The ONE solution to every “People Problem”


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 192.

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, we're going to tackle some very real challenges that many of you are facing right now. And I want to show you what all of those challenges have in common and a very simple way to solve them. That before I jump into that, I want to talk about what's going on right now. 

Right now we are in the middle of the staff alignment accelerator. 

This has been so incredible, you may have heard my big announcement a couple of weeks ago about how we were going to be starting the staff alignment accelerator and what that was going to mean, it is six days of highly intense training, that's very practical. It's not just sit and get you know, I'm not doing PowerPoint slides. Instead, every single night, we're tackling a big challenge. We're building a system to solve it in real time, based on your school. So it's not theory, this is really practical. And people are taking what they're learning and they're immediately applying it. Some people have taken it and taken some of that they've learned the night before, applied at the very next day in school and solve a personnel issue or a challenge that they're having with the teacher, right there right during the training. And this has been so incredible. And then after the training every single day, I stick around afterwards, and I help you apply and I answer questions I give you coaching. So I want to make sure that every time you learn something, you're able to immediately apply it in your school. So I don't know what time you're listening to this episode today. But we're going to be doing another session tonight. And then the final session is on Thursday for you know that the training of that week.

But if you have missed it, if you've not been a part of it, and you want to get the goodness, on Monday, we're going to be tying everything together. So Monday, January 30. At 7pm, all you need to do is go to builder ship Sign up, it is two hours of free training. So not everybody has the bandwidth to be able to meet, you know, four or five nights in a row for you know, 90 minutes a day, although I can't think of a better investment of your time because we're actually solving problems that you're dealing with right now. But if you haven't been able to do that, Monday, January 30, at 7pm. Eastern, I'm going to be doing a two hour masterclass where I'm going to take everything we've learned over the course of the five days of training, I'm going to tie it all together. And I'm going to be teaching you how to you take this information and use it to sustain staff alignment throughout the rest of the school year. And beyond. 

It is going to be an incredible action packed training.

you're going to get a workbook and this workbook. I mean, I've spent months working on this workbook, it is highly practical. So it's not, you know, fill in the blank stuff. It's really about taking the training as you're getting it using the workbook to help you apply it immediately to your school. So if in the training, I show you how to develop a process that helps you get into more classrooms and to give teachers better feedback, then the workbook helps you take that same process and apply it to your school. So when you leave the training, you have a process that helps you get into more classrooms that you can you can launch the next day. In the training I'm showing you how to take take a look at your staff and on a Monday we're going to be doing an audit of where your staff is in alignment and where they are misaligned. We're going to kind of drill down until we figure out what is the cause of the misalignment so that you can solve it once and for all again, all you need to do is go to builder ship And you can get signed up. We are going to be meeting on zoom so that this training is highly interactive, right so when we do it on Zoom, I'm in the studio.

During this training, I have screens all in front of me so I can see every single person on the training, I'm looking at your face I'm calling you out, you get an opportunity to ask questions highly interactive. Now here's the thing, there will not be a recording on Monday. So if you are part of the regular accelerator, we have replays every single day. So if you miss a day, you can get caught up. This weekend we're doing binge weekend. So anybody who's missed any day of the accelerator and the training that we've been doing this week, you have the weekend to catch up, there's a binge page for that, if you sign up for the training, you get access to the binge paid, if you are part of the Facebook group, we're going to have the replays in there as well. So there are recordings for the training.

But Monday, we are not recording, you need to show up live. And when you show up live, not only am I going to be doing training, it's not going to just be training for two hours, that gets exhausting. But we'll be interspersing stories of principals who have applied this to their own schools. So you won't just have to take my word for it, you'll be able to hear from people just like you who struggled with the same challenges and about how they took the things that you're learning during the training and apply them and the difference it made. So when you walk into this training, you're going to feel empowered, you're going to feel so excited to do this in your own school, you're going to feel like, you know, finally, I have a solution to a challenge that I've been dealing with for a long time. 

And let's be honest, people challenges are tough, right? 

When you're dealing with people, it is tough, there just aren't, you know, the things that we were taught to do just don't work in a lot of cases. And I don't know about you, but whenever I deal with these people challenges, a lot of times I used to get my stomach would be all up in knots, I would get stressed out, I'd go home and eat dinner and barely taste my food, you know, I'd be dreading going to work the next day when I had to have this awful meeting with someone who's just, you know, really hated my guts. And it can be so stressful. But once I learned these techniques and strategies, those things are not stressful to me anymore, I have a plan on how to deal with it. And so when I see stuff come up, I have a way to deal with it. And I want you to have the same thing. So again, if you want to still join the challenge, go ahead and you can sign up and join the Facebook group and do that for the accelerator throughout. But if you haven't had a chance to do that, and that feels a little overwhelming to you. You've got this one shot this night, this two hour masterclass that's happening on Monday. And you can get so much goodness from it, I'm going to be teaching something on Monday that I've never taught before, we have created a new tool that I'm so excited to share with you. And so you'll get that on Monday, and you'll get the download of that workbook. But only if you show up live and that workbook is gold, because it gives you the frameworks and the templates that you need to use to immediately apply. So you want to show up live, it's Monday, January 30 at 7pm. And you go to build leadership And you'll be signed up. Okay, now let's talk about something that I've been seeing happening in schools that I work with, in some of the principal groups that I'm a part of, I'm seeing questions like this. 

I saw a question the other day, I have a teacher who refuses to adhere to the dress code. What do I do? 

I saw something else, I have these two teachers who refuse to do anything that I asked them to do, and I'm having a meeting with them tomorrow. Should I write them up? Or how do I handle it when they just keep you know, causing all of this trouble? In my school? I've seen things where people are saying My teachers are burned out, they're overwhelmed. They only want to do the work to rule. They don't want to do anything extra anymore. They complain about everything that we're doing. And how do I overcome this? I've seen people write in about you know, listen, my, my teachers have complained to my superintendent or to my boss. And now my boss is calling me in and I've done everything I can to support them. And yet they're still complaining. And I feel betrayed. And I'm frustrated. I've seen things like I did something really nice for teachers, or when they came back I made pancakes, I had T shirts and bags for them. And several teachers left the bags that I created for them on the tables, or I found some in the trash. And I'm just devastated because I worked so hard to support them and they don't appreciate me. I've seen things like you know, I'm really struggling to get my math team on board. They have one idea about what they should do. And they're kind of stuck and what they've always done, and they refuse to move forward and our math scores are really low. How do I get my math team on board?

Now, all of those issues when I see them kind of posted online or in forums or people are asking questions, and I hear the answers to those issues. Each of those issues is treated as if they are separate issues. So people say when you have a teacher doesn't adhere to the dress code Do you need to do this, but if you have a teacher who is being toxic, you need to do that. And if you have a teacher who refuses to do what you're asking them to do, you need to do this. And if you have a team that refuses to do what you're asking them to do, you should do that. And if you have a group of teachers who aren't showing your appreciation, you should do that. And they act as if all of those are separate problems. Well, I want to posit to you today, that those are not all separate problems, they're all the same problem. And they all have the same solution. The problem is that you do not have alignment in your staff. And the solution is you need to get alignment. So let's talk about the problem and solution and how it works. Because I don't want to oversimplify it. I know what it feels like to go through this. And to carry this home with you carry it over the weekend, the stress that comes with it, because you're working really, really hard to move your school forward. And it feels like you're getting, you're getting beat down at every turn, like you have all this pressure above you from central office about what you need to do to move your school, you have this pressure coming at you from either side, parents on one side, teachers complaining from the other side. And it just feels like you're being squeezed all over the place. And it can feel very frustrating and demoralizing when you're doing this and you run into these people issues. But here's the thing, every people problem is really a process problem. And if you try to solve each of these things individually, it's because you don't have a process for dealing with people problems. 

So here's how we were trained, right? 

So when people don't do what we asked them to do, what are our options, we can write them up, right? So we could go do that. And guess what, writing people up has never resulted in a kumbaya moment in your school, when you write people up, all you do is you increase their resentment, you make them more entrenched. They go and talk about you to other people, I can't believe so and so right wrote me up at the best, you may get compliance out of those people, but you don't get full investment cooperation. And in many cases, you damage the relationship, right? Okay, so we could write people up, the next thing we can do is we could try to talk to them. And so that's why you have entire industries around how to have those conversations, Crucial Conversations and courageous conversations and critical conversations and you know, all these different conversational frameworks. And sometimes they work. But a lot of times they don't I mean, how many times have you ever gone in with a conversational framework to sit down and talk to someone, and you started? And then they say something that completely derails the framework? And then where do you go, you're left with nothing. Now, that doesn't mean that conversational frameworks are wrong, I have a whole book called strategic conversations that talks about conversational frameworks. But those conversational frameworks have to be anchored in something. In order for them to work, there has to be an agreement between you and the teacher ahead of time about how we deal with each other. Otherwise, doesn't matter what framework you try to use. Somebody could just up in that framework in a conversation. I've seen it happen. It's happened to me where I've tried to walk in and I feel really confident, I'm sitting there going through my little script. And then the teacher says something that's off script or says something that, frankly, gets under my skin. And then all of a sudden conversation script has gone out the window. I mean, Has that ever happened to you where you think you're gonna go into a conversation one way you've got it all kind of mapped out in your head. And then the teacher says something and everything is is up for grabs, you're just you just starting from scratch because the the script wasn't prepared to deal with something else. Because the script you bought into what the script says you bought into the the unwritten rules of engagement that are kind of embedded in that script, your teacher hasn't done that. So it's not that you don't that that a script isn't helpful. But if the script isn't anchored in something else, the script will often fail you, okay?

So we can write them up, we can try to bring them in and have a conversation with script, we can try to win them over. So a lot of times, you know, you'll get advice that says, hey, you need to do more work at establishing relationships with your teachers first. And so you go by their classrooms, and you ask about their cats, and you know, you try to get them, give them a mug, and you know, with some pencils in it and say thank you for all that you do. But if the relationship is breaking or broken, your mug is not going to fix it right? If a teacher is already angry with you or doesn't, the teacher doesn't feel like you are on their side. And they've already worked up a case against you. It's not going to be healed because you bought them a t shirt and a bag. That's why teachers don't seem to appreciate the things that we're doing to them, because doing for them not to them, but we they don't seem to appreciate it because again, they're it's not anchored in anything. It feels like a bribe. It feels in sufficient to deal with the issues that they're trying to deal with. And so it almost feels like you didn't hear me. And instead, you think this little mug is gonna make me happy. That's how some teachers feel. So it can often fail you, especially if there's already toxicity in the culture, especially if there's a break in the relationship already, it's not going to get fixed with a mug, it's not going to get fixed with donuts in the staff lounge, it's not going to get fixed with coffee delivered to their classrooms. Those things if I feel like you're already overworking me, if I feel like you're not listening to me, that feels like a like a like an insult like a slap in the face, you think that my issues which are very real to me are going to be solved because you bought a 30 pack of Swiss Miss hot chocolate, and you put a water kettle and a cat in the staff lounge? Oh, no.

So we're taught, Hey, we should write them up or taught. 

Hey, we should have these conversations were taught, hey, let's, let's try to win them over with some swag and some gifts. And they all fail us. The last thing we try to do is we try to we try to convince people, right, so we go and try to make a case for why it is we want them to do something. And while it makes perfect sense to us, while we can see the value of what it is we're asking them to do for kids, we've thought it through we've looked at the data, we've gone to the conference and heard the speakers, we know it will work we in our hearts, we know it work, just because you believe it doesn't mean your teachers are going to believe it. And they won't even be able to hear you if they're stuck in a place where all they can see are the challenges ahead of them. And the more you tried to convince them under those circumstances, the more they push back. And then the last thing we you know, we're told to do is just, you know, look, well forget, I'm getting rid of them. Because, you know, we gotta move forward for the kids. It's got to be right for the kids. The kids deserve this, we can't get mired in adult problems. And, and so it's just forgive them attitude. And I'd like to ask people who actually apply that, how's that working for you, what it does is it keeps you more and more isolated, right? View start to just be this lone person trying to drag your school forward. And people become more and more entrenched, because you just I'm going to work around them, I'm going to do it without them. You can't do it without them.

You need your teachers, you need your staff. And every time you try to just forge ahead and just force this thing through, you create resistance when there wasn't any resistance before, like maybe your teachers would have, in the right circumstances gone along with what it is you said, seen the logic and what it is you're trying to do. But the moment you try to force people, you create resistance, right, you just start dragging people along, and it's exhausting to you. I've seen administrators do this where they just try to force an idea through and they work really hard. And you know that there are 127 different ways that people can sabotage your work, when they don't buy into it, they can give you all the lip services you want maybe under the best circumstances, you get compliance, and you force it through at the end of the year, you're exhausted. And the moment you stop pulling, the thing dies. Because if you're forcing it through the success and failure of whatever it is you're forcing through depends on you're continuing to force. If you get tired, if you get exhausted, if you let up for a second, it does because you're the only one pulling. One of the reasons why we are doing the staff alignment accelerator is because I'm so frustrated with bad advice out there. You know, from something as simple as a teacher is not adhering to a dress code to something major, like there's some major toxicity going on in your school.

Everybody wants to give their own opinion. 

And it's do this right this person up, have this conversation with them, buy him a sweatshirt do all these things, as if all of these problems were separate problems. And so you were yourself out trying to apply all these various pieces of advice and treating all these problems as if they're all different. When really you only have one problem. At the heart of it, you have one problem, you have a lack of alignment. Because when you have a lack of alignment everybody's doing in many cases, they're what they believe is their best. But their best may be pointed this way. And that went the other way. And they're not pointed to where you want to go as a school. And so when you get alignment, you create a baseline for everybody's behavior. Let me give an example. When you create alignment, the way that I argue you should create alignment is you go back to your vision, mission and core values, right? Those are the most important things now, during the stuff alignment accelerated this week. We are not getting into vision, mission and core values. We did a vision challenge in the fall where you're getting your vision together. If you want more support about your vision, we'll continue to do that. But the first thing you need is you need a vision have a mission and a set of core values that everybody believes in and build a ship University, we show you how to do the entire process. And trust me, the process takes time. And a lot of people say, Well, you know, look, I need alignment now, because we're trying to get through the rest of this year.

Good luck. Because if you don't spend the time to create true alignment, then all you're doing is dragging people through the the vision, mission and core values. So what you're trying to drag people through everything else, it doesn't work, you've got to invest a time. But when you do that, you create alignment that pays off in dividends later on. So first thing is you got to have a baseline. And this is why this is so important. The Vision says here's where we're going as a school, and if you get agreement around that if everybody's invested in the same direction, then you have to argue with people about this or that or the other. And people don't have to argue with you about what they're trying to do. The only question you have to ask is will this help us achieve our vision? No, we're not doing it. Yes. Alright, let's consider it. Let's talk about how we do it. But there is it creates a binary that that makes decision making so much easier. And it helps people understand when you're in this school, this is what we're building. This is why we're here. And as you're recruiting new people, they buy into the vision before they ever come to your school. So it gets easier and easier. The culture shifts, everything is aligned towards that vision. So when I go to talk to teachers about something that I want to happen in the classroom, I'm not going in because I went to a conference or read a book or I have a personal preference about how their classrooms should be run. I'm not even telling them step by step how to do it unless that's what they need. I can be stubborn on the vision and flexible around the details, because I have clarity around that vision. So I can go into teachers and say, Hey, listen, here's our vision. Here's where we are right now, in order to get to the next step. Here's what we need to have happen in classrooms.

Is that something that we can make happen, what do we need to do to help you do that? 

Now during the staff alignment accelerator, one of the things we're doing is we're coming in, we're thinking, what do I want teachers to do before the year ends? Not you know, three years from now, whatever, like a big vision, we're being very practical before the year is up? What is it that I want my teachers to do? And why do I want them to do it? Once you have clarity around that, then we're going to say, Okay, how do I help my teachers do that? What are what are the four things that I need to be doing right now to get all teachers on board with doing this thing that I want them to do? Before the year is up, it becomes very simple. So now I'm not having individual arguments about personal teaching styles. I'm not having individual arguments about the direction, we have agreement about where we're headed as a school. And it makes the other ask that I'm going to be asking of teachers so much easier, because as long as I can demonstrate how this thing I'm asking you to do is going to move us towards our vision. And as long as everything that I am doing is in alignment with our vision, then it I don't have a whole bunch of pushback in the same way that that a lot of you are experiencing right now. Because we have clarity around the vision. Second thing is you need a mission, the mission is why and the mission modifies the vision, right? So if I say I want everybody on grade level, why do I want everybody on grade level? Do I want them on grade level? So I can win an award? No, do what I'm on grade level so that they can, they can have better opportunities later on? Do I want them on grade level so that so that they can think more critically and rigorously, the reason why helps decide how I do my work. So when a tablet teacher come in and say, Hey, I'm gonna, I want to get them on grade level. But given the answers to the test, I can say, Hey, listen, that, first of all, that's illegal. But second of all, that doesn't align with our mission, if they if they get on grade level, but they don't get on grade level in a way that helps them become independent thinkers, which is what our mission is, and we're doing it wrong.

So now you've empowered teachers to make better decisions, even when you're not in the room, even when you're not looking because you've given them here's where we're headed. And here's why we're headed this way. So now you can trust the decisions that the teachers are making. And then also the teachers can trust you more, because they know that every decision you make is going to be in alignment with that vision. And that mission for the work. And so it creates this line of communication, this baseline, right. And then the last one is core values. The core values, say if we're going to get there, this is how we get there. These are the things that have to be non negotiable for us. And even though they feel very simple when it when I talk about them, going through the core values process is one of the most valuable things you can do to create alignment in yourself. Because once everybody agrees that those things are non negotiable, it becomes a real quick, real quick conversation, right? So that teacher who's not dressing according to dress code, is the way the teacher is dressing, getting in the way of our vision, our mission or our core values. If the answer's no, you don't address it is because that's personally bothering you, but it's not a it's not impacting the vision, mission and core values. If it is impacting the vision, mission and core values, you now have a baseline on what you can stand to have that conversation, because it's not about I don't like the fact that I can see your thong above your leggings or I don't like the fact that you're wearing bedroom slippers, or I don't like the fact that you know, you are wearing the same sweater every day and it's all stained with coffee or whatever the issue is around the teacher's dress, right? Instead of it being a dress code issue and argument about what what is appropriate or inappropriate based on whoever's opinion it is, it becomes something about the vision, mission and core values. And you've already gotten agreement on that, when you're sitting down, and you're trying to figure out what kind of of support can I do for teachers who are feeling overwhelmed, instead of just randomly like going into a Facebook group and say, Hey, what ideas do you all have for Staff Appreciation Week, you can give them things that really reinforce the vision, the mission and the core values of the school. And those gifts become more meaningful, because they're anchored in something that the staff has already identified as meaningful and core to who we are to our identity. As a school, when you have a group of teachers who are refusing to do something, or you have a group of teachers who are causing trouble, you can bring them in, and instead of saying, Hey, you're causing trouble, you can say, Listen, the behavior that you're exhibiting right now is not in alignment with our vision, mission and core values. So we have a decision to make. Either you need to adjust your behavior, or we need to come together as a staff and adjust our vision, mission and core values. Which one is it? You see? When you create alignment?

The work gets simple. 

It gets simple, because you don't have to come up with an individual answer for every challenge you might potentially face in the future. Instead, it's always one answer, you always go back and you anchor in that. And then this is where the sweet spot happens. And this is the staff alignment accelerator. This is what we're doing this week. Once you have that anchor, you can put systems in place that actually support that anchor, so that the problems that we talked about at the beginning of this episode, they don't crop up at all. And so that's what we're doing during the accelerator. We're saying, okay, hey, what is it you want people to do by the end of the year? And then what systems can you put in place to ensure that everybody does it? And on the masterclass on Monday, I'm going to be talking about not only that, but let's get to why your staff isn't, isn't aligned to begin with, right? Where are the weak spots in the alignment in your school? And how do we shore up those weak spots? What are the systems we need to put in place to address those weak spots? So you don't have to deal with this at all? And, and how do we put those systems in place in a way that helps get everybody focused on doing the right work, and keeps people from being distracted by all of this other nonsense? Because that's what it is. It's nonsense. It is. It is, it is. It is something that has crept into your culture, because there's a vacuum there.

So nature abhors a vacuum, right? In the absence of strong alignment around a vision, mission and core values. You you create this hole, and the hole is the it's a perfect spot for toxicity. So you got to treat your school, the way you treat your house, one of the things you do is you go around your house every year and you get rid of all the holes so that rats and rodents and other vermin don't get into your house. When you create alignment. That process is like walking around your school and filling in all the holes. So that toxicity and nastiness and insurrection and and disagreements and ugliness don't have a chance to creep into your culture. And so, on repeat my invitation on Monday, we're going to be talking about this in more detail. I'm going to be showing you what you need to be doing to close up those holes so that you can eliminate this, this this this misalignment that creates these problems. And then I also want to challenge you to I want you to take all the things that are driving you nuts alright. And let's be honest, the things that are driving us nuts are not the things that people think they are right so it's not Oh, I gotta you know, get the gotta get started on the master schedule. Oh, you know, I'm behind on my evaluations. I mean, those things are they may create a little stress but they're not keeping you up at night. You know, what's keeping us up at night? I got this teacher who was so nasty and no matter what I do, they are not they just me they're nasty. There's there's they're stirring up other people. They won't talk to me about it right. They smile on my face, but I know they're Talking about me behind my back. You know, it keeps us up at night. I've got this teacher and I've gone in and I've done everything I know to do, and they are still not improving. You know what's keeping us up at night. I've got a team, they're nice. They're they want to do the right thing. But we've bought a system I've taken to the training, and they're still not getting it. You know, what keeps us up at night. I've got a culture that is toxic. I inherited it. I'm trying to fix it. But right now, I just can't stand working here with these people. If I'm being really honest, because it is so draining, I would just, maybe I need to go to another school. You know, what's keeping us up at night? I don't care what happens when I get people started in the staff meeting. I was like, okay, but then when I go into classrooms, I don't see people doing the work. And I keep you know, right, you know, giving them feedback. And they're like, yeah, and then they still don't do the work. And nobody has taken accountability for doing his work. That's what keeps us up at night. And on Monday, we're going to be addressing that those things that keep us up at night on Monday, we're going to be looking at how we solve that and what systems we put in place so that we're not dealing with those problems. And instead, we can focus on doing the work we really want to do. To change lives to make students lives better to to make a difference, like a belter. I'll talk to you next time. And I hope I see you on Monday.

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