as you're working together, are they kind of just fighting you? Or do you start to recognize that they don't really get it, they don't really understand how to do it. So one of the things you have to figure out is, is this a matter of can the teacher or is this a matter of does the teacher. The second way you can recognize a world problem versus a skill problem is that a skill problem has a quick, easy solution, and a will problem often doesn't. So if it's a skill problem, the moment you help somebody do something, they their their demeanor, change, the moment you use, you solve their skill problem, they're happy to do it, they're happy to just get started.

So if you give them a skill solution, if you show someone how to do something, and they say, oh, okay, that's it. And then it gets started, you know, you have a skill problem. If you give somebody resources, and they sit there and they say, No, that one's not working for me, what else do you have? And they are kind of intent on helping you waste your time and everything you give them. They it's not enough, it doesn't work. Why tried that it didn't work, or I want to do this over here. And so I or I haven't had time to get to it yet. If they start giving you excuses after you give them a solution, you don't have a skill problem, you have a world problem. Okay, so now that we know the difference between the two, how do you solve a skill problem? How do you solve a world problem? That's the That's the million dollar question, isn't it? Well, what a skill problem again, the solution is pretty easy. Once you can pinpoint where the skill, the where the skill is missing, you can provide people with the support the training the resources, that can quickly get them back on track. That's easy. In fact, you can almost anticipate a lot of skill problems have and cut them off at the past at the very beginning. So if you're asking people to do something like build a teacher dashboard, anticipate that not everybody is going to be comfortable the technology anticipate that not everybody is going to really understand the differences in the levels of skill, anticipate that that not everybody is going to understand, you know how to think strategically about moving teachers skill, one level in one domain, and one year or less, maybe they don't understand the domains, maybe they don't understand the differences in the domains. If you anticipate where people are going to struggle and something you're asking them to do. You can provide resources, professional development and coaching and have that ready, so that as soon as a skill problem emerges, you have a skill solution ready for that? Pretty easy, pretty straightforward. We all know how to do that. The problem is, we have not been trained on how to deal with well problems much of leadership training is it's it assumes that everybody's problem is a skill problem.

That's why I call it the number one leadership mistake. 

So when we are trained to deal with teachers who are struggling or resistant, we often are given skill solutions to those will problems in our training. And so that's why we're so frustrated, we're frustrated because this the tools that we've been given and the the skills that we were trained to use in those situations are not the right tools, they're not the right skills, you need a well solution for well problems. So what's out will solution, when someone is demonstrating a wall problem, the thing you have to do is you have to first understand that person's will driver. Now I've done episodes and we'll drivers before. And if you want links to those episodes, I'll put them in the show notes. And as always, to get to the show notes, all you need to do is do school leadership I'll put all the links to the past will driver shows and I mean in the in the show notes. But anyway, you first have to understand a person's will driver, because their will driver governs their motivation and governs their will. Remember, there are four wheel drivers, there's mastery, there's belonging, there's purpose and there is autonomy. So if you have a will problem for sources that will problem is that what you're asking them to do threatens either a person's mastery, purpose, sense of belonging or autonomy. And the moment you can understand that you can address the root cause the real will issue and it has nothing to do with that dashboard. It has everything to do with what that dashboard or that thing that you're asking them to do represents. In the case of the the principal I'm talking about. One of her her will driver was mastery. And for her, she felt like what she had helped give her a sense of mastery. And this new dashboard was threatening her sense of mastery.

And so once I understood that then I can start to address the issue with her at the wheel level at the wheel driver level, rather than giving her you know, jumping through the hoops that she was setting up for me, so that she could justify why she shouldn't do the thing that I was asking her to do. The same thing is true for you. If you have a teacher who is resistant, your first step is you've got to figure out what is that teachers will driver. And I'll give you a quick shorthand to figure out a teacher's will driver because this has really served me and giving me kind of a quick way to access someone's will driver, especially when, when I don't know the person really well. And I don't have all the context or the background. And the you know, this is, you know, one of my first times meeting this principle, so I don't have a relationship that I can look back on and to determine or will driver. When people complain, if you listen to their complaints closely enough, you will hear their dominant will driver their complaints. You see if if my dominant will drivers Mastery, my complaint is always going to be about how to get something done, how to make it happen, how how to make it work, if my will driver is purpose, my dominant complaint is going to be about why I should be doing this, why I should get it done. If my will driver is is belonging, my, my complaint underneath that complaint is always going to be a question about who who am I to you? Who are you to me? Who do you think I am? And do you respect me? Okay. And then if my dominant will driver is autonomy, the underlying question around my complaint is what do I have to do? And where's the wiggle room? What is what is required? And what can i What choices do I have in this matter?

Now, let's look at her complaint. 

Her complaint was about has this worked for anybody else? Is there research showing that it will work? And her big question is, how is this going to make my life easier? How is this going to make the work that I'm doing matter? And and how do I do this in a way that doesn't create more work for me? And how do I do this in a way that still makes me good at and look good at my job that was behind it? She she's she's feeling for that. And so once I understood that, and she started saying, well, I already do this, I already do this, I already have this. And then when I asked the question, which I maybe shouldn't have done, because it did kind of back in a corner a little bit. But when I asked her the question, okay, is that working for you? Are you seeing everybody grow one level in one domain? And one year or less? She said, No. So she, I actually made the mistake in that exchange of, you know, actually backing her and corner and making her feel even less competent. You can't motivate people when they feel less competent. And I realized the mistake when I started realizing, ooh, this is this is mastery. We're talking mastery here. So then I said, Okay, what tell you what, rather than trying to take you off of a system that you feel comfortable with, that you felt like is working for you to some degree, why don't we tweak the system you already have, which is why I do mine in word and not in Excel. And I said, Okay, let's take a look at your word, Doc. And let's figure out how we take that and make it even more powerful. Now, be honest, she didn't want to do that. She didn't want me to look at her document. And I understand why because she thought that I was going to tear her document that she had built that she was proud of a part. And I said, Listen, the goal here is not to tear it apart.

Let's get back to the bigger goal. The goal is how do we help every teacher grow one level in one domain in one year or less. And it sounds like you're doing a decent job of that for most teachers. And what I want to do is try to help you figure out how to do it for all teachers in a way that works for you. And that kind of crack the door a little bit. And then we started looking at what she was doing. And I made some suggestions. And she said I could try that. And then she started putting those tweaks into place. Now that that happened in 15 minutes, I had more time with her if I were her supervisor or her superintendent, and we're visiting her school, that kind of conversation, that kind of relationship will continue. And it's not about the technological pieces of her thing. It's not about understanding how to use Google Sheets or Microsoft Word or showing your cool thing in Microsoft Word. It's about helping her think about how she can be better at her job, how she can be better at moving your teachers forward. It's about giving her wins with teachers to help her be even more motivated to do this work to see this work is important. That's the difference between a will problem and a skill problem. And so right now you have teachers who are not doing what they're supposed to be doing. And it's it's a faulty assumption to assume that they all are not doing what they're supposed to be doing for the same reasons. I've fallen victim to this too I will say, Oh, you know that teachers just so lazy or that teacher doesn't care? You know, we've done a whole episode on judgment, you know the deal by now be curious instead of furious. But what you're going to be curious about is is is why they're resisting? Is this a will problem? Or is it a skill problem.

Once you understand whether it's a will problem or a skill problem, you know how to fix it. 

When I encounter teacher resistance, I get less, I still get frustrated, sometimes you're but I get a lot less frustrated than I used to be. Because when I can be curious, instead of furious when I can say, when I can shift from Get out of my own head, and stop, you know, kind of being frustrated because of a personality conflict. And and start wondering, is this a skill problem or a real problem? Once I understand that, what the once i The moment I can recognize a skill problem or a will problem? I have a solution? It's not, it's no longer a big deal. It's not a frustration. It's not what am I going to do about this teacher? instead? I know, oh, well problem. What's that teachers will driver? And then how do I put on a real solution? How do I apply Well, solution that's appropriate to that teachers? Will driver upskill problem. Alright, what's the nature of their skill problem? And how do I give that teacher that support that that teacher needs to solve the problem once and for all? So if you're frustrated right now, I challenge you to take a step back and understand is the source of this frustration is the reason this teacher is resisting me because of a well problem? If so, and it will solution? Or is it a skill problem? If so, I need a skill solution. And the more you build, you build your ability to be able to recognize the difference between a willingness skill problem, the less frustrated, you're going to be the the less time you're going to waste giving teachers the wrong solution. And the more time you can spend building your school and growing your staff and, and and enjoying the work in the process.

So it all starts with recognizing the difference between a will problem and the skill problem. And so, by the way, that's one of the things we spend time teaching you how to do a builder's lap, just thought I'd throw that in. But once you recognize that, not frustrated, you know, you, you know, people people show up and do what they do, and it doesn't bother you because you have a solution. So, I want to challenge you this week. Don't be so quick to respond to teachers, when they resist they'll be so quick to react I should say to teachers when they resist because you do want to respond but don't be so quick to react, said take a step back and, and determine first what I'm seeing a a world problem or skill problem. And that's how you can can overcome resistance quickly. #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.

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