Why you should be conducting Exit Interviews


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined episode number 152

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, Robyn Jackson. And today we're starting a new series all about how you can end the school year strong. In the next several episodes, I'm going to be sharing with you some very practical things that you can do right now to not only in the school year strong, but to set yourself up for a really powerful school year, next school year.

Now before we jump into today's topic, which is all about how to conduct the exit interview, and believe me, this is something that many of us have never considered. But it can be a game changer. And helping you make sure that you're supporting your staff in the right way, recruiting the right people and making sure that you're taking care of your people in your school.

But before we get to that, I've got two really exciting announcements. I've been alluding to it for a while but build a ship University is finally opening its next cohort. Now we are completing the beta process for Buildership University. And so right now, you can get into builder ship University for only $97 a month. Once that beta process is complete in June, buildership University investment is going to be significantly greater. But right now because we're still beta testing, and there's still some kinks that we're working out, you can get in for $97 a month, let me tell you why you want to get in, we are finalizing it.

So this is going to be as close to what the complete builder ship University product is going to look like when we unveil the you know the final product in June, as you're going to get. So you're going to get it at a significant discount if you join right now. But here's the second reason why we are starting a new cohort. And one of the things that we've learned from our builders ship University founders is that build a ship University has a ton of amazing resources. But it's really hard to know where to start. And so we have designed a cohort that's going to walk you through step by step the builder ship model. And we're committing to sticking with you until you've gotten all the things in place.

So if you have been toying with the idea of becoming a builder, and you like the concept, and you really want support, this April cohort is going to be the first one where we walk you through the entire process. So we are opening the doors to that April cohort. Very shortly, take a look for those emails. And if you've already been on the waitlist, we're going to be sending you an email to let you know when it's happening. And when it opens, you will have just a few days to join and then we're gonna get started.

The other thing about getting into builder ship University early is that I'm your coach. So when you join builder ship university right now and you join this cohort, I'm going to be your coach, I'm going to be the one that's coaching you through the entire process. And we have planned such an incredible experience. I get goosebumps every time I think about the amazing things that are going to be happening and build us up University. This has been a labor of love for the last 18 months. doors are opening this week. So you'll be able to get into builder ship University starting this week, the end of this week, and they'll be open for just a short time and we start the first cohort, we're going to closed doors and start the first cohort the first Sunday in May you'll get your first assignment. So look out for that. We'll also link to it in the show notes.

Now's your opportunity to join Buildership University. 

Alright, so that's the first announcement. Now the second announcement is that builders lab tickets are on sale right now we are probably about a quarter of the way sold. It's still early. We always sell out the summer builders lab and so we've already sold one quarter of the tickets. So if you've been wanting to come to builders lab, you need to come this summer. We have spent the last couple of months redesigning builders lab we debuted you know the newly redesigned and restructured builders lab in January and we've gotten even better we've made some more improvements. Some more tweaks. 

And so the one this summer is going to be really powerful. And what you're going to learn at builders lab is, you will learn, first of all, what your vision is, and a lot of us, we struggle to come up with a vision that really inspires us. And that will drive the work of our school. And so a builder's club, one of the first things we do is help you develop that vision. But that's not it.

Secondly, we start looking at your school, your unique situation, and we teach you something called micro slicing, and we only do micro slicing at builders lab. And when we micro slice, we're going to look at your whole school. And we're going to look at all the things that are getting in the way of your achieving your vision right now. And we're going to find the one thing that is the most important thing for you to be focused on right now. So that you can achieve your vision in the next three years.

And you will leave builders lab with your own customized plan for what you need to do next to get started. 

I like builder's lab in the summertime. Because when you kind of build your slab in the summer, you can do the work that you need to be doing to start thinking about your school improvement plan. And you have a process all mapped out for you, which makes the school improvement planning process so much easier for you and your team. In fact, a lot of people will bring their entire team to build his lab in the summer so that they get their admin teams and their leadership team so that they can kind of work things out together builders lab, and we accommodate you for that. So if you'd like to join builders lab, you need to go to mind steps inc.com/builders-lab mindset st.com/builders-lab Alright, let's jump into today's episode, which is very practical tips for helping you in the year strong.

And we're going to start out with a tactic that I rarely see principals use. 

And I've always wondered why every year you have teachers who leave and we do something at the end of the year, or the last staff meeting, we acknowledge the teachers who are leaving, and we give them applause. And if we really liked them, we give them a gift, or school swag or something like that. And then we let the teachers go. But rarely do we sit down with those teachers and close the relationship and, and use that opportunity to learn how we can better support our staff and our teachers. And so the exit interview allows you to do that.

So today I want to talk to you about how you conduct an exit interview, what kinds of questions you can ask. And I want to encourage you to to add this to your list of things to do before the end of the year, because it will pay off in dividends. You see, when you sit down and you have an exit interview, you have a couple of opportunities. First, you have an opportunity to repair any damage that the relationship that you've had, with a teacher has experienced that through the course of the school year, you can clear the air. And that leaves the door open in case that teacher and you encounter each other professionally later on. It helps create let that teacher leave on a good positive note. And it helps contribute to your culture. 

Secondly, when teachers are leaving, they often have nothing to lose at that point. That's when you're going to get some of the best truth that you can possibly get. And you can use that truth to take a good hard look at how your organization is serving and supporting your teachers and make changes so that you don't have other teachers leaving.

And third, when you conduct that exit interview, not only are you repairing the relationship, not only are you getting powerful data that can help you change, but you are also creating an opportunity to get feedback that you would not otherwise get. And so you have the opportunity for the teacher to kind of clear the air with things that they need to say you have an opportunity for the teacher to tell you things that they may not feel comfortable telling you while they're still you know, you're still their supervisor, you have the opportunity to get a different kind of feedback than you normally get.

So how do you conduct the exit interview while once a teacher announces that they're leaving.

You ask them say before you leave, I'd like to sit down with you and you make it very informal. It doesn't have to be as formal as a job interview and set a time. And usually you need between a half an hour and 45 minutes to just sit down with a teacher and have a conversation. 

I usually like doing exit interviews either on the teachers turf, so I go to the teacher's classroom or someplace where the teacher feels comfortable and more in control. So there isn't that power differential or even at a neutral place. So in a conference rooms, in the main office in a empty classroom, in you know, a private space in the teachers lounge, you want to go somewhere where it's either neutral territory or where the the teacher has doesn't feel that they are you know, kind of sitting, they've been called to the office and they're in trouble.

And then the next thing is you want to make sure that you keep the conversation feeling very casual. So you're not going to necessarily go in and you know we're going to talk about questions in just a moment but you're not going to go in and just stand there with the questions you know, held up between you and the teacher and typing things down on your laptop. Um, some people record the interview some people don't. I think it's really great that you take notes if you can, so that the the teacher knows that you're really listening to you're taking what they're saying seriously, but it doesn't feel like it's going to some sort of form or file.

When you start the conversation, you start off by talking about the purpose and you say, Listen, my purpose for sitting down with you is that this will give me a really good opportunity to get some feedback from you to help me get better to help our school get better. And so I want you to know that, that I want to thank you for being here today and for being willing to give me this kind of feedback. And I'm really looking for your insight, and your advice about how we can do better. Now when you say it that way, it doesn't feel like you're the teacher is going to get browbeat, it feels like it whenever you ask people for their help for their favorite for a favor, it puts them in a position to be able to serve you. And that makes people feel a little bit more magnanimous. Now, when it comes down to questions, you can Google and get exit interview questions.

But there are a few questions that I really think are important. And I like to ask during exit interviews, the first question is, during your time here at this school, what are you most proud of? What did you accomplish that you're most proud of? The reason I like to start with that question is twofold.

First of all, it it kind of sets the tone, and it gives the teacher an opportunity to reflect and reflect on what they are proud of. So it sets a tone and let the teacher know that it's not going to be how can we do better, because you know, by the time they're leaving, especially if they're leaving, because they're not happy at your school, they don't really care about making you better. But when you can get them started by talking about what are you most proud of? What what did you accomplish, it gives them an opportunity to kind of talk about some of the things that they may have felt when I noticed some of the things that they're proud of. And also it helps give you a sense of what matters to your staff, what really matters to your staff. So asking that question first allows you creates a great tone. And that allows a teacher to talk to start the conversation on a positive note.

The next question that I want to ask is, would you mind sharing what contributed to your decision to leave now notice the construction of that question, and been very careful about that? Would you mind sharing? So I'm not going to ask well, what made you decide to leave because that feels very threatening, especially if I'm the reason they decided to leave. But when I asked would you mind sharing, it gives them the choice about whether or not they want to share? Maybe they have private reasons, maybe they don't want me to know. And so I want to ask that question as neutrally as possible and make sure that they understand they have the option to share why they're leaving or not. And they don't have to, then we don't have to put them in an uncomfortable position where they say I'm leaving, because I can't stand you. Instead, they can just say actually, not I have I'm leaving for personal reasons, and then let it go. Don't push it. And so when you ask that question in a way that's very neutral, and comes from, you're asking permission to know, a lot of times people will feel more generous about sharing their real reasons for leaving.

The next one I want to ask is what was the hardest part about working here for you? And that gives them an opportunity to talk about some of the challenges they face, they may say things like, you know, it was really hard, you know, to manage large class sizes, or the students were just had so many different needs. I didn't know where to start. Or they might say, I'm just never really felt supported. I felt you know that every time someone came into my classroom, they were coming to accuse me of something or they were always playing gotcha with me. Whatever the their answer is, they're talking about what was the hardest part for them? And the again, the the construction of the question is intentional. Not what was hard about working here. What didn't you like about working here? I want to know, what is the hardest thing. So it forces them to prioritize, and it gets you closer to why they left?

Another question I like to ask is, What could we have done during your time here to make your time here more professionally fulfilling? So it's not like what did we do? How you know, you? Nobody wants to, you know, have the to have to answer the clingy lover. That's why we have the expression. It's not you, it's me, right. So you don't want to put a teacher in a position where they feel like they have to soothe your ego. So when you ask the question this way, you're asking what could we have done to make your time here more professionally fulfilling, it creates, again, this very neutral stance that allows them to say things, they may say, well, nothing. I was very professionally fulfilled here. I'm leaving because there were no more opportunities for me to grow here. Or I'm leaving because I want to be closer to home or I'm leaving because I want to go part time and you didn't have any part time positions. But they may answer the question with you. No, I never felt like your classroom visits were about me they were more about the instrument. or they may say something like, you know, I've really never got the opportunity to shine here. I felt like I was just really boxed in and the particular grade level and I didn't get an opportunity to do other things.

And I really craved that. 

But when you construct the question this way, what could we have done to make your time here more professionally fulfilling? It gets out of some of the things like, Well, I don't think you'd like me or you know, I hate him. But some of those personal gripes and focuses per conversation on the teachers professionalism, so I like using the word professionally fulfilling, because it sets kind of parameters around that, so that you're really focusing on the professionalism of that teacher.

Another question I like to ask is, this one, this is kind of a, it's an odd one, but I think it's really important, please complete this sentence. I don't know why the school just blank. And so this gives people an opportunity to give you suggestions without asking for suggestions. If you ask somebody, what's something we could have done to improve, you're gonna get like, Ah, I mean, really, that they're going to be grasping for something. But when you give them that sentence construction, I just don't, I don't know why the school just doesn't do X, or I don't know why the school just why when you give them that construction, then it gives them It triggers something in their brains to kind of come up with a suggestion that they have, that seems obvious to them, but may not be obvious to you. And it puts them in a position where they don't feel like they're having to kind of ding the school or give you advice or sue their ego. Instead, it just helps them you know, kind of voice an observation that they have about the school that that you may have missed, or that they may not have shared with you any other way.

Another question you can ask is, what feedback support or training did you receive that best supported your work? And then follow that question up with what was missing? This is important because it tells you what you're doing, right. And it also gets them thinking about the feedback and support and the training that they've received. And then it then the one that you ask the next question, what's missing? Because they've already been thinking about what worked, they're more easily able to articulate what's missing, if you just hit them with, hey, what could we have done to make it better? It's stumps, people. But when you start thinking about what did you get that you really liked, they may say, Well, I really liked that training, we got on differentiated instruction, or I really liked the opportunities you gave us to kind of come up with our own stuff. And then you can say what was missing? And they can say, well, you know, I would have loved more time here, or I would have loved, you know, an opportunity to do X. So by asking the question, that way, you get more authentic answers, without putting people on the spot.

Another question I like to ask is, on a scale of one to 10, how likely are you to recommend this school to other teachers who are seeking employment. Now, this is a version of the Net Promoter Score. And if you don't know about the Net Promoter Score, or the NPS, a lot of businesses will use this to determine whether or not they're doing a good job serving the clients. So a lot of times, if you go to websites, or if you patronize a business, you'll get a survey at the end that says how likely are you to recommend this service or this product to a friend or a colleague on a scale of one to 10. Now on the back end, the business collecting that data is looking for a score of a nine or 10, and eight is iffy, but anything below an eight is a fail. So it's not a range when you're looking at that if somebody tells you anything below an eight 910. And for me, just because you know, I'm mastery driven, I want that nine or 10. If they tell you anything below that, then then that's a red flag that tells me that your your workplace is not a place that they would recommend to another colleague. And that is troubling.

So then I'm going to follow up with is there any reason why you gave the school a seven or why you gave the school a three and give them an opportunity to explain why they scored the school? be neutral? Again, write things down? Ask the follow up question about you know what the reason was for giving the score, even what the reason is for giving the school the score of a nine or a 10? You want to know why they wouldn't want to recommend your school. But that question is so powerful and telling you what it is how people perceive your your work environment, how people perceive working in your school, and that can give you powerful information about what it is you need to consider a dress or change.

And then the last question that I like to ask is, what will you miss about working here? And What won't you miss? It's a great way to kind of wrap it up and get people thinking about you know, like, I'll miss the relationships or I'll miss you know, Taco Tuesday or whatever it is. Or they'll say now won't miss all those meetings you asked us to go to and it gives them an opera, it gives you an opportunity to see what really mattered to that teacher.

Now, when you're done, take all of your notes, and you want to sit down with you and maybe go through those notes first. 

And then sit down with a fellow administrator. If you have an admin team, assistant principals or other people around, you can certainly sit down with them. But if you are a solo administrator in a building that I would ask another colleague from another building, to sit down with you and kind of look at the results you've gotten, and help you talk through what you need, what those results revealed. 

Now, if you have an especially disgruntled teacher, and they go through the exit interview, and every answer is negative, don't dismiss that I often call those teachers, Canaries, canaries in the coal mine, those are the teachers who even though they're vocal, and they're really disgruntled, and they seem even unreasonable, they are usually the harbingers of of doom to come. I hate to say it so dramatically. But they're the first sign that there is something broken in your culture. And what you want to do is pay very careful attention, for trends for for, you know, you can dig underneath what they're saying, and look for the heart of what they're saying. And then ask yourself, is that true in our building? And don't just dismiss it, take a couple of days, observe, talk to a couple of other teachers and say, you know, I've been wondering there, if there was some people have shared with me that they feel this way? Is that how you feel, and you're not looking, again, for validation, right.

So don't ask it in the needy lover way. Instead, you want to ask it in a way that truly is looking for answers you want to watch, if they're pointing out, you know, the team meetings are really toxic, you want to go sit in a couple of team meetings and see if you can see it from their perspective, see what you may be missing. And when you're done, you want to actually act on what you've learned. You see, the exit interviews are going to give you an opportunity to hear from people who are leaving people who chose not to stay.

And if you're a builder, and you've establish a real vision, mission and core values, then most of your staff, once they go through that process, they're committed to that work, and they're going to stay committed to your school. So if someone chooses to leave, you need to understand why where's the break, where's the leak, some people are going to choose to leave because they're going to say I hear the vision, mission and core values and unbelieving it. That's okay. That's good information that tells you that your vision mission and core values are repelling the wrong people. Therefore they will attract the right people. Great.

Some people are leaving because they felt left out of the process. You need to examine the process and find where the leaks are, what kept them out of the process. Some people are leaving for things that have nothing to do with you. They're leaving because they want to start a family or they're leaving because they want to work closer to home or they're leaving because they got a really incredible opportunity for promotion. Still, you want to listen to that. What are and you want to start asking yourself if people have to leave in order to be promoted. How can I create informal leadership structures here that give people that opportunity to to take on more responsibility and to grow without people having to leave my building, whatever is revealed in your exit interview is going to be important information. And as builders, it's our job to take all of that data and use it as feedback to help us get better.

So your challenge this week, is to think about putting an exit interview process in the work that you're doing. If you have teachers who are leaving, then I would schedule some time with those teachers to sit down in an informal setting. And talk to them ask them some questions, get some information from them that can give you cues about what you need to improve in your school where you still may not be where you still may be missing the mark when it comes to your vision, mission and core values and how you can better support your teachers and create a space where your teachers don't want to leave.

And if you need any additional support or have questions reach out to me on social media, I'm on Facebook, I'm on LinkedIn or I'm also on builder ship University and you know we have a free tier as well. One of the things that you'll find that when you join build a ship University all of these resources that are referred to in the podcast are inside of builder ship University. And again, I don't think I mentioned this at the beginning of the episode, but remember, we're we're opening up a cohort in April and I never told you the website where do you go to sign up? And that is builder ship university.com. Pretty simple buildership university.com. All right.

This week, your challenge is to set up an excellent interview process for your teachers who are leaving this week year so that you can collect data, use it as feedback to help you and your school get better like a builder. 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 university.com and get started writing your school success story today.

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