Dig the well BEFORE you’re thirsty


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 195.

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 an old saying that is particularly true in education. You see, a lot of times people talk to me about what do I do about a teacher who is not carrying their own weight? What do I do about a teacher who is dropping the ball or has missed a deadline or slipped up in some way? And they did it in a way that it impacted other people? So I have to address it, because other people have been impacted? But how do I address it? Especially when I don't want to, you know, make the teacher, you know, publicly shamed the teacher? And so today we're going to talk about it. And the answer to that question, is something that many of you are not going to like?

Because the answer to that question is, you have to dig the well, before you're thirsty. 

Alright, so there isn't a there isn't a quick fix for this. But there is a solution. And if you think about it now before you have to deal with it before an incident pops up, if you put these things in place, now, you can handle it in a way that that creates a stronger, healthier culture that makes sure that you honor everybody involved, and still handles the situation. So we're going to talk about that today.

But before we do, I need to talk about FOMO. Because some of you have been telling me that you have FOMO, because we just on boarded our next cohort inside a builder ship University, and you are fearing that you've missed out. And I hate to tell you this, but you have because this group of of people who are coming inside of builder, ship university, they are in credible, they are so excited that enthusiasm we had our onboarding call last week, and the enthusiasm has just been off the chain. And this is an incredible group of people, I'm really enjoying working with them. And if you feel like you've missed out, then I have two options for you. The first option is that you can go to build your ship university.com and join the waitlist.

Occasionally, we will have a spot open up in between intakes. And if you can't wait for the next intake, if you're really just kicking yourself because you didn't join this last cohort, there may be an opportunity for you if you join the waitlist. So build a ship university.com and join the waitlist. The second option is that we're probably going to do another intake later on this spring. So you need to get your ducks in a row now. Because when we open the doors, remember, doors are usually only open for about a week. And so if you missed out last time, and you know you want to be the next cohort start getting ready now and look out for that announcement coming later on this spring. All right. 

Let's talk about the situation because it happens a lot, right? 

I mean, anytime you're involved in something, and you're involved with human beings, they are going to make mistakes. And the problem is even though we know that mistakes are inevitable, even though we know that there are going to be times when people drop the ball, we are rarely prepared for it. We always act surprised we were always knocked off of our socks when when something like that happens as if people don't make mistakes. And so every time someone does that every time someone drops the ball or doesn't do what they say they're going to do, and they hold other people up. were wondering how do I handle this situation? What do I do? And this is, again, why leadership is not the answer. Because a lot of the leadership strategies that we're told are really about, well, you got to hold them accountable because they let other people down and you got to make sure that you do it publicly or else people are going to think they can get away with it. And we're given this advice. And the problem with that advice is that when you do that a lot of times what you end up doing is blaming shaming or judging people and people or at least people feel that way based on the strategies that we use to handle this situation, and we end up making things worse instead of better.

How can anybody be incentivized to learn from their mistakes to grow and to improve if they're being blamed and shamed. And yet, we feel like we have to do it or we veer the other direction, right? So we're not going to blame and shame, we don't want to do that. So we don't really handle this situation. Because we don't want to hurt anybody's feelings. We gloss over it, we make excuses. And what happens is that continues to happen, you're sending the message that people are not accountable. And so you're going to see that mistake again. 

So what is a builder to do? 

Well, a lot of times people come to me after the situation has happened. And when you come in, after the situation has happened, you are already behind you, you you're already making up the work that you have to do to address the situation without harming the person or the culture is a lot greater, because you are digging the well, the moment you're thirsty, and it feels a lot more fraught, there's a lot more pressure on you, because you haven't put some things in place ahead of time to deal with a situation that you know is going to come up. That's crazy, right? So what do you do instead?

Well, here's what builders do. Builders dig the well before they're thirsty. Now, what does that mean? Well, if you know that people are going to inevitably miss deadlines, or mess up or drop the ball, you don't want to wait for them to do that, before you address it, you address it ahead of time. And so what builders do is as you're embarking upon a new thing, or as you're starting a new project, or an initiative, or anything that you're working on, the first thing you're going to do is you're going to say, Okay, we're going to start this, and here are the expectations. You know, instead of build a ship University, before you start a new project or initiative, we have you create what we call the accountability architecture. And the accountability architecture helps you map out exactly what you expect from people so that you can help them be accountable. And it also helps you think through and making sure that all of your expectations are clear, and that you have supports in place to help people meet those expectations. And people understand what those expectations are and what the success criteria are around those expectations. And that's what makes it so powerful.

So when you start and launch an initiative, you need to make sure you are clear about the expectations. You have success criteria around those expectations so that everybody understands what success looks like. And then you're going to say, Now, listen, we're all human. And there are going to be times when we may miss a deadline, or we may not completely fulfill the expectations as outlined. I don't I want to do everything I can to make sure that I set everybody up for success. But those things happen always. And we just have to make sure that when they do happen, we have a recovery plan. So if somebody drops the ball, how do you think we need to deal with it? Especially if they dropped the ball in the way that impacts other people? What should we do? Let's talk about that. Let's talk about how, what's the best way to handle it. So that we get that person back on board as quickly as possible, and recover from the damage that may have been caused. And when you do that at the beginning, and you get that clarity and agreement around that at the beginning, when somebody drops the ball, you can simply say now we start at the beginning, we talked about this, that this could happen. But luckily, we have a plan for that. So based on our recovery plan, here's how we need to proceed. And that way, you have clarity around it before it happens before everybody's emotional about it. And when it happens, you don't have to get emotional about it. You just launch your recovery plan, any recover. And everybody expects it. Nobody's upset, nobody feels called out. 

We all agree this is how we recover.

And the reason we call it a recovery plan is because the focus is on how do we get back on track and keep moving forward towards our goals, not on blaming and shaming and judging and punishing somebody because they made a mistake. So you dig the well before you get thirsty. So let's see what that would play out. Let's say that you have a new plan that you're going to be doing rigorous unit plans in your school and you're using the rigorous unit planning template that that I have in my book on how to plan rigorous instruction, you're using that whole process. And so you're rolling that out as a school. And let's say that a team is working together. They've already interrogated the standards and now they're building a unit and the team divides up the work so one person is going to be researching and creating a formative assessment about this part of the unit. Somebody else is creating the formative assessment of This part, and at the next team meeting, everybody's going to come together, they're going to share their formative assessments, they'll work on refining them as a team. And then they're going to build that into the next unit of instruction. Except when you get to the next meeting, somebody hasn't completed their formative assessment.

Now, in our old training in that leadership mindset, the first thing that happens is whether you do it externally or internally, you're gonna roll your eyes, see, this is what I'm talking about you do, you're going to immediately go into that judgment mode. Because that's how we were trained, right, we're looking at people who missed deadlines, and we're thinking that they're slackers. And so whether you state it or not, your body language is going to convey that you're gonna get stressed out, the rest of the team is going to pick up on your lead, they're also going to get stressed out. And then we're going to start doing what leadership trains us to do, which is to scold that person in the name of accountability. So you know that when you don't have your stuff, you hold the rest of the team up, you know, or, oh, you know, it's really important that we all make sure that we cover are responsible, but they know that, right? So saying that I don't care how nicely you're saying, and what you're really saying is, you've messed up, you're holding us up, and you are a bad person for doing it. That's what that's that's what we're really saying, I don't care how nicely we say it. That's what we're saying. And that's what people hear. And so then that person is shamed. And the rest of the team is either feeling, you know, that they're blaming that person, or they're feeling the residual shame, because they're human, it could have been them. And so they're just wondering, if I mess up next time is somebody going to judge me and treat me the same way. And everybody's bent out of shape? And there is no recovery? While would just make sure you bring that assessment next week, and let's just move on. But you are you the meeting is ruined, you're not collaborating anymore, the spirit is gone? And if they do bring the assessment the next week? Have you gotten their best work? Or have you coerced them into doing something? You know, there are a lot of reasons why they may not have had the work available, maybe they got stuck.

And so now what you're saying is if you get stuck, you can't get help you just get punished. Maybe they got overwhelmed with everything else. Well, they need support around how to reduce their overwhelm, so they can bring their best selves to work every day and produce good work. So I'm not even sure I would want what they come up with after that, that that scolding? Because I'm not sure it's their best work, or is the work that they've done under duress. 

That's what leadership gets you the, here's how a builder handles it. 

At the beginning of the process, we say no, we're gonna be collaborating around this unit. And there may come a time where somebody doesn't have something ready, and they may miss a deadline. And we want to avoid that as much as possible. Because we're all depending on each other. That's what why we're collaborating together. And if one person doesn't do their part, then it creates a lot of stress and tension on the work and the rest of the team. So we want to avoid that. So here's what we're going to do. First of all, we're going to make commitments and we want to make sure that we keep our commitments, if you believe that you are not going to be able to keep your commitment, please don't wait till the meeting to let us know, let us know ahead of time so that we can launch our recovery plan.

Now, if you can't make a commitment for like, you're stuck, and and you say that I'm stuck, and so I'm really not sure I'm going to be able to get it on time. And here's where I'm stuck. That part of our recovery plan is how do we galvanize a team to get you the support you need, so that you can deliver on your part of the unit. Now, if something happens, and you just got overwhelmed and behind, then part of our recovery plan is you're going to let us know ahead of time. And then you're going to give us a commitment to when we can expect that material. And then the rest of the team will begin to adjust to make sure that the work can move forward, even though your part is not there. So we're going to state that ahead of time. And then when someone misses the deadline, nobody rolls their eyes every they let the team know ahead of time we we launched the recovery plan, the person feels supported, the person gives us their best work.

Now, I know somebody's out there, I can hear you. I know you're saying, Well, what if the person doesn't tell us ahead of time? And what if the person waits to the team meeting? Well, then we have another part of the recovery plan. So if the person waits into the team meeting to say, I don't have my stuff, and they didn't do it ahead of time, the first thing we're going to do is we're going to say let's remind ourselves about what a recovery plan looks like. Now, it's too late in this instance, for that part of the recovery plan to do to work so how do we recover now, and then you pull that person aside later on? And you can say to that person, listen, we can talk about what we need to do to support you and making sure that you're aligned to our recovery plan later on. But for now, how do we as a team, recover and get the work moving forward, and you've done on two things, first of all, you signaled to the team that you are going to follow up with that individual. But second of all, you haven't shamed that individual, you're moving the team and getting the team for focused on doing the work. And you can follow up with that individual later. And we have something called the failsafe feedback framework that we teach inside of build a ship university that shows you how to help people be accountable, and how to have those accountability conversations with people, privately. Same thing, all those things are in place. 

Now, here's the beauty of that. 

Right now, a lot of the stress that you're feeling, you're feeling that stress, because stuff that you know is going to happen, you still get surprised when it does happen, and you're not prepared for it. And so you're trying to, to scramble around in real time to address this issue. And that creates stress. But builders don't have that kind of stress. Why? Because we dig the well before We're thirsty. We know that stuff is going to show up. We we recognize it. And so rather than ignoring it or acting like oh, it doesn't exist, people never miss deadlines, we know they do. And so we put something in place to address it when it happens and help us recover and stay focused on the work ahead of time. So then when somebody misses a deadline, instead of all, you know, getting all upset about it, we can calmly say, All right, we have a plan for this, sometimes these things happen. You initiate your recovery plan, and you move keep on moving. And you don't you don't experience all the heart palpitations and stomach grinding and the eye rolling and the teeth grinding and all the other things that leaders are experiencing, because we dug the well before we were thirsty.

And so I would I would propose that you can eliminate a significant amount of your stress by doing that, and build up University. Because the way that we have it set up, we put things in place, so that the more you put these systems in place, the less stress you experience. And if somebody's telling me the other day, oh, you know, this teacher did this. And this teacher violated that. And what do you do about the teachers doing this, and I wanted to help them. But the thing that I kept thinking about was, if you have core values in place, that won't even happen. And if it did happen, it would have been nipped in the bud. So quickly, you wouldn't have had to be worried you wouldn't even be talking to me about it because it would be done. 

And I remember when we first started working and building the builder ship framework, one of our early users of the framework was saying that, you know, she did the vision, the mission and core values, then she had a teacher who just started acting up, I mean, to stuff that would make you stressed out and ate all like land you in a hospital with an ulcer, that kind of stuff. And instead of it going on for weeks and weeks and weeks while she tried to figure out what to do and try this and try that and try the other. It was one simple conversation. She called the teacher in her office and she said, Listen, this behavior that you're exhibiting right now is in violation of our core values. So I need to ask you a question. Do we need to change the core values? Or do you need to change your behavior? Which one? And the teacher said, now I see your point, it is in violation of core values. I'll adjust my behavior. And it was done. But y'all That sounds almost fantastical, right? But this is what happened. And she was so crazy that she called me and she said, Okay, you're not gonna believe this. And then she told me this situation. And she told me about the conversation. And she goes, I'm going home. It's done. And guess what, a week later, a month later, she wasn't dealing with that behavior anymore. Now, if she didn't have core values in place, what is she got to do? She got she has to write the teacher up. She has to, you know, put the teacher in a performance plan. She's got to start the power prop. None of that had to happen. The teacher got back in line. Why? Because she had dug had dug. I don't think that's why she dug her well before she was thirsty. And when she got thirsty, there was plenty of water waiting for many of you right now are dealing with crises that could have been solved. Had you done the work, even listen to this podcast for a long time. You've been hearing me talk about it, but you haven't implemented yet. And you're still feeling the stress. And people tell me all the time. 

Well, I need to get through this first and then I'll start implementing

No, no, no, no, no, the reason that you're experiencing the stress right now, it's because you haven't implemented. You need to implement so you can stop dealing with that at all. And that's what I don't think people realize about builders ship. Builders ship is not about mitigating issues. It's about eliminating them building something better building something that works. You are still stuck in a broken system and you're trying to make that broken system work and you're working extra hard and twisting yourself all To not trying to make a broken system work and you thinking that as soon as I get this broken system working, then I can start implementing build a ship. That is some broken thinking, right? Because you're not going to make the broken system work. How about you step away from the broken system, and you start building a better system? And you never have to deal with the broken system issues again? How about that? 

So this week, it's really simple. If you're dealing with the same problems over and over again, if you're dealing with problems, and you don't know how to handle them. Maybe you ought to think about putting some things in place so that you can just stop dealing with them. What about if you know you're dealing with the same problems over and over again? And most of you are, most of you are dealing with the same four or five problems over and over and over again? How about you put something in place to deal with a problem, you put a recovery plan in place, if it if something goes wrong, and stop worrying about it. And then when something goes wrong, you have a recovery plan, you do the recovery plan, you recover, and you keep on moving? How about we stop stressing ourselves out, dealing with stuff and trying to fix broken systems, and instead, try a system that works. That's how you can eliminate a lot of issues before they start. 

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 buildershipuniversity.com and get started writing your school success story today.

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