Your Timeline is too short


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 224

Hey builders, before we jump into today's show, I need to know something, are you and I connected on the socials? Because if we're not we need to be so connect with me. I’m on Facebook at Robyn Jackson. I am on Twitter at Robyn underscore mind steps. I'm on LinkedIn at Robyn Jackson. Let's connect and let's keep the conversation going. Now, onto the show. You're listening to the school leadership reimagine podcast episode 224. 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.

Hey, builders, welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robyn Jackson. And today I want to talk to you about the difference between a leaders timeline and a builder's timeline. And hopefully, after you listen to this episode, you can take a little pressure off yourself. Because you see the way that we were trained as leaders was that we have one year one year to make all the difference. And so even the strategic planning cycle perpetuates this idea that you only have one year. And you've heard me say this before, but most people significantly overestimate what they can accomplish in one year, and significantly underestimate what they can accomplish in three years. And so today, I want to talk to you about that pressure, you're putting your self under by trying to feel like you need to complete something in a year, and help you take a builder ship perspective on your timeline. So let's jump in.

So most of the time, this is the beginning of the school year, and you just spent the summer creating a strategic plan. 

And you've got to make gains in one year. And we rationalize this, we say You know, this is the only time some of your students will ever have a first grade year. And so if you blow it, you ruined it for them for the rest of their lives. And you gotta make progress in a year, and you only have a year to do it. And so the clock starts ticking at the very beginning of school. And you feel that pressure and you're racing against this countdown clock to the end of the school year. And that makes you quite frankly sloppy. Because you are responding to pressure instead of urgency. And you are grabbing strategies that can give you that quick hit this school year, rather than taking your time playing the long game and establishing things that you can rely on year over year over year. I go ahead and a minute. Think about what you're doing right now. Think about where you are in your head right now. You're feeling that pressure I know you are. And not only that, but you're already feeling like I gotta get a game, I gotta get a win the districts looking at me, my parents are looking at me, my teachers looking at me, I gotta gotta gotta gotta. And because of that you're grabbing at at tactics, but not solutions. Because you're feeling that pressure, you are going for the quick win, rather than the sustainable victory. And so, builders look at things differently. 

You see builders aren't thinking in one year timelines, because first of all, it's an artificial construct the whole timeline of a school year is, especially when you're trying to build a 100% school that gets predictable and consistent results. Right? That timeline of one year is is completely artificial. And it makes you focus on the quick wins rather than the sustained victories. Builders are thinking in three to five year timelines. Now why three to five years, right. So three to five years is in many ways as much of an artificial construct as one year but here's the difference. Here's why it serves you. Based on you know, studies people have said that the most that a person can project out is about three years, like our brains just can't even see beyond that. And even if we create a 10 year plan or a five year sometimes even a five year plan, so much change changes in the course of that time that your plans or works of fiction, really, we can only reasonably project out about three years. But three years is enough time to make sustainable changes and get them embedded in your culture. Think about your own career, right? As a as a first year principal, you made all the mistakes, right? And you just exhausted and you got through the year, and then you go back into your second year, you're like, Okay, now, now that I've gone through my first year, I'm so much better. And then your second year, you make a whole nother set of mistakes, right. In fact, sometimes I think the second year being a principle is often harder than the first because you think it's going to be better and it isn't. And then your third year is when you usually hit your stride. Your third year is usually when you feel like you know what you're doing. Right. 

That is that's a natural cycle for how we grow as administrators, it usually takes about three school years for us to feel like we've we've really gotten it. Well, if you know that's true for your own development, why wouldn't it be true for a school that is transforming, that's becoming something better? Something, something that is 100%? School? Why wouldn't you give yourself that same three year grace period, it's not that you're just waiting for three years, you are making growth every single year and, and kids are benefiting from it. So you're not cheating the kids out of something. But instead, the stuff that you're doing in your school is stuff that will last stuff that will make a difference stuff that will matter to your kids, it's time for us to stop just kind of like using our kids as receptacles for our own ego boost, and doing a whole bunch of stuff that that doesn't really serve kids, but gives us that that lift on our test scores. Instead, why not do things that are going to be sustainable, you'll still get the lift and the test scores, but you're doing things that actually are good for kids, and not just the ones this year. But the ones that are coming 10 years from now. That's the difference. So what does that three year timeline look like? And what are builders doing in that three year time horizon? That's different. Okay. So we already know what our leaders doing in that one year time horizon, they're, you know, creating a plan in the summer, usually with things that are going to get on quick hits, they're pushing hard and, and adding more and more and more things to teachers plates, so that they can get those gains, they're stressing out because things are not working the way that they should. And when things happen and show up that aren't a part of the plans, their whole plan gets derailed, then they're there, they're on this constant hamster wheel to try to get a win this year to make themselves feel better to prove to people that what they're doing is working and to actually make a difference for kids lives. 

It's not all about us. 

A lot of it is but not all of it. And so we're trying to make a difference in kids lives. But because we have a one year timeline, where we're all about the quick hits, rather than the sustainable difference. So we end up stressed out, burned out, we're burning out our teachers, we're frustrated, because we're trying to go fast, and our teachers are saying we're pushing too hard. And we're creating all this pressure on them. And we feel like they don't have a sense of urgency, and so creates a clash in our culture, then we start satisficing halfway through the year, because we realize we're not going to get where we want to go. So we start rationalizing why when we're going to fail. And you know, we try to fail a little bit less. And we spend the rest of the year trying to do that. And in the summer, we're exhausted, we're frustrated, we're discouraged. We're just demoralized, and then we start the cycle all over again. Is that not insane? That's the way we're taught to do it. Here's her bill, just two builders are thinking in that three year timeline. And so they give themselves a lot of grace, the first year of that three year timeline is focused on establishing a different system. And we're not trying to do it all at once. So we start out with our vision, our mission, our core values, and then we start doing things to get ourselves in alignment with our vision, mission and core values. And then once we have those in place, we start looking at, alright, what are the most important things that we are doing right now. And then we're going to focus on those to the exclusion of everything else. And then we're going to start putting systems in place to support that work. 

So we're not just running around and giving people feedback. The feedback system we put in place is about building teachers capacity to do the work we've already identified as important so we can achieve our vision, mission and core values. We're not just randomly providing PD, we are being very intentional about the support and the PD, we provide teachers so we can set them up to be successful in their pursuit of our vision, mission and core values. We're not just running around and holding people accountable. We're creating systems that help people be account Trouble, even when we're not looking, we're not just, you know, doing, you know, random things and hope that it builds a culture. We're being intentional about engineering, a culture that sustains the work that that creates that momentum and that investment in our vision, mission and core values. And then, once we've got those systems in place, we start looking at what are the obstacles in our way, what's holding us back. And we establish a system that helps us systematically remove obstacles so that we can accomplish the same amount, we can accomplish more with the same amount of effort. It's not about adding doing more, it's about taking the effort we're already expending, but making things work better, because we're removing obstacles that get in our way. Then, how do we keep going, we create a rhythm around the work that that recognizes what the change process looks like, and puts things in place to help us sustain our momentum. Even when we're tired. Even when things get tough, even when life gets in the way. So that we can, we can be sure that the work we're doing will last it takes an entire year. And you don't have to start it in September, or whenever the beginning of the school year is for you. Anytime you started, you're going to have to go through a whole year of school to make sure that you've gotten things established, and you can't rush it. 

But along the way, you just get all these wins, right? 

Like the moment you get your vision, mission and core values, you get your staff focus, your work is more efficient, the moment you create that one plan, your work is more efficient, and focus, the moment you put those systems in place, you start seeing growth, exponential growth, and teachers, the moment you start putting that 90 Day planning process in place, you start to remove obstacles and create more momentum. And then the moment you start putting all of these other systems in place so that you can sustain that momentum, then you really start feeling like you're efficient as an organization. 

Hey, it's Robyn here real quick, I just want to interrupt this episode for just a second. Because if you are enjoying what you're hearing, then would you mind sharing this episode with somebody else. So all you need to do is just go to your phone, if you're listening to it on your phone, or your podcast player, and then click the three dots next to this episode. And it will give you the option to share the episode that if you do that three things are going to happen first, the person that you shared with is going to think you're a hero, especially if they're struggling with what we're talking about right now. They're going to love you. Secondly, you're going to feel good because you're going to get the word out about builder ship and start building this builder ship nation. And third, you will get my eternal gratitude because I really want to get this out to the world. And you'd be helping me out You'd be doing me a huge favor. So please share this episode with someone right now who's who's dealing with this same issue, someone you think would really benefit. And now back to the show.

And that's your first year. But here's what leaders do. After that first year, even if they did all that they go looking for something new Are we done that what's next, what's next, what's next? Well builders do is we say, we've already done that. So now let's give ourselves a year to get good at it. And that's one of the most subtle, but most powerful differences and a builder's timeline, he spent a whole year establishing stuff. Well, now you need to go through an entire year. And and and make sure that the stuff you established is working, and that you and your staff is getting better at it.

We have gotten into this, this this cycle of just adding more and more and more stuff. And then when the plate gets overwhelmed, and over and over full, we say oh, we need to take something off the plates. And then we randomly grab something off the plate. But we've created a culture where we're overloading our plates. And we're just walking around and trying to keep the plate from teetering over by randomly pulling things off the plate every once in a while, as opposed to creating things that are sustainable. Builders are about sustainability, because we have 100% goal. And we're not going to get there every if we're just ricocheting from one shiny object to the next. And so the second year of your builder ship journey is about taking all those things that you established in year one, and getting better at them. Just doing the work you've already established. When you do that you give you and your staff time to get good at stuff. You start working out the kinks, you you you build confidence in your staff. You start to see what works and what's not working and then you start to figure out okay, well let's tweak this so that it can work because you're trying to get to the 100% goal. We see a lot of people Go for the splashy games. And in your first year, you will have them write people in the first year and build a ship University consistently see 10% 20% 30% 50% growth. It's easy to get that big hit the first year. 

Problem is can you sustain it?

And can you focus on the next piece, it is a lot easier to go from 25% proficiency to 50%, or even 70% proficiency, it's a lot harder to go from 70 to 8080, to 90 to 100. It takes sustained effort. And it takes closing those final gaps. So you can get there, if you don't build that into your timeline time to do that, you get stuck you plateau. That's why many of us are stuck at 70%. It's why many of us are plateaued, we had some initial games, and we can't get the other ones, because we didn't take time to take the stuff that we established, and get good at it, and learn how to refine it so that it can close those final gaps. So your second year of being a builder is just about taking the work that you established in the first year. And all you're doing is executing, and you're getting better, and you're getting smarter about executing, and your school is operating better, and you're starting to see where the gaps are, and you're closing those gaps. That's your whole year, you didn't go through an entire school year, just doing that. So that you can learn and you can grow and your staff can build their confidence and their capabilities. And and and guess what? The whole time you're doing that your kids are benefiting. In fact, you're gonna the kids are getting more because it's consistent. You you're not off trying to learn something new. You know, I remember somebody saying about a teacher once the teacher is a first year teacher. And also what do you talk about, they've been teaching 20 years, it's a Yeah, but they just keep repeating their first year, every year for the last one years, never forgot that many of you are first year principals. Because you just keep every year trying something new. So every year is your first year. One of the most important things you can do is if you establish the right things, and you're one, you put the right systems in place to your to your one, then when you get to year two, you can rely on those systems. 

The problem is we do stuff because we're trying to get a quick kid. And we know it's not sustainable, we know it's not going to last. And so we have to find something else to duct tape to that first thing in order to get the next game because the thing that you put in place was never designed to give you sustained results. But if you establish the right work, you don't have to duct tape anything, you don't have to try to find the next thing you can rely on it. If we were more intentional, more selective about what we were putting in our schools, that we won't have to keep trying something new every single year, because of your rely on the things we're doing. So your two is about executing and getting better than that, getting better at it. But you're three, you're going to be close, you're going to be so close to your goal. And you just have to close that last little bit. But what got you here is not going to get you there. So you're good, you have figured out how to get this far. And now the next thing you have to do is you have to build on what you've learned to figure out what's left. So year three is the extension year, that's the year you're going to extend the things you're already doing to cover the students who you still haven't been able to reach yet. Again, no new new shiny objects, no new stuff. It's about taking the stuff that you know works. Understanding it more deeply. So you can figure out how to make it work for every single kid.

That's how you get to 100%. 

If you're trying to get to 100% success in one year, you're not going to get there. Because 100% Success takes sustained effort. So we got to stop this, this foolishness. This hamster wheel that we keep putting ourselves on where we have one year to make all the difference and give ourselves the grace and the space to really do the things that need to be done to create 100% success. You're one establish, not just establish anything, be selective, be intentional, establish the right systems, and you're not thinking about how do I get a temporary gain or a 5% gain, you're putting systems in place that you believe will get you to 100%. And you're getting rid of everything else. You're to execute, get better at those systems and create more gains. And then your three, still nothing new, extend on the things that you already know are working until you close the final gap to 100%. Otherwise, every year you're on a treadmill. 

Every year you're adding to your own plate into your teachers plates. Every year, you're frustrated. And you're frustrated because people are not moving as quickly as they should be moving well. But then how can you blame them? Because they're dragging all the baggage of the initiative from two years ago and the initiative from five years ago behind them? How fast can you move stead as a builder, you're getting rid of everything, and focusing on the right things. You're getting good at doing the right things and seeing results along the way. And then finally, you're extending the right work until you cover every child. That's how you achieve success without creating this crazy making timeline. And that's why builders are able to have huge sustainable success year over year over year, because they are playing the long game 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 builder ship University, just go to builder ship 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.

Thanks for listening and I'll see you next time.

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