Using the School Hierarchy of Needs to Solve Real-World Problems


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined episode number 150

How do builders like us make a dramatic difference in the lives of our students in spite of all the obstacles we face? How do you keep your vision for your school from being held hostage by resistant teachers, uncooperative parents, ridiculous district policies or lack of time, money or resources. If you're facing those challenges right now, here's where you'll find the answers, strategies, and actionable tips you need to overcome any obstacle you face. You don't have to wait to make a difference in the lives of the people you serve. You can turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Let's get started.

Hey, builders, welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robin Jackson. And today we are going to cap off our series around the school hierarchy of needs. But giving you some really practical examples of how this can work in your school, and how you can use the school hierarchy of needs to solve the problems that you're facing right now.

But before we do that, a couple of quick announcements first of all builder's lap we tickets are selling and like I always say the summer one always sells out. And so you want to be a part of builders lab, we are having our next builders lab at the end of June. And it is going to be amazing. We're doing it again virtually. So you don't have to travel. You don't do anything like that. But this is not like your typical virtual conference. Now I've been participating a couple virtual conferences right now. And I finally understand what many of you were saying about I don't know, Robin, I don't think I can do a virtual conference. This is not going to be three days of slides on the screen with my face and a little box in the corner and me talking over slides for three days. No, we do not do that at mindset.

Builders lab is an immersive, highly interactive experience. We built out an entire studio I have screens up all over the place. So I can see each and every one of you and I'm talking to you and I'm like hey, you still with me? Tim or Sarah, you look like you have a question or Bobby sure you understand because your your face is telling me something different. You can interrupt at any time throughout the conference. This is not about a presentation. This is about you getting stuff done. When you come to builder's lab, you're going to leave with a clear vision for your school. Not only that, you're going to leave with a plan for how you can achieve that vision.

We do things differently. 

This is not like a school improvement plan. This is about identifying the one thing that is the biggest barrier to your achieving your vision for your school right now. And then we figure out how to remove it, we do something a builder's lab called micro slicing. And it's the only place we do micro slicing by the way. And so first, we work on micro slicing your school figuring out what is the one thing that's holding your school back, that if you removed it would make the biggest difference for your school this year. And that's how you get big gains. And understanding how to do that in any school helps you walk into any school and figure out what to do right away. We also microslice classrooms, so you'll be able to walk into any teacher's classroom and figure out what is the one thing that that teacher needs to focus on right now that's going to make the biggest difference in the success of the students in that classroom. So that alone is worth it. And that's a highly interactive, active experience. You get through that you do that.

At Builders lab, we do that together, you learn how to do that you have that skill for life. But not only that, after you lead builders lab, we follow up with you for 90 days to help make sure that the plan that you created at builders lab you actually execute on you actually achieve the things in that plan. So this is not just a three day conference, it's really the start of a three month relationship. And so if you want to join us, and I hope you do, because I would love to work with you, then all you need to do is go to mind steps That's mind steps 

Alright, second announcement, buildership University. So a lot of people always want to know, should I join builder's lab? Should I join buildership University? My answer is always both. But let me tell you the difference in case you can't come to both builders Lab is a live experience. It's an intense experience. We call it intensive for a reason. And you learn the skills of builder ship we take you through the entire builder Ship Model purpose, people pathway and plan and we help you develop skills to be able to execute that in your school. We also help you learn how to micro slice and develop an idea plan.

Buildership University is about the execution it's about if you're ready to get started right away and you want to develop the skills you need to be able to do this build a ship University is right for you when you come to build a ship University Then you join a cohort, the first cohort, in the first 90 days, you're going to develop your vision, your mission, your core values, and your alignment architecture. The alignment architecture is about going through your school and aligning everything to your vision, mission and core values.

So at the end of that first 90 days of being in buildership university, you have an organization that is completely aligned, there's nothing that's out of alignment. And that means that things are already operating more smoothly, you have everybody focused on doing the right work the right way.

The second 90 days is really about that people component. So how do you build the will and skill of your staff. So in the second 90 days of being in build a ship University, when you get some level two, the next thing you're going to do is you're going to develop the skills to in a system for giving teachers feedback, support, accountability and culture match deliberately engineering a healthy culture in your school. And it goes on and on.

Not so a builder's University is a it's a long term relationship that we have, where you develop the skills that you need to be a builder. And you don't just develop those skills, you're also installing those systems into whatever school you're in right now. So you're developing the skills and there's it's very practical, and you get support, there's On Demand training, we have coaching every single week live that I do, you are part of an incredible community,

I have to tell you a couple of weeks ago, we had, we have parties a couple times a year build ship University, and it's a great way for us to hang out. I have not laughed so hard as I laughed at the last virtual party at builders University. And if you anyone who was at the party, you know, we have like a, we just had a ball, our parties are bomb. And so that's just another thing you become, you don't just learn these skills, you become a part of a community of builders, people who get you people who become your family, people who are rooting for you people who are excited about your success. 

We're not competing inside of buildership University. 

We are building each other up, we're supporting each other. And, and if you feel like a weirdo in your building, or in your district, because you're the only builder they're built a ship University is the place you need to be because there you're with other builders and And together, we're just we're all doing incredible things for our school. And it's my favorite way to spend my time. In fact, I'm spending more and more of my time, at builders ship University, I'm doing less time on the road these days, because I really want to spend my time inside of builder ship university with other builders. So that's builders ship University, we're opening up a new cohort in April.

So stay tuned for that, actually, it is April now. But you know, in a couple of weeks, we'll be opening up a new cohort, so you won't have to wait long. And we want to be a part of that. If you want to get notified right away, go to builder ship And sign up for the waitlist and then we'll let you know when doors open and the next cohort is going to be starting at the beginning of May. Alright, those are the announcements.

Now I want to talk to you about some practical things. And I want to ask you a question.

What does a teacher who is really struggling in the classroom group of teachers who are creating toxicity in your school, a district mandate that you feel is an tenable and a stall test scores? 

What do those four things have in common? Well, it's not just that those things are big headaches. For many school administrators, I know, the thing that they really have in common is that all four things have the same root cause. And we've been talking about the school hierarchy of needs in this series.

And so today, I want to show you how all of these problems that seems so different, all have the same root cause and all can be solved in the exact same way. And it starts with taking that those problems through the school hierarchy of needs. So remember, we're talking about a teacher who is struggling a group of teachers who are turned who have turned toxic and unreasonable district mandate, or stalled test scores, those things seem so different, and yet, they all start with purpose. You see, a lot of times when people come to me and say, What do I do about a teacher who's struggling? I say, Well, it depends. What is your vision? What is your mission? What are the core values of your school? And they say, what does that have to do with a struggling teacher? Well, if a teacher is struggling in the classroom, and you are not going to fix everything at once, what that teachers practice? How do you know where to start? If you don't have a vision, you see, if I have a school vision that says that all students will be reading by second grade, then then I'm going to go into that classroom and I'm going to ask okay, of all the things that this teacher is struggling with. What is the one thing that I think is the biggest barrier to keeping all of her students from reading by second grade?

Now if my vision word that all of my all of my stuff 100% of my students were going to set and meet three rigorous goals for the semester. Well, then my question becomes, what is the one thing that's keeping that teacher from reaching those goals? Do you see how if I don't have a clear vision, I can't even help a struggling teacher? Now, what about the second instance? You've got a group of toxic teachers? Well, then my first question is, what are the core values of your building? What is non negotiable? You see, if you go in and try to just wipe out toxicity by being authoritarian, then you become toxic yourself. If you try to wipe out toxicity by, you know, being overly positive, then you become toxically positive and you contribute to that toxicity.

The only way that you can really deal with toxicity is that you bring everybody together, and you agree upon some non negotiable, some core values that are non negotiable. Because when you have those core values in place, if you have a group of people who are being toxic, then you can simply go to that group of people and say, Listen, the behaviors that you are, that you are, that are that you're practicing, right now, they they violate our core values. And so either we need to rethink our core values, because your behavior is saying that those core values are now negotiable. Or you need to rethink your behavior. And you leave the choice up to them, every single time that you've gone, that that a builder that I've worked with has gone through the core values process the right way, where you have true unanimous adoption of those core values, then, when someone starts violating those core values, when the builder comes in there, they're not there to kind of hold people accountable and you know, crack down on people, they simply have a conversation you were there, when we have those core that core values conversation, you said that it was non negotiable, and yet your behavior is inconsistent with our core values. So do you no longer believe in the core values? Or do you need to change your behavior and when you leave that choice with people, every single time, in my experience, people have chosen to get in alignment with the core values again. And so that means you're not running around chasing, checking correcting people, you're simply revisiting those core values and truly making them non negotiable.

So that deals with the toxicity. 

What about that that third piece where where you have unreasonable district demands? Well, here's where your vision and mission can support you in that purpose row. So when you have the district come to you in some way, so one of our a couple of our builders have been doing this recently, where the district has asked them to do certain things that that are contradictory to their vision, their mission and the core values. And they've been able to push back at the district level, not by saying we don't want to do it, we don't want to do it a row to overwhelmed and we're not going to do it. Instead, they either push back with a district and say and show the district how what the district is asking them to do take some off mission, or gets in the way of their pursuit of their vision. And the district has acquiesced, or the principal has found a way to take that unreasonable district demand, sift it through their purpose, their vision, mission and core values, and turn that unreasonable demand into something that moves their school forward. So their school is in compliance with what the district is asking them to do.

But the school is also staying true to their vision, mission and core values. And that unreasonable district demand that for everybody else is creating a lot of angst and extra work, that school is taking that demand and leveraged it to make them better. So that's why purpose solves that problem.

Well, what about test scores? Well, if I have stalled test scores, instead of diving through the data, and just looking at every number then looks a lower every percentage that looks low, and say, oh, you know, maybe we should fix this. And all we should fix that. I use my vision, mission and core values to sift through that data. So I'm looking at that data. And I'm saying, Okay, what these test scores seem to be stalled? Are they stalled? Because we're not using the right pathway to achieve our vision? Are they stalled? Because the work we're doing to achieve our vision has somehow drifted off mission? Or are they stalled? Because there's a core value that's not happening in the classroom? Can we can we address this by becoming even more in alignment to our core values. And now when you're looking at the data, you're not just randomly grabbing low numbers or read numbers, instead, you're looking at the data and you're using your purpose to make sense of that data. So you can find the right data to work on we we do this all the time when we are creating builders blueprints.

And so inside of builder ship University, we have a process where we show you how to use the Builders Blueprint to look at look at your data. And the first row and that blueprint thing that you're going to look at the data first is you're going to start by saying, Does this stall testscore reflect a problem in our vision, our mission or core values and that shows you how to solve that problem. and not just put a bandaid on it, but solve it for good.

So the first thing that you want to do whenever you have a challenge, as you always start at that purpose row, you always go back to your vision, mission and core values, and use that as a lens through which you can look at your problems, to find solutions. A lot of people are doing root cause analyses. And I mean, I used to do it myself, that's how I was trained as a leader to do. But as a builder, the real root cause always goes back to your vision, mission or core values. So if you start there, you will find a root cause that will solve the problem and eliminate it. Okay. Now, once you've done that, is sometimes the problem is mostly solved. But there's still more work that has to be done.

There's follow up, you know, you now know the root cause How do you find this solution? So the first thing you're going to do is you're going to start with the people. So the next row on the on the school Hierarchy of Needs is the people role. So you've established purpose, and now you're looking for people you're looking for solution in the people row. So let's go back to the first thing, I have a struggling teacher. So the next thing I have to understand is, is the teacher struggling because of a will issue or skill issue. And once I understand whether or not the teacher is struggling because of will or skill, I know how to support that teacher, and I have four options, it's either going to be I'm going to use my feedback system to give that teacher better feedback, it's going to be that I'm using my support system to provide that teacher with differentiated, deliver it and developmental support, it's that I'm going to use an accountability system to give that teacher a better system for instructional delivery so that they have something to be accountable to, or I'm going to use my culture system to create a different culture in my school.

So what I'm going to do is once I understand that, okay, the root cause, the thing that this teacher needs to improve is this, this is the one thing that's standing in the way of this teachers teaching in a way that is in alignment with our vision, mission and core values. So now I have to figure out how do I improve it and to improve it at the people role? I'm either going to use feedback, support accountability of culture to improve it. What about that toxic group of teachers? Right? So I go, and I have a conversation about the core values. And let's say they reluctantly agree, all right, my behavior is outside of those core values. Do I leave it alone? And say, okay, good, thanks. Good talk. We have got we have a conversation. No.

Next, I'm going to follow up that conversation by looking at our culture and understanding how what was it about our culture that gave space for toxicity derive. 

I'm going to do a culture audit. One of the things we teach you in buildup University is how to do a culture audit. So you can find the source of toxicity in your culture. And then we use a process for deliberately reengineering your culture to eliminate that toxicity and to create a healthier culture. So once you have understood and you've got, you've gotten the teachers to recommit to those core values, you're not done.

Next, you need to figure out how did that toxicity slip into my culture in the first place? And how do I build a culture that makes it impervious to that kind of toxicity in the future? All right. What about that ridiculous district mandate? Now, I've either pushed back because of our core values, or I found a way to turn that mandate into something that aligns with our vision, mission and core values. Either way, now, my staff has to act on that mandate, or they have to be able to contain to produce enough results that the district leaves me alone about that mandate.

So now, again, how do I get my people on board? How do I make sure that either my staff has the will in skill to be able to carry out that mandate in a way that aligns with our vision, mission and core values? Or how do I build my staffs will and skill to continue to produce enough results so that the district says, Okay, we'll give you a path, because we see what you're doing in your school, we see how you're moving towards your vision, mission and core values. Again, I'm going to look at that people component and figure out, Is this something that requires more feedback, support, accountability, or culture? Now, what about those test scores? What is the test scores are stalled, we now understand why they're stalled, either, because we're not doing something that we should be doing in pursuing our vision, or the work has drifted off mission, or our work is not in alignment with our core values. We now have looked at that data. And we've triangulated that data, we've not just looked at student performance data. We've also looked at our environmental or our climate data. And we've also looked at our observational data. And we've come up with a couple of things. And so now that data points as to what we need to be doing, and it's always going to be do our teachers need feedback, support accountability. Culture in order to correct what is what's not working in our schools so that we can start moving forward, and we can raise those scores.

Again, no matter what the problem, always start with purpose, then go to people. Now the next one pathway, we now know what the root cause of our problem is, we now put some systems in place to help our people move towards solving that problem. Now we need to think about as a school, what is the right pathway for us right now? When it comes to that struggling teacher? I can know the root cause I know that teacher needs support.

Now, what's the pathway? What is the process I'm going to use to help that teacher grow at least one level in that particular area this school year? So I What's the what's, what's the right pathway? Is it that the teacher that I really want the teacher to be practicing more without that in a non evaluative environment, so they can build up their skill is the right pathway that I have the teacher observing other teachers and then going back and using what they've learned in their own classroom? Like, what technique am I going to use? What's the right pathway to help that teacher grow? If I don't have the right pathway, I'll try a bunch of stuff hope that it works, and at the end of the year, be frustrated, because a teacher is very, has made very little improvement. So I need a pathway.

What about in the situation where I have a tox, I have some toxicity in my culture, a group of teachers who are behaving in a toxic manner, I understand the root cause I am now working to re enter to re align my culture to those core values and make sure that we close up any leakages in our culture that that are allowing this toxicity come in. But what's the right pathway? What What should I be doing right now? What does that process look like? I gotta think about that. I can't just willy nilly run in and start fixing culture, I need to understand and be very intentional about how I'm going to do it so that I can eliminate the problem. Same thing is true for a district mandate, whether I have decided to turn that mandate into something that's going to work for our school, or I've decided to push back at the district level, I now have to produce some results that justify the district's giving me a path. What does that pathway look like? And the same thing is true for test scores. I know the root cause, I have an understanding of what my people need.

Now, what is the right pathway for actually achieving that goal?

And then last thing is plan. And remember, plan is not about writing a plan. The plan level is about sticking to that plan. What are the things that we are going to put into place to make sure that we stick with our plan? So when it comes to that struggling teacher, I'm not going to just see a little bit of improvement and say, okay, good. I think that's enough and move on to somebody else? How do I stick with that teacher to help that teacher continue to grow? How do I recognize the milestones along the way? How do I keep the teacher from drifting off course? How do I make sure that I stick with that teacher until we see success? When it comes to that group of teachers, a lot of times, especially when you're dealing with toxicity in a culture, we do some initial things, and then we get a little relief, and then we back off, can't do that, when you are working with teachers who are experiencing toxicity. And when you go do that culture audit to figure out where the toxicity is coming in. And then you start deliberately re engineering the culture, the only way that it will make that you will make it stick is if you stick with it.

Our definition of culture inside of buildership university is that culture is a collection of organizational habits and the stories we tell about them. Well, if it's a collection of organizational habits, and you are installing a new habit into your culture to address that toxicity. Well, in order to make a habit stick, you have to continually do it. You can't do it one time, and just stick with it. So how do we create a plan that forces us to stick with this habit until the new habit takes over? Instead of abandoning it? As soon as we feel relief? Right? When it comes to that district mandate? How do we stick with the new thing? How do we make sure that we embedded in no culture? Or if we've pushed back and we've we've chosen an alternative route? How do we not abandon that alternative? As soon as the District pressures off of us? How do we make sure that we've not only chosen the right alternative, but that we're putting into our culture so that it's embedded it sticks. And then when it comes to those test scores, I've seen this happen so often, where schools, you know, they get the pressure of raising test scores, they start seeing a little bit of increase in those test scores, and then they just relax. How do you keep with it until those test scores are reflecting success for 100% of your students?

So what I hope I've shown you today is that in four pretty common situations, the process is the same. 

And what I learned I love about that, is that when you are new to a building or new to a role, you walk into a school and there's so much going on and you don't you don't know everything that's happening yet you don't really understand the culture yet you don't. You know, there's, that's why a lot of administrators and superintendents spend a whole year of listening. I understand why they do it. But do we really have a year to just listen? Don't our students deserve some action right now. So when you come in as a builder, even if you don't know, everything that's happening in the school, even if you don't truly understand everything that's going on, you can get started right away, because you have a process. This is the the school Hierarchy of Needs almost functions like a heuristic, that's that build your ship model, what is the purpose? And if we don't have one, then I need to establish one. What Okay, now that we have a purpose, do I have the will and skill to be able to pursue that purpose? If not, then we need to build their will in skill? And then do we know what the right pathway is for us right now to pursue that purpose? If not, we need to figure that out. And then do we have a plan that we can stick to? If not, we need to put one in place? And does our definition of success include 100% of our kids, if not, we need to redefine success, and keep working until we get there. No matter what problem you face. If you use this heuristic, to think through that problem, you will find a solution that will solve that problem for good and eliminate it.

So if you're new to a building or new to a role, maybe you've been a principal before you're new to the me, you're new to a building. So you you start out as a principal, you've you've have experience, but every building, it's like starting over again. Or you're new to the role itself. You know, this is the season where many APs are getting called into principle ships. And you're worried about walking into the that new building or that new role and not knowing anything, and the end and in your back of your head said, Well, you know, this is the year or listen not to do that, you can use the school hierarchy of needs to walk in and start diagnosing and solving problems right away.

Maybe you've been in your building for a while, and you have been using leadership strategies to to address problems. And so the same problems keep popping up again, and it feels like you're playing one enormous game of Whack a Mole. And as soon as you solve this thing, this thing that you thought you saw three months ago, pops up again, and you knock that down. And then this other thing that you didn't anticipate pops up, and you have to knock that down, and you're exhausted. You don't have to be because with this heuristic, you can solve any problem you face in your school. You know, people always, you know, they look at me when I go in, and I'm coaching and they're like, Wow, how? How did you figure that out? So quickly, I'm not a genius. I don't have any special magical powers. What I have is this heuristic.

So when I'm doing the ask me anything's inside of build a ship University, which are free by the way you can join them just go to build a ship University com And every single month, I'm coaching people, and they can come in and bring any problem, I don't know what problems people are gonna bring me. But I feel confident that no matter what problem they bring me, I'll be able to give them something that is useful, because in my head is always purpose people pathway plan, purpose, people pathway plan, I'm always thinking about that. And it gives me and it will give you the ability to very quickly sift through all the information, get to the root cause, come up with a solution that will solve and eliminate that problem for good.

So you don't have to be exhausted anymore. 

You don't have to be frustrated, you don't have to, to feel like you don't know, you don't have all the facts. You don't have to feel you know, this imposter syndrome, when you will go into work every day. Because if you understand the school hierarchy of needs, and it doesn't really matter what problem happens, what problems shows up, you'll be able to solve it. A couple of months ago, builders lab, we did a panel of people who had gone through builders lab and had we're taking the work that they did and builders lab and doing really remarkable things for the schools. And we were telling some really incredible stories. I mean, there were things that I didn't even know that they were doing. And it's kind of offhand they're like, oh, yeah, you know, we raised the test scores 50 points in one year. Yeah. Well, you know, we, we went from the greatest number of suspensions to the least number of suspensions in our district by just doing a couple of things. I mean, they're just so casual about it. When they left everybody who was at builders lab, when we were talking about what we heard in that panel.

This is what they said. They said, You know what, there's so different we had different people from different parts of the world, presenting in different levels. We had an Elementary, Middle High School, different, you know, genders race, everything there were so different. And yet, they all have this same sense of call. People were saying, I want to be that calm. I want to feel that calm. It's not that again, they're magical. I love them. I think they're incredible people. But as one of the panelists pointed out, she says, I'm not a particularly charismatic or dynamic leader, I don't have the personality and nobody's gonna make a movie about me.

But with these tools, you don't have to be with these tools, you can get these incredible, remarkable movie worthy results. Without having to be this, this dynamic movie star principle. You can just be you you can be who you are, and still get these incredible results. When you're a builder, and you start thinking this way, using that model to, to think through and process everything in your school. You don't have to worry about feeling like an imposter anymore. Because you're not, you don't have to worry about oh, you know, is this the right answer? You'll know it's the right answer. Because you know, you've gotten to the true root cause. This aren't with this kind of heuristic in your head, there isn't a problem you can't solve. That's the power of thinking like a builder. You don't to make things up anymore. You don't have to, to guess you'll know the right answer. Not because you're magical, or you'll know the right answer because you have the right process for finding that answer.

So if you'd like to learn more about how to do this, how to become the kind of person who, who can solve any problem in any school, not just the school you're in right now. But if you ever get put in another school, you get a promotion and now you're in charge of a district. That same thing applies. The way you solve any problem is you start with purpose, people pathway plan. And that's how you can walk into any situation and know what to do. You can you can walk into any situation and understand quickly how to get to the right answer, 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 builder ship 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. Inside 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 buildership and get started writing your school success story today.

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