How to Build True Staff Alignment Part 2


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 244

Hey builders. Before we begin today's episode, I want to make sure you know about the staff alignment challenge happening January 28 2024. During this five day challenge, we're going to show you how to get every teacher in your building, doing the right work the right way for the right reasons, even when you're not checking. Now, a lot of people think that's impossible, that can't happen. Well, I'm going to show you how to make it happen this school year. And not only am I going to show you how, but you're actually going to be doing it, you're going to prove it to yourself. Because every day during the challenge, we're going to be completing an activity together, that you that will help you build a piece of the system. And you can implement it in your school the very next day and see for yourself in real time how it works. Plus, every single day after the training, we're going to have a half an hour implementation session where you can ask questions, get personalized coaching, and make sure that you implement what you're learning. That's why we're calling it a challenge because in five days, you're going to build the pieces of the system you need to help every teacher in your building. Do the right work the right way, for the right reasons, even when you're not looking and accomplish it this school year. To sign up for the challenge. Go to builder ship That's builder ship Now, onto the show. You're listening to the school leadership reimagined 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.

Welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. 

I'm your host, Robyn Jackson. And today we are going to continue a series that we started last time looking at the four building blocks of total staff alignment. Now the four building blocks just to refresh your memory are the first thing you need is you need people to feel like they have ownership over the work. People have a hard time kind of committing to the work and doing the work in a way that is meaningful a way that matters a way that moves the workforce if they don't feel some sense of ownership over it. The second thing you need is you need people to feel a sense of empowerment, right. Because if they don't feel a sense of empowerment, they don't feel that they have the opportunity to improve to get better to make the work better. The first thing is once they feel an ownership over the results, they also have to feel the that they have the power to change the results. If they're not happy with the results that they're getting. If people don't have that it's hard to get them aligned and moving forward and doing the work in a meaningful way. So we talked about that last time. And if you missed that episode, just go to school leadership app slash episode 243. And you'll be able to catch up on that episode. This time, we want to talk about the other two pieces. We call them the the the four levers of total staff alignment. And the last two pieces are people need to feel a sense of alignment, they need to make sure that their work is in alignment with where you want to go as an organization. And then finally, they need to stay engaged, there needs to be a sense of engagement, I have to be committed and repeatedly committed to doing that work in order for that to happen. So today we're going to talk about those last two pieces. And then next time, we'll talk about what it looks like when you put it all together how to make it work. Now just as a reminder, we're having the staff alignment challenge. 

So if you're listening to this in real time, the staff alignment challenge is happening January 28. And we're going to show you in detail how to put these four pieces in place. And all you need to do is go to build a ship to sign up for that challenge. And you can get real time live virtual training on how to implement these four pieces. So let's dive in and talk about alignment. Now, this seems a little redundant, right? You know, I'm talking about total staff alignment and one of the pieces you have to have is alignment. But let me talk about the difference between the two. Total staff alignment means that everybody's doing the right work the right way for the right reasons. But in order to do that, you have to get every individual on your staff individually aligned to the right work the right way and the right reasons. And that's how you get everybody together to be aligned. So it's not redundant, but you can't create total staff alignment, if you don't have individual staff alignment. And alignment is one of those things where a lot of people feel like, you know, it's the hardest part, right? Because, you know, if I could get into every individual line, of course, I'm gonna have total staff alignment. And the way that you create that individual alignment is through individual accountability. And unfortunately, accountability is a dirty word in education, we have taken a word that that that means that I feel personally responsible for my results. And I'm going to, to make sure that I do everything I can to make sure that I am creating the kind of results for students that I've committed to create. We've taken that, that that that very noble impulse, and we've turned it into something a little more than chasing, checking and correcting people. 

In fact, we have taught, we've been taught that, that chasing checking and correcting people is a sign of a good administrator, don't you're one of the things that frustrates me the most, when I talk to administrators, there's always a couple of administrators who come to me and say, I don't need that, because I run my school like a tight ship, I make sure that I'm in classrooms every day, I meet with teachers on a monthly basis individually to go over their data, I sit down with teachers and remind them of their commitment. Anybody who is acting up, I write them up right away, and I make sure I get them in line, I get rid of the bad teachers, I recruit the good teachers, I run a tight ship. And they think that's what makes them a good administrator, and, you know, on their be on in their defense, that's the way we were trained to do it. But when I hear that I, it just makes me so sad, because number one, doing all those things, puts the accountability on you not the teacher, right? The reason your school runs so well is because you control every aspect of your school. Which means that if you were to walk away, the school falls apart, if you were to stop doing any of those things, then all of these leaks start happening in the accountability of your building. It's exhausting. And not only is it exhausting, it impacts the relationship you have with your teachers, because you are the person who is in charge and in control. So they are serving you more than they're serving the kids that you're running around. And you don't feel like you can trust your teachers that you have to constantly be looking over their shoulders, meeting with them and quote unquote, holding them accountable in order to get anything done in your school.

Not only is that exhausting and isolating, but it's just unsustainable. 

Right? You can't be the only thing holding your school together, how can your school move towards 100% success? If you are the only person who is accountable for everything that's happening in your school now that I hear that person out there right now protesting? No, I mean, I make sure that my teachers are accountable. If you are making sure that your teachers are accountable, then all you're the one who's ultimately accountable. All right. Other people are saying well as the principal, I am ultimately accountable. Yes and no as as the principal you are ultimately accountable to, to the vision of that building, to sustaining the vision of that building. But you are not ultimately accountable for what happens in every individual classroom, you are accountable for creating an environment where the teachers take full accountability. You're not the only one ever. And we have been told that that's the role. That's the gig. 

And unfortunately, because we've been told that many of us are sacrificing our our families, our health, our sanity, trying to run around and be the person, the one who is holding everything together. When we're talking about a school or talking about an organization, we're talking about hundreds, sometimes 1000s of people. And while you're accountable to the role you have, you're not accountable for everything. Other people in the organization have to be accountable. Teachers have to be accountable. Kids have to be accountable, parents have to be accountable. And if you build an organization that creates a space and a structure to help everybody be involved, be accountable for the role that they play in that organization. That's how you get to 100% Anything else is just an illusion, it's, it's, it's, it makes you feel good, it makes you feel like you're doing something, but it doesn't move your school forward, you are the bottleneck, because nothing happens without you. Which means that your school can only grow to the degree that you are able to keep all of those plates spinning. And that's a recipe for burnout, stress, and a recipe for mediocrity, quite frankly. And I play around with this, this, this thing, a lot of I think it's in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king, I've maybe messing that up. But it's this idea that we reward principals for being slightly better than everybody else. So if you're in a district where all the other schools are failing, and you're failing to slightly less than they are, you're a superstar, we reward you for that we promote you for that, when we shouldn't be looking at everybody else, and then trying to be slightly better than them. 

So if everybody else has achievement at 60%, and we have achievement at 75%, we, you know, we can look like a hero. But when you have an achievement is 75% 25% of your kids are still failing, why are we celebrating? I mean, I don't want to discount the 75% that you've gotten, but you're not done. And a lot of people feel like that's, that's, that's as good as it gets. And that makes me very sad, because I know there's better. I know, from the builders inside of builder, ship University, who are seeing so many huge gains every single year, who are moving towards that 100% and doing things that they didn't even realize they were capable of doing, that there is better out there for you. But we have to start thinking about accountability differently. Because the purpose of accountability is to ensure that every one and every thing in the building is in alignment with your vision, mission and core values. That is what accountability is. And in order to do that everybody has to be accountable for the part that they play in that process. Which means that kids have to be accountable. Parents have to be accountable. Teachers have to be accountable, and you have to be accountable. So how do you create that level of accountability in a school? Well, there are three things. So let's break it down. 

First of all, we're talking about true alignment is that you want to make sure that everyone's doing the right work the right way and for the right reasons. 

So the first part of of creating a somebody who's accountable to being in alignment, the way that you use accountability to create alignment is you have to figure out okay, does everybody you truly understand what the right work is? This is one of the biggest, I think, potential areas for rapid growth in school is that in most cases, the answer is no. And if you just went to your school, and looked at the systems that were in your school, and really sat down and broke down those systems and really designed systems that would help students achieve, you can make exponential growth this school year, this is one this is this is where the hidden potential is in your school. So a lot of times, you know, with builders, the first thing we do is we help you get your vision, mission and core values straight. Because if you don't have that, that's the foundation, you don't have anything else. And then we start doing some systems, you know, we talk about the feedback and the support, so you can create that ownership and that empowerment. But then the very next thing we say is okay, now that you've done that, and you've got the momentum going, the way that you can unlock huge amounts of potential in your school, is we have to make sure we truly understand what it takes to make our school and our students successful. 

And in most cases, we have not really thought about it. A lot of times, people start with the discipline policy, everybody has one. Most people don't truly understand how it works. They don't think about their discipline policy critically. At best, we buy a program and then try to implement it and worse we do what's always been done and just live with the fact that kids are being suspended. But what if you actually sat down and thought about what is the point of our discipline policy? And then how do we structure it so that we achieve the point, if it pointed your discipline policy is to warn kids, that they're going in the wrong direction and get them turned around and headed in the right direction? If that's truly the point, then what needs to happen in order to make sure that that happens. So ensure that kids get the information about their behavior, they need to make better choices next time. And in most cases, our discipline policy does the opposite, doesn't give kids information about why their behavior was wrong, doesn't walk kids through the process of making better choices next time doesn't eliminate misbehavior. 

So let's Sit down and look at our discipline policy and say, if that's the point, then what steps need to happen and break that down. We do the same thing for planning. We tell teachers to plan, we expect that they know what planning means. We say things like, well, they've been to school they should know. But every school teaches planning differently. What does planning needs to look like in our organization and our school in order for us to achieve our vision, mission and core values? Have you ever sat down and really broken that down? What when we talk about grading report, and we just say, get your grades and you need to have so many grades in the gradebook? But have we ever sat down and broken down? What is the purpose of grades and our school? What should it look like and sat down with teachers and really broken that down so that everybody understands the process that we want them to use? Now, let me be clear, here, I'm not talking about everybody doing things exactly the same way, I'm talking about helping people understand what is the point and creating a framework that people can rely on. Because if you, you know, I would say structure gives you freedom, that if we create a simple structure that everybody uses, then it creates the freedom for teachers to be able to riff on that structure, based on their style, as long as we are in alignment with the basic framework, teachers can can start to do things in ways that make sense for them and their students, but still be in alignment with where we're heading as a school. But we got to break that down and build a ship University, we have something called to be the accountability architecture, it is probably one of the hardest things that people do and build a ship University takes some time to do it. And then even after you're you know, you do it, you might do it for one system, but then we show you how to, you know, the the structure is there. So you continually do it for IT system after system after system. But when you can, what everybody has done this, everybody who has taken the time to do the accountability architecture, to really look at some of the key systems in their school. And to really break it down. 

They always find accountability leaks. 

And when they close those accountability leaks, they create a framework that everybody in their school embraces. And then that's how you get people doing the right work the right way. Now, the last part is for the right reasons. Because not only do we have to be accountable for doing the right work the right way. But we also have to be accountable for the vision, mission and core values of your school, and the CIO. So it's one thing to create them, it's another thing to revisit them and to make sure that everybody understands why we're doing this work, why it's so important, how the vision mission and core values should be impacting our day to day decision making. So having those conversations keeping the vision, mission and core values at the center of everything we do, making sure that everything we do is in alignment with our vision, mission and core values again, and build a ship University, we use the alignment architecture to do that. With it's a it's a process that we that we show you so that every decision you're making gets filtered through your vision, mission and core values. And when you do that, that's how you can ensure that everybody is doing the right work the right way, for the right reasons.

Hey, Robyn here, and I just want to break in real quick to ask you a huge favor. 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. And what I love about the alignment process that we use that the this let this this kind of accountability is rather than running around and making sure that everybody's doing the right work, you put structures in place, so that people willingly choose to do the right work. You make it easier to do the right work than it is to do the wrong work. You make it easier to do the work the right way than it is to do the wrong way. So that this just becomes the way we do things in our school. And so you're not running around and convincing people and showing them their data and saying you're doing it wrong and having all of these courageous conversations with people about their work.

Instead, you can trust your staff. 

The other day, I put an invitation out to this event we're having on social media and somebody commented, I meet with my teachers once a month and I go over their data with them and I I make sure that they do this work. And I don't need a class to teach me how to do that. And I mean, if that's what you want to do, you don't need a class to teach you how to do that. But builders don't do that builders may meet with teachers, I believe in having one on ones with teachers. But you know, our one on ones take five minutes, it's a check in, it's the team, we're not presenting the teachers data to them, the teachers are presenting their data to us. And then we're just and the reason that teachers are presenting their data to us is to inform us of what they're doing, and to get our feedback and also to make sure that, to that, we're able to provide the support for the direction that they're having with their students. Totally different meaning. It's not my responsibility to to, to study teachers, data's its teachers responsibility, they have to be the ones who understand their data, because they're their data gives them information that helps them make adjustments instructionally, what I'm looking for are where the blind spots in their data, what I'm looking for are ways that I can support them, what I'm looking for are suggestions for adjustments they may not have considered, but they're the ones who own their data. They're the ones who are responsible for moving that data forward. I don't push the data on them, they sit down with me and present their data, those are two different meetings. 

So even on the outside of it looks like the administrator is meeting with teachers once a month, one person's meeting with teachers once a month, the teacher shows up to the meeting, but the onus is on the administrator. And the other scenario, the builder ship scenario, the builders meeting with teachers once a month one on one, but the teachers are coming to the builder and saying, here's where I was last month, here's what I'm doing, here's where I need support. And then the builders job is to offer the support, point out where there may be blind spots, ask the right questions to prompt the teachers thinking it's a totally different meeting. And in most cases, that's a five to 10 minute meeting versus a half an hour meeting that both people dread. People look forward to that meeting, because that meeting is a part of an ongoing conversation we're having as an organization, because everybody is accountable. So when you're thinking about what true accountability is, it's not running around and making people do the right thing to accountability is really about putting things in place to help people stay in alignment with your vision, mission and core values. And when you do that, then everybody takes accountability, and it's not on you, you're not the bottleneck. And instead you are are facilitating everybody's growth and everybody's movement towards the vision, mission and core values. And you're doing it in a way that maintains ownership, you're doing it in a way that still empowers teachers, you're doing it in a way that keeps teachers engaged in the work. And speaking of keeping teachers engaged in the work, the last piece you need is true engagement. And the way you get engagement, let me back up first, what is engagement? 

Engagement means that everybody stays committed to the work over the long term. It's very easy to get people hyped up at the beginning of the year. But what happens in January, February, March, are people still hyped up? Are people still just as excited as they were in the back to school? Are they more excited? Well, when you when you create that the kind of engagement that keeps people excited committed to doing the work, even when it's tough, that's when you have true alignment. Because getting people excited and moving in the right direction at the beginning of the year or after a big event. Easy, right? You just get them hyped up, and you can do it. But to maintain true alignment where everybody's doing the right work the right way for the right reasons, over the long haul. Long after you stop looking, then you need to have something that fosters long term and ongoing engagement in the work so that people stay committed to the work. And the way you do that is by establishing the right culture. Now culture is one of those fuzzy words I've talked about before. Our definition of culture inside a building should be University is culture is a collection of organizational habits and the stories we tell about them. So if you're going to keep people engaged over the long term, you have to turn doing the right work the right way for the right reasons into an organizational habit. And again, that organizational habit means people do it without even thinking. And so it becomes easier for people to do the right work the right way for the right reasons. Because it's a habit they don't have to think about think about how many times you drive home and you don't even remember how you get there because you go the same route every day. It's a habit your mind is on something else. You Do it without even thinking, think about how many times you got behind the wheel and you went down a road and you immediately start heading to work, even though you weren't going to work because that's just you're happy, like, oh, wait about I'm headed to work, let me go, and then you turn around and go where you need to go. That's because it's a habit. You want to turn doing the right work the right way for the right reasons, and to an organizational habit that people do without even thinking. 

And that's where culture comes in. 

So the first thing you have to do if you are building that is as a culture is you have to make sure that you create habits around doing the right work. So let's say for you the right work means that that we think about the standards and plan from the standards. Well, what can you do to create an organizational habit that has people steadily starting with the standards for planning? Let's say that the right work for you? Let's go back to our discipline example, let's say that the right work for you is that when students do something that is outside of of of what the expectations are for behavior, what how do you create a habit around how that's handled, so that when students come to the main office, they can expect some consistency. So I'll give you a very concrete example, one of our builders, Kevin, has really turned the core values of his organization into something that isn't just for the teachers, but also extends to the students. So the first thing that happens when students come to the main office for referral is before he begins talking about consequences, or I'm gonna call your mom or your violin. 

He's, he's talking to students and investigating the issue. But then he first thing he does is he says, Okay, let's talk about how your behavior fits in with our core values. This is why you're here. So we have a conversation to help students understand how their behavior is outside of the core values, and reinforces those core values before he ever gets to a conversation about consequences. So that, that the discipline the behavior is put in its proper context, so that you don't have the repetition of those bad behaviors going forward? Well, that's a habit. That's, that's, that's, that's not something that Kevin has to think about every single time he does it, it's a habit, and how he and his staff deals with students. Before students get to the main office teachers are talking to students about how their behaviors are either consistent with the core values or misaligned to the core values of the school. So that conversation is an ongoing conversation that students are having that helps not only contextualize their behavior, but helps get students refocused on doing the right thing. That's an organizational habit that creates that consistency for students and the adults. 

See, the last thing you want is that with every other decision that teachers have to make during the day, that they have to consciously make a decision to do the right work. Instead, you want to make the right thing the default, so that you don't have to worry so much about teachers motivation, or their mood or how they're feeling in a particular day. You can trust that no matter how they're feeling, no matter how motivated they are, that day, no matter what else is going on, teachers are going to do the right thing, because the right thing is the default. That's how you create that commitment. That's how you keep people engaged and doing the right thing the right way for the right reasons. Over the course of time. Same thing is true for doing the work the right way. If there is a right and wrong way to do something in your school, then you want to ask yourself, how do we make the right way? The default? How do we make the right way, the habit? How do I reinforced the right way? How do I put structures in place to support the right way, so that we can make sure that we're consistently doing this work, no matter people's mood, or motivation or how they're feeling that day, no matter who's involved. It's an organizational habit. That's how you can trust that the work keeps going. 

That's how you can trust that people stay in alignment. 

And then the right reasons, same thing, right reasons have to do more with your stories and your habits. Right? So how are you reinforcing that vision story? So those are gonna be you know what I'm talking about, right? Like I tell you all the time, you have to keep repeating the vision story over and over and over again, someone said in office hours the other day that you when teachers start telling you the vision story, that's when you know, you've begun to repeat it enough. Right? So how are you? What are you doing? You don't just share the vision, mission and core values one time? How are you weaving that into the story of everything you do? How are you turning that into something that creates a context for all of the work that you do? That's how you create a ongoing engagement in the work. And that's how you begin to shift and reshape the culture so that your culture is focused on doing the right work the right way for the right reasons. So that you can have true alignment and move towards that 100% vision that you have for your school. So let me recap. If you want to alignment, you cannot get there, unless first of all, people believe that they own the work. And people have ownership over the work, right? If you have, if you maintain control, and people don't feel like they have ownership over the work, you don't have alignment, that the best you have compliance, so you have to create ownership. Second, not only do people have to feel like they own the work, but they have to feel empowered to make a difference. Because if I own something, but I don't feel like I have the ability to move it forward, if I don't feel like I am empowered to actually make things better, then I get disillusioned, I get cynical. 

So how do you make sure that people get empowered, right. And then the third thing you need is you need people to feel that their work is in alignment that they have to stay in alignment. In order to do that, you have to put some systems in place so that people understand what the right work is you have to put systems in place so that people understand what the right way to do the work is. And you have to put systems in place to make sure that people understand the right reasons. And that they're making adjustments constantly to make sure that their work stays in alignment with where you're headed as a school. And then finally, you need engagement, you need to make sure that people stay engaged over the long term, the way that you achieve those four things, the way that you create true ownership, it should give people feedback that gives them the information they need, so that they can make the right decisions for the work. You're not your feedback doesn't doesn't isn't behavior, your feedback is information that people can use to change their behavior. Your feedback fosters a sense of ownership, you're not going in and telling people what to do, you are going in and giving people information so they can make the right decision about what to do. 

And then the next thing you need, if you're going to create that, that sense of empowerment, because you have to give people the right support, you have to help build their will and skills so that they are more empowered to make better decisions more empowered to do the work the right work the right way for the right reasons. The third thing you need is that if you want to create true individual alignment, then you need to create true accountability. True accountability is not you running around chasing checking and correcting people to accountability is putting systems in place so that people can chase check and correct themselves. And then the last thing you need, if you want to create long term engagement in the work, then you have to create the kind of culture where you make the right work. The default the norm, you make the right reasons, the default the norm, they create that context for the work so that people can stay engaged in the work over the long term, regardless of their motivation or their mood on a particular day. And the right work carries forward. If you do those four things, not only you're going to get complete staff alignment, but your school is going to feel different. Because everybody is engaged in the right work. 

So there's a sense of energy and excitement in your school. 

And because you're doing the right work, you're seeing results for kids. Not only is everybody engaged in doing the right work, they're doing it the right way. They're doing it in a way that's consistent with your core values with the mission you have for your school. They're doing it in the the right way for your kids for your context, and they're doing it the right way for your culture. And then thirdly, they're doing it for the right reasons. So it's not just people going through the motions, they're, they're involved in the work, they're engaged in the work their, their hearts are in it. And they stay committed for the long term as a result. And they're doing it when you're not checking, which means that you can stop running around chasing, checking correcting people and do the thing you came to do you came here to do you are a principal, because you came. You want it to make a bigger difference in the lives of kids. And when you got to the job, you realize you're doing a whole bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with what you really want to do. But once you get to the point where you have true alignment, you are doing your job because everybody else is doing their jobs, and you can make a bigger difference for kids. So ownership empowerment, alignment, engagement. feedback, support, accountability culture. That's how you create true staff alignment, 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 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 gonna look like a rockstar because you're gonna give people something that 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.

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