Success Secret #7: Do ONE thing at a time


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 220

Hey, before we begin the show today, I want to make sure that you know that we have opened up our next cohort and builder ship University. You don't have a lot of time left because a cohort closes Friday. So you need to go ahead and sign up if you're going to join us for this cohort. So go to build leadership And make sure that you get into the cohort before it closes on Friday. All right now on to the show. You're listening to the school leadership reimagine podcast episode 220. How do builders like us make a dramatic difference in the lives of our students in spite of all the obstacles we face? How do you keep your vision for your school from being held hostage by resistant teachers, uncooperative parents, ridiculous district policies or lack of time, money or resources. If you're facing those challenges right now, here's where you'll find the answers strategies, and actionable tips you need to overcome any obstacle you face. You don't have to wait to make a difference in the lives of the people you serve. You can turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Let's get started.

Welcome to the School Leadership Reimagined podcast

Hey, builders, welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robyn Jackson. And today we are going to finish up our summer of Success Series by talking about success. Secret number seven. And the secret is a little bit more nuanced. So I want to give you an illustration. So someone said this to me once you know like imagine that you are on one side of a river, and the river is is filled with alligators. Now what we are trained to do as leaders is we're trained to jump into the river fight every alligator to get to the other side. But when you are builder, you realize that your job is not to fight alligators, your job is to get to the other side. So sometimes you need to fight an alligator. But other times, you just need to just go around the alligator or get out get away from the alligator because your goal is to get to the other side. Many leaders get caught up in fighting alligators. They feel like they have to read the entire river of alligators. And that's their job. And so they spend their work, doing all the things trying to get rid of every alligator in sight. And builders realize that your job is not to get rid of every alligator in the river, your job is to get to the other side. And this becomes really important at the beginning of the school year, because a lot of administrators that I talked to are so stressed out right now they are telling me Well, I got to do this.

And I got to do that, you know, we are opening up the doors to build a ship University and people are telling me you know, like I want to join builder ship university, but I'm so busy right now. And you know, I just can't. And I'm looking at them. And I feel such enormous pity. Because when you say I'm too busy to join right now, here's what you're really saying, you're really saying that I cannot get better as an administrator until I'm not busy. And think about what you're saying. If you're saying that you can't get better until you're not busy, then what you're really saying is that, that your growth depends on outside circumstances. And that if you stop being busy long enough to join, as soon as you get busy again, you're going to toss everything that you're learning aside and go back to being busy when the whole point is to stop being busy. And the reason that so many of us are so busy, is because we're trying to do all the things. And one of the things about being a builder is you don't you you live with some alligators now that offends people, sometimes they're like, but this is about the children. And so we have to make sure we solve all the problems and you know what you're doing every time you are running around solving all the problems. It stops being about the kids and you become so engrossed in solving the problems that you lose sight of what the kids really need. And frankly, what the kids really need. It's not that complicated. 

We overcomplicated by creating all of these programs. 

We feel like every time something crops up, that looks like a problem. And I'm being intentional about my words here because not everything that looks like a problem is a problem. But we're so programmed to think that every time something crops up that it that looks like a problem. It's our job as quote unquote leaders to solve that problem. We think that's what being a leader And maybe that is what being a leader is, which is why you need to stop leading and start building because being a leader keeps you chasing all of these problems and being overwhelmed and being too busy, rather than being very focused. And, and the biggest difference that I see between leaders and builders is that leaders are running around trying to do all the things, and builders are very disciplined and very focus. So today's success secret is really about trying to think through and doing the right things rather than doing all the things. It's about being strategic. It's about staying focused. And if you've been listening to the success secret series, you see a theme, right? Because everything goes back to that. Today, I really want to talk about this final secret, because it's so important. And that is the power of one thing. You see, when you're a leader, you feel like, if you're not doing all the things, you're slacking. 

So how many times have you been around other principals, and everybody's talking about how busy they are, and how, how late they stay at work and how they were working nights and weekends. And you know how they never have time during their day, because as soon as they walk in the building, they're being pulled in all these different directions. And although people complain about that, in some ways, they feel proud about that, because that's what we have been fooled into believing leadership is about that if you're not busy as a leader, if you're not staying late, burning the candle at both ends sacrificing some part of your life, then are you really leading, that's the that's the that's the bill of goods that we've been sold about what it means to be a leader. If you're not busy, every single moment of the day, if you don't go home, just numb with exhaustion, that have you really led that day. And many of us buy into that ethos. And so when you go from being a leader to being a builder, it can feel a little jarring at first, when you go home while the sun is still up, it can feel a little uncomfortable at first, when you're not stressed out, it can feel a little weird, like maybe I'm missing something at first, when you are going to work and you're working on things that you want to work on and your building is running smoothly and you're not getting interrupted all day, it can feel a little weird. But when you're a builder, that's the point. Because builders are able to do that. Because we are focused on one thing at a time. When you divide your attention on more than one thing, then you create a lot of the chaos, you are part of the problem. And we think that we're doing what's right for kids when we do that, but in reality, we are creating more problems. Because here's how it works. Let's say that you take 10% of your attention and you put it here, you know you've got 100% capacity, right? You take 10% And you put it here, you put another 20% on this project over here, and you spend 30% on discipline, and you spend another 20% on getting into classrooms, I've lost count where we are we're at 100 yet, but you get my point, you're dividing 10% here, 20% here, 15% here, then you go in. And first of all, nothing gets your full attention and your full effort, which means that you are giving less than your best to a lot of stuff. And so how good are you going to be how much impact you're going to have when you're giving less than your best to all these things. 

The second thing is that we never take into consideration the switching cost. 

Have you ever sat down to do some work, and then your phone rings and you go answer your phone. And then after you get off your phone and you take care of that you try to go back to work and it takes you a minute to say Okay, where was I? What was I doing, and you lose time not just by answering the phone, but it takes a moment to get back into the thing you were doing and then another interruption comes and then you lose a little bit of time and then you go back to the thing you're doing. And it seems like it takes you for ever to get anything done. And in reality it does because not only are you getting interrupted, but when you go back to the work, it takes you longer to do the work because you have to get back into that work mode again, assuming you even can get back into work mode. So when you are trying to divide your attention amongst all these different things, you you first of all, don't give your best to anything Second of all, it takes you way longer to get anything done because of switching costs. And then third ever everything feels important. So nothing is you just wearing yourself out. You're not making impact. It's taking you longer to do the work. Why do we do This again. 

Now, here's what builders do. Builders recognize they can't do everything. But builders also recognize that they shouldn't do everything. And instead, they focus on one thing now, they don't just randomly pick one thing. Builders take time and use a process to help them figure out what is the right one thing, we call that process and micro slicing. But micro slicing helps you take a look at everything that's going on in your school and figure out where does 100% of my energy, attention and effort need to be placed right now. And they put 100% of their energy and effort on that one thing. They address it, they fix it, they put systems in place, so that that thing can operate optimally, even after they stopped focusing on it. So they can trust that once they address this thing, they don't have to go back to it, it's going to continue to work as they move on to the next one thing. And they continue to do that. And that's why builders get more done in a year than most people. That's why builders have these incredible results in a year when other people are spending five and 10 years scraping to try to get what builders can accomplish in one year. Because builders focus their attention on one thing at a time.

Let me give you a real example. Okay, so let's talk about leader A, and then builder B. Okay, so leader a goes in at the beginning of the school year, and leader a is doing things like Okay, I gotta get my new teacher settled and make sure that they're working, I gotta get the senses in and all the other district paperwork in. We have a strategic plan that we did over summer. So I gotta launch all these new curriculum. And these initiatives that we're doing in these programs, I gotta make sure that my parents are happy and satisfied, I got to do my back to school theme and make sure that that's going the first couple of weeks of school, I gotta make sure that I get into classrooms and start working on my evaluation schedule, I gotta make sure that I deal with discipline, I, okay, you get my point, like, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, on and on and on, they're doing all the things and it feels overwhelming, and they're exhausted, and there's back to school night. And then there's, you know, the first PTA meeting, and we get kids being enrolled at the last minute and on and on and on, you get my point. So leader a takes their 100% energy, and they allocate 1%, to this 5% of that. And usually the allocation is based on what is most annoying, and what is most feels most urgent. So their allocations for their energy, their time, their attention are not consistent, right. So they, they, they spend 5% on the district stuff one day, but then as the deadline approaches, they spend 20% of their time energy making the district happy. The the back to school, you know, festivities get a lot of their attention at the beginning. And and then after they die down, they try to take some of that attention. 

Now I have more time to focus on this.

And so they are constantly moving and switching back and forth between all these things. And all of those things feel important. And all of those things feel urgent at some time or another. And that's why we're so exhausted. And that's why we're so overwhelmed. Okay, now let's look at builder B, builder B still has to do the district stuff, builder B still has to, you know, take care of the all the normal back to school stuff, builder B still has to get teachers on boarded and all of that sort of thing. But builder B, before she begins, she sits down and she takes a look at everything that she has to do. And she starts saying, If I focus on this right now, and I ignore everything else, will I get closer to my vision? Will the work stay on mission? Will we be in alignment with our core values? And she goes through that list, and she's ruthless. Yes, the district stuff has to be done. Do I have to be the one who does it? Can somebody else do it? Is this something that I can give to my APS to be in charge of? Is this something my secretary can do? Somebody else can do? Okay? Yes, I know that. The parent isn't the parents stuff is important. Is this something I can help my teachers take charge of so that because they're the ones who are going to be interfacing with the parents and then I can be a part of it. I can show him my teachers who really Plan and Focus and drive this work in ways that help the parents become allies later on. And they go through that list. 

And then they realize the builder be realized Is this okay? You know what, of all these things, the thing that's most important, the thing that has the biggest long term impact is making sure my teachers are straight from the very beginning. So, I'm going to spend 100% of my time getting into every teacher's classroom in the first month of school, identifying that teachers one thing, working with that teacher to set a professional growth goal for the beginning of the school year, and making sure that from the very beginning instruction is where it needs to be. That's where my 100% energy and effort is going to be. At everything else can wait. 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. Now, I know somebody just had a heart attack. No. What do you mean we have to do this? Maybe. But a builder is that focused? Now? Let's follow up with leader a and builder B in October. 

Okay. Leader A is tired by October. Leader A is feeling like oh, I mean, it's it's only October and I'm already exhausted. Because leader Ray has done all the things. But later he still feels behind because yeah, I was supposed to be working on you know, getting into classrooms, but I still have so many classrooms I haven't gotten into Yeah, I was supposed to be working on a parent thing. But I did some things but it didn't have time to do other things. I've got all this follow up I gotta do. Yeah, I was supposed to be, you know, getting my new teachers on board. And I've gotten to almost everybody but there's still some teachers I haven't gotten to, and some other teachers that I got to the beginning who need me to follow up with them. And yeah, it should have been and so later a still has the same amount of to dues and in fact because they've been dividing their attention between all these things, they've actually created more to dues because there's so much that's on finished leader a sits there in October and nothing is done just feels like this ongoing continuous drug of stuff that still has to be done and they don't have enough time in the day to do it. So leader raised are staying later leader a starts you know, putting off work a leader a starts feeling very inadequate, because they feel like they should be further along than they are. It's October after all, leader Ray is is is starting to feel frustrated with her team because she's doing all the work. And no and it doesn't feel like other people are doing the same amount of work. Oh, and there are new problems there October problems that are cropping up. 

So the to do list just feels longer and longer and longer. 

Now let's look at builder B. Builder B has been very, very focused. And yes, there's some things that builder B still hasn't done but they're not priorities are not things that are going to move the school towards their vision builder B has by October been in every teacher's classroom, at least one some more than once. Builder B has sat down with every single teacher and set a professional growth goal that they both agree on, that's going to move the school closer to their vision builder B is starting to see some teachers who have already acted on her feedback and are improving builder B has been giving teachers consistent support. So the teachers feel supported, they feel connected to builder B they're making progress. Builder B has also discovered some things about her teachers, talents, gifts, aspirations that teachers have and builder B is doing a lot to give teachers more informal opportunities for to take over things to take more ownership over what happens in the school. So the teachers are stepping up builder B has worked with the new teachers and gotten them successfully integrated into the school and also cut off some really bad habits that they may have been bringing from their previous places of employment so that the teachers are fully integrated into the culture and into the fabric of that school. And they're fully buying into the vision, the mission and the core values. 

Builder B is looking back at the first couple of months of school with satisfaction because she really feels like her teachers are all on board now and she's got some systems in place to make sure that they continually are supported throughout the year. It was a lot to get into every classroom at the very beginning of the school. all year. But after doing that, she now knows where every teacher is in her building. She knows what they need. She's got her coach on board, she's got other resources on board. So the teachers are growing, even if she's not checking. And now she can look at her lesson she can say, All right, I've done that. I've got that system in place. We're moving, I'll maintain that system. And we have some things in place to keep it maintaining. But now what is the next most important thing? Do you see the difference? We think that we're doing the right thing by staying busy. Well builders know is that busyness is a trap. The more busy you are, the less productive you are. And so builders are never busy, builders are focused, builders are looking for the one thing that they need to be doing right now, that will make the biggest difference for their school. And then once they've identified that one thing, they take a singular focus on that one thing, even if it means sacrificing some of the other things that are screaming for their attention, but don't matter. 

And instead, builders are building.

Listen, everybody has the same amount of stuff, waiting for them at the beginning of the school year. Same amount of duties, same amount of pressures, same amount of demands, but how you handle that makes all the difference. Either you jump in and you spread yourself very thin. And you sacrifice your sanity your peace em and and the the progress that your school could be making, because you feel compelled to fight every alligator in the river. Or you can be very, very focused. Do the work that matters most deliberately ignore the rest and make tremendous progress progress to you get to the goal on the other side, like a builder. 

If you want some help doing that, make sure that you sign up for builder ship university because one of the first things we do inside of BU is we help you prioritize the work we help you focus on what matters most. And as a bonus for signing up. For bu this in for this coming cohort. We're going to be doing a special masterclass and the masterclass we're going to help you bring everything that is is pressuring you right now, and help you figure out what you need to work on. And what you can ignore for now. It is transformative, you you walk out of that session, feeling confident that you are doing the right work. And you see results very, very quickly because you're focused. So builder ship Sign up for builder ship University today. First thing we're going to do is we're going to help you unbusy yourself so that you can focus on what matters most. And then we're going to take you step by step through the process. So you can turn your school into a success story and be the principal that you know you are called to be and make the difference. You know you are called to make like a builder. Builder ship 

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 were 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 bill to ship University. Just go to build a ship and get started writing your school success story today. Hey, this is Robin and thanks for listening to the show.

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