The Hidden Dangers of Quick Wins


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 229

Hey builders real quick, before we start the show, I want to tell you about something really cool that we are doing starting on October 22. It's called the October reset. And it's a free five day training experience to help you get back on track and achieve your goals this year, even if you're already behind. Now, as we know, October is a really tough time. We don't talk about it a lot. You know, we always talk about how hard it is in the spring. But October is tough for a different reason. Because usually it's right around October that we start to realise that all those plans we made over the summer, well, we're not as far along as we thought we should be. Or we get into classrooms. And we realise things are worse than we thought they were. And so I always say that October is when the dreams of summer begin to die. To avoid that, I want you to come to the October reset, we're going to get together virtually each day for one hour at 7pm. Eastern. And we're just going to get reset, and I'm going to show you some very simple shifts you need to make so it's not new work. But it's really about taking the work that you want to accomplish this year, and making you more effective at it by doing some very simple shifts, shifting from a leadership perspective, which keeps you mired in and feeling behind and always trying to catch up to a builder ship perspective, which helps you to take the work that you're doing and make it so much more effective, and enjoy it a little bit more as well. So if you're feeling behind, if you're feeling overwhelmed already, if you're frustrated, because things are not moving as quickly as you thought, then you might want to join me for the October reset so that you can reset and get started on the work that you were planning to do this year, and achieve the goals that you want to achieve this year. So all you need to do is go to builder ship, builder ship And sign up. All right now on to the show. You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 229.

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. 

Today we're going to talk about a trend that I'm seeing. I'm always talking about trends that I'm saying. But this one bothers me a little bit because I'm not just seeing it with leaders. I also see it with builders. And it's it's a trap that at some point we all fall into, because that's the way we're taught. And there's a lot of pressure around it. And the trap is this. We go for the quick when I think about it, even when we're working with staff, we're always like, hey, let's get the quick win. And so we start doing little funky things with our data. Like we start going through our data. And we look for the bubble kids. And by the way, can we retire the term bubble kids? Can we just stop using that term? It's anyway, I'll go on a rant on that another day. But you know, we look for the bubble kids, we go through our data, we try to find the kids who are right on the edge and we try to move those kids. And that way we can get our numbers up. But do you hear how that sounds when we're talking about children? And we're talking about their learning? Do you hear how antithetical chasing that quick win is to our vision of 100% of our kids being successful? It doesn't make any sense. And yet for some reason, it's a habit that all of us have a hard time shaking. Today I want to talk about why we are struggling with that the trap and how that how doing that traps us in work that actually prevents us from achieving our 100% vision, and then how builders do it differently. So let's dive right in, shall we?

So let's start out by the notion of a quick win. Usually when I'm talking about a quick win, I'm talking about some things some manoeuvre that you think you can do to to alleviate some of the pressure that you're feeling around student success. So as I mentioned, it could be Taking a look at your data and trying to find bubble kids, kids who are on the cusp of moving from one level to the next. And then doing some kind of quick strategy, some, you know, eight week programme that helps those kids raise their test scores by just a few points. So they're just on the other side of of the line. And then you can say, hey, we have created improvement. Here's the problem with that, when you do that sort of thing, here's what happens, you move kids just on the other side of the line, and you pray that they will stay on the other side of that line long enough for you to give whatever test you are required to give. And then you can show improvement. And usually what happens is, after you stop that eight week programme, after you stop focusing on those kids, they slide back down.

So not only does that quick win provide, at best a temporary boost, you're setting kids up for failure, because you're you're giving them that quick shot in the arm to get them on the other side of the line.

It's not about investing in their sustained success. It's about moving numbers so that you can get rid of the pressures that you're facing around growth and improvement. So not even thinking about the kids. Because you know what, if we were thinking about the kids, we wouldn't be doing some quick shot in the arm to try to move them a couple of percentage points up, we'd be really focused on helping them read, we'd be really focused on helping them understand math, so that we can set them up for success in life. And it's hard to focus on the welfare of the children, when we are trying to create a quick win that is only designed to move students a little bit over the line. How can you have 100% vision, and then have teachers get together to focus on just the bubble kids? Alright, here's another example of a quick one. Let's say that you have a culture issue in your school. So you spend a couple of weeks really dealing with that, you know, maybe the culture issue is that, you know, kids are being mean to each other, and they're bullying each other. And so you you find or by some sort of anti bullying programme and, and you and you, you launch that programme, and you get everybody excited involved. And you do see a small lift in the number of disciplinary referrals around bullying, kids are talking about it more. Then the programme is over.

 And you don't do anything to sustain it, you're on to the next thing, you've got the quick win, yay, bullying is not an issue. And you've you've you started solving the problem, but you didn't finish it. And so now when the bullying comes back, kids have lost hope that you'll even do anything about it or that the things that you will do about it won't work. And so you end up breeding a sense of cynicism amongst your students, I've actually seen this happen, I was doing some focus groups with some students for one of our private clients the other day a few months ago, and the students were telling me over and over again, they did this programme, but you know, it started to work, but then it's not working anymore. And so they have lost hope that any programme will ever address their very real issues around bullying. That's what happens when you do a quick in quick when you can do a shot in the arm. And then you move on. And it kind of works. But the moment you move on, it doesn't work because it wasn't ever built for sustainability. And when you move on, you forget about the people who really needed that support. You can you've got your win, right? It's it's you can say, hey, we did something to address bullying look at us. But the kids who are being bullied every day, what about them? The kids who who had hope for a moment that that maybe this programme would stop the torture that they're experiencing every day at the hands of their peers. And then you move on when the programme is over, but it didn't solve the problem. What about those kids?

We say we want 100% success, but we don't choose strategies that are sustainable. 

When you go for the quick win, you are doing it for very selfish reasons. You're not doing it to serve the kids. You're doing it in order to get the pressure off your back in order to be able to show that you're doing something and it hurts people it doesn't help them. So one of the hardest things that we have to do as builders is we have to let go of the idea of a quick win. We've got to stop chasing quick wins. Now I'll tell you the other reason why we do Chase quick ones, you know, for one thing and it'll lead to it. We think it's going to alleviate pressure but in alleviating pressure it creates more problems downstream.

So when we go for the quick when we get the temporary boost, but we end up creating more problems. And, and maybe those problems don't show up for another six months, maybe those problems don't show up for another year or two. And so the quick win makes us feel like we solved things when all we've really done is kick the can down the road. The other reason we go for the quick win is because doing the work of sustainable growth, doing the work of really solving the problem, it's a slog, I'm just going to be honest with you, it can feel like a slog, because you have to trade short term gratification for long term solutions.

So, in the middle of trying to create that long term solution, it doesn't feel good. A lot of times, it feels like things are moving too slowly, that it's not working. Because we're so accustomed to a quick win, that we feel like okay, if it doesn't, if we don't see a lift right away, this thing must not be working. But the truth is that a lot of things take time, things that are really important things that are really sustainable things that are really going to solve the problem at the root level. Take time. I mean, your school took 10 years to turn toxic, your school took 15 years to really get to the point where you are failing kids, do you honestly think that you're going to turn things around and start seeing success in six weeks, and two weeks, in a month, in two months of of a brand new programme? There's so much that you have to untangle. There's so much that you have to, to to to deal with and dig beneath in order to get to the root cause? Do you really think that some programme that you bought because you went to a conference is going to help you unearth all of the toxicity and the dysfunction that contributed to where your school is, in a matter of weeks.

Problem is that we don't know how to be patient.

 We think that if we don't have some sort of instantaneous gratification, then it's not working. And then we abandoned what we're doing. And we try something else. It's one of the reasons why we find ourselves lurching from one initiative to the next over and over and over again, because we don't take the time to do the work it takes to really solve problems. All we do is we try to put band aids on problems. We try to kick problems down the road, we try to delay problems, we try to hide problems, we try to mitigate problems. We don't focus on solving problems. See, here's the difference. People love quick wins. I mean, look what and right. It's, it's that instant gratification. But if you really want to reach 100% success, a quick win is not going to do it 100% success of vision that big is going to take sustained effort. The problem is that most people give up before the sustained effort has a chance to work. And so

The challenge that that builders face is we have to unlearn what we were taught as leaders.

You know, as leaders, we're, you know, we're taught, we have to show instant growth right away, add water and stir. But as builders, we're not looking for that, because we know that that instant growth is a setup. Instead, we're looking for sustained success. And the problem is that most people will never ever experienced that kind of sustained success, not because they don't know the right strategy. But because they don't do it long enough.

Here's what I mean by that. A lot of times when you first become a builder, you get really excited, you know, the the 100% vision is sexy, right? Like it's, it's exciting, it's inspiring. And then then the next step is you've created that 100% vision, you're excited about it. And then the next step is that you now have to share it with other people and what we do in buildings up universities, we teach you a process called the vision story. And the vision story allows you to share your vision with people in a way that after hearing it, they began to take ownership of that vision starts being your vision and it starts being our vision. And it's a really powerful tool to to get people on board with your vision. Right so, so people get excited. You know, we've just got the vision now we're going to do the vision story and they go all out and they share the vision story.Then they come back to me and they say, Oh, I share my vision story, but it didn't work. And I say, Well, what do you mean, it didn't work? What did you did you do it like we teach you. It's a very specific framework you use. Yeah, I used all the pieces of the framework, and I take a look, I'm luckier there. Okay. All right. Okay. How many times did you share the vision story?

 Well, I shared it once at my faculty meeting. And, and and teachers had a lot of questions, and I got a lot of pushback. So it didn't work. Just start laughing. Yeah. Because why would you think that after years of dysfunction, you're one vision story shared one time at a faculty meeting, I wouldn't be faced with some pushback teachers have made it may have never heard somebody say 100% before and they may be hearing 100%. But they have to hear it through all of the years of dysfunction that they've experienced in that school prior to that, what do you think one time is going to change it? I mean, the visual story is magical, but it's not supernatural. It's not going to do that in one time. And so then I tell them, Well, you know, you've got to get to the point where you're sharing the vision story 10 times a day, you shared it once in the last week. No wonder it's not working.

 You shouldn't give up on the story. 

Just because you shared it once you haven't done the work you haven't put in the work and the time it takes to make that vision take hold. You think that one conversation is going to change things? Well, if you really think that then you're in danger, because you can have that vicious story conversation with them today. And then tomorrow, somebody else could come and have a counter conversation with them. And then they sway that way, do you really think that one conversation is going to do it? No. People don't believe you the first time often they think that, Oh, here's just another thing. It's not until you do it consistently. It's not until you begin aligning everything in your school to that vision story, including, by the way how you look at data, including by the way, how you give teachers feedback, everything in your school begins to align that they begin to believe it and they begin to own it.

 Hey, Robin here, and I just want to break in real quick to ask you a huge favour. You say 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 people come all the time looking for quick fixes. 

You know, we do several free events every single year. And when we do those free events, people get so excited. They're like, Oh, my goodness, this is great, I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that and get into the other. And they grab the strategy and try to go out and do it right away. And then because we teach sustainable strategies and build a ship University, and we're not teaching quick fixes, people grab one of our sustainable strategies, treat it like a quick fix, do it once and then say, Oh, it doesn't work. And then they're off to the next thing. It's not that it doesn't work. It's just not gonna work instantaneously. It's almost like the the, the the educator, adult educator version of the marshmallow test. Most people when you put a strategy in front of them, and you say, okay, work, the strategy. And if you work it long enough, you will see games.

Most people can't work in long enough, they give up too soon. And it's not that the strategy doesn't work. It's that the strategy is not designed to be a quick fix. The strategy is designed to sustain the school long term. And they give up before they see results, and they're on to the next thing. And when they do that, not only are they shortchanging the people they serve, not only are they cheating themselves the opportunity to get really good at something, not only are they setting themselves up for more pain down the road, because you never solved the problem. You just covered it up and you kicked it down the road and it's going to show up but it's going to be bigger and worse when you do have to encounter it again. Not only do you stay treading water because you go up, you go down, you go up and you go down and then you're looking for the next quick win. Not only does it keep you crazy because you're always looking for the next thing. So you're always running after the next thing, you're looking for the coolest shiny object that you can implement.

So every single year, you're you're recreating the wheel over and over and over again, instead of doing something that sustain. 

You create cynicism, you create cynicism in your staff when they don't believe anything you say, because they know they can just wait you out, because you're not going to stick to anything. And you create an internal turmoil, because you're working really, really hard. But you can never sustain the results. And so that's why when people first joined builders ship University, a lot of our work is on learning that nonsense. People get committed to builder-ship, because they have the hope that maybe this can be better 100% I want that for my kids. When they come into builder-ship university, they quickly realise that in order to get to 100%, you got to leave all that leadership nonsense that we were taught behind. And you've got to think differently, builders think differently.

One of the hardest things to give up is the idea of the quick win.

 When when you join fellowship University, and and start the work of becoming a builder, we're working on sustained success. And sometimes, that can feel boring, it doesn't feel like it's moving fast enough people are like, I want to get to the the sexy part, I want to do my teacher dashboard, I want to do these other things. And we're like, yeah, we'll get there. But we're building a foundation that makes those other things work. You know, we do our free events, and we expose you to a lot of tools, because we think they can be really helpful to you, they can help you, you you do your work more effectively, more efficiently to see bigger results from that work. And all of that is true. But if you try to just grab those strategies and tack them on to everything else you're doing, it'll create more work for you, maybe you'll get a lift, maybe you won't. But you're not gonna see the sustained results, these tools were designed to give you because you're not sticking with them long enough. They work, builder ship works, but you can't be a builder and a leader at the same time.

 You can't chase quick wins, and build sustained success. You can't, you know, grab at something and then abandon it two months later, and expect that the results to last. The first year of being a builder is about establishing new systems. The second year of being a builder is about executing on those things. And making them work giving the system's time to work. And not until the third year do you do minor adjustments to make them work better. It's not that they don't work. They're not going to work the way you need them to work in three weeks.

They're not going to work the way you need them to work if you abandon them when they get hard. 

That's the other thing that happens. People start out and they're gung ho and are like, Okay, I got the system in place. And then now what's next? And I'll say, What's next is work the system. Okay, and work in that system. But what's next? No, no, no, there is no next this is next work the system. But I have it in place. What else do I need to do? Nothing. That's so hard for people to adjust to because they're used to just more and more and more and more and more. No, we're going to do this thing. Okay, what I'm already doing that, yes. Now do more of it. We don't do that. We don't ever figure out what's working take time to do that work and make it work. So here's the process that builders use. We don't just see something cool. I'm like, Oh, great. I'm gonna do that. Cool. Cool, cool, cool, great. And then then run off to the next thing. Instead, we take time first, to understand what do we need? What is the one thing that we need to be doing right now that makes all the difference? We're looking for leverage. We're looking for points of high leverage. We're not just looking for, you know, cool strategies or something that's going to scratch an itch right now. We're looking at understanding the underlying problem and figuring out how do we solve that problem once and for all, so we'd never have to deal with it again. 

That's the one thing we're going to be doing right now. Once you have the one thing, you start working on, you don't just do it blindly, you don't just say ‘Okay, let's put that on in the background, let's go and do something else’. You're actively working on it. Because you're getting feedback from your work. You're seeing what parts do work, and what parts don't. And you're addressing the parts that don't we have a whole system we show you for how to do that. So you're reviewing it, we just finished a quarterly review inside of build up University. And it took us two days. So it's not just like, Okay, what are our goals for this quarter note, we're looking for one thing, and then we're sitting and we're analysing we have a whole assessment that you go through, so that you can really analyse the school and what you're doing to figure out what's the one thing that you should be working on right now, that makes all the difference. And then, once you have, once you understand that, you start doing it, you start collecting feedback, you start refining it, you get better at it, you start seeing bigger results from it, and you keep improving on the one thing, you don't say, Oh, this is working pretty good. It's, you know, give me 70% of the way there. Now let me go find something else. Nope, there's 30%. Left, that's still there, there's still juice in that lemon squeeze. So we show you how to just keep doing the one thing.

So you get good at it, you start to see the results you want from it, you're not running back and forth chasing shiny objects, you're just sticking with that one thing.

Often that's the hard part. Because people get bored. Because things aren't moving as quickly as we're used to things to be moving. You know, we're always stressed out and people are not stressed out anymore. It's calm. And so they're like, Well, wait, I'm feeling too calm, I need to go do something else. Or maybe if I'm feeling too calm, that means I'm not working hard enough. Because we have this we've we've we've we turned working hard into a badge of honour, rather than understanding that sometimes your hard work is more about gratifying your own ego than it is about producing results.

 So people start to panic, because things are getting too calm and and you're looking at refinements, instead of starting something new. And people won't feel like well, I have to be always doing something new. And so people panic, and then they go out and they sabotage what's working, because they're looking for the next Quick when they're looking for the next new shiny object. Instead of sticking with what's working until they get unparalleled results. And so what builders do is we figure out what the root cause is. And we figure out what the one thing is that we should be doing, then we do it and get feedback from doing it and then prove and keep improving, until we've maximised it, then here's the most unsexy part of all, we keep doing it. We keep doing it, and we keep doing it if you can resist the urge to chase the quick wins, and stick with it,

You will see results you've never seen before.

 Why? Because you're doing work. You've never been disciplined enough to do before. You know, we call a lot of the things that we're doing and build a ship University disciplines, feedback is not something you do. It's a discipline. Support is a discipline. Accountability is a discipline. Culture is a discipline, they're not shots in the arm, they're disciplines. You keep doing the you keep creating the systems and the architecture is around those four things, the four disciplines of building of feedback support, accountability and culture, you create those architectures around it, and so that you continually do it, and you keep getting better and better at it. And the better you get at it, the better your staff becomes. And the better your staff becomes, the more your kids succeed, and the closer and closer you get to your vision.

So when I tell people, it's going to take three to five years for your school to achieve your vision. A lot of people say what, three to five years? 

I always laugh at that because what do you think it's going to happen? Do you think you're gonna get to 100% in one year? No. You're gonna make a lot of gains in one year. Don't get me wrong. Builders typically see a 10 to 50% lift in their scores. We have the rain, some people are about 10% other people see a 50% 60% lift in their score range, but you will see a lift and it will feel good that first year. A lot of people are like, Oh, that's great. I, you know, I've outpaced everybody in my district. But if you rest on your laurels, you're gonna stay stuck there. You have to keep going and sort of get to 100% Three years, making progress the entire time, but three years minimum. And people are like, Oh, that's too long. Like three years from now will happen whether you do build a ship or not. So, what are you doing on your own? And all these quick wins? Are they going to get you to 100%, three years from now they're gonna get you to 100%, one year from now, no, they'll just ship will. But you got to stick with it. And so when you do, you're seeing progress every single year. But you're putting systems and architectures in place that are sustainable. So you're not reinventing the wheel. But it only happens. If you stick with it, it's a good choice. Don't keep chasing those quick wins. And riding the waves of the quick wins, where you see highs and then you see, you know, once you stop, take your eye off of it, they go back down, and then it's on to the next one over and over again. And you can continue to wear yourself out, but not having sustained growth and progress. Or you can invest in doing the right work. Sticking with it, riding out the boredom, resisting the sirens call and the temptation to chase a quick win in the vest in sustained winds, like a builder.

Now, if you want to really learn how to do that, we're doing a five day event coming up on October 22. And of over the course of the five days we're going to be meeting every evening for one hour. And I'm going to show you some simple shifts you can make to create those sustained winds and to help you get off of the crack, have quick wins and actually create sustain wins over time. If you're interested in that, then just go to build leadership and sign up. 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 tonnes 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 that you need to join bill to ship University. Just go to build a ship and get started writing your school success story today.

Hey, real quick before you go. If you enjoyed today's episode, and you know someone who would really benefit from what you heard here today, maybe they're struggling with a thing that we talked about in today's episode. Would you take a moment and share this episode with them? You see not only will it help us get the word about builder ship out to more people, but you're going to look like a rockstar because you're gonna give people something they can really use to help them get unstuck and be better at building their schools. Plus, it would mean the world to me. Thanks so much and I'll see you next time.

Hey, it's Robyn here. And I want to thank you for listening to today's episode. And if you have a question about today's episode, you just want to keep the conversation going. Did you know that we had a school leadership reimagined Facebook group, all you need to do is go to Facebook, join the school leadership reimagined Facebook group now they're going to be a couple of questions that we asked at the beginning because we want to protect this group and make sure that we don't have any trolls come in and that it really is for people who are principals, assistant principals, district administrators, so make sure you answer those questions or you won't get in but then we can keep the conversation going. Plus we do a lot of great bonus content. I'm in there every single weekday so if you have a question or comment above the episode, let's continue the conversation. 

Join us at the school leadership reimagined Facebook group and I'll talk to you next time.

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