Do You Boo?
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You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 172.
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Hey Builders, welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host Robyn Jackson. And today's episode is really something I've been thinking about for a while is we're going to talk about something that's been on my mind, it started with a conversation that I had with principal kafele lay on his ap Leadership Academy, that he does, and I was I was, uh, didn't did a conversation with him a couple of weeks ago. And if you haven't listened to it, you really should, it's very cool conversation I love for Rudy kafele. And the conversation was really good one. But it's this idea around whether or not you can be your authentic self in your role. And one of the things that I've been thinking about a lot, especially because when you become a builder, it already makes you stand out a little bit.
Is this idea about whether or not you're free to be who you are, and still be able to be effective in your school?
Or do you have to ball yourself up into shape yourself into a districts idea of what an effective principal is, in order for you to be effective? In order for you to navigate the politics of the school? Are you allowed to be who you are? And can you still find success being who you are. And if I were gonna give this episode a title, the title that keeps coming to mind is simply do you boo. And so we're going to talk about that.
But before we do, I just want to tell you how excited I am to onboard this latest cohort inside of builder ship University. You know, one of the things we do with builders ship University to make sure that people don't get in and get lost is that we bring you in in cohorts. And so our September cohort is getting on board and we onboard it this week. And it's an opportunity for me to kind of meet you, for you to meet me for us to talk about your goals for you to create your individualized success path before you get started working and builder ship University. And then once you become a part of a cohort, instead of having to figure out how do you become a builder? How do you take all these concepts and apply it which can be very overwhelming. What we do is we walk you through the process step by step we have thought about it, we know what things you need to do first, what things you need to focus on later. And so you don't have to think about it at all. Once you join builder, ship University, it's a lot of people listen to the podcast, and they say I want to be a builder, or they read one of my books. And they say yes, I want to be a builder. And then they try to jump in and apply it for themselves. And you can do that. But it's a lot harder because you know you're reading it, you're trying to apply it and you're trying to do the things you need to do to run your schools.
But when you join a builder ship University cohort, you can just relax because for once we understand what your goals are, we help you map out a pathway to success that is uniquely yours, we help you put the right things in place in the right order. So every week and build a ship university, you get an email on Sunday night and it tells you Okay, these are the things you want to be thinking about or focusing on for the week. And that's not 20 hours of work that your unit it's not like you're in school, you're getting assignments, these are the things you need to do to stay on track. And every single week you're you're growing in your mindset, you're you're learning new things, you're building things that you're installing into your school so that your school runs better. So you're getting these little victories every single week, which is why the people in builders University, they're just overwhelmingly showing up with all these wins. I did this this week. And this is the difference it made. And what's nice about all of this is you don't have to think about it you just relax once you're in build a ship University, we invest in you and it becomes we see it as our responsibility to help you be successful so you can just relax and know that you're getting the right work done in the right order. And because you get individualized feedback on your on the work that you're doing, you know you're doing the right work in the right order the right way.
So that's why we don't call Bill distrib University a membershampoo. It's not a membership site. It's a mentorship. Because once you join, we become your mentors. And we mentor you throughout your entire journey until you make your vision a reality. So anyway, the next cohort is opening up at the end of the month. And if you want to be a part of the next cohort go to build your ship university.com, sign up for the waitlist, and we'll notify you when the next cohort opens. And you can join the cohort and just think, you know, October, the first week of October, you could be getting started on this work. And you can relax, you don't have to worry, you don't have to try to figure it out on your own anymore. That part is taken care of you come in, you relax, and we'll take care of you.
All right, so let's talk about this idea of authenticity. Because I see a lot of people struggling with this. On one hand, people are saying you need to be authentic, you need to be who you are, you can't hide from who you are, you have to be who you are. But then there is another group of people who are saying that, yeah, I'd love to be authentic. But I am an aspiring principal. And if I want to get the job, I have to conform to who my district believes I need to be in order to be eligible to be a principal, or if I'm already a principle, I have to conform to what the district wants me to do, or else I lose my position or else I'm ostracize and marginalized. And I'm not other promotions aren't available to me, people don't see me as a viable leader.
And I want to talk about this, because I feel very strongly about this.
And I think that when you would I see a lot of people who are struggling with this, and who are jumping through all the hoops and who are trying to conform, and then they achieve the position they want. But because they have jumped through the hoops, because they've kind of formed, they realized that once they get the position they want, even then they can't be their authentic selves, because the reason they got the position was because they were somebody else and and the people who hired them, were hiring that other person that they were projecting. And so they get trapped by getting what they want, and pursuing what they want, they get trapped, once they get it, and they can't enjoy it, they get they get they can't they still feel trapped. It's like a prison.
And it bothers me because this is what I honestly believe to be true. God has given each of us a special and unique set of gifts, and a special unique personality, and a special unique assignment. And when you are pursuing success, and you and your and you are you are are hiding or or or, or covering up the things that make you unique, the things that make you special, the things that that that God has given you for the assignment that He has for you, then you are cheating the world of something only you can give. You're the only you and and I don't need a carbon copy of somebody else, I already have that person, why would I want to play time, spend time with the invitation? What I need is you what your students need is you what the world needs, is you and a lot of people never take time to think about who they are, what what their divine assignment is in the world. And instead they just pursue success because it's out there. And they cheat the world. They cheat cheat their students and ultimately, they cheat themselves. And so as you can tell, I feel really passionate about it. I'm hoping that today on this episode, I'm speaking to somebody out there who who feels like they're not being their authentic selves. And and hopefully, when you hear this, you'll choose to be your authentic self.
Now, there are a lot of people are out there who are already being their authentic selves to their detriment. So we got to talk about it because there's a balance, there's a fine line, some people like well, you know, look, I'm just gonna be me, and y'all can deal with me however you want. And they are not thinking about their assignment. They're just busy, reveling, and well, I'm just gonna do me and let the chips fall where they may. And they, they're blunting their effectiveness, because they are trying to be themselves without also understanding the assignment that that has been placed on their live. So it's it's it's a it's a balancing act. And so what I wanted to do today was kind of talk about how do you manage that balancing act? And so let's start out with the assignment, right?
Because I think that each of us is equipped for a unique assignment that we have in the world. There's something that that we were put on this earth to do or be and if you don't take time to understand that a lot of times you you get pushed into positions that aren't the right thing for you and I see this so much. I remember when I was first I'm invited to become an administrator. And in my district, we were a part of a cohort of aspiring principals. And we had to go to these trainings and people were talking about why they were there. And what really struck me is the number of people who wanted to be principals, but could not articulate why they want it to be a principle. They, they want it more to be more feel more important. They, they want it to be more successful. And in education, really the the only pathway you have or had at the time as a teacher was, you can be a teacher, you can remember the department chair, you could become an administrator, that was it, then central office, maybe you'll be a superintendent one day, and then you can retire, live the good life, write a book, become a consultant, you're right. I mean, that used to be like what that was the only thing so people who had a desire to be successful, the only pathway was the principalship.
But they never really thought about why they wanted to be a principal.
And I'll be honest with you, being a principal is not for everybody, one of my really good friends in the cohort. With me, she made a decision that I think is one of the most brave and admirable decisions out there, she went through the entire training was on track to being a principal and chose decided that wasn't the life for her and went back into the classroom voluntarily. She wasn't put back there, she knew that there was going to be a stigma attached to it all she washed out the program, she didn't care, because she was clear about her life and about what she wanted. And she knew the principalship wasn't going to give that to her. And being in the classroom was really where she wanted to be. I admire that. And I feel like more people should do that.
But instead, what we do is we we allow ourselves to get pushed along up the up the success ladder, and I should use air quotes the success ladder, without really thinking about is that what we really want to do is that what we're being called to do, and there's no use and becoming a principal, if that's not where you believe you are truly called to be. It's a disservice to your teachers and your students and their families. When you're in the job. And you're going through the motions of doing the job because you're trying to climb the ladder. I see some disturbing trend happening a lot where people you know, spend two seconds in the classroom, and they're like, Okay, I'm going to be a principal. And I want to be a superintendent by the time of 40. Now, I'm not going to be one of these old fogies, shake your hand, you got to pay your dues young man, that's not what I'm thinking. But if you are using this position of being a principal as a stepping stone to something else, then one of your teachers and your students who really need somebody in that position, Who's going to care about them, they need somebody that positions who's who's going to commit to serving them. And if you're using that position to serve yourself, and you're not serving your students and your teachers, well, that's criminal. That's criminal.
And so if you're coming to the principalship, without really having a fully articulated reason for being there, there, there's not a fully articulated why I don't believe you can be truly effective. And I think that's the first step that a lot of people, they want the job for the wrong reason. And so that's the first step, you got to think about it. For a lot of people paying the principal is not the right thing to do. It wasn't for me. And I was good at it, I was I was being promoted very quickly. And, and being rewarded for doing a good job. Just because you can do the job doesn't mean that it's the right place for you. Where I was supposed to be is where I am right now and supporting other people. But that wasn't my wasn't, it wasn't the right place for me. And I wish more people would make that decision.
You know, I talk to people all the time, who even asked me, you know, like, I want to start a consulting business or, you know, I want to write a book. And when I asked them why they don't have a good reason. And I said, well, before you before I can give you advice on how to get your book published or how to start your business. If you don't have a why for doing it, then there's no reason because your y will determine how you approach the work. There's some people who want to be principals because they really care about about serving kids, then you're going to approach your work differently. Some people want to be principals because they want to have a larger impact. Will you approach your work differently? Some people want to be principals because it's the first step towards becoming a superintendent, that's a different that's a different path. Some people want to be principals because they're feeling called to serve on a larger level.
That's a different path.
All of those paths seem very similar, but they're very unique and your approach to your work has to be driven by your why. And I know many people who don't have a good solid, why and then they just kind of make up when they say what everybody expects you to say well, you know I want to serve. So are you know what I have a bigger impact, they don't mean it. But that's, that's what they're saying, the here's the thing, if you don't have a good why for why you're doing this work, then you are already not being authentic. And if you, if you if the baseline of why you were there to do that work isn't real isn't authentic, nothing else about your practice will be. And so a lot of people talk about authenticity, and it's really about, well, I'm just gonna let my personality show that's not Authenticity. Authenticity is knowing why you're there. And then once you understand why you're there, then you can leverage the parts of your personality that you need to leverage in order for you to do the thing that you came to do.
So a lot of people right now who are claiming to be authentic or not, because their Why is not clear. And I wish we had more conversations about this. We don't talk about this a lot. We just assume everybody wants to be a principal, we, we take somebody else's Why try it on, and then and then start wearing it around because it sounds noble. If you don't know your wife, you don't understand why you are there, why you are doing the work you're doing every day, you can't be authentic. I've even made this mistake, even when I started mindsets. You know, I had I had a really clear why I wanted to help every teacher become a master teacher, I believed that. And then over the years, I drifted away from my why I built a business that wasn't in alignment with my why. And let me tell you, it was once I realized that I realized I was trapped, doing work that I was good at. But I didn't enjoy and it wasn't my authentic self. And slowly but surely I had to bring myself back into alignment with my why. And then the work became interesting and fun again, it's still hard work that I you know, the travel is brutal.
The trolls are brutal that they're you know, they're they're out there. But because I know my why. And my why now is very simple. Every kid deserves to be successful in school. And the best way to do that as a given great teachers. And the best way to give them great teachers is to build a great school where great teachers can can thrive. That's my why I'm clear about that. Now that allows me to take anything I do. And make sure that it's in alignment with what why it helps me make good decisions. And more importantly, it helps me stay authentic. And it helps me deal with the trolls and deal with the criticism and even deal with the travel. Because I know my why.
And a lot of us have not taken time to think about that we can say oh, my wife, I love kids. Really, I used to say that myself. And what I realized is Yeah, I love kids. But that's not my y. That's not my y. What I love is good pedagogy. What I love is is is thinking about a school, that concert that where every kid can be successful. That's not the same thing as loving kids. And for a long time. I used to feel really guilty about that, because you're supposed to love kids. I loved my students. Yes.
But that wasn't my why.
And wasn't my why. But the way that I expressed that love for kids was giving them a really good rigorous education that that would open up choices and options for them that that change the trajectory of their lives. That's how I express my love for them. But what was driving me was being able to do that not because I just loved kids. So think about you. Yeah, you may love kids. But But why do you love kids? What is it about kids that you love? What is it about kids that you really want to do? How do you express that love for kids? Maybe it's because you really love organizational management, no shame in that. Say that, admit that to yourself, and then build really good strong organizations. Maybe you are coming to this and your real why is that, that you really like helping people be their best selves, whether the those are students or those are staff members or families say that the better you understand your why the more authentic you instantly become in your work. And the more you're able to make good decisions about what your next career move should be because you are authentically in alignment with your why this is the first part. The second part, let's talk about your personality. And I was reading something the other day and it said that you can really effectively hide who you are for only about three months. And then after three months, the real use starts coming out. So even the people who are thinking like well, you know, I'm going to, you know, put on put on my personality so that I can I can be what I think a model principal should look like. You can only keep it up for about three months. And by the way, it's exhausting to do that.
So how do you bring your authentic self to the table?
Especially in a city question where the district is discouraging you bring your authentic self with the district wants you to conform to being who they think you need to be, in order for you to find success in the district. Well, the first part of that is settled. Because if your goal is to be successful in the district, wrong goal, but if you are driven by a true y that you're not, so you're not so bullied by you got to conform to this or that in order to be successful. And then I'm going to share with you what I do. Now, I know this is not necessarily something that is right for everybody, but I can only speak from my truth. And so I believe you go in, and if you're pursuing your why, and you are cultivating your gifts, in service, to your why that is not only your authentic self, that's your best self. And that allows you to bring your best self to work every day. And when you bring your best self to work every day, and you know that you're giving your best at the service of your why you don't feel the pressure to conform, the people will feel the pressure to conform, or they feel the pressure because first of all, they don't have a good solid, why for doing the work.
And secondly, they're not bringing their best selves, they're not committed to their best selves, they're committed to whatever version of themselves, they need to be to get something, get some goal, right. So if you're not committed to bring your best self, then you are subject to being anybody, anybody that anybody wants you to be. Let me give you a real example for this. I don't know if I told you this story before.
But I remember when I was doing my AP training, and it was, you know, academic hazing that I don't know another way to put it. I mean, you were just kind of like, put through your paces, you had to submit something, a package every six weeks, people came and reviewed your packet, you had to feed people, then you had to sit there and take it while they critiqued your performance. It was grueling. And my colleagues were really getting hazed. I mean, people were having, you know, 200 Page packets, they had to you had to get it to all these people, you know, six weeks, I mean, two weeks ahead of time, and then they would just sit in the meeting and pick apart every aspect of your professionalism, while eating the donuts you paid for. And they were taking it every single month. I remember I was working with one woman in particular. And her principal was just, I mean, she was so cruel to her and, and so demoralizing to her. And I was like, how are you taking it? She says, Look, I want to be a principal one day, and I gotta get through this process. And that's the way she saw it. And I always disagreed with that.
So I remember when I was going through the process, the first time I tried to conform, and do it their way, get the packet, make sure that the snacks were you know, like these elaborate like spreads for people. And you know, yes, sir. No, sir, three bags full, sir. And I got through the situation with flying colors. But when I reflected on the situation, at the first meeting, I said, you know, what, if this is supposed to be about my professional development, if this is supposed to be preparing me to be a good principal, one day, it didn't do it. What it did is it taught me how to kiss, but it taught me how to squeeze myself into a mold that other people want me to be. And if I really, really, really want to make the difference that I believe I was put here to make, I'm not going to make a difference being that person. So I made a decision. And it was not an easy decision. And so I don't want to make it light take you know, I don't want you to take it lightly. Because in my district, if you got the wrong people mad, then kiss your career. Goodbye, right? So I didn't take it lightly. But the next meeting, and every meeting thereafter, I sat down with my team. And I said, Listen, I want to be a good principal. And here's why. And if I understand this program correctly, your role has two parts. One is to refine and shape my practice so that I can be a good principal, and also to test me to make sure that that I'm developing the skills that will make me a good principal. So let's take a look at how this is working. And the way it's working is not allowing us to do that. And I'd like to renegotiate, I know this is the process and the system. I'm not trying to throw that away. But how can we make this system work so that we both get what we need from the process, you get information that lets you know that I can be trusted with the school, and I get support and training and feedback that makes me better at my job now, and prepares me for the principalship one day.
Now, this is a scary conversation.
But ultimately, isn't that what a principal supposed to do is to have those hard conversations and to negotiate those things to do to do that? Isn't that like, what the whole role of a principal is supposed to be?
They were a little taken aback, I'll be honest. And you know, I could have gone well, who do you think you are? You know, from them? But because I put it that way, how do we how do we make sure that this process serves us both? They thought about it for a while, and I was prepared and they put up, who do you think you are? And I would say, I'm an aspiring principal. Do you want to principal one day to run schools? Who's effective at jumping through hoops? Or do you want a principal who is going to make brave decisions that are best for kids and are going to do right for kids in a respectful way? If I think I just did in this conversation, I was prepared for that. But I didn't have to have that conversation with them. They said, Okay, well, what are your ideas? And I came with some ideas, they pushed back on some, no, we still need this. No, we still need that, yes, we need to do this. And then those meetings, instead of being something that I dreaded, every single month, were really designed, they weren't, they were great, I was getting great feedback, I wasn't offended by the feedback, the feedback, you know, I helped them show I showed them how to give me feedback that actually made me better at the job. And then at the last meeting, they said, All right, the last meeting, instead of are setting the agenda, you set the agenda. And then they they gave me the reins for the thing. And by the time I was done, I was prepared to be a principal, so much so that they were like, You know what, instead of skipping your 30, instead of doing a third year, we want to skip you ahead. So the moment that I made a decision to be my authentic self, I actually got further along than I would have, if I had folded up my authentic self put her someplace else, and been some sort of, you know, some sort of carbon copy version of what I assumed they wanted from me as a principal.
Same thing is true for you. Even those of you who are principals now, and you go to those principals meetings, and, and you feel like you can't be who you are, and you can't show your vulnerability. And I get that I mean, you have to be very careful and strategic. That's one of reasons why build a ship University, we have office hours, because if you can't be vulnerable and share your ears, your stresses, your worries, your concerns, in your district, amongst your colleagues, you can come to build a ship University, it's a safe place, we support you, we build you up so that when you go back out into the world, yours, you know, you're better as a part of that. And it's totally confidential. So I get that. But the idea that you can be strategically vulnerable, the idea that, that you can be who you are that you can advocate the idea that, that when a system or process isn't working or serving your kids, that you can come to the table as an equal, not somebody who's you know, Mother Mae eye, patent hand, but as an equal as a colleague, equally devoted to serving kids, and bring your ideas to the table, and do that in a way that people can hear those ideas, respect those ideas, and implement those ideas and respect you as a result. That is totally possible. So if you're feeling like today, you're not being your true self, I'm not talking about, you know, just letting it all hang out burping in the middle of lunch, you know, using, you know, using a lot of profanity in meetings, because hey, I'm just going to be who I am coming to work, you know, in your, you know, in the clothes you wore last night club? Oh, yeah, I'm not talking about that, right. But I'm talking about feeling as if you can bring your ideas to the table as a as a as an equal. And as a colleague, feeling as if you don't have to do things like everybody else. If it doesn't serve your kids feeling as if you can, you can brute you can. You can, you can approach your work and be a an authentic human being, instead of hiding who you really are, because you're afraid that if you let it out, people are going to ding you for it, or people aren't going to support you. If you want to do that. I'm just telling you today you should.
But the way that you become free to be able to do that is having a good solid why.
For the work that you're doing, knowing why you're there. And then secondly, making sure that given your assignment, given the reason why you're there, that you are continuing to build and cultivate your best self. And then you can walk out into competence. And nothing anybody says can deter you. You can walk out into confidence to be who you are, and know that nobody is going to beat you up for doing that you can walk out in confidence and be who you are and know that you can be effective because you're clear about your why and you're bringing your best self to the table.
And that, my friends, is how you become authentic like a builder. I hope this was helpful and I'll talk to you next time.
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