Could your school survive without you?


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You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 179. 

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 faith. 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 I want to ask you a really important question.

Could your school or district survive without you? 

The reason I want to ask that question is because I spend a lot of time and in forums for for school principals and leaders. And there seems to be this this ethos that happens a lot in leadership, where people feel like they have to be the hero of their school, I'm going to go into the school and I'm going to transform this school. I'm going to go into the school and I'm going to save this school from failure. And a lot of it has to do with I think the teacher movies we you know, we watched when we were younger. You know, I remember thinking, you know, when I became an administrator, I had to be Joe Clark, I don't you know, walk around in a bullhorn, I didn't have a literal Borel bullhorn, unlike some people I know who did go by a bullhorn. But I had a, I had that mentality that I had to come in and save the school. And so there's a mentality that we have in this profession, that whether you're a teacher, or whether you are an administrator, or whether you're a superintendent, that, that we have to come in and rescue a school, that our job is to be in charge of everything to, to take over to take ownership over every hidden thing, the buck stops with me. And the challenge with that is that if you do that, if you build a school around who you are, what happens when you leave? Can your school still survive? Can your school survive without you?

Now, before we jump into that, I have something really exciting to tell you about. Remember last time, I teased that we had something really cool happening, and it's going on right now. And can I tell you just how incredible it's been those of you who are in the 100% vision challenge with us, then you are seeing the results, you're seeing that people are starting to have these breakthroughs already. And we're only halfway through the challenge. And so if you have not joined the challenge yet, we still have one more day of the challenge where we're going to have the trainings live. And then we're going to give you the weekend to get caught up. So if you are late to the party, and you still want to join, you can just go to builder, ship, builder ship And you can still get signed up now you have to hurry because after next week, we are taking down everything, all the training videos, all the homework, all the bonus training videos, were taking all of that down. And so you'll miss out on this challenge. But you still have time right now, let me tell you about some of the things that are happening inside this group. First of all, people who have been really discouraged in their schools are getting re energized because the work is so exciting now that they have their 100% vision, people who have have kind of stifled their vision because they didn't feel like they were allowed to be the ones who are making their vision, they're now speaking up and speaking out and, and getting in touch with work they really want to be doing. So the motivation, the excitement, the energy inside of this group is just in credible and you can still be a part of it, just go to builder ship

Now, in addition to the challenge, the doors are opening at the end of the week for our next cohort for build your ship University. And so after going through the challenge, you've got your vision and now you want to know how to make that vision a reality. Then you can still join builder ship University in this this next cohort now we're getting towards the end of the year. So I'm not sure how many more cohorts are going to open up this year. So this is one of your last opportunity this year to join the cohort and let me tell you why you should when you are inside a builder ship university, you don't have to figure it out on your own anymore. You know you've been listening to this podcast at And you've you're, you're listening, because the ideas around builder ships speak to you there, you're intrigued by them you, you like this idea of being a builder and maybe you even have by book and you are reading stop leading start building and you're saying, You know what this is something I really want to do. And then you're trying to figure it out for yourself, build a ship University takes that away from you don't have to worry about any of that. Instead, you just go through the process, and the process is mapped out step by step.

So once you join builder, ship university, you can relax, because you don't just worry about things anymore, you don't have to figure things out, you get all the support you need, we have taken this whole process of, of creating the kind of school where 100% of your students can be successful, and we broken it down into baby steps one by one by one, so that every single week, you are moving closer and closer to that 100% vision.

But without the pressure and stress of having to figure it out on your own, you can just relax into the process. 

And as long as you are going through the process, and you can do it at your own pace. But as long as you're you're staying involved and engaged in that process, you will make progress, you will start experiencing wins along the way, you will start seeing a change in your school, you will start feeling like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders because you're not carrying all of this by yourself anymore. So if you want to be a part of the next cohort doors open at the doors open this Sunday. And so you can just go to build leadership Click on the link to join the cohort when you if your doors are not open yet, like if you do it before Sunday, you'll be put on the waitlist. As soon as doors are open, you'll get an email to let you know the doors are open. And you can go ahead and join and join this cohort so that you can get started right now, putting those things in place.

One final reminder, builders lab, we still have tickets available. Some people are not quite ready for the commitment that builders ship University will take but you still need some sort of shot in the arm some sort of some sort of like energy boost so that you can get through the rest of the year. And if that's you, then you need to come to builders lab because for three days, it's high energy it's it's you get you walk out of builders lab re energized motivated. And what we do in builders lab that's different than a builder ship University is builders lab is really focused on micro slicing.

At Builders lab, we help you if you're feeling like you're just overwhelmed by a whole bunch of problems, and you're not sure which one that you need to tackle first. 

And you're just you don't feel like you have any energy or any time to do the work or build a ship university. When you come to builders lab, we're going to help you weed through all of those problems and find the one that's the most important to solve right now. So rather than trying to do all the things, you're going to just focus on the one thing that will make the biggest difference for the rest of this school year. And then we're going to help you figure out how to solve it in 90 days, not mitigated, not make it a little less painful, solve it remove it eliminated once and for all. So if you are ready to kind of start doing the systematic work of becoming a builder builder should be universities for you. Once you join, you can relax, because we help you throughout it all you get them. It's called a mentorship, not a group program. Because we mentor you through the entire process and make sure you have everything you need to be successful. If you're not ready for that, because you've got a lot of stuff going on. And you just really need to get to the root of things and and just feel like you can just get your head above water, then come to builders lab. Because over the course of that three days, that's what we're going to help you do when you leave, you're going to feel such a sense of not just excitement, but of relief. Because you'll know what you need to do between now and the end of the school year to make the school year successful. You'll know the things you need to work on, you'll know the things you need to ignore, you'll have a system for how you can systematically eliminate the biggest pain in your rear in so that you can have a successful school year. And if you want to come to builders lab, then you need to go to mindset That's mindset builder's dash lab. Okay. So let's talk about this question.

And this is a question that you know, a lot of people struggle with, right? 

Because, on one hand, we want to believe that we're making a difference. But on the other hand, you know, if we if we, if we unwrap everything in our school around us if everything in our school revolves around us, what happens if you leave? Can your school survive without you? And unfortunately, in a lot of cases, the answer is no, which is why schools are ricocheting back and forth between success and failure over and over again because they get a really great principal the principal builds a whole system around him or herself. And then that principle gets promoted or moved to another school. And then the school is left reeling, and the next principal walks in and tries to kind of pull things back together. And so you eat, it becomes this cult of personality rather than a strong school.

I remember I worked with a principal once, and she had been the principal that school for, I don't know, like 19 years, no one in that school had been hired by anyone else. But her she'd hide all of her staff. That's how long she'd been there. And they were like a family, they were close knit. But the problem was, because they were like a family, they had dysfunctions, like a family. And they fought like family, and they had long standing grudges like family, and they let things go that they shouldn't have let go like family. And so the culture on the surface looked like a very close knit culture. But the culture was a very dysfunctional culture, because the culture was about the personalities. And it wasn't about serving kids. I've been in other schools where they have these charismatic leaders who come in, and, and, and clean house, and then and transform the school. And then because of the good job that they've done, that charismatic leader gets promoted. And the next principle comes in. And everybody automatically resents the next principle, because the next principle isn't the charismatic leader that left. So the next principal has a harder road to hoe. And because the charismatic leader was holding the school together, when they leave, the school begins to slowly but surely fall apart. And while it feels really good for four years to get your school exactly like you want it, to make it work for you. Are you being selfish by doing that? Because, because if it works for you, what happens when you leave?

One of the reasons why I think it's really important to develop 100% vision that is about the kids, and not about you, is because when you start pursuing that 100% vision, what you're doing is pursuing something bigger than you. One of the things I tell builders all the time is that you need to be stubborn on the vision, flexible in the details, because it's not just you building your school, it's everybody. And so while you are responsible for setting the vision for where we're going, what does 100% success look like for our kids, it's everybody's responsibility to make that vision happen. It's everybody's responsibility to move the school forward in a way that actually helps you achieve and realize that vision. And if you do it, right, people keep moving towards the vision, even after you're gone. People still work the systems that you've put in place, even after you're gone. Your school is strong. And and I would argue even that the strength of your school is not how good it is when you're there, but how good it remains when you leave.

And unfortunately, there are a lot of people who are building cults of personality

But they're not building schools that can last schools that sustain schools that are are agnostic as to who's in charge, because you've put systems in place that make the school work no matter what. People get mad at me. When I do this, when I'm talking about this in live workshops, because I say all the time that you know your school should be like Chick fil A, and I've even talked about this in the podcast. And so forgive me if I offend you, but but here's Lee, hear me out. Here's what I mean. So when you go to a Chick fil A egg, I don't care what Chick fil A you go to. When you go you get great service, right? I said to my husband all the time that if we had put the COVID vaccine distribution in the hands of Chick fil A, every, you know we would have eliminated COVID A long time ago, everybody who wanted a vaccine could have had a vaccine, it would have been all over because they're just that efficient. And so you go into Chick fil A drive thru and you see the long line you're like, oh my goodness, instead you're like, well, they've got me and people get in the long line because they know they're going to be taken care of when you place your order. I don't care who you're giving that order to I don't care what state you're in. I don't care what county your city are in. They're going to say my pleasure after they take your order. Your order is going to be right. And wait the reason that Chick fil A can do that is not because each individual Chick fil A has such a stellar manager they don't. The reason they can do that is because the systems in Chick fil A are so tight that it really doesn't matter who's in in Drive thru window or who's behind the counter, you're going to get excellent service because they've designed the systems to be able to do that.

Well think about your school, if your school only works, because you have this teacher or that teacher, because you're there, then what have you really done, you've done nothing, you've built nothing because it will fall apart. As soon as that teacher leaves as soon as you leave. As soon as this group of teachers leaves, it falls apart, you know, what really makes a school impervious to crisis. If you build a school that no matter who is in that classroom, you know, you're guaranteed, kids are going to still perform and do well, no matter who is in the main office, your guarantee that the school is going to continue to operate smoothly and move forward. I talk to a lot of superintendents, and they're always looking for that superstar principal, that that stellar principal and great if you can find that person, great. But let me tell you the truth, that person is going to, they're not going to stay because if they're really a superstar, then they're going to be called into to some other position sooner or later. But the second thing is if your whole plan for moving your district forward, relies on Superstar principals, you're in trouble. And the same thing is true for principals. If your whole plan for what's going to move your school forward, relies on having stellar teachers, you're in trouble. Here's one that you can count on, though. If your school plan is relying on the fact that no matter what teachers in the classroom, you can guarantee that the kids are still going to learn why because you are a builder, and you know how to build great teachers, even if they don't start that way. And it almost doesn't matter who comes to your school because whoever comes to your school, you're going to help that teacher become a master teacher, and you're going to help that teacher make sure that every child in that classroom is successful. Now you've done something, right. We we get so caught up in it has to be about us. No, it doesn't.

In fact, if your school is all about you, you've trapped yourself. 

Because if your school is all about you, nobody can make a decision unless they come to you first, you know, exhausting that is, if your school is all about you, you can't ever leave because you know that as soon as you leave, it all falls apart. But if you can build a school, that's, that's about something bigger, your vision, your mission, your core values, if you can put systems in place in your school, so that no matter who is in the classroom, or who is in the main office, kids are still being served, and you're moving closer and closer towards your vision, if you have IT systems in place in your school, that that that work, even when you're not there.

All of a sudden, you're free to do the things that very few principals ever have the opportunity to do, you're free to think strategically, you're free to, to think about the kids that that normally get overlooked, you're free to, to to, to actually get in classrooms and work with teachers and help your teachers grow. You're free to think about new programs and innovative things that you could be doing in your school that separate your school from every other school out there, you're free to start thinking about and thinking about your own professional development and figuring out how you're going to grow and reading and learning new ideas and bringing those new ideas back to your school. you free yourself up when your school can run without you to be a better principal.

So what's it going to be? Are you going to be a leader and as a leader, you're going to build a cult of personality around you.

You're going to be a leader who swoops in and rescues a school and traps yourself in the process. Are you are you going to be a leader who is so necessary that everything falls apart? If you're not there? Are you going to be a builder? You're going to build a school where everybody feels empowered. You know, the problem with with you being the superhero is that your staff feels less and less empowered. But when you're a builder and you're and you're building a school that can that can survive without you. Your staff feels empowered, your staff feels energized your your staff feels like they own a part of the process, because they do so they're free to get creative. They're free to bring new ideas to the table because while you're stubborn on the vision, you're flexible in the details, and so you help people step up. I see A lot of times where people do these things where they, you know, there was talking about, we got to find roles for teacher leaders, and we got to make more teacher leadership opportunities in schools. And a lot of cases, those teacher leadership opportunities are really artificial constructs that represent more work for teachers rather than true opportunities to to take more ownership and to be more in charge and to do more things that move the school forward.

When you're a builder, you you don't, don't worry about that, because every teacher is going to be stepping into a bigger role, because every teacher has a part to play in achieving your vision. So your vision doesn't just exist in the main office, your vision exists school wide. And then what happens is, the more empowered your teachers become, the more they feel free to empower your students. So now, it's not just your teachers owning your vision, it's not just you owning your vision your students and their families on the vision to and everybody is working towards that. And so when you put systems in place, it's not like pulling teeth and dragging people to your goal or forcing people into a system, they're embracing that system, because they feel empowered to be a part of something bigger, you're moving your vision forward. And then the more that they begin to embrace, the more they begin to step up. And then the less you have to do, because instead of dragging everybody to the goal, on your back, you now everybody moving to that goal, you've invited people to join you, they start working with you, and the work feels good, because it's not just you. And most importantly, when you leave your school, it's a better place. It's better than you found it.

I'll tell you this. This was hard for my ego. 

So I just have to admit this. And I was just saying this to one of our builders the other day that I was talking about this to Scott and and, you know, it's it's hard, it's still hard for me to admit. But there's here's the reality, I remember that I when I left my last administrative role. And I started mine steps, I went back to the school, probably about five years later. And since then they had had two principals since I'd love to they were on I think their third principals since I left. And I first of all was gratified to see some of the things that we had put in place when I was there still working, still operating. But it bruised my ego a little bit because nobody remembered that, that I was a part of putting those things in place. It was just the way we did things. In fact, people couldn't remember when we didn't do things this way. It was just the way we do things here now. And then it happened to me again, I was I had worked with the school district as a consultant and I had been working with a group of schools that were failing in the district over the course of three years to get them out of improvement, and to get them moving forward. And we put some of these same things that I talked to you about every single week in place this, you know, this builder ship model, although we didn't call it that. And we didn't know that it wasn't a whole model. There were pieces of it. And we were putting those pieces in place. And I was invited back to the district for something and I can't remember what. And while I was there, the one of the people that worked within the district, I was talking to that person and this the new superintendent came up. And so she introduced me to the new superintendent. And she was telling the superintendent about what what I did. And she said the new superintendent looked over at superintendents often do IT consultants, you know, they're like, Okay, you just want a job. And so she was trying to tell me why they didn't need me in the district. And she says, Well, you know, we're doing really well in a district. Because at one of our high schools, were doing X, Y, and Z. And I was like, yeah, that's that I did that I showed them how to do that. Oh, well, one of our middle schools were doing a, b and c. And I'm like, Yeah, that was another one of the schools I was working with, we put that in place. And what happened was, even though we had been working with that district for three years, the things that they were putting in place were so embedded in the culture at this point, they no longer remembered it wasn't like the mind steps way or the builder ship way. It was just their way. And I'll tell you, my ego took a beating for a long time until I thought about it.

What better legacy could I leave than to to, to help show people how to do something so well, that they own it?

It belongs to them? And, and it's so embedded in their culture, that they don't even remember that I was the one that showed him how to do it. What better legacy could I leave because that's going to last longer than I do? Same thing is true for you. What are the things that makes your 100% vision so powerful is that by stating that allow, you have begun a legacy journey. And while it may feel good to get the accolades, oh, you rescued this school, oh, you bought this programming, oh, look at how you turn things around, those things don't last. And then a few years, you're forgotten, along with all the reforms that you bought into the school because as soon as the next person comes into the school, they're going to bring their own set of reforms and yours are gone. And the more attached they are to your name, the more likely they are to be discarded, right. Because there's a new sheriff in town, we, we have a new way of doing things. But when you build when you put the things in place, that that you learn and build a ship University, how to put in place the systems that you put in place, the builder ship systems, when you build a new culture, where everybody owns the vision, and everybody has a piece to play in that vision, when you start putting systems in place that move you systematically towards your vision, when you start creating a culture where 100% of your students are successful, and you won't settle for anything less, it becomes bigger than you if it comes true transformation. And, and when you leave, you know that you've left your school better than you wouldn't when you came. And even if they don't remember your name, the true legacy is the school still does the things that that that that you taught it how to do, the systems that you put in place still work. And more importantly, the kids are still thriving, not just some of the kids, but all of the kids. So you have to decide what do you want to be? Do you want to be here on a cape that soon gets forgotten? Do you want to be a legacy builder leaves places better, because you are part of it. Even if they don't remember your name. My hope today is that you'll choose choose something bigger. While today is that you'll choose to be to be elected legacy builder that you'll choose to leave a legacy that you'll choose to build a school that can survive without you. Because that's how you not only impact kids today, that's how you impact kids in perpetuity. Because you decided to instead of building a cult of personality, you decided to build a true legacy. Like a builder. 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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