Is True Staff Alignment Really Possible?


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 191.

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.

Hey, builders, welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robyn Jackson. And today I want to talk about staff alignment.

Now by now you've already heard the news that we are doing a staff alignment accelerator this coming week, you've got one week left to register. And if you go ahead and go to builder ship, then you can go ahead and sign up now. Now here's why you should the staff alignment accelerator is going to be some of my best training on how to get your entire staff on the same page. And it's absolutely free. We're going to be meeting for six days. So we're going to start on this coming Sunday night for those of you who are listening to this in real time. So Sunday, January 22. And we're starting at 7pm. Eastern, and I'll be getting on for one hour a night on Zoom. And the reason we're doing it on Zoom is so that we can have some interactivity so you can ask questions, so I can see your faces. We're doing it from the studios inside a builder ship University.

So you get the virtual training experience that only our private clients usually get. 

And every night for one hour, I'm going to be teaching you practical things that you can do right now to secure alignment in your staff this year, and systems that you can do to that you can set up right now. So that you can ensure that your staff stays aligned for the long term. And every day, you're gonna get a workbook and so you have to show up live to get the workbook will do a replay. So you can watch the recordings later on. But the only way you can get the workbook is if you show up live. And when you do, you can download that workbook. And I will be going through the workbook with you. And the workbook is not just exercises, the workbook is really an opportunity for you to take what you're learning in the training, and immediately apply it to your school. So if I talk about a system that you need, and why you need to build it, then we're going to go to the workbook and actually build it for your school. And so that means that every day when you come to the training, you will get something so valuable and so useful that you can take it back and implement into your school the very next day. So we're going to do this Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we're going to take a break for the weekend, so that you can catch up if you need to catch up. And then on Monday, we're going to culminate all of this with a two hour masterclass, where I'm going to show you how to put everything together so that you can use this and apply it in your school and see results this school year, but also how you can make sure that what you learn continues to work in the long term. Again, you want to go to build your ship Sign up.

So what I thought I would do today is I will talk about staff alignment, because I've seen a couple of questions online, where people are asking what do you mean by getting your staff on the same page? 

What is what does it mean? What is alignment mean? And so I want to talk to you a little bit about it. Because I think that a lot of people have stopped believing that it's possible, they say, you know, I can get most of my staff on board or most of my staff is pretty cooperative. But you know, you're always going to have those one or two people who are just not going to be on board. And I want to, I want to argue against that. I want to I want to give you another way of looking at it. Because that's not necessarily true. You can get your entire staff aligned. We've seen it inside of Bill dish of university, so we know that it works. And I want to talk about that today. And what does it really mean when you do? So let's start off by talking about what does it mean to have an aligned staff, you know, what does it mean to get everybody on the same page?

Typically in schools, you will come up with a strategic plan in the summertime, things that you believe need to happen in order to move your school forward. Sometimes you will be told what to do by your district. But other times you're you're able to kind of take a look at what you currently need in your school and where you want your school to go. And you come up with a plan. There's an initiative you want. Maybe there's a way that you want everyone to Put the, you know the learning intentions on the board and start the day maybe there's a reading protocol that you'd like for all teachers to use, maybe there's a math technique that you want all of your teachers to use, maybe there is, you want more rigor in the school, there's some initiative that you want to happen. And typically what happens is you introduce the initiative, some people are on board, some people are not some people complain openly, some people complain privately, but you have this initiative going. And, you know, people are various places, when it comes to that initiative. And you Launch Initiative and get it started, maybe there's a training that people go through, maybe there's a protocol that you want people to use. So you you conduct the training, you issue the protocol, you give people the tools to get started. And then you go visit classrooms a few days or a few weeks later, and check and see how the training is being implemented in the school. And you see people in wildly different places, some people are implementing it with full fidelity, some people are making attempts to implement what you are trying to do, but they're struggling, some people are refusing to implement at all, they're just doesn't even you don't even notice any difference in the classroom. Some people are continuing with, with with behaviors that are counter to what you are trying to get everybody to do. 

And so you get frustrated.

And so the people who aren't implementing it correctly, you give them feedback, you give them more coaching, maybe you give them more support. And some people get slightly better, and other people just continue what they were always doing, and you get frustrated. So then you say, okay, you know what, we're going to make it a requirement, and you start reading into classrooms and trying to catch people, you know, doing it wrong, so you can write them up. And the people who are doing it correctly begin to put their own spin and riff on it, or maybe you use them as model classrooms. And then people, you know, start resenting other people who are doing it, it just creates a mess. And at the end of the year, this initiative that you believe would make a difference in the lives of kids is still not off the ground. Yes, you're you know, you're limping along with it. But it's, you can't even see the value in the that this, this, this new initiative could provide for kids, because you don't have everybody on the same page. Maybe it's not even something as big as an initiative, right? Maybe it's just the day to day work in the school. And not everybody's on the same page. Some people are doing one thing, other people are doing something else. Everybody thinks they're doing the right thing. But everybody's idea of what the right thing is, it's different. That's what it means when you do not have alignment.

That's what it means when people are not on the same page. And it's probably one of the most frustrating parts about being an administrator because you feel like you can't move your school forward, because everybody is moving so slowly. And sometimes people feel like the only way that that I can get anything done, it's I've got to be a boss, I've just got a mandate, and I've got to write people up. And not only is that exhausting, not only does that just destroy your culture, but you end up with at best compliance, but not full cooperation. And things only work as long as you're there to make sure that it works. But the moment that you stop, the moment that you your attention goes to something else, the initiative dies, because it's only being held up by you. That's not alignment.

True alignment means that everybody is working in the same direction, for the same reasons. And they're trying to achieve the same goal. And they all everything they do is in alignment with that goal with that direction. As a result, things get done in your school, and they get done even when you're not checking. So let's take that same initiative again, you there's something going on at your school you that you need to address. And so you start a new initiative to address it. Maybe it's about how people write the learning intention on the board for the day. Or maybe it's about the reading program or the math program, you start some initiative, you introduce it to your staff, and you connect to that initiative to your larger vision, mission and core values. So your staff can see why it is so important. You give them time to really digest it and understand what it is you're trying to accomplish. What is the outcome? So the emphasis is never on the initiative itself? It's one how do we achieve a particular outcome using this tool using this tool or this initiative? 

The next thing that happens is that people get to work and some people take to it right away. 

They're great at it. Other people struggle with it. Some people are still skeptical about it. They may be slow to get started, but everybody is moving forward because they see the value of what it is you're trying to accomplish. Along the way. You're providing support for people you're giving them feedback so they understand what they're doing and how they can improve prove you're you're helping people take accountability for their actions because you're you're connecting their actions to this bigger vision, mission and core values. And your culture starts to shift as, as people are working sincerely towards this goal. The people who struggle get extra support the people who are doing a great job at it already, they they begin to innovate on it and make the initiative even better and more suited to your school. The naysayers and the foot draggers become convinced that this is the right work. And within a couple of months, you have everybody focused on doing the right work, you see the results of the initiative, the initial idea has has morphed and evolved as people have gotten involved in it. And so now it's not this thing we bought into the school. It's the way we do our work in the school. It's the way that we, as a school serve kids, you don't have attitudes about it, everybody is headed in the same direction. And everybody understands the point. And so you're seeing this progress happen. That's what it means to get everybody on the same page.

Now want you to imagine in your school, what would it be like if everybody was on the same page if you didn't have the eye rollers and the T suckers and the naysayers and the arm crossers, instead, you had everybody sincerely giving their best effort towards serving your students towards helping all of your students be successful. Now, of course, not everybody is going to be at the same level of expertise and skill. But everybody is working, everybody is growing. Pete You You see tangible differences and people's practice from from one month to the next as they're learning and they're trying and you see the effort, and everybody is getting better and better at serving kids. And along the way, people are starting to take ownership of that initiative. So it's not this thing you've done to them. It is this thing that we do together in the service our students. Imagine what your school could be like, if everybody was focused in the same direction, you didn't have this faction of teachers pulling in this direction. And another faction of teachers pulling over here, and this teacher standing by him or herself and these other teachers over here pulling in this direction. Instead, everybody was moving your school in the same direction towards that bigger vision, mission and core values. Imagine what your school could be like, if instead of trying to convince people to get started, you spend all of your time supporting people at wherever they are in the process. So things are getting better. Imagine what your school would be like if when you walked into a classroom, you saw everybody doing the work. You don't have to imagine it, we're going to show you how to do it during the accelerator. 

But I just want you to think about what that could mean for your school.

I remember the first time I really saw this, this was early in my consulting career and I was doing mostly work around around rigor, and access and increasing rigor of instruction and classrooms and providing the right kind of support for kids. And I was working with a school, a contract to work with a group of schools for three years. And these were schools that were threatened to be taken over by the state and a particular district. And my job was to come in and to show them how to increase the rigor of instruction in the schools so that they could have better student results, and they could avoid state takeover. So I was working with one school in particular, and the principal there was from all reports unremarkable. Right? He had been in a he had been an assistant principal there. They hired another principal instead of him, he left the district and went to another school as a principal. He had some success there, then he eventually came back to that district. So now he's the principal is high school, he's in his first or second year, and the school is failing, I come in, I'm talking to them about rigor, I always start with the administrative team to help them understand it. And he buys into it. And he says, we're gonna do this, we're gonna get everybody aligned around rigorous instruction. And so they start working, they start implementing they we start doing trainings with the teachers, the staff development teacher, or the instructional coach was amazing. And she really bought into this idea, and she differentiated the support that she was providing for teachers. This principle insisted that every member of his admin team give high quality feedback. So I just spent a couple of months working with the admin team doing something that we call micro slicing. That's something that's a technique that we teach you at builders ship, builders lab, that's where we teach you micro slicing, but it's it to just kind of explain it. It's a way to go into the classroom and within five five to seven minutes, get to the root cause of why the instruction in the classroom is either working or not working and give teachers really valuable feedback around the root cause instead of just checking off symptoms on a checklist, and that teacher just worked on that one thing, because it's the root cause until it improves. And then you see this dramatic improvement and instruction. And so I trained them on how to do micro slicing he, he insisted that it's administrators do that every single day, go into classrooms, micro slice, follow up with teachers, they had a meeting every single week, where they went over their entire staff to see where they were with each staff members, one thing, so no matter what administrator went into the classroom, the staff member was getting consistent feedback around their one thing, they started seeing this tremendous growth in instruction as a result of that, because instead of, you know, this laundry list of things to do, the teachers are getting meaningful feedback around their most important thing that they need to be working on right now. And they're getting that consistently from every administrator who goes in the classroom, the instructional coach followed up with support for teachers targeted around their one thing, the culture started shifting, he started really re engineering the culture around rigor and instruction and thinking, and then they started helping everybody be accountable to that rigorous instruction, he started putting things in place that were not draconian accountability measures where he's gonna have, you know, like, gotcha, instead, he started helping people be accountable. Well, within six months, the school shifted. I think the shift happened earlier than that. But because I wasn't in the school every single day, there was about a six month difference. You know, I went to the school, I did some work, we had the, you know, some summer and everything. And then I came back on the fall. So what was it, you know, for five or six months, before I got back to that school to continue my work in that school, but there was a, there was a tangible difference. Everybody was focused on doing the right work, the resistant teachers, the teachers who had checked out the teachers who were kind of skeptical about this principals leadership ability, because they knew him when he was a science teacher. They, they they were, there wasn't that attitude there anymore.

Everybody was trying. 

Three months after that, we started seeing a shift in the way that people were doing instruction. It wasn't about everybody trying to do the do rigor anymore. People were bringing ideas about rigor, people were taking ownership of this focus on rigor, different departments in this high school, we're starting to figure out okay, what does it look like for us? How will we support it? How will we ensure that all children are getting rigorous rigorous instruction in their classrooms and, and so it just really began to the staff began to take ownership of it. Within a year, that school was a different school. So within a year of embracing that work, and getting everybody on the same page, not only have they gotten out of state takeover, not only have they gone from being an F school to a B School, and then the next year, they became an ace school. And then the next year after that, he became Principal of the Year for the state. And his school became an innovative center and got a $5 million grant, because of all of the work that they were doing with students. Not only that, but their graduation rates skyrocketed. He wanted 100% of his kids to graduate. And he was at 98%, when we finished working together, and by now I'm sure he's at 100%, because he was on his way. That's what happens when you get staff alignment.

So before I even understood all that I understand now, that school achieved full alignment. And since then, I've seen that story repeated over and over and over again, where a principal really embraces this idea that we need to get everybody aligned around the same thing that we need to have a focus, we need to have 100% vision. And then they apply the builder ship tools to their school in order to create that vision. The first step is they get alignment. And once they have alignment, there is no stopping their schools. And so we see it over and over again, where you can get everybody on the same page, working productively towards your 100% vision. And so that's why we're doing this accelerator. Because number one, many people don't believe that it's possible. Many people don't believe that in their school and their situation. It's possible. I've been in some pretty toxic school environments. And yes, it's going to take some effort. And yes, it often takes a little bit longer because you've got to clean up the toxicity. But is it possible? Yes, I've seen it. And I've also been in some schools where they have for a long time. They're not bad schools and a lot of cases they're good schools. They're just not great schools, and they have a culture that good is good enough and And everybody's been allowed to do their own thing, because it's always worked in there. They've got kids who are pretty focused. And so not a lot of discipline challenges a lot of parental support. So let's just leave it good enough. And those staffs are misaligned. And it's keeping those schools from becoming great schools. So seeing the range. But I've also seen principals just like you who have embraced this builder ship concept, and gone into those schools and apply these builders ship tools to those schools. And they've seen dramatic improvement. So if you're questioning whether or not alignment is even possible in your school, I want you to know what's possible. But I also want you to know why it's so important.

You cannot achieve your 100% vision unless your staff is aligned. So what let me help you create that alignment in your school. Join me for the staff alignment accelerator, it starts January 22. So in just a couple of days, and let's learn the tools that you're going to need, apply those tools to your school and start seeing how you're going to eliminate that toxicity that may be lurking under the surface may not be even out in the open, you're going to see how you can get everybody to develop the will and the skill that they need to pursue your 100% vision. Again, to join the accelerator, just go to builder ship And that's where you can sign up. And I'll see you January 22, Sunday 7pm Eastern time for our first session. And then after you go through the week, you'll have all the tools that you need to get your staff alive, 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 and get started writing your school success story today

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