Why You Need to Play the Long Game


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined episode number 141

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. Today, we're going to continue our vs series by talking about short term versus long term. Now, you probably already know that it's better to invest in long term solutions than short term fixes. And yet, it's very hard to do, especially in times, like the times we're experiencing right now. So we're going to talk about how builders balance the need for a short term fix with the real need for a long term solution. But before I do, I want to tell you about something really cool. So if you're listening to this podcast in real time, then tomorrow, Thursday, we're going to be doing something really special, we're calling it the Builders Boot Camp. And it is a four hour kind of workshop that we're going to be doing to give you a real good overview of the builder ship model, and how you can leverage the builder ship model to become a great principal and to turn your school into a success story the people and resources you already have. So we're calling it a boot camp, because you're going to get builders lab all three days of builders lab, you know the big points, big information. And we're going to do it instead of in three days, we're going to do it in about three hours or so it's a four hours earlier, but I think it's three hours because it's from 10 to two and we have a 90 minute session than a 30 minute break than another 90 minute session. So you'll get three, you'll get that you'll get the summary of the three days of builders lab content, but we're going to do it in three hours. And you want to be there because we are going to help you think through some of the issues that you're facing right now and a lot of the challenges you're facing.

We're going to show you how you can use that Buildership model to get to the root cause of the challenges and solve them once and for all. 

And that's really important. That's one of the reasons why we're talking about the topic that we're talking about here today. So if you want to come to that boot camp, you still have time, especially if you're listening to this when this episode was released on Wednesday, all you need to do is you need to join builder ship University, when you join build a ship university, you will get access to the workshop for free. And if you don't want to join build a ship University, though you can get a ticket, you can buy a ticket to the builders boot camp. And all you need to do is go to builders university.com. And you'll see other information there. But if you want to come to the workshop for free, all you need to do is join build a ship University and guess what builder ship University is free. So go to builder ship university.com to join so that you can get access to the builders bootcamp, which is happening tomorrow, Thursday. Now if for some reason you can't be there from 10 to two Eastern Standard Time, but you want to watch the replay, that's perfectly fine, we're going to leave the replay up inside of your dashboard and build a ship University for a couple of days. So if you can't make it live, you'll still be able to watch the replay. So again, buildership university.com. Now, when you recorded our episode a little bit early, but when you hear this episode, we are going to be in the throes of day three builders lab and builders live this, I'm so excited about builder slab this year because I I spend a lot of time thinking about that builder ship model and how to make it more practical and useful. And so we're going to be debuting a couple of things inside of builder's lab this year. And if you miss this builders lab, don't worry, there's another one coming up in the summertime.

So the end of June is going to be our next builders lab. We are releasing the dates. Today we get people who are attending the builders lab the first shot at it but next week, I'll let you know the dates and then I'll let you know how you can start reserving your slot for our next builder's Lab, which is happening this summer. Okay, so now let's get to our topic for today, which is really about this idea of short term solutions versus long term solutions. So I was talking to one of my coaching clients the other day, and he was saying that there are we'll have about six weeks left between now and the time that his students are going into testing. And the students aren't ready, we're looking at some of the data. And we're realizing that the students just they're not ready yet. And so we're trying to figure out what do we do? You know, there are all kinds of tricks that you can do to nudge kids test scores up. And a lot of times when you get to this point in the year the temptation exists to do that to do the trick so that you can show some gains this year. And this is a particularly challenging year because this is the first year in several years that students have been back in person for schooling, five days a week, and they have experienced a pandemic. So for a lot of our students, you know, they started in first grade during the pandemic. They're now third graders and so many have never experienced school in the traditional sense. And so they're coming into school or the kids who have been even the ones who have been in school, they've been out of school for two years, or they've had interrupted schooling for two years. Not only that, but this year has been particularly fraught, we have in COVID outbreaks. And there are districts right now that are closing for a couple of weeks, or this school is closed, but this school is open. And so every day, you're kind of looking at the news to see if your school is open. And so there's just a lot going on right now. And yet, we're still expected to help kids read on grade level and and figure mathematically and perform at grade level, we're expected to still help students show growth from one year to the next. We're still held accountable for that.

The temptation right now is to start to grab those short term solutions. 

We tell ourselves, we rationalize, we say, well, you know, it's just this year, because this year has been so tough, and we still want to show gains and growth. But in our hearts, we know that those short term tricks and strategies are not really doing it. You know, I was talking to someone the other day, and he was saying, you know, my district is putting a lot of pressure on me to graduate kids. And sure, I could do things to graduate kids. But if I do that, and they're really sincerely not mastering the content, if I if, if I pass them on, if I put them in credit recovery, and you know, kind of push them through so that they can get the credits, but they don't actually learn the content. Am I doing them any favors? What am I really preparing them for? When they leave school? If we if we do these tricks and strategies, we know we can probably boost test scores, but are we really preparing students? Are we really helping them. And that's the dilemma that a lot of us face. So I want to talk to you about the way that builders handle it. Builders know that there are these, you know, short term solutions out there, but builders resist the temptation to grab a short term solution, because they know that the short term solution is not fair to our students, but they also know something else. He said, When you grab that short term solution, and you put it into place, you are building a habit, you are creating a habit in your school, you are telling people that it's okay to cheat the system. And I don't mean cheat the system like you're giving kids test answers. That's not what I mean. But it's okay to not not do the right work, it's okay to grab the quick fix, and you are building those habits in your building. And while you get a short term payoff, you will spend twice as much time undoing those habits down the line when you're ready to apply that long term solution.

So what Builders know is that we can't get seduced by the short term solutions, because those short term solutions have long term consequences. So builders resist the temptation. And what they do is they start building, they they go back, and they figure out what if at the root of why we are not able to help our students manifest a year's worth of growth for years where the school what is what is what is happening in our school that's keeping our students from reading at or above grade level, why aren't more of our students graduating. And rather than spending a lot of time and energy trying to boost test scores up or passing percentage up by a couple of percentage points, what builders do is they assess and they go back to the beginning, and they figure out what is not working. And they spend that time and energy on fixing things once and for all. Builders are willing to take a short term loss in favor of a long term game builders are willing to put the work in now, even though there's a lot of pressure, they they're willing to withstand that pressure, put the work in so that they can have the long term results. And so what happens is, while everybody else is scrambling, builders are steadily building where everybody else is, is panicking, and trying to eke out a couple of extra points, builders are putting things in place that they know are going to result in dramatic gains, if not this year, than in the year to come while everybody else is is is is spending a lot of time and energy and with these quick strategies and sending this message to students that these strategies it's about passing the test. It's not really about whether or not you know something, builders are laying the foundation and helping students learn and and serving their students because they are playing the long game, not the short game.

Everybody else is playing checkers, Builder's are out here playing chess. 

It's really true when when you become a Builder, you stop going for the short term when you've heard me say this all the time you you know it's saying get my subs, and it's become a builder's of saying, we always say all money ain't good money. And sometimes what you do to grab that short term gain to to, to relieve the immediate panic, it actually creates more problems down the line. And if you are just steadily building, laying that foundation, building on that foundation with your school, that's when you see the long term gains. And they are way more dramatic. So stop chasing these little teeny short term gains, and invest in the long term, that's, that's where the reward if that's how builders do now, I want to talk about it not just for test scores, because I'm seeing it happen in schools, and other places, too. Instead of getting a building a an environment where students are actually being nurtured and supported, we're going for short term SEL strategies, because we feel like we need to be doing something because our kids are really stressed out. So instead of kind of getting to the root cause about what you can and can't really accomplish in school and, and focusing on building a school where students will save, where students who may be dealing with profound challenges at home can can come to school and still be able to learn and perform instead of building that, what we do is bring it a program or, you know, throw a couple of SEL strategies or, you know, do an SEL segment in our school day. And we give the students a short term solution to what is really a deeper and more profound problem. We're wasting time trying to throw a bandaid on their SEL issues when what we could be doing is building a school where our students feel safe and supported and nurtured and empowered and an environment where students feel like they can come to the adults in the building and get the long term supports that they need.

We're doing the same thing with staff, I can't tell you the number of people are saying, you know, like, what can I do for Staff Appreciation Day and I get the sentiment, you want to do something nice for Staff Appreciation Day, but your staff does not need another school sweatshirt. Your staff needs to be in a work environment, that that supports them, they need to be involved in work that's meaningful, they need to feel like they're making a difference that all of the hard work they're being asked to do is actually it actually matters in the lives of their kids. They need to not be asked to do stupid stuff, and instead be supported and doing the right work the right way. So that their students are learning and growing and thriving, short term solution sweatshirt long term solution builds an environment that people don't feel like they need an escape from that, that that builds an environment where people feel appreciated everyday, not just on Teacher Appreciation Week. You see, that's one of the main differences between being a leader. And being a builder. You see, as leaders we were trained to, to react to, to see a problem and just come up with a bandaid to that problem. That's, you know, one of the markers of being a great leader, you can pick on your feet, you can give a bandaid going, and it's sexy, it's it's great people, you know, love to feel good about, you know, well, I saw the problem, I got this thing in and we're doing this thing, and I did this great program, I did a great staff appreciation thing. They loved it. But then the next day when staff appreciation is over, your staff goes back to that same environment they were in before where they felt unappreciated. You, you do this great, you know, assembly that addresses some SEL issues you bring in this great guest speaker, the next day, your students are still struggling with these profound issues and don't have the tools to deal with it. You you, you do this six week push. And at the end of the year, when you get your test scores back, you've made some little tiny incremental gain. But your students still don't know how to to read, they're still not thinking mathematically, they don't know how to understand and solve problems. They they can't they next year, though those skills are not there. And so the students start out even further behind because you neglected the foundation and just did the superficial stuff.

We've got to stop panicking and grabbing short term solutions. 

We've got to learn how to, to kind of stop listening to the noise and really focus on what's important. And when I when I say we are really mainly because this is something that I struggle with too. I often get seduced into coming up with short term solutions. And I've really been fighting this so when people come to me for coaching or they come to a workshop, they come with a problem my nature is I want to solve the problem. You know, I'm mastery driven so I want to fix it right away. So I start coming up with the solutions. And that's great. And then I like it because people think I'm brilliant, because I've given them this really short term solution. But I'm not serving them, I'm doing them a huge disservice. Because a short term solution is not going to solve the problem. And yet, when people come to me with a challenge, and I say, well, that that's the challenge. But that challenge is a symptom of a deeper problem. And we start taking, and we find the deeper problem. All of a sudden, I'm not the person who solved the problem, just the person who's just exacerbated the problem. They see the deeper problem, but not everybody is ready to deal with a deeper problem. And so, you know, it doesn't always come off, like, like, I don't always feel like the hero. In the end, we all kind of want to feel that way. Don't we all want to feel like we're doing something where the hero we're making a difference. And when I, so it's not always fun to be the person who's pointing out the deeper problem. But here's the deal. The people who are ready to be Builders, when I show him the deeper problem, and they understand it, and they started working on it doesn't take long to solve it. 

We're not talking about years into the future, if you really deal with the fundamental problem, what we call the one thing, when you deal with that, and you solve it, you get that obstacle out of your way. Oh, my goodness, if it's amazing, it doesn't take long, first of all, and when that problem is gone, without doing anything extra, all you did was remove a blockage, the floodgates open, and everything starts working. And it all starts making sense. And they have these dramatic gains. But they're, they're dramatic, because they seem that they come out of nowhere, when in fact, all you did was remove the blockage that was keeping those gains from happening to begin with. So the the older I get, the more I occupy this space of being a builder, the easier it gets to, to resist. So here's my challenge for you this week, when a problem comes up, I want you to resist the urge to solve it. Instead, I want you to think about what's really causing it what is the root problem, what is the long term solution that's going to eliminate the problem, not solve it, but eliminate it, so I never have to deal with it again. And then resist the urge for the short term solution, endure the the immediate pain just a little while longer, so that you can remove it once and for all. When you do that with when you deal with that long term problem and eliminated rather than then settling for a short term solution. That's what building is all about, you begin to build something better, you're not just maintaining the institution, that's what leadership teaches you how to do. Instead, you're building something better.

So this week, I'm urging you to resist the temptation to deal with the short term solution and instead, understand the root cause. 

If you're not sure how to do that, then that's what we do in Buildership University. That's what I show you how to do and Builder's Lab. So the bootcamp tomorrow, I'm going to be showing you how we do that, we have a very simple system that helps you quickly get to the root cause we call it micro slicing. And those of you who have seen micro slicing before we've done it in classrooms, but now we've taken that same strategy and help and we've applied it to whole school so that you can very, very quickly get to the root cause. So you are doing the right work, and you're doing the right work in the right order. So you can solve the problem once and for all. So that's a difference between being a leader and a builder leader settles for short term solutions, even though you know in your heart, that those short term solutions are just band aids to a deeper problem. Builder, what you do is you say, I'm not going to settle for band aids, I know that there's a deeper problem there, I know that problems are not going away. So I'm going to solve it once and for all. When you do that, you take your school places, it can't go unless you do that. When you when you do that, you you eliminate problems so that you can focus on doing the work that really matters. When you do that, you're not going to be seen as a hero right away. 

In fact, you're going to you're going to have to endure a little bit of discomfort so that you can get to the real root issue and sometimes it can be hard and and sometimes it can even be a little isolating when everybody's putting all this pressure on you to solve it and and you're saying no, we're going to deal with the root problem and then you will see the difference. But if you choose to do it The difference is going to make in your school you will see dramatic difference. Because you have solved a persistent problem at your school and you've removed it. So it's no longer something you have to deal with. You'll endure short term discomfort but you will experience long term and lasting pleasure and excitement and joy, because that problem is gone. You'll never have to deal with it again. So, this week, I'm urging you don't settle for the short term, quick fix. Invest in the long term, solving that problem and eliminating it for good. And when you do win, win when you when you invest in the long term instead of the short term, you will see big huge dramatic gains because you chose to deal with your problems like a belter. 

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.

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