My 5 Biggest Lessons of 2022
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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 188.
Welcome to the School Leadership Reimagined podcast...
where we rethink what's possible to transform your school. If you're tired of settling for small wins and incremental improvement, then stay tuned to discover powerful and practical strategies for getting every teacher in your school moving towards excellence. Now, here's your host, Robyn Jackson.
Hello there, and welcome back to another episode of School Leadership Reimagined. I'm your host Robyn Jackson, And as we approach the end of the year, we are being inundated with all of these top 10 lists the top 10 films for the year, the top 10 songs you listen to on Spotify, the top 10 moments in pop culture. And so not that I'm jumping on the bandwagon. But all of those lists got me a little reflective. And I thought we would spend our time together today, kind of talking about the top five lessons that that I've personally learned this year, because I think that there is some value in those lessons that that can really support you.
This has been a weird year for me, because the word that we chose here in mind steps at the beginning of the year was the word focus. And this year has been really about letting go of a lot of false beliefs that I've had about schools about what it means to be successful, about, about support about what schools really need. And it's also had me challenged some of the beliefs that I've had about what I needed what what I needed to be doing right now. And to really get focused in on doing the thing that I really want to do. This was the year that we we have really kind of leaned into our vision and our mission, our vision is to help every principle we serve, achieve 100% success for their students in their schools in three years or less.
That's our vision.
And the reason that we want to do that is that we honestly believe that every child deserves to be successful in school. It's, it's a belief that has been a through line of my career. But I don't know that I've had the kind of focus that I have had this year since I was a teacher when I was a teacher, I was really focused on that that was my work. And that helped me be a good teacher. And then along the way, I think I lost some of that focus. When I went into administration, when I started working with administrators, there's so many other things that can distract you from that goal. And I have often fallen victim of those same distractions. And so this was the year that I really got back to that focus. And so it's been an incredible year. And I've learned some really amazing lessons that I that I'd like to share with you.
Now before I do, I want to kind of tease something that's happening. Starting in January, we are going to be making a huge announcement. So you need to look out for an email, I've been kind of telling you for a while that we've been working all you know, November and December building and developing something that is really going to be a game changer. And one of the things that I really want to do this year is to provide more opportunities for deeper engagement. And so we are we are upgrading builders ship University to make that experience even more meaningful. I, I kind of I'm so proud of builders ship university about the work that the builders are doing inside about the program itself. It's incredible. And I'm not saying that I'm being braggadocious in any way that has represented a lot of work. And we built that alongside of our OG builders, our original builders, our founding builders, we built that together and I have an incredible team that is putting in a lot of work to really make that experience unlike anything that I've ever seen. I wish I had had built a ship university when I was a principal I would have just or I wouldn't have I wouldn't have a principal when I was an assistant principal and I was thinking about the principalship I think build a ship university might have helped me stay in administration for a little while longer because the potential of what you can do once you understand the principles of builder ship is just limitless. And so anyway, I think I got off track because I was talking about builder ship University and I started gushing about that We have something incredible coming that is going to, we're going to be offering something, and it's going to be absolutely free. And it's going to see I'm telling too much. Anyway, we have a big announcement coming in January. And it is, you do not want to miss this, this is the first time we're ever doing an opportunity like this, it's going to be incredible. And you need to watch out for that announcement coming in January.
And that's all I can say about it.
Alright, so let's talk about these five big lessons. One of the first lessons that I learned this year, you know, kind of speaking of that, that word up focus is addition. by subtraction, addition by subtraction. A few years ago, one of my mentors introduced me to this phrase, and it sounds contradictory, but it is so powerful. And the idea around it is that when you take away things that that are not adding value, you remove things, you create space, for the things that really do create value in your life in your work. And I have noticed that this year, we made some very painful decisions this year, one of the decisions we made was that we were going to close down, be free. And I've been committed from the very beginning when I first started mind steps to always have a very vigorous free offering. And so we created bu free and we put all these resources in there because we wanted people to have access to all these resources. And then we realized that doing that was actually hurting people not helping them because we're busy, you're you have a lot being thrown at you. The last thing you need is more resources, what you need a support, to help you use those resources, implement them, and to see a difference in that. And we weren't providing that with be free. And so we closed it down. But the moment we made that decision to close it down, because it was not in alignment with with what we were doing. It opened up space for this thing that we're going to be doing in January. And so by taking something away, we created space for something that is significantly better. And if I had held on to that thing and said no, we can't do it, because you know, I want to make sure I'm giving something, if I had done that, then I never would have had the space to do something even better. And the same thing is true for you. There are things I guarantee it, there are things that you are doing in your in your school right now, in the day to day work, your personal work that you really should not be doing. It's not adding any value, you're doing it out of habit, you're doing it because it's what's always been done. But if you were to take a critical look at that thing, you realize it's not creating value, it's not adding value to you to the people you serve. And if you took that away, it may feel painful, because it's something you've always done, it's something you really believe you shouldn't be doing. But taking that away, actually creates more space, just like a like a school example.
Alright, so while I was working the principal recently, and one of the things that she was really doing was she said, you know, in our district, we have to get into five classrooms a day. And I need to be getting into five classrooms a day. And so she's, you know, killing herself to get into these five classrooms a day. So what are you doing when you get into classrooms? Well, I have this observation form I give and I tried to do glows and grows. And I you know, I try to leave them something positive. And then I asked the question, is it changing instruction? She couldn't answer it. So in some cases, it is it is I mean, I guess you know, is I see some teachers who really, you know, they appreciate the glows and grows and I see them making an effort. Other teachers, you know, they haven't gotten moved yet. So you're spending, you're killing yourself, trying to get to five classrooms a day? Do we have a system about what classrooms? Well, you know, I try to make sure I circulate through the entire staff every couple of weeks. So, you know, just kind of go down the list and see who I haven't seen in a while. Is is that? Is that the right timing for visits? Do people need to see you? And when she really thought about that? She said frankly, no, sometimes people haven't had an opportunity to really practice before I'm back in their classrooms, giving them more feedback. And then I said it's the feedback focused or are you basing it on what you see that day? And she said, Well, basically is what I see that day. And I said, Okay, so one day, you might tell somebody, hey, you need to, you know, do a better job of calling on students, a variety of students. And the next time you go in, you might say, Hey, I noticed that the students were some students were distracted while you were working with one group and the next time you go and you might say, Hey, I noticed that the that the level of questions in the classroom were low level questions. So Every time you're going in, you're giving teachers a new thing to work on. And you're going getting in there every couple of weeks. And so every couple of weeks, every time you show up, you've represent more work for me, I haven't had time to really get good at the other thing, or you're not even giving me feedback on the other thing that you told me to work on last time. You're just showing up and piling on. Is that moving instruction in your school? When she said, No, I said, so why don't you let go of five classrooms a day? But have to get into classrooms? IE, yeah, you use you need to get into classrooms. But you don't have to get in a five day there's nothing magic about the number five. And you don't have to get to your whole staff every two weeks. There's nothing magic about that. Well, they need to see me I need to be visible. I mean, why? Why do they need to see you what is being visible doing what they need to know, I'm involved, is that the only way and so we started really challenging the assumptions that she had. And we realized that five classrooms a day was something that she had been told was good leadership, but it wasn't impacting instruction. And once she let go of this idea that I have to be in five classrooms today, I have to be visible, I have to get through my entire staff every two weeks, it created space for much more strategic looking at our staff, we sat down, we did the teacher dashboard, and we went through and we identified what teachers need what support and then we found ways to give the teachers the the feedback and support they needed on a schedule that actually worked for those teachers. And instead of randomly dropping by classrooms, every time she walked into the classroom, she walked in with a sense of purpose, it was intentional, and the visits yielded way more growth in the teachers and the teachers were way more receptive. When she came in, they were excited about her coming in, because instead of giving them random advice she was following up and and seeing how they were doing instead of giving them just a random list of glows and grows, she really honed in on the thing, they needed to do the most in order for them to see the biggest progress in their work with students. And so by letting go of this idea that I have to get into five classrooms a day, she was able to create the space for much more strategic and intentional classroom visits that had her in classrooms, some days and klaten. Not in classrooms. Other days, sitting down and working with teachers create a space for her to really impact the instruction in her school.
So what I'd love to challenge you to do today is think about, think critically about what you are doing what is happening in your school. And then ask yourself the question, Is this really adding value, and if not, be brave enough, courageous enough to let it go. Because when you take that out of the equation, you create space for something better addition by subtraction.
All right, lesson number two is you need a mentor, that you've heard me talk about mentors over the years, and I've been so blessed. I've had some in credible mentors. And the thing about having mentors, and by the way, I've paid for mentors, I've had a few better free, but for the most part throughout my career, I have paid for mentors. And let me tell you why that's important. So first of all, sometimes you don't even get access to certain mentors unless you you know, you paid to be a part of their program or pay to study with them. But there's something about the act of paying for mentor that puts skin in the game, it really helps me think carefully because, you know, paying for paid some significant paid 1000s of dollars per year to work with a particular mentor. And so I might feel lazy, but then I start thinking about how much money I'm paying. And all of a sudden, I'm like, You know what, I better get better do some work, because I'm paying for this. So there's something about doing that that creates.
It creates a sense of commitment and accountability that often isn't the case when you're just kind of hanging out with mentors.
So throughout my career, I've had mentors, and when I first started thinking about going into administration, one of the first mentors I had wasn't even somebody in administration. He was outside of administration. He was a he was a businessman that was doing some volunteer work in the school. And I met him at a conference. He had some really good insights. And so I asked him, could I buy him breakfast one day or lunch, take them to lunch? And he said, Sure. And we took him to lunch and asked all kinds of questions and he gave me insight. And because I invested in him buying him lunch, he began to invest in me important to me. And then we started meeting once a month and I would buy him breakfast he liked I hop I'd take them out. I hop via breakfast, we talk and then that that opened up access to his genius that helped me look at school administration differently and ultimately helped me when I decided to start mine steps. From there, I had other mentors, I remember there was a parent at the school that I worked with who was a venture capitalist, and was brilliant. And again, I would take her to lunch, she would give me advice and insight, she became one of our first members of our advisory council when we started mine steps. And from then on out, I began to pay more and more and more to have access to mentors.
Now, here's the thing, not everybody should be your mentor, you have to be careful, right. And I think that paying for mentor helps you be more strategic, like you're not just randomly listening to people's advice, you are being very intentional about finding that advice. But so so the first thing you have to think about is what do I want to do? You got to get very clear about that. What is it that I want to do in my career, my life, what is it I really want to accomplish, and then you find someone who's already accomplished something that you would like to accomplish. And then you go and study with them, you go, you go invest in their in their courses, or you buy a VIP day, or you you know, buy their book, whatever you go study with that person. And here's why. When you have a mentor, because they've already been where you're going, they shorten your learning curve, right? So I've heard somebody say, you can get 10 years in 10 minutes, right. So somebody who spent 10 years of their lives figuring it out, they can sit down and explain to you what you need to do in 10 minutes. So you don't have to spend the next 10 years figuring it out on your own. And so I'm a big proponent of mentors. Now, I've been, I've been very blessed to have some incredible mentors in my life, I mean, I would not be the person I am today or be in the place where I am today, were it not for mentors this year alone, I've invested in two really incredible mentors. And those mentors have helped me think through what we now have as builders ship University, and they've helped me make it an incredibly, just an incredible program. And it would have taken me years to figure this out on my own. And the mentors helped me do it in a matter of weeks or months. So I am like, I'm just doubling down on mentors. Now, a couple of caveats about mentors. The first one is that I don't believe he should be listening to more than one mentor at a time. So for me, I think about what is it that I need to do next, I find a mentor to help me make that next step. And then once they've helped me accomplish what I need to accomplish, I thank them, I honor them. And then I figure out what is my next step. And if that mentor can't help me get there, then I go find the next mentor. So you want to be very intentional and strategic about the mentors, you bring you bring on board. The second thing is you have to do what they tell you, right. So a lot of people, they go get a mentor, they go ask for advice, the mentor gives them advice. And then they like, okay, that's something to think about Thank you. And they just go around collecting advice. And they never implement anything. If you have a mentor, and you've invested in a mentor, you need to do what they say, that's the whole point. That's why you're there. This is not about collecting advice, and then kind of thinking it through, you need to think, Okay, if I want to make good someplace, and this person has already been there, and they figured some things out, and I've invested in them, maybe how to listen to them, and maybe how to do what they tell me to do to get to listen to your mentor.
Now, here, I want to say this, and I want to be careful about saying this about mentors, because oftentimes I get approached to, to, you know, someone wants a mentor. And, you know, early in the journey in this journey, i i Because I had benefited so much from mentors, I was pretty liberal about, you know, anybody who reached out and said, Hey, can we hop on a call, I will give them a call, even though it's an incredible amount of time that you need to spend on my part. I've wanted to invest in other people, the way people have invested in me, but here's why I stopped doing that. Every single time that somebody got me on a call and asked me questions and asked for advice, and I gave it to them, they never implemented it. I don't know why that is. I really don't understand it. They never implemented it. I remember one person, you know, she was like, I really want to do what you do. And can I get on a call and I caught on a call with her. And then I said you need to do XY and Z. This is you know, this is this sounds like your next step. She's calling for my advice. I give the advice. She doesn't implement it. A year later, she reaches out again and she says, you know, hey, I really want to do this work. Again, I said, Well, I'm having an event, why don't you come to that event, and she comes to the event pays for the event. And then she doesn't the first day, she shows up two hours late. And the next day, she comes, she's late again. And throughout the day, she's kind of distracted and doing other stuff on her laptop instead of paying attention. And then after the event, she said, All right, can you help me do X, Y, and Z? And I said, No. Because the what you what you needed to learn was at the event, and you didn't take the events seriously. So why would I invest my time in you, when you not when you are not invested in this work and invested and doing what I'm telling you to do. And I want to be careful, because I'm not arrogant enough to think I'm the be all and end all. But I think that when that a lot of people want mentorship, without putting skin in the game themselves, they want other people to invest their time, their knowledge in them, but they don't want to invest in the other person. And so I remember, I used to have a lot of guilt around, you know, saying, Well, no, I'm not going to get on a call. And if somebody randomly reaches out to me and says, you know, hey, I want to get on a call, I'm just not, I don't know, you, you know, you, you haven't made any investment in the process. And you're asking me to make a huge investment in you without having done something ahead of time. Again, I got to be careful, because I don't want to sound arrogant or obnoxious. Or like, you know, I'm, you know, I'm the be all and end all. That's not what I'm saying. But I have learned over the years that when people are not ready to make an initial investment, then usually they're asking me to make an investment and it's not reciprocated. And that's not right. Every single time that I've had a mentor, if I've initiated, I have offered something, okay. So if they have a program, I go to their program, if they offer me something for free. And I remember when I first met one of my best mentors, I met him at a conference. And the first thing I did was I went up to him and I told him, Listen, I have I went to a workshop that you gave years ago. These are the things that I implemented. Here are the results that I got from implementing what you taught me and I just want you to know that made a huge difference in my career as a teacher. Now I've made an investment. It's a small investment, but it told him that I listened to him. And I implemented what he said before he ever before he ever did any, you know, before I ever asked him for anything. And I didn't ask him for anything. I was just telling him, how they how big of an impact he had had on my career. And he said, You know what, I'm doing this thing. It's next week, it's two days, it's a workshop. Normally, people are paying $10,000 to come to this workshop, if you want to come as my guest. You, you know, you're welcome to do it. It was kind of a throwaway thing. It was next week, I have other stuff to do. I cleared my calendar, I got my car, I drove like three hours to where the workshop was I booked a hotel, I stayed in the hotel, I showed up for the workshop. And just showing up and being there actively participating, learning thanking him and being grateful, said, You know what he said, she's serious. And then he began to invest in me and I began to invest in him. I, whatever he told me to do, I did whatever he whatever he told me to focus on, I tried to focus on.
Because I was willing to make an investment in him, he poured into me.
And that has happened time and time again, the people that I have looked to for mentorship, it started out with me making the first investment. And so if you are thinking about a mentor, if there's something that you want to do, I strongly encourage you to get it i I have, I've benefited so much from mentorship, I always have a mentor that I'm working with. In fact, when we design build ship University, we designed it to be a mentorship, not a not a course, not a membership site. It's a mentorship because I believe in mentorship. If you want to get somewhere, I would encourage you to find a mentor. And one of the things that I have learned again this year, is the right mentor makes all the difference. You want to find somebody who has gotten where you want to be. And then you want to go invest in that person, and then do what they tell you to do. And I promise you that if you do that, you'll get where you want to go. And so you just have to find the right mentor you have to make sure your your your your choosing someone who's actually been there and done that first. And then when you do that you will have incredible results. I am a strong proponent of mentors. The two mentors that I worked with this year. I cannot say enough about what they've unable to do we have done so much this year and accomplish so much this year that I would not have been able to accomplish as quickly. Now, here's the thing about having a mentor, you might get there on your own, but it might take you years. Whereas if you had a mentor, you get there faster, because they've already figured it out. They've already done the work. That's the power of a mentor. You need a mentor, get a mentor. Okay, number two, that was number two. Okay.
Now, number three. One of the things that I've learned this year is that it's not personal.
I don't know what's happened this year, people have just got nastier online that I mean, I know that that's happening in like out in the world. But I've seen it happen a lot in education. I mean, I have been watching the way that educators are talking to each other this year. And it really bothers me. I'm in several Facebook groups. And I watched the way that principals talk to other principals, I watch the way that teachers talk to each other. I've seen comments on some of my posts from educators. And I think you know, what, if a parent talk to you that way, you would you would be upset if a teacher talk to you that way, you'd be upset. So why are you talking to somebody else that way. And I've always felt like educators were more civil than other people. I don't know if that's a bias that I have, because I love educators so much in it. But I just felt like we were we were bigger than that we were we were the last line between, you know, civil discourse and chaos, that what we teach students how to talk to each other, we teach students how to treat each other. So why is it that we're treating each other so terribly? And I don't know that I have answers to that. But I do know that this year, more than any other year, I've had a lot of trolls online, I've had a lot of people send me nasty emails, I've had a lot of people. I mean, I'm saying a lot. It's not a lot, but it's just more than normal. And there was a point where I took a lot of those things. Personally, they hurt. And I've done a podcast on it about how to get through it. But here's what I'm learning now. You're not going to be everybody's flavor. And you got to accept that. And so instead of No, well, I'll say this.
What's weird about that is that I will take those negative comments from people who don't even know me personally. But when people who actually know me and work with me, tell me something positive. I dismiss it all. No, it's okay. And I just, I don't take those personally, when in fact, those are people who know me. So why is it that I'm giving so much power and attention and energy to people who don't even know me? Who people who are using me for a proxy for their own issues? Why am I taking what they say personally, when they don't even know me, rather than listening to the people who do know me. And so one of the things that I've really tried to do this year, and I'm still working on it, but the lesson that I'm learning, it's it's not personal. And I'm seeing the progress at the beginning here, I got some really nasty things, said to me on email, and in and on social media. And it just wiped me out for the day. And a couple of weeks ago, I got a nasty, I mean, profanity laden email from someone who claims to be a listener of this podcast and about something, an email that I'd sent. And I just said, Okay, I mean, all right. That's not my people. I'm not gonna worry about it. This person is not my people. I have gotten really recommitted to serving the people I serve, listening to the criticism from people who know me, because that helps me get better. But drowning out everything else. Because I can't take it personal because it's not personal. And instead, I need to focus on the people I serve. Now, does that mean that I'm ignoring criticism? No, you gotta take it seriously. If there's something if someone who knows you who's involved really gives you legitimate criticism, you gotta listen to it, you gotta you that helps you get better. But if it's just some troll on the internet, or some random person, you know, who doesn't know you isn't familiar with your work? You know what, it's not personal.
Stop taking it personally.
All right, lesson number four. We got to question your assumptions. One of the things I did at the beginning of this year that I'd never done before is, you know, my team, we get together and we do our yearly planning, and we use the process that we actually teach in builders university about how to go through this yearly planning process. And one of the things that I did to prepare for that is I started saying what are the assumptions that that we are using to base our decisions on? And I wrote down all of the things that I was treating like fact, and I said, What if These are not facts, what are these are assumptions. And then I took those assumptions, and I questioned every single assumption, can I tell you how liberating that was, we just did a quarterly planning retreat instead of Mother retreat, but a quarterly planning sprint, inside of build a ship University, we do it every quarter where we people come together, we spend two days an hour a day for two days. And we take a look at the last quarter in our schools. And then we learn from the last quarter and use that to kind of figure out what is our focus going to be the next quarter?
So it's two days, one of the things we do is we started listing, you know, okay, these are all the obstacles that are in our way from getting us where we need to be. And instead of treating those obstacles like facts, we treated them like assumption. So here's an obstacle, our students just don't care anymore, right? And then we said, what if that were an effect? What if that were just an assumption we were making about why students aren't doing their work? And so we said, Okay, what would it take for students to show that they care? What does caring about the work look like? What kind of work would create that kind of response and students? And when we asked, when we question that assumption, students don't care, we turned that assumption on its head, we found solutions that we didn't even know were there. And we also found mindset blocks that are getting in the way of our ability to do the work. And the reason that we do the quarterly planning over two days is because one day, we need to kind of list the assumptions to start questioning them. And then we need to sit with that for a little while, and allow the questioning of our assumptions, to really challenge our thinking and to make ourselves more receptive to there could be another way to start getting our brains going thinking about other ways to deal with this challenge. And when we come back, the next day, we start to realize, you know, that thing I thought was such a big obstacle yesterday, not a big deal, we can solve it. You know, that thing that I thought was true yesterday. Now I'm saying that may not be true, or there may be a way to take that thing that that is true, and change it for the better for schools. So one of the most powerful things that I've done this year is I try to regularly question my assumptions. When I'm feeling stressed. When I'm feeling overwhelmed. I sit down and I start listing all the reasons that I'm feeling stressed or overwhelmed. And then I start questioning it. So I've got too much on my plate and not enough time. Okay. So the first thing I ask is, is everything on my plate unnecessary? In, then I say, how much time would it actually take to do all of this? And is that time available? Are these deadlines fixed? Or are they just self imposed?
I start questioning my assumptions, and that helps me get out of the panic of the moment to be focused.
Now I'm thinking about for you, not only should you be questioning your assumptions on a regular basis, but when you have teachers who are stressed out, sitting down with them, and very gently and lovingly asking them to think about all the things that they're complaining about, rather than trying to talk them out of how they feel. Why not sit down and say, Okay, so tell me, what are some of the things that are out there? I don't have enough time the kids don't care. I'm overwhelmed. Okay, let's start. Let's take them one by one. And would you be open to just kind of exploring those a little bit so we can find some solutions? Would you be open to trying something that's been working for me to help me stop feeling so overwhelmed and help find help me find solutions, and then taking teachers through the process of questioning their assumptions? Oh, can be so powerful.
I know, when I used to work with do training with teachers, you know, one of the things that I remember, teachers were telling me was that, well, we need, you know, parents to be more involved. We can't get this, we can't get this to this point, unless the parents are involved this so what do you what do you want parents to do? And they said, well, we need parents to read to their kids every night. Because the kids need time to practice their reading and they need to, you know, have the connection with an adult and reading and I said, Okay, does it have to be the parents? Would this work if it were a different adult? Well, yeah, sure. Okay. Would this work if it What if that adult wasn't wasn't present in the home? In other words, could it work at the students were interacting with the adult via technology and other way maybe. And so that the school started doing is every evening, the principal or another teacher, they gave the kids all the same book, and every evening the students would dial in for story, our story, get a story before bed, and they pull up the book they were reading and somebody, sometimes a parent, volunteer committee member, they would read to the kids every single night for half an hour. And even the parents were getting involved because they would sit down with the students and dial in and hear the hear the reading story and they'd sit on the kids let you know sit The kids sitting on their lap. So they're reading the book with the kids. And they were able to create this incredible program, because they start started questioning their assumptions.
So one of the most powerful things I think you can do, because it's made such a difference for me, is to regularly question the assumptions. Every time you feel blocked, every time you feel overwhelmed, sit down and list all the things that are in the way, all the things that are overwhelming you, and one by one begin to question them. Because when you do that, you find solutions you never considered. And you walk away from that feeling. We're in control of your world, because you've gone through and you realize that a lot of things that you feel are fixed, really aren't fixed. A lot of things that you feel are in the way really aren't in the way and you and you and you feel free, you feel better.
And so question your assumptions.
All right, the last lesson that I've learned this year, is that structure gives you freedom. Now, this is something we say all the time at builders lab, we, it's one of our big mantras and builders laugh because you're learning these structures. And a lot of times people see their structures and they say, oh, you know, it's so structured. And I like to do my own thing. And I don't know if my teachers will do this structure. And we keep telling them that when you have the structure, the guardrails, when you put that around the work, it gives people more freedom. So one of the things we always tell people is that, once you have your vision, you can be stubborn on the vision and flexible around the details. Once you have your vision, your mission and your core values, that creates the boundaries, as long as it's inside the boundaries, people can do whatever they want. As long as it's within your vision, mission and core values. People can do whatever they want you free people up you, you're not running around chasing and checking and correcting people all the time, because now they understand what the boundaries are. And that frees people. So it's something I've been saying for a while. But this year, I've learned it a new for myself.
One of the things that we did at the very beginning of the year is we did a system map of everything we are offering inside of builder ship University, it was excruciating, I'm just gonna tell you the truth, because we mapped out everything. And then we use the accountability architecture that we have inside of buildings, university that we share with principals, we use that same architecture to kind of think through what was necessary and what wasn't. And we created more structure around how build a ship University worked. And within that structure, there's a whole bunch of freedom about how fast you go through, or you know, so your pacing, there's a lot of freedom around how you implement the tools. But there's structure around the order that you're getting the tools, and what we found is, you know, before bill to ship University, we set out you know, all the courses and the trainings and the resources and the supports, and people could, you know, choose what they wanted to do. And we found is that with that was the case, people felt overwhelmed, people felt like it was too much, the moment that we created a structure to build a ship University, all of a sudden build a ship felt doable, and we put the structures in place. And people felt more freedom to actually implement what they were learning and to make steady and consistent progress through the program and see bigger results, we did the same thing inside of our company, we, you know, we did that, that system map to kind of look at everything we were doing as a company. And then we put protocols around that work guidelines.
Now we didn't script everything out, you know, like, I feel like you have to trust the professionals in the room, right. So within the script, everything else, but we created structures around how stuff got done. The moment that we did that, my team felt so empowered to do the work because they finally understood it, they felt so empowered, to get things done, because they had a structure they could rely on. They took off, I saw more growth in my team this year than I've seen in any other year since we've been in business, they really were able to take on more more work. And as a result of spending the time putting the structures in place, I felt like I had to manage less and I didn't micromanage the, the the structure, the framework gave people the freedom to to be their best selves to step into their genius to do the work in a way that was really powerful and impactful. And I've seen the same thing in schools too. You know, a lot of times when you're the principal, the school you are the bottleneck because every decision has to be filtered through you, right. But once you have a vision and mission and core values, you give people structure and the freedom to be able to make decisions and not feel like they have to run those decisions by you because you know you they can you've taught them how to filter their decisions through your vision, mission and core values. And what happens is, the more you align the work to your vision, mission and core values, the more you can let go of the work and trust your staff. All right, the more of that that they understand the vision, mission and core values and how it works at your school, the more you can trust the day to day decisions they make and not feel like you have to always run around chasing, checking and correcting them. The structure gives the freedom.
And so you know, one of the things that we do and build a ship university when you get to level four and build a ship university is that we really help you on bottleneck your school like you, you levels, one, two, and three are about putting the structures in place, so that when you get to level four, it's about creating the freedom for you for your staff, because the structures are in place. And so I think that's a lesson that, even though I've been saying it for years, and it's a mantra, and I've been telling people about it, I really saw the value in the benefit of it this year, I really saw how creating those structures, putting those systems in place, creates so much more freedom that you really free people up to do their jobs and to do remember, everybody who works for you is a professional, right? Well, we don't treat them like professionals, we micromanage them, we tried to teach her proof teaching, do it this way, have the first five minutes this use this lesson planning format. These are people went to school, these are people who have master's degrees in many cases, and we're treating them like they're three. Now, when you have the right structures in place, you allow people to to step into their genius to develop their own teaching style, knowing that you can trust what they're doing in the classroom, because the structures are there. And the structures are not a lesson planning template, the structures are not, you know, a minute by minute schedule, the structures are not, you know, a script of what they need to teach when that's not structured that is micromanagement.
Real structure is about having the vision, mission and core values in place, having your alignment architecture set up something we teach you and build a universe how to do like you create this alignment architecture so that all the work is aligned, putting a feedback support accountability and culture system in place. So people know what is the right work, how to do the right work. And then you empower them to do the right work the right way, even when you're not looking. And then putting a decision making system in place. So that people make good decisions, and they want to run the decisions by you. You put those things in place, then you've empowered your team, and they start bringing ideas to you, they start handling problems that that never get to you. And it creates freedom for your staff, and it creates freedom for you. structure gives you freedom, I'm learning it over and over again.
I'm so proud of my team and the way that they've taken off, and they always had it in them. But I was I was I wasn't clear around their structures. I I was micromanaging, because I didn't have structures in place, taking the time. And it's tedious. I'm not that's not my zone of genius. I'll be honest, you know, like big ideas, big picture, the little nitty gritty stuff was driving me nuts. But taking the couple of weeks it took to kind of go and do that. And then sitting down with my team and figuring that out. saves so much time I've got so much more freedom to do the things that only I can do. And so I would encourage you that if you are feeling pinched, if you're feeling like you, you're you have to make every decision, everything has to come through you you're working really hard. And you know you feel like the bottleneck of your school. Well, you probably are.
But structure gives you freedom, and creating the right structures can create a whole bunch of freedom for you and your staff.
So, to recap, the big five lessons, my top five lessons for the year are number one addition by subtraction. When you take away things that are not working, you create space for things that will work. Number two, get a mentor I have, throughout my career benefited from having a mentor. But this year, I saw it over and over again. Because a mentor shortens your learning curve, it gets you where you want to go faster, you are likely to have gotten there on your own. And so you can figure it out on your own. You know, as as educators, we're big DIY people. But when you have a mentor you get where you want to be faster so you can have the impact you want to have more quickly. So sure you can do it on your own. Shorten your learning curve, get a mentor who's been there and who's done that. And then honor your mentor. Invest in your mentor, whether it's pancakes, or whether it's the investment in their program or buying their book, do the work the mentor tells you to do so you can get the results the mentor can help you get number three, it's not personal. You're not going to be everybody's flavor, except that serve the people you were called to serve. Listen to them, take the criticism from them, but ignore the stuff from the people on the sidelines. Number four question yours options, stop accepting everything you feel and see as true. Question everything because when you do you find solutions that are not obvious, but are there that could really solve your problem. And then number five structure gives you freedom. Creating the right frameworks, putting in the right systems, frees up your team and frees you to really step into your zones of genius, and be great.
Alright, I hope these have been helpful to you. I'm going to take a couple of days off. As we enter into the New Year and welcome the new year, I usually spend this time really thinking about what I want the year to be like, What do I what do I want to accomplish this year? Who do I want to become this year. And so I'm going to take a few days off to do that, I hope you will do the same. And I will see you in January where we have a big announcement happening that is going to really help you level up your school in 2023. 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 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 builders ship University. Just go to build a ship university.com and get started writing your school success story today
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