Success Secret #1: Build a High-Performing Team


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 214

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Hey, builders, welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robin Jackson. And we are right in the middle of our thumbor of Success Series. So throughout this summer, we're going to be dropping several new episodes that really talk about some of the success secrets of builders. And today is no different because today we're going to talk about how builders create high performing teams. And this is a great time for you to be hearing this episode. Because right now is where you are really kind of bringing your team together to think about what you're going to be doing this year. And you are also thinking about people bringing on people in new roles, and building a team and getting ready getting your leadership team ready for the year. And so today we're going to talk about some things that builders do differently in order to create teams where everybody is doing the right work the right way, even when you're not looking.

And your entire team is helping you build your vision, your mission, your core values for your school. 

So we're gonna go beyond like the very bu basics, you know, build your ship basics where we're talking about you need a vision, you need a mission, you need a set of core values, I'm going to assume that as a listener of this podcast, you have those things in place right now. So once you have those things in place, does your team magically start working towards those goals in a way that's high performing? No, there are some other things that you need to do. And so I want to share some of the secrets with you. I just want to talk to you today about some of the mistakes that builders make when they are creating their teams that actually create more work and more dysfunction in the work as you go throughout the year. So that way you can avoid these mistakes. So let's start out with looking at the mistakes. The number one mistake I see people making not builders, builders don't make these mistakes. But the number one mistake I see people making when they are creating teams is that they build their team structure around the personalities of the people on the team, rather than the needs of the organization. What do I mean? Well, let's say you have a team member that is not that the person in that position is not performing up to par, how many times have you shifted their responsibilities to things that they can handle, rather than helping them step up to doing the job. If you're doing that, you are setting yourself up for failure because you are you are adjusting the needs of the school the needs of your vision, your mission, your core values, to meet the personality or the skill set of the person in the position. And when you do that, you end up slanting the position towards their skill set rather than the bigger needs of your organization. And over time you keep doing that over and over and over again, you end up taking you you're you your success in your organization is dependent upon the personalities and skill sets of your team members, rather than having a highly functioning organization that works no matter who's in the role. So this is a huge mistake. And we've all done it right. 

How many times have we put a teacher in third grade because last year, that teacher was in in fourth grade and the fourth grade parents that are they're coming in, they don't want that teacher anymore. So you move that teacher round to third grade or second grade in hopes that those parents haven't heard about that teacher yet. And maybe that teacher will be able to handle younger kids because teacher's not help, you're not doing a great job with the older kids. How many times have you inherited a team leader who is doing a terrible job. And so you create a new position to work around that team leader so that that team still gets the support that they need. Even though the person who has the title of Team Leader, it's not doing the right job? How many times have you shifted things around and, and move things people on one team versus another team because of a personality conflict, rather than a skill set that's needed for those students on that team? We've all done it, like I said, but every time you do that, you weaken your organization, and you weaken the strength of your team. Because you there's a, there's a reason that that role exists. And if the person in that role is not fulfilling that role, then then why do you need the role like if they're, if they're not doing, what the role demands, what the organization needs, why their net role, I can't tell you how many times I've sat down with superintendents and people in district office. And the same thing happens, you know, one of the things that I do the most as a coach, when I'm working with individuals and central office or superintendents is weak, one of the first things we do the very first things we do is we look at their org chart. And there's always, always, always a position there. And I'm like, why is this position here? Well, you know, that person I inherited them. So I created this position in order to, you know, because they weren't doing what they were supposed to be doing. But I needed to justify those I put them here and, you know, are they doing that job? And the answer's no. So then, why are you creating that position, or the position will be created to compensate for somebody else who's not doing their job. 

So it's a horrible use of resources, it's a horrible way to run a team. 

So big mistake, number one, you create positions, based on personalities, or you fill positions or just positions based on personalities, rather than the needs of the organization. And anytime you do that, you have weakened not only your team, but your entire organization. The second thing that I see as a mistake that a lot of people make when they are building their teams is that they put people in roles and then assume that people know what to do. And in most cases, they don't, how many of you are currently in a role right now. And you feel like you're making it up every step of the way. And you know, that their expectations, and you know, maybe you're doing what the last person did, maybe it's a brand new position. And nobody has told you how to fulfill the needs of that position. We do it all the time we put people you know, you're a great teacher, so you're going to be a team leader. And so what does a team leader do? I mean, you know, Team Leader stuff, or, you know, you're so good. And your position, you should be department chair, what does department chair do, and then they get a list of things, you need to order supplies, you need to do X, Y, and Z. But that's not the point of the position, like a secretary could order supplies. Why do you need a department chair, it's because the department chairs sets the direction of that department, and works within that department to help that department achieve your vision, mission and core values, right? Supplies, it's not I mean, it's, it may be a part of the job. But it is not the critical part of the job. And yet, we have so many people in those positions of Team Leader and department chair, and they're glorified secretaries for those positions, because they're not exercising instructional leadership in those positions, they just are maintaining, and it's a waste of that position. So that's the second mistake. 

The third mistake is that we don't give people on our team meaningful, valuable feedback until it's too late. So not until they mess up. Even when they do a great job. We're saying, you know, good job, but we don't actually talk to them about why it worked and why that Job was so why the job they're doing is so helpful, why the way they're doing it is working really well. So they never get great feedback. And because they don't get great feedback, they never get better at their jobs. And so what we end up with is, we end up with a lot of people who are in positions, and they are succeeding or failing in those positions by virtue of their personality and personal skill set. And we're not setting people up for success. So what it means for us is that every time we have a vacancy, or we need somebody on our team, we tend to gravitate towards choosing personalities looking for that unicorn personality that can do A, B and C rather than creating a position that doesn't depend on somebody's personality. So you're not at that point, you're not looking for a unicorn, because you have a position that sets people up for success. So here's how builders do things differently. And those of you who are builders ship University This is level four. So we will take you through all of this in level four. If you're in builder ship University, and walk you step by step through the process, we have several tools you can use for that. So if you're listening to this as a BU member, we got you don't worry about it. Alright, so here's the first thing that builders do differently. The first thing that you're going to do is you're going to sit down this summer, and you are going to take a look at your organizational structure. If you're a superintendent, that means your org chart, if you are a central office person, or you have a department around you, it's again, the departmental org chart. And if you are a building based administrator, you're going to look at your org chart. And you're saying what org chart? Well, even a bill every building a minute base administrator, even if you don't have a team of just you and your principal secretary, there is an org chart, right? So you have you, you're the principal, if you have a system principals, who are they, and what are their roles, if you have department chairs, or team leaders are great level leads, or you have a principal secretary, or you have an attendance secretary and a business manager, you need to look at the roles who are in the leadership positions, who are the people who are in who are not just instruction, but really are tasked with helping you run your school, whoever that is, you need to sit down and you need to make sure you understand your org chart. 

Most of us, especially at the building level, have never looked at our org chart.

We don't really understand it, we know that they're their team leaders, we know that their department heads, we know their grade level leads, we know there's an instructional coach, but we have never really thought through the roles. And so what I want you to do is for each person who occupies a quote unquote, leadership position and your school, look at the job title and think through what does that job entail, and I want you to go, and if you have a district level job description, pull it up, I can't, I bet most of us can't even remember the last time we looked at it, pull it up and take a look at what that job is supposed to be. But then go beyond the job description. Because the job description is going to say things like they need to, you know, we facilitate PLC meetings, order supplies, give teachers non evaluative feedback, observe classrooms, make sure that everyone's following the curriculum contribute in a leadership team meeting, they're going to say things like that, that's what the job description is going to say. But I want you to go a step further and not just look at the duties, but the outcome. And a lot of times, you're going to have to determine what those are. 

So just to give you a couple of examples, the duty says that the department chair must ensure that must order supplies for the department. That's the duty, but how do I know I mean, they can order supplies, I can order them, you know, they can be over budget, they can be under budget, they could be supplies that they want versus supplies teachers need, what is it about ordering supplies that even connects to your vision. So notice the difference between the two. The job description says you have to order supplies, the success criteria says ensure that the teachers have the supplies they need in order to achieve our vision. notice a difference. One, I just have to order supplies and get them in by the deadline to I have to make sure that the supplies I order are facilitating teachers ability to achieve the vision for our school. Hey, Robin here and I just want to break in real quick to ask you a huge favor. You see, I want to get the word out to everybody about builder ship and I could use your help. If you're really enjoying this episode. Would you mind just going to your podcast platform and leaving a quick review? You see the reviews get the word out. They tell other people this is a great show other people who have never heard of school leadership reimagined before can hear about it. And you'd be sharing the word about builder ships. So would you mind just leaving a quick review? It would mean the world to me. Okay, now back to the show. So what I want you to do is to look at every single job description for everybody who's in a leadership position in your school. And then I want you to take the duty the task and turn it into an outcome. Okay, let me give you a couple of other ones. Let's say that it's did they have to observe classes? Well, what does that mean? Just get into five classrooms a week five classrooms a month that that does. So what they get into those classrooms. 

The point of being in those classrooms if you want them to give teachers feedback that changes instruction that improves instruction. So you're going to say instead of observing classrooms, you're going to say something like monitors these instructional program to ensure that teachers are teaching according to the curriculum, and in a way that meets the needs of all students. That's an example it could be teaching in a way that aligns with our vision mission and core values in the do you see the difference? I'm not just observing classrooms, I am in there to ensure that the instruction moves us to our vision aligns with our mission, and does not violate the core values, do you see the difference? And so that's what I want you to do for each piece of the job description, I want you to take the task, and I want you to turn it into an outcome. Let me give you a couple of examples from central office, let's say that you are in charge of the curriculum department in your particular district. And so you have curriculum coordinators, like a reading specialist who works for you. And that person is in charge of supporting all of the reading specialists throughout the district. So you might say, you know, as a job description, they have to visit schools and provide support for the reading specialists. Okay, great. What does that mean? But you also know you have a district vision that is about getting all kids reading at or above grade level by grade two, okay. So the reading specialists, then it's not just going into schools and supporting reading specialists, right, the reading specialist then has to make sure that they are selecting materials that will ensure that selected materials for grades K pre K through two that ensure that all students get on and maintain get on a reading level by grade two and sustain that. It could mean providing feedback to teachers on reading strategies to ensure that all students get on grade level, do you see the difference? They are not just going to schools, their purpose in being in those schools. It's a setup the reading teachers in those schools so that those Teachers can help students get on grade level, and then sustain they're on grade level or above grade level performance throughout their time there. So that's the difference. So what I want you to do is I want you to go through right now, all of your job descriptions. And instead of just looking at their job descriptions and the task, what is the outcome, we call this success criteria. Okay. So again, those of you are in bu we have a whole lesson on how to do success criteria, and some examples. 

That's all in level four. 

Okay, so the second thing you're going to do is once you have the success criteria laid out, you are going to meet with every member of your leadership team individually. I know that's a pain, but it's important, and you are going to onboard them to their role. So think about this as summer like, you know, you have team leaders and you have contracts, and maybe you can't bring them in until you know the beginning of the school year, whatever, whatever it is, whenever you can get access to them, you're going to set up a 15 to 30 minute meeting with each member of your team. Okay, and you're gonna do it individually, this is not a group meeting. And you're gonna sit down with each one, and you're gonna say, Listen, here is here are the success criteria, this is what I believe will make you successful in your role. And you're gonna go through each one with that person and make sure they understand it. And then here is the nuance that builders have, you're going to ask them, Where are they currently, with regard to that success criteria? Let me give you an example.

Let's say that you have a success criteria that they need to, they need to identify the struggling teachers on their team, and provide support for those struggling teachers to help those struggling teachers get to at least proficient in the most critical areas of the teacher evaluation system. I just made that up. I don't even know if that's a thing, right? But let's say that that's their thing. So then you're gonna say, All right, let's take a look at where you are with this. First of all, do you do you have you have you done this in the past? Or have you never done this in your role before? And then they're gonna say, Well, I've done it kind of, okay, so you have or they're gonna say, No, I've never done this. Okay, so you haven't started yet? So we're gonna look at how do we get you on? What do you need in order to get started? What kind of support do you need from me? What kind of resources do you need, so that you can start doing this if this is something you haven't done before? Okay, so first thing we're going to do is we're going to ask them, okay, like, where are you so not started? Or getting started is the first level. The second level is okay, I've I've done some of it. But I'm still not confident around. It's I'm building competency. So they've either not started or they're building competency building competency means like, I'm learning, but I still feel like I have more to learn and you're gonna identify, what is it that you still have to learn? And then how do we help you learn it so that you have the competency you need to be able to do this independently going forward? The third level is that I'm preparing to take ownership See, this one's weird, right? Because preparing to take ownership, what does that mean? What it means is, I understand the success criteria, I'm ready to take ownership, and I'm ready to get started. And so I have everything I need, I'm ready to get started, we're gonna put some logistics in place. But other than that, I'm ready to take ownership of it. The fourth one is partial ownership of the results, which means that I am doing this work, and I'm owning the results, but I still need some support. And then finally, it's full ownership. 

So let me go through those five again, new not started building competency, preparing to take ownership, take partial ownership, and full ownership. And what you're going to do is with each success criteria, you're going to go through that and you're going to say, All right, here's the success criteria, where are we and you're going to give them then you're going to have them rate themselves and give them some feedback on it. So you all are going to agree about where they are. And then over the course of the first semester of the new school year, you are going to be moving them and meeting with them every couple of weeks. And looking at those success criteria and moving them from wherever they are to full ownership over those success criteria. Now, why do we do this as builders, because ultimately, when people are in a leadership role in your building, in other words, they have a position they are in charge of something, they need to own that role. What we do is we give people partial ownership of the role, right? We, we tell them what to do, we direct them every step we micromanage, because we believe we can't get stuff done without it. And it's why we're so exhausted. If instead, you helped people take true ownership over their role over their position over the demands of their position, then you can focus on the things only you can do, because you can trust that the work is getting done by the people who are on your team. And that's how you create a high performing team. 

So first thing, you got to define the roles and you create success criteria to do that. Second thing, you need to onboard people to the roles and making sure that you are doing the work and giving them the feedback until you get them to full ownership. Third thing is you got to continually give them feedback on those same success criteria. So you're not creating a new feedback form, you're not doing it though. Instead, once they have those success criteria down, you then continue to meet with them. And you continue to go through this success criteria. And you talk about what they're doing in each of those areas. And you give them feedback on what they're doing. And when they need help. Those meetings are an opportunity for you to help troubleshoot and think things through with them on their success criteria. And so you are continually giving them feedback and support on the things that you've already on boarded the ones who use you, you identify what success looks like, you set them up for full success in that role. And then you give them consistent feedback and support around those success criteria. So they can continue their success in their role. And those weekly meetings provide accountability, because you're there, they know that they're going to be sitting down with you for 15 to 30 minutes, every few weeks. And they're going to be sitting down and talking to you about the success criteria, they're going to be showing you evidence that they've achieved those success criteria, you're gonna be giving them support around that. And so there's constant and continual accountability. And when you do that, it begins to shift the culture of your school. Because now instead of people being on the job and making it up as they go along, people now know, what does it really take to be successful people have regular contact with you about how they're doing. So they're getting that feedback and able to use it. And even if central office, same thing, it changes the culture of central office because you don't have people making up the role or, you know, aggressively trying to get into a role that they think is climbing but really isn't. And they realize they don't even want the role. Yeah, it helps you pick the right people for the role having the success criteria there. It just creates a lot more clarity so that you don't have the dysfunction of a lot of teams. Instead, you have clarity, you have for momentum, you can trust your team, they can trust you. There's transparency, it's powerful.

So here's my challenge for you. 

This week, I want you to take some time to take a look at your org chart, if essential office even at school, even if your org chart has two people you and a assistant principal or you am a lead teacher or three people you yourself and you write well, whoever's on your org chart, I want you to sit down and I want you to take a look at that org chart independent of personalities, what should it look like for your organization? Then once you do that, take the positions, look at those position descriptions and turn them into success criteria. And then finally, sit down with the people in the Those positions and properly onboard them to those positions, and then give them feedback. So if you have somebody coming in new, this is a great way to hit the ground running and start people out on the right foot. If you have people who are returning and they've been in the positions before, this is a great way to do a reset so that this school year can feel different, and people can really step up into the roles. So that's your challenge for this week. 

And I promise you, if you do that, if you spend some time deliberately over the summer thinking about the roles in your organization, and then properly onboarding people into those roles and setting them up for success. You will build a high performing team, like a builder. 

We'll see you next time for our next success secret.

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