Introducing the School Hierarchy of Needs


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined episode number 144

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 are going to start a new series. And we're going to be talking about something that I've been working on kind of behind the scenes for the last couple of months. And I debuted it at builders lab. And I want to start sharing some of those same concepts with you because I think it could be really helpful for you, especially as you are working through the challenges that your school is facing this year, and trying to come up with solutions so that you can in the year strong. Now before I jump into that, I have a couple of cool things to tell you about. The first one is, you know, you've been hearing from our Builders Boot Camp for the last several episodes. And we just completed our winter Builders Lab for 2022. And we have some really cool plans for builders lab happening this summer. So we have some dates, which I am told I cannot share with you yet. 

Builders Lab tickets for the summer of 2022 are coming out in March. 

So we'll be announcing the date for our next Builders Lab next month. And just next month is like in a couple of days, so soon. And then we're also going to be having tickets sales are going to be opening for that. Now I'm telling you right now the summer one will sell out, we sold out the last two Builders Labs. So I am imagining that this one is going to sell out as well. So you want to get your tickets early and secure your spot. The second thing I want to tell you is that we just welcomed a new cohort of principles inside of builder ship University. And we are doing some things inside of builder ship University and revamping and this, these principles this cohort or principles are coming through. And our goal is that in the next 90 days, they will have hit their first victory, they will move from being a level level where they are now to completing level one. And moving on to level two in terms of their growth as principles. And the thing about builder ship university that I'm learning is that, you know a lot of people have goals like you know, I want to be Principal of the Year or I want to get a big promotion or oh, you know, I want you know to be written up in some paper somewhere about what a fabulous principal I am and those ambitions there's nothing wrong with that. But builders have very different ambitions because with builders, it's not about, you know, getting the accolades. Although most of our builders do get those accolades, because of the work they do.

For Builders, it's really about the work. It's about putting something in place building something that will last long after you leave. It's about building a legacy. And so the people who are coming through builder, ship University, they're doing things that are going to get them those accolades, sure. But for them, if they do all of that, if they earned that accolade, but their school isn't something they can't look back at their school and and know that they have left it better, and that it's better long after they're gone that the work last, then builders aren't satisfied. And, and so that's why in builders ship University, the work we're doing, how we're moving through the levels of builders ship, it's really about more than just getting those accolades. It's about more than then you know, the flashy things, it's about laying the foundation and putting things in place so that you can achieve that legacy that that you leave behind something that that that's better that you can point to 20 years from now. And Sam built that. That's the difference. And and that's what builders are doing is how to build a ship University. Now right now this cohort is going through and we've close things down for the moment so that we can support this cohort. But if you want to be a part of the next cohort, then stay tuned, we're going to be making some announcements about that shortly. And you can get in on the next cohort. And we work through we're changing builders ship University, instead of just kind of an open enrollment. We are now taking people through in cohorts and helping people get through the different levels of builder ship and doing a lot more support along the way. And so far, it's working. We just had a set of office hours the last couple of weeks. And office hours are where we get together and build a ship University and we hang out we talk we support each other we bring our challenges.

My most favorite thing that I do every single week is office hours because they're amazing. 

I just like hanging out with the Builders inside of Buildership University, but anyway, was telling them something that I think you should hear too, which is that, that when you Our builder a lot of times you're so busy building that you don't stop and celebrate your wins. And there have been some incredible wins this month inside of builder ship University. And what what drives me nuts is that the builders are so focused on building that they don't even recognize that they've done something big. You know, Tosca Lin has taken her students from 6%, proficient to almost 70% proficient in two years, Kevin just broke his district's record for the highest percentage test score gains in one year. Sue has figured out a way to go home, leave the building by four 430 Every single day, and still get everything done. And she's not covering classes all day, she's in an area that's been hard hit by COVID, as many of us are, but she's figured out how to stay focused on the work and not get embroiled in covering classes, but make sure that the classes are covered. And the work is getting done. Adrienne, Adrienne cracks me up because he was tall, she get an office hours, she's talking about something else. And she mentioned oh, by the way, her kids have just scored at the top of her district at her school is ranked at the top of her district, and just about every single area when they looked at their MOI data. So there are the all of these wins. You know, Chris is working he's he's a brand new principal and Chris's is is has gotten his his his staff to come together around a vision, a mission and a set of core values is completing that work. Now when they're done, they have this focus and they're unified. 

So there are so many wins happening inside of builder ship University, and I'm sure that you're experiencing wins as well. But a lot of times we we don't stop and celebrate those wins. We're saying yeah, but and then we start thinking about the next thing. I know, I tell you, you need 100% vision, and you don't stop until you reach that 100% vision. But that doesn't mean you don't celebrate the wins along the way. And so what I want to challenge you to do today is to stop and think about some of the wins that you've had so far this year. They could be big ones, like huge test score gains, which several of our builders are reporting, and I'm so happy about that. But it could be a small one, it could be just that you finally have a feedback system, that in a rhythm that it's working so that teachers are getting the right feedback. It could be as it's one of our builders was noting the other day, he's got a support a student support plan in place. And he's seeing that support, that the support that he's providing for students is starting to work. It's not where he wants it to be yet, but he's seeing fewer and fewer students who are are failing every single year. It could be like Alicia, who then builds a ship University, who has really thought through her her discipline policy and has and done some upgrades to it that is resulting already in fewer student referrals in the office. And she's starting to address feel like she's getting some traction addressing that student behavior. There are so many wins that are happening for our builders, and I imagine the same thing is true for you. But if you don't stop and celebrate those wins, then it just feels like one big slog.

The work is hard. Yes, but the rewards are plentiful. 

You just have to stop and and recognize that. Now if you're feeling like I don't have any wins this year, if you feeling like this year has just been a wash, and I can't think of anything that that I can point to as a win, that I want to invite you to come join us and eldership university because we can help you get those wins. You see, sometimes it's not that the wind isn't available, it's not even that you're not capable of getting the win. Sometimes you just need help. Sometimes you just need somebody to kind of show you where the wins are so that you can go get them. And so if you want to have some wins, if you're feeling like you don't have any wins, then I want you to kind of think about joining that next cohort inside of builders university because we're going to help you find the wins that you in fact, the whole goal of builders should be universities that when you join, you get a win within the first 90 days of joining you, you have something tangible that you can point to some problem that was bugging you that you can point to and say I've solved that. And that all happens in the first three months. We have designed it now to make sure that that happens in the first three months. And that kind of segues into what we're going to be talking about today.

As we start this new series. You see, one of the things that I've been paying a lot of attention attention to now is the challenges that principals are facing. And I do a lot of work with principals. I probably work with several 100 principals in a month on a on an interim basis. So not like speaking to several 100 principals I'm not coaching several 100 Your principles a month, some inside a Buildership University, some are coaching clients. And so I'm meeting with principals on a regular basis. And a lot of principals are talking about the challenges that they're facing this year, and you're probably experiencing some of these same challenges. You know, there's just the fatigue of just being in a pandemic for almost three years, your several of you are probably seeing increased behavior problems there, you know, just crazy things. And a lot of it's because students haven't been in school and so long and, and they're also these SEL issues that students are dealing with that are creating, you know, behavior issues in the classroom. Sometimes you're dealing with, you know, look, I'd love to have behavior problems, I need kids to come to school. So you're dealing with attendance issues, either students are quarantining, or they've had community exposure, or they have gotten in the habit of not coming to school, they're just not coming to school anymore. You're also facing motivation issues, students are having a hard time focusing and paying attention and staying engaged, you're having staff motivation issues, your staff is burned out, they're exhausted, they're tired, they're overwhelmed. They, they, they feel like they've been being asked to make bricks without straw for a long time. In fact, you are probably feeling that way too.

You're feeling like you want to do the important work. 

And most days you're spent putting out fires, contact tracing, covering classrooms, dealing with ridiculous district mandates, you know, every time you turn around, and you think you've got this thing straight, the district comes with something else, or, you know, you were working towards increasing your student's performance on a particular test this year, and now the district has pulled the test, we're not doing that test anymore. And so you're also facing pressure from parents parents are, are coming in and saying, Why aren't you helping my child and, you know, you've got the political environment that's happening right now. And so we're just being squeezed from every side. And there's so many problems in front of us, that's hard to figure out which one should I deal with. And so what we do is, we just kind of react, and every day we go to work, and we don't even make plans anymore about what we're gonna do at work, we just kind of react. If you're there, then today's podcast is for you. Because I've been thinking a lot about it. And one of the things that I realized I was I was looking at Maslow's hierarchy of needs, I was we were talking with a group of principals about how, you know, if you want the kids to be engaged and focused, you got to make sure that you're hitting though that hierarchy, it's hard to be engaged, if I'm hungry or thirsty, it's hard to be engaged if I don't feel safe, you know, you know, you know how math works.

One day, I was thinking about that, and I started thinking about, well, the same thing is true for your school. There are a lot of different needs that are that you're being hit with right now. And we need a way some sort of construct to help us we through all of the demands on our time to figure out what is the thing that we should be dealing with first. In fact, one of the biggest problems that I'm seeing with a lot of principals is that they don't know what their biggest problem is, it was something that we've been dealing with and build your slab for a while we have the Builders Blueprint for that. And people who use the blueprint, really get to the root cause of the problem and solve it. And they you know, we have a plan for doing that. But frankly, the blueprint takes a level of sophistication to really do well. And I was trying to figure out, what do you do when you're just hitting a crisis, when you don't have time to kind of really commit to understanding the full Buildership model, and you just need something you can use right now. And so, I've come up with this concept called the school hierarchy of needs. It's not different than build a ship. It's just a simplification to build a ship, so that you can take it and use it right now. You see, the built in model has four parts, purpose, people pathway and plan. The purpose component is really about understanding where you were headed as a school and getting everybody kind of committed to that purpose, and understanding what that purpose is.

It's your North Star that takes you forward. 

Once you get things in alignment with that purpose, then then you everything is working together, you're not you're not having to deal with silly problems that that distract you from your purpose, because you have focus. And a lot of us right now really are really struggling with having focus, we, we it's hard to stay focused when there's so many different things hitting you every single day when when there's a new crisis every single day. It's really hard to stay focused and and the purpose component is what's what helps you do that. You've heard me say before anchor in the outcome anchor in your purpose anchor in your vision, mission and core values. Some people come to me and they say, Well, you know, like, what, how do I tell a teacher that is usually very resistant or they're very upset? How do I tell them that we have to do this new thing and they're worried about it? But if you ask In your purpose, and if you've got everybody kind of committed to that purpose, then then you don't have to worry about how do I tell them it has to it's anchored in your purpose, when when things feel like they're getting out of control, the way that you get back to control is you start with that purpose. The next step is people, you've got to continually build the will and skill of your people so that they can stay committed to that purpose. So once you have clarity around your purpose, the next step is how do I get people committed to that purpose? And how do I build their will, so that they are motivated to move towards that purpose and their skills, so they have the capacity to make that purpose of reality? And then the third component is pathway. This is the one that is the most misunderstood and neglected.

In the pathway component. It's really about, are we doing the right work right? At the right time? A lot of times we see something, we're like, yeah, we need that we need to be doing that. And you're right, you just don't need to be doing it right now. And so that's how come a lot of us are being buffeted from one initiative to the next initiative, because we are so busy trying to do the right work. And we really think about isn't the right time to do the right work. So the Pathways is it's about the Pepa component is really about, are we doing the right work? Is this the right work for us right now? Do we understand the right pathway for us to achieve the purpose that we're focusing on in that purpose component? And so the pathway piece is really about understanding what should I do next, and keeping focused on doing the right thing next, and then the next thing, the next thing so that you are making steady progress towards your goal? Many people get stuck here. And the reason they get stuck here is because if they don't do this piece, it's like what Stephen Covey talks about, you know, Stephen Covey talks about we're so busy climbing the ladder, that we don't check to figure out whether or not that ladder is leaning against the right wall. And a lot of us are working really, really hard. And we're not seeing the results that we want to see. Because we're working hard at the wrong thing. And the pathway component is about making sure we're working hard at the right thing. And then the last piece, the plan that's execution, is a lot of times we say, Okay, this is the work we need to be doing right now. And then squirrel, we get distracted. The plan component is really about how do we stick to our plan? How do we stay the course? How do we make sure that we're making that steady progress regardless of what else is going on in the world? For a lot of us, we're good at making plans, we're not good at sticking to plans. And so that last piece is really about having that discipline to execution until we reach our goal.

Those four components are what it takes to achieve success. 

We've been teaching them for several years. Now, that is the simplified builder ship model. But lately, I've noticed that those four components operate as a hierarchy. When I'm working with schools, if they do not have the purpose, straight than anything, I teach them about feedback or anything, I teach them about building teacher capacity, it doesn't work. When they get purpose straight than building teacher capacity becomes a lot easier, because they dealt with the most important and fundamental need first. And so now we can use that hierarchy to help you get to the root cause of any challenge that you're facing, and solve it once. And for all, that you heard me doing a little bit of that at the builder's show boot camp. Last episode, I talked about that a little bit more. And over the next several episodes, I'm going to go do a deep dive into each one of those components. We're going to start out next time by talking about the purpose component. And although you've heard me talk about vision, mission and core values, ad infinitum, we're going to be talking about how every single challenge that you face in your school right now goes back to either vision mission or core values, I'm going to show you that so that you can think about the your challenges that you're facing, and see how they relate how they go back to that. And then once you get that straight, we're going to talk about how all these things open up for you. And then the following week, we're going to talk about the people component.

Once you get the purpose component straight, there are some challenges that you're still going to face. And usually those challenges really get back to do my people have the will and skill they need to be able to pursue this purpose together. So we're going to talk about that and what does that mean? And how do you get that establish and what does it take to really build the will and skill of people and why we use these, what we call the four disciplines and build a ship at this level. And then we're going to go to that pathway component and I really want to spend some time there. So that you get it so that you understand how how important it is to be working on that. Timing of how you work on problems is just as important as working on the problems itself. And so understanding how to make sure that you're picking the right pathway for you. And then finally, we're going to talk about that plan. How do you stay the course? How do you if you don't have any discipline, if you're in a crazy year, how do you keep moving forward towards your goals. So we're going to spend the next several weeks breaking down this hierarchy of needs. And as you're joining me on that journey, I want you to bring a challenge that you're facing right now something that has got your head scratch, you can get you scratching your head, something that you are looking at, and you're thinking, I have no idea how to fix this. And over the next several weeks, we're going to together, go through that challenge and get to the root cause of it, and then solve it once and for all. 

It's time for us to stop playing this epic game of whack a mole that we call Leadership.

Leadership, it's always about dealing with the next problem, the problem in front of you, and still trying to kind of drag everybody towards your goals, build your ship, it's about putting some things in place to eliminate those problems all together. So that instead of dragging people towards your goal, reaching your goal feels easy. And I think about the wins that people have been sharing with us inside of builder ship University, and I've really been trying to figure out, why is it so hard, I go other places, and people are bragging about stuff that's far less extraordinary than what what our builders are dealing with, you know, for someone is to go from the highest number of suspensions in their particular district to the lowest number of suspensions, and their particular district is extraordinary. And yet, when Kevin told us, that's what he accomplished, it was kind of he was talking about it as an aside, he didn't come to, to the to the meeting, ready and bubbling over with excitement about the news. In fact, it was old news, by the time he shared it with us. When when when when Tasha Lin talked about her mo y scores and, and and the huge jumps, she's made over over six, almost 60 percentage points higher in only two years. She's she didn't, she didn't come like she, she didn't come like look at me, I can't believe I did this. She mentioned that. And she just talked about so we're making progress it. It's really crazy. Adrienne, she is at the top of her district. You know what, she didn't even mention it to the end, it was like, oh, yeah, by the way, we just got our scores were at the top of the district. I don't get it, I don't understand, I don't understand why people aren't coming in. And leading with that. And until I realized this, when you become a builder, and you get accustomed to thinking like a builder. When you get accustomed to applying purpose, and people and pathway and plan to your practice when when you get used to eliminating problems.

Those kinds of gains, those extraordinary gains, feel ordinary, they feel normal. They feel like that's what you're supposed to do. I mean, think about it, if you really are going to pursue 100% vision. And you're going to try to achieve that vision in three years or less. Then three years from now, every student succeeding is the norm. And so, while other people are like, Oh, we got a 5% gain, or, you know, it's COVID I'm just glad we didn't lose any gout round this year, when what other people are talking about that builders are sitting there quietly. Because for them, the extraordinary what everybody else feels like is extraordinary. It's just another day at work. It's not because the builder is extraordinary, although I think builders are incredibly extraordinary. But when you look at our builders, they're just normal people there. They're not, you know, these super high profile like, Whoa, that person's going somewhere. They're just quietly building in their buildings. And they're quietly working through this process. They're putting the purpose in place. And, and having that that purpose so solid that they can anchor in that and they're anchoring in it now in the middle of chaos. So while everybody else's School is in chaos, their schools are anchored in that, that that purpose and and their schools are not being buffeted by every little thing. Do they still have problems? Yeah, but they solve them very quickly because they have the purpose in place. The people are committed, not because they put you know a new icemaker machine in the staff lounge or They bought everybody, you know, personalized cookies for for Valentine's Day or bought them a Seuss for the staff lunch, those, those things are nice doesn't mean they'll just don't do those things. But they're people's commitment is not based on those superficial activities there are people's commitment runs deep.

When a Builder gets people committed, they're committed to doing the right thing even when they're not checking.

People own that vision, mission and core values because people are working towards that. And so you're not the one dragging your school towards your goal. Everybody is moving together towards that goal. Well, other people are, you know, picking a new initiative this year going to a conference reading a book, oh, we need to do this, or we need to do that. Builders have this, this unusual focus, because they are saying those things are nice for right now. This is what needs to work for our school. This is what our school needs right now. Builders aren't chasing squirrels. And so when everybody else is bragging, well, yeah, we bought this new program in we're gonna see how it works. And oh, we're working with this new consultant builders are sitting there and they're like, Okay, that's great for you, I'm happy for you. But builders know what their school needs. And so builders aren't chasing the latest, greatest thing. They're doing the very simple and sometimes boring work. That is actually getting them very unborn results. And then builders can stick to their plan, they, one of the things we always say in builder ship universities, we say you're stubborn on the vision and flexible in the details, builders are stubborn on the vision. Okay, what else happens? We are going to make this vision happen for 100% of their kids. But because they're flexible in the details, they can continually make steady progress. They learn along the way, builders work in these 90 day cycles that that help them make steady and continual progress towards their goals.

So think about a challenge that you're dealing with right now something you've been struggling with something big. Don't think about how do I get kids to stop, you know, putting graffiti in the bathroom or dropping trash in the halls? Think about the bigger thing, which is how do I get students more engaged, I'm struggling to keep students engaged in the classroom, I'm struggling to get teachers to teach the standards or I'm struggling to, you know, because my parents aren't involved, I don't, my kids aren't showing up every day. Bring one of those challenges to the next several episodes. And then, during each episode, ask yourself, let's go through that hierarchy of needs is my challenge because I don't have a clear purpose. And if so, stop trying to fix the symptoms of the challenge and fix the root. It is my challenge that my people aren't truly committed, stop trying to fix the symptoms, fix the root, it's my challenge that we don't have a way to determine what our pathway should be, we don't have a way to determine whether or not we're doing the right work at the right time.

Stop fixing the symptoms. Fix the root!

As you do that, as you do that, the solution to that big challenge is going to become very obvious and clear. And if you do the work, if you if you put the work, do the do the right work at the right time, you can solve that challenge at the root and eliminate it once and for all. I was talking to a principal the other day, and we're working on something that we do called Student Success plans and success is an acronym. And if you want well, we'll try to link to our Student Success Plan materials. We have a lot of free materials out there around doing that. But basically the idea is how do you put things in place to keep students from failing? And the Reds will ask me how do I know when my success plan is working? I said when you reduce failures and get to the point where you have no students failing. And she looked at me she said, Wait a minute, no students failing. No students failing. I'm not making that up. That's I've taught this success plan now for over 10 years. And when people put the success plan in place, and they continually work it, they get to the point where they don't have any students failing. As a leader, you're taught well, there's always going to be some kids, we can't reach them all. It's a builder. You don't accept that it's a builder. You say no 100% successful. What is 100% successful mean? It means no students failing. So in order to get that in order to do this achieve that first you have to believe it. But secondly, once you believe it, once you realize that that is your goal, then you can't waste time. Dealing with the same problems over and over again, you can't waste time chasing every squirrel and shiny object that comes your way.

If you really want to get there, you got to do the right work in the right way. So the build a ship Hierarchy of Needs is what's going to help you do that, we're going to start out next time, we're going to start out with that purpose, because that's every problem you're facing has its root in that purpose row, you get that row straight first, then you can go to the next row people and then pathway and plan. So I invite you to join me in the journey. You've got two challenges this week. One is find a win bigger, small, find a win. If you can't find a win, kind of build a ship University will help you find the one. The second thing is I want you to think about a challenge that you're facing right now. And come to our next episode. Ready to solve that challenge? #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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