How Builders approach Team Building


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 222

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Hey, builders, welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robert Jackson. And today we are going to talk about how builders do team building. So it's the beginning of the school year. And everywhere I love people are looking for great team building activity for people back to school or for that first faculty meeting. And you've heard me talk about team building activities before so you if you're listening to this podcast, you know how that goes. And so today, instead of just kind of complaining about what people call team building, I want to kind of break down how builders build teams and talk about the difference because I think he could help you as you're thinking about these first weeks of school and how you can start the year strong and build a solid team that you can rely on that can last. You know, one of the things that bothers me about a lot of team building activities is they were off five minutes after you do them. But builders when they're investing in built team building, they are building something that they can rely on during the tough times, you know, the things you do now should be things that allow you and your team to get through October and get through December when everybody's just tired and can't wait to get to winter break and get through March when everybody's exhausted and they can't wait for spring break. And Spring Break isn't long enough to help you get through May when the end of school year is happening. And people are tired and cranky. If your team building doesn't do that. Why are you wasting your time. So we're going to talk about that. But before we do, I just want you to know how excited I am about this new cohort of builders who have come in to build us up university now builds up universities close we're going to do one more intake this year.

And that's going to be it. 

But this new cohort is extraordinary people are so energized. So excited. We had a kickoff call last week and it's just been really wonderful to see. And then I'm really proud of the builders who have been in bu for a while because people are posting their big wins. People are talking about how they're starting the school year. And it just feels different because of everything that they've learned in bu that this school year feels different. They're anticipating their wins, the amount of wins that are coming in to be right now for people who are seeing extraordinary gains and test scores, just the people who are seeing their culture shift people who are are are talking about you know, we have people who said I have the first laptop free vacation, and seven years where I just want a vacation, I didn't worry about it, somebody else went on a 20 day vacation, and then think about our school for 20 days because she just knew everything was straight, like those kinds of wins. That's why we do this work. And so I just needed to spend a moment gushing about the kinds of people who are in builder ship University, the winds that they are achieving on a daily basis. I love this work. I love working with the people inside of you. So if you're listening and you're inside of builders ship University, just know how proud I am to be a part of a group of people who are so focused and so dedicated. And I just I love you guys, and I'm just really excited about the school year the things you're going to be able to do this school year. Okay, gushing over. One other thing you've mentioned, you've heard me mention it before. I've talked about how occasionally when there's time, I work with some people who are central office administrators one on one for a very targeted period of time to accomplish something very specific. And so I haven't, you know, been working with folks this summer haven't had really any openings. But going into the fall, we have two slots available.

So let me tell you who this is for and how it works. If you are a central office administrator, if you run a department, if you are a deputy superintendent, if you are a, you know, Director of Teaching and Learning, if you are a an Associate Superintendent of Acts, or if you are a superintendent of schools, build a ship University is really focused on principles and people at the building level. But there are things that we haven't built a ship university that would serve you.

So if you are in a central office position, and you are coming back to school, and you're working with your team, but your team feels all over the place. And you don't really have direction or organization for your team. And you really kind of want to get your team on the same page, or you are in charge of several schools in your district and keeping track of those schools and what they need and getting all of the schools under your purview, focused in the right direction and making sure that they are making progress. If you have a new team member or new set of team members, and you need to properly onboard them, so that you don't become the bottleneck in your department and your department can run more effective and efficiently. If you are a superintendent and you are running your district, but you don't have systems in place to really make your district effective and efficient. And you're really, you know, going before the school board every single month, and they're asking you questions and and you're having a hard time answering them. And you know, you're just you really feel like you're always trying to figure things out that you don't have all the information, we have systems that we can help you put in place to support you. So if you're interested, just send us an email to info I nfo at mine steps And say that you're interested in coaching, usually, the coaching happens for a month, we set a goal at the beginning of the month, and then by the end of the month, you have a system in place, you have something accomplished, you have a problem solved. So we have two slots available this fall. If you'd like one of those slots, just send us an email at info at mine steps Okay, let's jump in and talk about how builders do team building because it's very different than the way other people do. So let's talk about how bosses and leaders do team building. Usually what happens is, we only really think about team building at the beginning of the school year when everybody's back, and we have some time to fill, we have time with our teachers. And we want to do something so that everybody starts the year off enthusiastic. 

So we find a great inspirational video to show people and then have some conversations around it, we try to figure out some inspirational activity that people can participate in, that gets people excited about the school year and creates this kind of bond in the room, maybe even makes a few people cry. We look for some fun activity that we can do for everybody, whether it's serving them breakfast, or you know, taking them rock climbing or Axe Throwing or just having some sort of happy hour after the pre service week where everybody kind of gets together and we treat and people can kind of let their hair down and enjoy each other and talk and bond. And listen, I don't have a quarrel with any of those things. Here's my quarrel with those activities. When you do them, those activities are designed to make people feel good in the moment. Right. So they are nice to have like, I like a happy or I don't drink but I'm like a happy hour as much as anybody like sitting around talking to people and nibbling on fried food and hanging out and getting to know people on a personal level. Because we don't often have time to do that. I love a great inspirational video, I was at a speech about a month ago and that the speaker told this great inspirational story. And I shed a tear too. But you know, once we left the room, I was back on focus on my work, right? So I love those things. But if we are looking to those things to create the kind of bond in our staff that gets everybody on the same page and everybody focused on doing the right work the right way for the right reasons. Those things will fail you every single time. And so it's not that builders don't do those things. But builders don't look to those things, those activities to help create that bond to help create that team in their schools.

That when you really think about it, we call it team building, but that's not what creates a team right? 

Like if you look at championship teams, they're not championship teams because they saw an inspirational video or they did an activity involving chart paper and post it notes and colored markers. They're an amazing championship team. Because first of all, they're very clear about what they want. They want the championship. So they have a common goal. And everybody understands that goal. So ask yourself this question, do you have clarity around your goal? Do you have a common goal? And everybody understands that goal? In most cases? The answer is no. So I don't care how many team building activities you do. Without that common goal, your team, there's nothing to pull your team together. What a lot of people are trying to do with these team building activities, is they're trying to create a bond without the goal. And they said, Well, of course, the goal is kids and, you know, doing the best for kids. 

But nobody knows what that mean, or really, everybody has their own interpretation of what that means. So just because we're all here for the kids, that's not a common goal. That's very, very vague, open to interpretation. And if you peel back the layer and said, What does that mean to you, each person would give you a different answer. And you would realize that you're more divided than united, even though everybody says, Hey, we're here about the kids. So you need clarity, right. So what builders do is they create that clarity around why we are here with, say, with me, vision, mission, and core values. And so with that clarity, with that, that clarity around the vision, mission and core values, you automatically create and unite people together, because we now have a common goal. And the builder's vision, mission and core values is different than the way that you were taught to create vision, mission and core values as a leader, as a leader, your you know, your, your vision is bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla. And nobody knows it. It's not driving the work every single day. And then don't get me started on the mission statement, which is usually a restatement of the vision doesn't say anything new, it just says the vision over using different words. And then the core values, some schools have 10 of them. And none of them are non negotiable. So they're just really belief statements. There's nothing there that's going to hold a diverse staff together. Builders have very clear vision, mission and core values, their vision, their mission and their core values function as one sentence. So this is the way it works. Your vision answers the question, what are we building your mission answers the question why it's important, your core values answer the question, what's our role? What's the role that we must play in doing that. So when you create that, you create what meet what turns into vision, because mission, therefore, core values, I'll say that again, vision, because mission, therefore, core values, let me give you an example. 

100% of our students will complete successfully complete algebra by eighth grade, because we exist to prepare students to be successful in college. Therefore, we're going to focus on individual students needs, keep things very, very simple, and have each other's backs. Now, can anybody remember that, of course, and if your whole team remembers that you've created instant clarity, and cohesion, and now your team is all focused on the same goal. Now contrast that with, Let's all watch a video. That's an inspiring video about somebody giving a speech and let's cry together, let's bond over the video. And then when things get tough, I forgotten what the video was about. And so I go and resort to what I always do when things get tough, which is lash out or hide or whatever it is I do when things get tough. And I can't rely on that team building activity. That's what happens. When you create something and call it a team building. You're not building a team, you creating a moment, and that's great. I'm all for creating moments, but it's not building the team. Now, when you have a clear vision, mission and core values, that's what builds the team because when times get tough, and I'm not sure what to do, and I'm stressed and I'm overwhelmed. I don't have to figure it out. As a team, we've already agreed on how we're going to respond. If I don't know what work to do. Well, I just have to look at my vision and say, Well, what work is going to get us to our vision. If I am losing my motivation. I don't have to look at another motivational video, I can just go back to our mission and say, Oh, this is why we're doing this if I am not sure how to act or what to do or how to behave or even if I'm resolving conflict with another staff Have member or a family member or student, I can rely on an anchor in the core values. And so that's what helps your team stay on the same page. 

That's what builds your team's capacity to move forward. 

If you know Brene, Brown says clarity is kind. And I've heard people recite it. But then we create these very vague and unclear vision, mission, core values, team building activities that don't create clarity. When you create that clarity in your team, then people can rely on that when times get tough. People can govern themselves accordingly, when they have that clarity around vision, mission and core values. And that's the first step to building the team. And I alluded to the second step, which is cohesion, right? Once you've gotten that groundwork laid, and everybody understands what are we building why it's important, and what's our role? The next step is how do we make sure that we are building the will and skill of our team, so that people can actually embody and do the things that our vision mission and core values say that they should be doing? Because it's one thing to be clear, here's the goal. But you also have to make sure that you're building the muscle of your team, the the will and the skill of your team, to be able to do those things every single day.

And so the second way that you can build your team, it's not one of these feel good activities. The second way you build your team, is you consistently practice the four disciplines of builder ship, feedback, support, accountability, and culture. And every time you go into a classroom to give a teacher feedback, you need to be thinking about how do I make this teacher a better team member? How do I help this teacher grow into what a champion team member looks like, acts like does, when you're providing support, you're not just randomly giving people support, you're intentionally providing support that builds your team, when you are, are holding people accountable, you're not holding people accountable, because they're getting on your nerves, or because they're violating the rules, you're helping people be more accountable, because that's what makes them a better team member. And then, when you're addressing issues in your culture, you're not addressing issues in your culture, because, oh, this is toxic, I can't stand it anymore. You're addressing issues in your culture, because you're building your team, you're creating a space where the right behaviors become natural, and the wrong behaviors become hard to do, they become unnatural. And when you do that, you build a true team. What we do with team building is we expect that the emotions or the fun or the activity is going to turn people into good team members. And it doesn't, we think, Oh, if they just bonded together, maybe they wouldn't treat each other so horribly. But that stuff wears off. What what last is when you actually build a team and, and and give everybody a common purpose, clarity. And then you actually start building everybody's capacity to be high performers on the team you're building. Hey, Robyn 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.

It makes so much sense. And yet, we hardly do it. We Yeah, we get and give feedback. But we do it more because it's required. It's what we think we're supposed to do. Rather than thinking about the feedback, the kind of feedback that we're giving, is this feedback, building someone into the kind of team member that we need to achieve our vision? Yeah, we give support. We have to do PD and all of that we know that. But are we thinking about is this support, building this person's capacity to become the kind of team member who will help us reach our vision, and on and on and on? If you thought about it that way, there's a lot of stuff you're not going to do this year. And you're going to start to see there are a lot of things you need to be doing instead of that would build the team So the first thing you need is clarity. The second thing you need is cohesion, right? You've got to do things to bring people together. And those things are not reliant on people's emotions, those things are reliant on building their will and skill, their capacity to be able to be the kind of team members that we need to achieve that vision, live out that mission and embody those core values. Third thing you need after clarity and cohesion is you need to build competence.

Now, this is not about individual competence. This is about our competence in working together as a team. And this one is so neglected. We think that if we have individual great players, that will all of a sudden magically have a great team. That's why people are always looking for that unicorn teacher, right? This, this teacher is going to be everything we need. But if you take that teacher, and you throw that teacher into a toxic environment, I don't care how good that teacher is, that teacher is not going to be able to perform at their best. So we got to stop relying on individual personalities. Because even if we have the greatest teachers in the world, if they're not working together collectively towards that goal, then your team isn't gonna get there. So what are you doing to increase people's ability to work together? So things like how are you setting up your meetings? What's your communication, architecture looking like? What are you? What things are you doing to help your school function well to gather? How are you making sure that your school is being more efficient, and how you are moving towards your goals? So people, everybody's looking at data, I get it. But you know, I'm actually gonna do a podcast on this in a few weeks. Because I'm really starting to rethink how we look at data. I think that a lot of people are like, Oh, we're looking at data, we're making data informed decisions. But I'm not sure we're looking at the right numbers. And I think that a lot of people don't even know what numbers to look at, and how to think about those numbers. So yeah, we're looking at data. And we're having these data meetings and data walls and all this stuff. But is the way that we are looking at data helping us move our organization closer to achieving our vision, mission and core values? And if the answer is no, why are we doing it? So the when I talk about unique competence as a team, I'm talking about asking yourself this question, is the way that we work together, getting us closer to our vision, mission and core values or not? And if it's not, what do we need to do? What do we need to change in order to help us be more effective as a team and achieving our goals? So clarity, cohesion, competence? And then lastly, what are we doing to build our confidence? You see, one of the things that when I look at, and I'm not a big sports person, but when I look at sports teams that are championship teams, one of the things that they have is they have this this grit, this tenacity, this belief that they will win. 

And a lot of times, that's the difference. 

I remember, one of the best basketball games I've ever seen in my life, I was a teaching and a high school, and our kids in probably made it to the state championship. And our team was not full of a players. As far as I know, none of those kids ever made it to the NBA. I'm not even sure how many of them actually get college scholarships. These were not elite players, what they had was a coach, and this coach built in them, the tenacity to never give up. And they were playing in the state championship, a better team, it was all in all better. We were just happy they got to the state championship. But secretly, none of us actually thought that they were going to win. And when you saw them walk into the court that night, you didn't that you would have never guessed they would win, they were shorter, they were less, you know, athletic, and that they were clearly playing a better team. But here's what they did. They refused to lose that game went into five over times. And they just refuse to lose and the other team who could have beat them just got tired of the fact that this team refused to lose and I think they just gave up in the fifth overtime. They're just like, You know what, with these, we'r just never gonna beat him because they're just not going to lose. Now, that level of confidence is what it takes to get to 100% your staff has to believe it so much. They just refuse to lose that that when they had a setback, it doesn't make them say Oh, Oh, see, I knew this was never going to work. Instead, they just say, all right, how do we overcome this? Is your team building, building that level of tenacity and grit and confidence in your staff? If it's not me doing? What builders do is they say, they're thinking all the time, how do we build that confidence. And maybe I need to do an episode on just that, because it's so important. But I'll give you a taste of it. Now. Most of the time in schools, when we are sitting down and looking at things, we're always looking at our losses, we don't celebrate and unpack our wins, and understand why we win. Oh, he just it even when we do when we're just like, yay. And then we move on to the next challenge. And problem, one of the biggest things you can do to build confidence is to actually focus on the wins as much as you focus on the losses.

Now, this is not, I'm not telling you to be delusional, I'm not telling you to be like, Oh, we're fine. We're winning. And you know, when there are serious problems, but we spend so much time unpacking our losses, trying to understand why did we do this looking at the data to figure that out? Do we do that for our wins, because if you did, you would find that there are some things that you are doing that you don't even know you're doing, that are responsible for a large portion of your wins, and you really, instead of doing something new, should be doubling down on the thing that you know, is already working. And whatever I'm working with a school like that, I realized that most schools do not spend time doing that. And as a result, they think they're always behind rather than realizing there are some things they do well. And if they did more of that, they could see more progress faster, because they're already doing it. You don't need a new program, you just need to understand what you do well, and why it works and do more of that in many cases. So that's one way to build confidence. Another way to build confidence is that you are it the better you understand how you are going to achieve your goals, the more confident you feel, most people have no idea how to achieve their goals. So that's why we're always lurching from one thing to the next, we feel like we're guessing and we don't stick with anything long enough to really understand, okay, this works. We're not focused, one of the best ways to build confidence is to focus and build a ship University, one of the things we do when the first things we do in level one is that we help you build a one plan. That one plan says, If all else fails, and we did nothing else, these are the seven things that we need to do as a school. And if we just did these seven things, we could get to 100% success. Do you know how? How much that builds your confidence when instead of looking at 100% success and and being intimidated by it, you actually say no, here's how we're gonna get there. And then you start doing those things. And you start seeing results from those things. That people have been building up University for a while. It's funny, because of the arc of their development, they start out in BU, and they really struggle with that 100% vision, it just it feels impossible. But then when they sit down and say, All right, okay, let's just for a moment for kicks and giggles. Let's figure out what would it take to get to 100%. And they see how simple it is. Oh, my goodness, they have so much more confidence at that moment. And then when they go and actually do it and see these crazy results as a result of it, then they really develop the confidence not just the builder, but everybody on the staff does. The parents, the students, the the community, they begin to believe in that school as well, because the school has a focus and a direction and a track record. So is your team building, building the confidence of your staff?

And if it's not Why are you doing it? So let me recap. Builders are also doing team building stuff, but builders are intentional about the kind of team building stuff they do. So builders are doing team building to achieve four goals. First, they want to make sure there's clarity so that everybody knows the goal. Everybody knows what we're building, why we're building and the role they play. Secondly, builders build cohesion, they, once they have clarity around where they're going as a team. The next thing they do is they get everybody on the same page by building their will and skill. They do that through feedback support, accountability and culture. The third thing that builders do is they build competence not enough No competence, but their organizational competence. They make sure that they're doing things to make them work better as an organization. And then they're building confidence by staying focused on the right work, and then reaping those results, and then celebrating that. You want to do team building this year, do those four things.

Now, here's what happens if you don't do it. 

Right. So I talked about clarity, cohesion, competence, and confidence. If you do not create clarity, you will end up with confusion. If you don't have a vision, mission and core values, the builders way, then you end up with different people interpreting things different ways. And then nobody's focused in the same direction or you think you are, but you're not. And then that creates confusion, especially when you ask something if teachers are that you hit a roadblock, people are trying to resolve it doing the best they can based on the information they have. But nobody's clear about what we're building, why we're building or why we're building it or what our role is, then you create confusion. If you don't have cohesion, you open yourself up for conflict. People, if you're not giving people the right kind of feedback, support accountable and culture, to help them be the kind of team member who can actually achieve that vision, mission and core values, then what you have is you have people going rogue and people doing their own thing. And that creates conflict. If you don't build competence in your organization, the best you're gonna get is compliance, which means that you are going to be the bottleneck in your organization, because everybody's looking to you, you're making all the decisions, you're responsible for everything nobody takes responsibility for because you haven't built a kind of organizational competence, where people can step up where people can have be feel like they own the problem and own the solution. And so everybody just sits back and waits and let you do it. Because they don't have the competence, you don't have the competence as an organization to solve your problems. And that's the opposite of team building. And finally, if you don't build confidence in your in your in your staff, then you end up with cynicism. Yeah, we tried that before. Yeah, last year, we did that it didn't work. And instead of feeling like you know what we're going to no matter what we cannot lose, we will keep trying until we get to 100%, you're gonna have people are just sitting back, rolling their eyes, sucking their teeth, crossing their arms, not doing the work, because they don't really believe in you, and the vision are in themselves. So I don't care what kind of team building you do this year. If your team building doesn't create clarity, cohesion, competence, and confidence, you're wasting your time. But if you can be a little bit more intentional, not just at the beginning of the year, but all year through on building those four things in your staff. Not only will you have these feel good moments, not only will people bond, but you're actually going to build a high performing team that refuses to lose, that gets better and better and better. A team that even if they are different, they are coming together for a common goal. And they are working and giving their all to achieve it. If you really, really, really want that kind of team, then you need to start focusing on the activities and focus on what the activities are going to create in your staff. That's how you build a team. 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 bill to ship University. Just go to Built USHIP and get started writing your school success story today. Hey, this is Robyn, and thanks for listening to the show. Now if you really enjoy the content, would you do me a favor and share it with somebody else, all you need to do is pull out your phone, click on the little three dots next to the show and you'll see an option there to share the show. Click that and send it to somebody else who could really benefit from what you learned here today. Not only are you going to look like a rock star, but you're going to be helping out somebody else who really could use this information plus, I will be so grateful. So just go ahead right now click on those three dots and share the show.

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