How to be transparent without stripping yourself naked


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 209.

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 talk about transparency. Because there's a lot of misunderstanding out there about what true transparency means. I mean, everybody talks about the power of transparency, but we rarely talk about what it actually means and how to achieve it. And so today, we're going to talk about that. Now, that might seem like a boring topic. But trust me, stay with me, because we're going to talk about how you can be transparent without feeling like you have to strip naked in front of people and be totally vulnerable in front of them. And instead being transparent in a way that actually creates more trust, but also still protects you. So we're gonna talk about that just a second. But I want to follow up on something I talked to you about last time. I mentioned before that I work quietly with a few private consulting clients. And we have a few openings. So some people who are you know, I've been working with this year, and the school year is over, we've achieved our goals were transitioning out. So I have a few spots open not a lot, because it's not something that I can do. You know, like on a large scale, my energy is focused on building up university. But I know that there are people who are superintendents or people who work in central office and run a department associate superintendents. And oftentimes, you need more specific help your you need help doing things that may not be covered and build a ship University. And so as I can I try to help. So the way the consulting works is it's not a long term engagement, we work together for somewhere between four to eight weeks, we work on a very specific goal. So things like helping you get clear on your district, your district vision, mission and core values, and to develop your vision story that creates that buy in with your stakeholders trying to figure out helping you figure out how to, to share that 100% vision across your district. Things like developing a district dashboard that helps you keep the most critical information at your fingertips so that you can make better decisions.

So you can quickly answer questions from your board. 

So you can keep your eye on what's happening throughout the district and feel like you're in the know without micromanaging things like getting your cabinet and your team together. So a lot of times, especially if you're new to your job, as a superintendent, you inherit, you know, a cabinet and a team, how do you get everybody working, or maybe you've been there for a while and you have a team that's a little dysfunctional. And, and and you are the bottleneck, everybody's coming to you to solve all their problems or to make the decisions and you're frustrated, because you're trying to get your team to be more independent. So we can get that together, we can help you figure that out, get your team functional, get your team focused on producing the right kind of outcomes for the district, get your team working and empowering them to work, even when you're not checking you know that they're doing the right thing. We can look at putting some key systems in place so that you can do your job more effective. And efficiently. We can talk about possibly creating a district scorecard to help you track and be accountable to the right data in your district. So that if you're working with your school board, and you're going in front of your school board, you're able to hold yourself accountable so that they're not all over you about everything that you're bringing stuff to them in a way that that makes sense and shows that you're committed to that accountability. We can also look at ways that we can eliminate waste from your district so that your district is more streamlined and effective or your department is more streamlined and effective. 

So the way it works is we we work we you you'll you'll make a call you'll call the office. So you're going to talk to John and John's going to talk to you And he can tell you answer all your questions about the program and help you determine whether or not this is going to be a good fit for you. And then if it is a good fit, then you and I will get together. And we will have a kickoff call and we will identify a specific outcome. So this is not, I don't believe in just coaching where you know, it's like therapy, just call every week and talk no, we are looking for a specific outcome. So we identify the specific outcome, we it's something that we can accomplish within a month, or maybe at the most two months, depending on how big the outcome is. So very specific. And then we get together and we get together weekly, and we talk, not just talk that's not looking like therapy, but we get together and we're working on that specific outcome. So I'll give you the tools, the templates, the resources you need. And then when we meet, you and I are putting things together. So if we're creating that dashboard, we're putting your dashboard together, if we're getting your team aligned, we are doing the work to get your team aligned. And we were looking at your org chart and making sure everybody's in the right spaces, and you have the right things. And then we're creating a success measures for everybody that and then you're going to be meeting with people and we'll be I'll coach you through how you meet with people to help onboard them to these new success measures. And then, you know, you'll come back and talk to me about like a, here's how to win, or here's where I'm struggling, or how do I handle this. So again, it's very, very outcome focused, and then at the end of our engagement, then you can you've got what you want, if you want to achieve another outcome, then we can look at that and keep going. Or you can just go and be better in your district and have gotten that that help that you need. In addition to those meetings, you'll get unlimited access to me via text or email so that if you have a quick question, you can just shoot me a text, or you can send me a quick email, I'll get right back to you. And so it really is about giving you some private one on one support, to help you do your job and be more effective. And so if that's something that interests you, then all you need to do is you can either call the office at 1-888-565-8881. Or you can go to mind steps and click on the schedule a call button that's in the upper right hand of that webpage, and identify a time to schedule a call so that you can talk to John, and then tell John, what you're looking for find out more about the program, get all your questions answered. And then if we're right fit, you and I can get started working together right away. 

Now, here's the only caveat, I don't have another I don't have an unlimited set of slots. You know, at the beginning, I said, Okay, I'm gonna, over the summer, open up five spots, not over the summer between now in the summer, open up five spots. And we've already had to two of those slots, we are where, you know, people have already called to grab to try to get two of those slots. So that means it brought three left. So if you're thinking about this, and you feel like this is something that could really help you, you need to give the office a call or book your schedule a call pretty quickly, because those are going to go and again, I'm experimenting, you know, like I said, I don't normally make them public, I've got a couple of people who are private, you know, like that I've talked to because I've worked with them in other capacities. So we're going to see how this works. And so I don't know if I'll make other slots available publicly, again, we'll see how it works. But while I'm doing that, if this is something that you want, if this is something you need, if you need somebody kind of in your corner, helping set you up so that when you get in front of your team, you you you can do this. So with confidence because you know what you're doing because you have the right tools, then this, it might be a great opportunity for you. And remember, this is just you know, it's not you know, it's not a year coaching program. This is something very quick so that you can accomplish something very specific and get on about your life, do your work and be better at it. Alright, so that's the first announcement second announcement to older shove University. It's closed right now, but trust me, you should join the waitlist because if slots open up, and we have a couple of people who are going to be cycling out shortly so I do believe they're going to be a couple of slots opening up. If you're on the waitlist, you can get one of those slots. If not, you'll have to wait until you know the next intake which is not happening for several months. You know, we're only opening up build a shoe University four times this year and we've already done two cohorts so they're only two cohorts left for the rest of 2023. 

So that's your best bet if you are ready to get started right now if you are really frustrated with what's going on in your school and you really want to get some things in place and you want to get a jumpstart on it because the sun worth coming. And, you know, you want to make sure that you're getting things set up now, so that next school year, you don't have to deal with some of the same foolishness that you have to deal with this school year, the best thing you can do join the waitlist, so that that way you can get that Jumpstart. And to join the waitlist, you just need to go to builder ship Alright, let's talk about transparency. Because, you know, you hear about it all the time, you hear that, you know, we need more transparency. And lately, I've been talking to a lot of budgets and focus groups and for some of our private clients and, you know, getting some information and, and I've been talking to people, and then also I lurk in some of these, you know, Facebook groups and other places, I try to keep my ear to the ground to see what issues are really bubbling up. And a lot of issues around distrust and dysfunction have to do with transparency. So I thought we should talk about it.

And I want to talk about it in the context of the difference between a culture that is mostly toxic, a good enough culture and a 100% culture. 

And remember, those cultures are, are are the result or they're the artifact of a kind of approach that you take in building those cultures, right? Toxic cultures get built using methods that would typically be methods we would characterize as boss lose, right? So a boss move, being a boss creates a toxic culture. The a good enough culture is a culture that's typically characterized by leadership strategies, you know, when you are a leader, you the whole way that we are trained to be leaders helps us to be satisfied with good enough, you know, like, it's good enough, if we get 80%. That's all we can hope for. That's a good enough culture. And that's usually characterized by leadership strategies. 100% culture comes from being a builder. And so I'm assuming you're here because you want to be a builder. So let's talk about what the differences are in those cultures, and how you can move towards transparency and creating that 100% culture, rather than staying stuck in a toxic culture or good enough culture, because you have something less than transparency. So if you are in a toxic culture, usually that culture is characterized by by open bay, it's more of an opaque culture, right? Nothing is transparent, everything is cloudy, people aren't clear about the vision, mission and core values. That doesn't mean you don't have it means that you might have a vision. But if I asked you right now, what your vision was, you wouldn't be able to tell me you'd have to say hold on a second, let me look it up, it means you probably have a school mission statement that's 20 miles long. And again, you'd have to look it up, it means that you probably have core beliefs, like 10 of them, and nobody can remember them, and nobody's operating by them. So the fact that your culture is opaque does not mean that you don't have those things, it means that nobody knows them. And it also means that your culture is operating on a a another set of of ideas, another vision, another mission of core values that runs underground. And that's often controlled by the most toxic elements in your building. Alright. 

So just because you have a mission on paper does not mean that's the mission that's operating in your school. A lot of times, your mission might be so lofty, but the way that your school operates, your real mission is we want to protect the adults, your real mission is we want to make the adults comfortable your real mission is let's avoid conflict. That's how you operate on a day to day basis. And so that becomes your operational mission. Rather than the aspirational mission that you have on paper. Not only do toxic cultures have an opaque vision, mission and core values, but toxic cultures have opaque reasoning behind rules and procedures, right? So we everybody, you know, you have rules, you have procedures, nobody follows them. It's unclear where those rules came from. It's unclear why those rules are in place and why we have the have to do this in the first place. It's unclear who gets rewarded, and who gets punished based on who follows those rules. And so there's just a whole bunch of there's a lack of clarity around the work and here's why that contributes to toxicity. Because when things are opaque, not only does it create distrust, but it also creates confusion, because I don't really know what I'm doing. I don't know why I'm doing it. Everybody's kind of looking at the looking at what you have in place and trying to you know, use their own interpretation to figure out how to behave. Remember your vision answers the question, what are we building and it'll pay culture nobody knows. Your mission answers the question, why is that important? Again to know a pay culture. Nobody knows your core values answer the question why? That's my role. Again, I don't know pay culture, nobody knows. And if people don't have answers to those questions, they will begin to make up their own answers. And if everybody is operating by a different set of visions, missions and core values, you can imagine how confusing that is. And that's what creates a toxicity. Now, in a good enough culture, things aren't opaque as much as they are vague.

But being vague, is just a polite form of being opaque.

You know, being being vague Is it the net difference is minimal. Okay, so this is what I mean by vague. In a vague culture, you have a vision, you have a mission, you have core values, people know them. But your vision mission and core values sounds a little bit like this. Every kid every day, every time. Everybody knows it, you repeat it every day on the loudspeaker. It's written, it's a you know, it's painted on the wall. But nobody knows what that means. What Every kid every day, every time what I have no idea what that means. I can repeat it to you, I can tell you, I can tell you what it means to me. But as an organization, because it's so vague, everybody can layer on top of that, their own meaning, or they can go about and do whatever they're doing anyway, because there's very little accountability and vague terms.

Here's another one. In a in a, in a vague culture, you have core values that sound like this grit, determination, respect family. We believe that every child can learn, we believe in helping every child maximize their full potential. And so again, everybody knows them. But what do those things mean? What does respect mean? And respect is something that can mean different things to different people? What does it mean that you believe every child can learn? How does that govern your behavior? It's a belief statement. But your doesn't mean you have to be accountable to it in any way? How is that reflected in the work that you're doing? You also hear phrases like, you know, helping students achieve their full potential, helping them navigate a global society helping students become their best selves. Or it's sometimes you know, in a vape culture, the work is not even about the kids. So it's about helping make sure that students have a rigorous, robust learning environment. Great. What does that mean for kids? What does that mean for me, as a student in your school, that I was exposed to a rigorous robust learning environment, there are kids who right now are failing in a rigorous, robust learning environment. So that means nothing to me. The challenge with a vague culture is that you say a lot, and then and still say nothing at all. And the reason that that destroys trust, is because you make a lot of platitudes, but you build platitudes have so many escape hatches, they're so leaky, that you never have to be accountable to seeing those platitudes through. So in a vague culture, you satisfy yourself that you have all these platitudes in place, you have a vision, you have a mission, you have a core values, and you think you're doing something. But at the end of the day, you're doing nothing, because you never have to be accountable to a vision, mission and core values that are vague. You never have to be accountable to it. So you are paying lip service to the work without doing the real work that it takes to get there. Here's why else it creates distrust. How do you know when you have helped students become lifelong learners and maximize their full potential? What does that what does that look like for a second grader? Exactly. There's no way to tell whether you've achieved it. 

So again, not only do you not have the accountability there, there's no of it's frustrating, because how do I think I'm working towards the goal, but I have no clue. If I'm ever gonna get there. When I get there. How many kids have I have are still not there yet? What do I do about those kids? How it I have no clue. So you're setting people up to work towards something where they never know when they've gotten there. So that kills my motivation? Why should I work there? And then I began to start calling something some approximation of those vague terms success. I began to say, Well, I mean, you know, they're lifelong learners because I don't even know how to answer that question. I don't even I can't even make up something because I don't know how you judge that or gauge that with with with children who have not experienced it. Life yet. I don't know how you gauge maximizing the full potential of a fifth grader. And your teachers don't either. So the trap of being of having these vague terms means that you always stay in good enough, because you don't know what great is, you've never defined success. So you set people up to be satisfied with good enough, by giving them vague terms that make them feel like good enough, is good enough. Now, when you're builder, you have true transparency. And a lot of people get nervous about true transparency, because people think that in order to be truly transparent, I have to be naked up in front of folks, I have to tell them everything, I have to bear my soul and make myself vulnerable to the slings and arrows of everybody who's going to attack me because I've been transparent. It's a lot of people are, they they, they say they're transparent, but they're very stingy about what they're being transparent about, I'll be transparent about this thing, because I don't worry about that. But this real thing that I am worried about, that everybody else is concerned about, not going to be transparent about, or they overshare. They tell people stuff that they don't need to know, in order to be able to do their work. And they just feel like they have to tell everything in order to be transparent. Builders understand there's a right balance. And here's what it is. If I have vision, mission, and core values in place, then, and I abide by that if I align everything I do to that, I will be transparent. Even when I can't tell everything. 

Let me give you a specific example. 

A lot of times, something happens, an employee does something and it becomes a personnel matter, and you handle it. But you can't tell everybody how you handled it because or what the exact outcome was because that information is protected in employee privacy. So you're stuck with either saying, well, we dealt with it and given people the party line, and then creating that distrust because people think, well, you're just hiding it to cover your own tail, or you breach confidentiality, or you flounder around and try to figure out a way to make people feel okay without knowing. But if you have a vision, mission and core values, what you can simply say is, listen, I can't give you the details, because those are private and protected. But I can assure you that we handled this in a way that was consistent with our vision, mission and core values. Now, transparency, and if you have been consistently aligning your work to your vision, mission and core values, that answer is enough. People are like, Well, okay, I get it, you can't tell me the exact details. But what are what's our vision? What's our mission? What are our core values, and it gives people enough to be able to extrapolate from that, what they need to know to feel safe and, and feel like they've gotten their answers, even though you haven't spilled everything. Same thing is true with disciplinary matters. You know, like, let's say two kids get in a fight. And parents want to know what's happening to the other kid, you can say to parents listen, that is, you know, just the same way that I'm protecting the privacy of your kid, I've got to protect the privacy of other kids. But you can be assured that this was handled in a way that's consistent with our vision, mission and core values. And parents can accept that because they can see how you handled their kid that way. 

So all of a sudden, you have the ability to protect information that should be protected, and still be transparent. I remember when I was an administrator, and we just did the core values. We had new vision and we had a vision and mission but they're you know, they weren't the builders vision and mission yet, but we had core values that were we did them exactly the way that I teach you how to do core values. And once those core values that were in place, and once we began to operate by that, it was amazing. The trust that people started to afford us when we had sensitive situations where we couldn't we couldn't legally share all of the information. People would ask we will talk about listen, I cannot share that information, those specifics those details, but I can assure you that it was handled in a way that directly aligned with our core values. People are satisfied. So we're bending over backwards and you know, doing this elaborate striptease in order to help people we'll realize that that we are being transparent. But in a lot of cases, it's, it's a fan dance, it's, you know, we're still, we're trying to cover everything but still show that we're sharing and you don't, you don't need to waste the energy doing that being transparent, pretty simple. All you need to do is you have some established boundaries, some guardrails, your vision, your mission, your core values, you make sure that everything you do in is is in alignment with that. And if you do that, you will create instant transparency and trust. Because people will know, it gets to the point where people will say, Well, I don't even need to ask, I already know what she's going to say, because she's going to take it right down the line with a vision mission and core values. how are decisions getting made? There? It's, it's important to their vision, mission core values, who gets picked to be on the committee who gets picked to be on this team versus that team? How are the teams created, how was the master schedule, design, all those issues that that people start, you know, pecking at you with and, and you feel like you have to justify and explain and all of that, if you just did those things in alignment with a vision, mission and core values, you have transparency. 

And even if I can't tell you specifics, I can tell you how the decision got made, and everybody knows it already. 

So stop, stop wasting time trying to pretend you're being transparent or just showing up. You don't need to do all of that you got more important things to do. All you need to do is create a vision, a mission and core values, and get things in alignment with that. That's why in build a ship University, That's level one, that's the first thing we do. We focus on your vision, your mission, your core values. And then we create something called an alignment architecture. And that alignment architecture, once you create it, you build it once you never have to build it again, every leadership team meeting that gets contentious, you don't have that issue anymore, because the alignment architecture helps you as a leadership team, make decisions that are in alignment with your vision, mission and core values, no hard feelings, your decisions can be transparent, even when they're confidential. And everybody gets into the rhythm. And decision making gets a lot easier because you have something to help you make good decisions. 

So that's why we do that first, knock that out the way and then you can now move on to putting the other things in place that you need to do to move your school towards your vision and achieve it without getting all this pushback and having to bend over backwards about transparency and figuring out what you should tell him what you shouldn't tell. You don't deal with that. So here's my challenge to you this week. I want you to look at your school and figure out is your school PAYG does no I know what's happening is there a lot of distrust happening because everybody hides, everybody plays things close to their chest. And I've been in situations other than a district once where everybody withheld information from the superintendent because they all want to own the information because nobody trusted everybody. And so they will be in a meeting and the superintendent is about to like go, you know, into the lion's den. And people had information that could help support the superintendent, and they were afraid to share it. Come on. I mean, that is toxic. Everybody's polite, nobody is fighting. But everybody was withholding information. Nobody wanted to share information because it was so toxic because their culture was characterized by this opacity, opacity, opacity, I just I, I don't know, I just lost my ability to pronounce that word. But you get my point. Then, if you have that toxic culture, the way that you want to do it, is you got to get a vision, mission and core values that are clear, that are accountable, and you got to stay accountable to them. You got to get in alignment with them. That solves your transparency, and your trust problems. It really is that simple. Now, let's say you have a vision, mission and core values, but they're very vague. While you are headed towards toxicity, because people will begin to layer on their own stuff on top of your vision, mission and core values, they have to be clear, and you have to be consistently aligned with them. It's hard to align with something that's so vague. So if that's you, vision, mission and core values, make it clear and you will clear up all of those, those that potential toxicity and create transparency and trust. It's very, very simple. 

If you want to have true trust and true transparency, then you just simply need to build a vision, mission and core values that are clear, 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 and get started writing your school success story today.

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