How to make tough decisions


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 248

Hey builders. Before we begin, I have a quick question for you. Are We Connected on social media? The reason I'm asking is because as much as I love giving you the podcast episode every single week, I'd love to take our relationship deeper. So if we're not connected on on social media, let's connect. I'm on LinkedIn at Robyn, underscore mind steps. I'm on Twitter at Robyn underscore mind step someone's on Facebook and Robyn Jackson, please, let's connect so we can keep the conversation going. Now on with the show, you're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 248? 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 you to think about a decision that you are currently trying to make, I want you to think about something right now that you're thinking about, maybe it's keeping you up at night, maybe it's not keeping you up at night, but it's kind of in the back of your head. And so you're feeling this kind of low grade anxiety is something that you know, needs to be done. But for whatever reason, you haven't done it yet. And let's talk about it. And my goal is by the end of this episode, that you'll actually have made that decision so that you can get that off your plate and move on and do the work that you know you were you were called to do.

So let's talk about why you haven't made that decision yet. For some of you, you haven't made the decision because you don't feel confident that it's the right decision. You keep thinking that you need more information, you keep thinking that that you don't know enough yet you're you're worried about getting it wrong. And so instead of making a decision at all, you keep waiting, hoping that you'll get some epiphany from somewhere is hoping that it'll become more obvious, what is the right thing to do. And so because you don't know what the right thing is yet, you're just putting off the decision because you're worried B especially if it's an important decision, you're worried that you're going to make the wrong decision.

Now, for others of you, you believe it's the right decision. 

But you're worried that you won't get support, perhaps you're worried that you won't get support from your district, you're worried that your superintendent won't support the decision, because you've had experiences in the past, where you haven't been supported. And you're worried that without that support, you won't be able to get things done. Maybe you're worried that you're not going to get support from your direct supervisor, maybe it doesn't go as far as the superintendent. But you're worried that if you were to make this decision right now, that the district because it's going in a different direction is just going to override your decision and push you towards a direction that the district wants to go. Even though it's not you believe the right direction for your school. For some of you, you're worried about not getting support from your staff, you are worried because even though you know it's the right thing for your school, you know that if you got in front of your staff, right now, you're going to get pushed back. And you're worried about that, because you have gotten pushed back in the past, you already know that your staff may feel overwhelmed already and overloaded. And so you're worried that if you were to make this decision and announce it, you're not going to get the support, you're going to have the push back. And that's more embarrassing than not making the decision. So you are worried that there's a group of teachers in your school who will not support your decision may end up overriding your decision and you don't want to do either go through that or risk. They're winning and you having to look bad because the teachers overruled the decision that you made. So you're you're putting off making this decision until you can be sure that you are going to get the staff support. You're hoping that maybe over time your teachers will will will feel a sense of relief. And then maybe then they won't feel so overwhelmed. And so when you announced that decision, then Maybe they'll be ready for it, which, as an aside, is a false premise because they're overwhelmed. Already, what what makes you think they're going to stop being overwhelmed? And if your decision could help them, then why would you worry about them being overwhelmed, but we'll talk about that later. So you're worried that your staff isn't going to support you, some of you are worried that you're not going to get support from your parents or your community.

So there's a decision you need to make. But because of a group of vocal parents, you're not making that decision. Because you're scared of what will happen. If you do, you don't want the push back. And ultimately, that goes back to being scared that your district won't support you. And so it'll be you all by yourself, fighting this, this group of vocal parents or this group of vocal community members. And you don't want to be out there by yourself, you don't want to go through the rigmarole that it will require to get this decision through and you're worried you're not going to get their support. Okay. So I've just named kind of three big reasons why we don't make decisions, we are not sure it's the right decision. We're not sure that we'll get our district support, or we're worried about the pushback from teachers or parents. And often, those are the big three reasons why we don't make decisions. And unfortunately, every unmade decision is a weight that you continually carry maybe that that weight is overt, you feel true anxiety you're going through every single day. And you're feeling stressed, because there's, there's a decision that needs to be made. And you know, it needs to be made. But you you can't make it for whatever reason, right? But sometimes, that weight is more subtle, it's in the background. And so you feel this low grade anxiety, because of an unmade decision. It's something you know, you need to do, and you keep putting it off, and you keep doing other stuff. And even though it's not an overt sense of stress in the background, and those quiet moments, that that decision is taking up space in your brain that you really could be using for something else, that that decision is creating that low grade anxiety that is contributing to your stress, so that you never can fully relax, you never feel like your work is done. When you leave work at the end of the day, you always feel like you know, there's still this other thing hanging over my head. And so even if you go home, even if you don't do the work, you are carrying that anxiety with you. And it means that in your leisure, you can enjoy it because you're you're still your brain is still has that open loop because of that unmade decision. And so a lot of the stress that we are carrying a lot of the weight that we feel as as as principles and is because we have a decision or a group of decisions that haven't been made that are sitting open.

And that's taking space away from your ability to to move your school forward, to step into your vision to enjoy your life. So today, I want to talk to you about those unmade decisions. And I want to kind of unpack each of those big fears, those reasons why we don't make decisions, and hopefully give you something that you can use to finally get the decision done. So let's start with the first big fear. You're worried about whether or not it's the right decision. And when we worry about things that whether or not something is the right decision, what we do is we keep putting the decision off looking for an epiphany. And the epiphany never comes because I'm going to be honest with you, you already know what the right decision is. I believe it I believe you already know what the right decision is. So why don't we feel like we know? Well, because we are filter using the wrong filter for the problem. That's my theory. So the way that we most likely make decisions and the what gets us stuck from making the right decision, even though we know intuitively what the right decision is, is that we start factoring other things that don't matter. Right. So, in reality, we're not worried about making the quote unquote, wrong decision when we're not even worried about failing. We're worried about what people will say about us if we fail. There's a very important distinction. All right. Failing isn't horrible, unless you're worried about what other people We'll say about you, or think about you if you fail, right? Think about when you are playing a game on your phone, right? We fail all the time. But nobody's around, nobody knows that we fail. We fail, we learn. And that failure is actually motivating that failure makes us want to try again, think about, think about the first time I play Pac Man. Okay, so I'm dating myself, but go here with me. The first time I play Pac Man, I got eaten, like, right away. And instead of being this devastating event, I was like, ah, oh, I didn't know how to do that. And I wanted to play again. Because every time I failed, every time I got eaten, it immediately triggered something in my brain to say, oh, I need to do it again. Because now I know how to avoid that. So next, let me play again. Because the next time I won't, I won't feel in that regard. And I want it to play again, the failure was actually motivated.

Now, what would have happened? 

I wonder if instead of playing in an arcade booth, where the biggest thing I lost was my quarter, what if they projected my play on a screen in front of other people who were also PacMan players, and maybe better Pac Man players, and I was, all of a sudden, I don't want to play anymore. It's not that failing, was the problem was failing in front of other people. That was the problem. So I would argue that that decision that's sitting out there, you already know what to do. But you're afraid to do it. Because you're worried about what other people will think, if what you know to do doesn't work out in a way that they can recognize as successful. And so I want to give you something that can help with that. Because I feel like we all suffer from that I suffer from that every time I do something new. I'm always worried about failing publicly, and I will, I will fail all day privately and figure it out. But I'm, I'm scared to fail publicly, I think we all are. And the thing that helps with that the thing that helps you do it anyway. You have to believe more in what you are doing, then you fear what other people think about what you're doing. And that's easy to say, and hard to do. But the cheat code the shortcut for that is your vision, mission and core values. Now I know by now you are probably so sick of me talking about vision, mission and core values. But the reason I talk about them so much is because I have seen how transformative they are. When you have a 100% vision, a vision for every single child a vision that about what you are truly passionate. Decision making gets so much easier. I talk to builders and builders University all the time who say the same thing. 

They keep telling me this over and over and over again. those hard decisions, the ones that they used to agonize over spend the weekend thinking about waking up early, because I can't sleep thinking about in every single situation when they take that decision and sifted through their vision, mission and core values. All of a sudden, the answer is obvious. You don't want to be like, well, I guess this could be the right thing. The answer is obvious. And because the answer is obvious, they can go forward and make the decision and feel confident that they're making the right decision. Because that decision aligns with our vision, mission and core values. So if you are agonizing over a decision right now, first of all, you already know what you need to do. But you don't want to do the right thing more than you worry about what other people think when you have a vision about what you are passionate when you believe in that and you have a mission and a set of core values that are non negotiable. It helps you to be more invested in doing the right thing than you are worried about what other people think about you. And so you can overcome the natural tendency that we all have to worry about what other people think about us, because we are committed to something bigger. That vision, that mission, those core values become bigger than other people's opinion. And so you don't worry about it. And the reason you don't worry about other people's opinion is because you can justify your decision in something bigger than both of you. Right? And if if you're making a decision based on your best guess, than somebody else's best guess, has equal footing with yours. But when you're making a decision based on a bigger vision, mission and core values, then it's not about your best guest or somebody else's best guests. It's really about what will best serve your students. And so you don't have to agonize anymore about is this the right thing, isn't it the right thing? All you have to do is take a look at your vision, mission and core values. And that will tell you if it's the right thing. 

Those of you in Buildership university you know we have the The alignment architecture in there that kind of helps you do it, you know, in a really tangible way. And you can also do this with your team, you can go through this with, you know, anybody who's who's who's questioning your decisions, you can use it on your own to make your decisions. But the idea is that when you have a vision, mission and core values, and when you filter your decisions, through your vision, mission and core values, you can be confident that the decision you make is the right decision. And so you can make decisions more quickly, instead of agonizing about it for weeks on end and carrying that weight, you can make a decision quickly. And it's not a snap decision, it's a decision you can be confident in, and then you can move on with your life, you you can take all that energy that you've been holding, to carry the weight of that decision. And you can use that energy and that brain power when something more important, something more valuable. And I believe, frankly, that this is why builders move so quickly. This is why builders have success so quickly. Because builders make decisions more quickly. Builders are able to look at a situation, filter it through their vision, mission and core values, make a decision and move on while everybody else is spending all this time agonizing and delaying decisions. And, and and wondering if they're making the right decision builders have moved on. And so that's why builders move quickly to why they succeed more quickly, because they don't let a decision sit. Instead, they trust their vision, mission and core values. They filter the decision through their vision, mission and core values. And they do the right thing. You already know what the right thing is. But you don't have a way to get through all the other stuff that we carry, to be able to make the right decision. But when you have a vision, mission and core values, that filter filters out all this other stuff, our fear about what other people think or worry about our own decision making ability, our confidence in ourselves, all the other stuff, the vision, mission and core values, filter all of that out, so that the only thing that is left is the right decision. And you can make it with confidence. All right. 

Now problem number two is that we're worried that we're not going to get support. 

And I get it, this is a legitimate worry, because in many cases, the district does not support you stepping out of line. And when you are a builder, there are going to be times when you step out of line, you're not stepping out of line in terms of the ultimate goal of the district. But the district's work because they get everybody in uniformity and sometimes in conformity, rather than getting people aligned around a bigger vision, mission and core values. You know, we always say that the idea of leadership leadership is an artifact created by the institution to sustain the institution. So when you are a leader, your job is to work within the institution to sustain the institution. So if your institution has a specific way they want you to do things, as a leader, your job is to get things done the way the institution wants them done. If your institution has a vision of 5% growth every single year, your job is to give them that 5% growth every single year. That's why being a leader can be so confining. When you're a builder, then you are not satisfied with 5% growth every single year. When you're a builder, you want 100% growth, you want every single one of your students being successful, which means that you are using 100% tactics, when your district may be only asking you to use 5% tactics. And so that can get very, very frustrating very, very fast. But when you are a builder, you worry less about institutional support, because you are convicted that what you're doing serves both your kids and the institution. And so you don't have to wait and ask for permission. Instead, what builders do. builders don't ask for permission, they ask for support.

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'll 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. Now remember, when I was a teacher, the first time I had to deal with this I, I wanted 100% success for my kids. And I wanted some freedom to be able to do this for my kids and do some things in my class that I believed would get me to 100% success, but they went against the norm of what was expected in my building.

And I remember asking, and I thought maybe I was too young and naive and idealistic. But again, I was so convicted in this idea of every kid could be successful that it never occurred to me that maybe somebody wouldn't support it. So I went, and again, I wasn't asking for permission. I went in asking for support. And there's a difference between going into your district and saying, Mother, may I, and I'd like to do this, please, versus sitting down with your district and understanding, listen, this is where we're trying to go as a district, I believe I can get us there. And I need your support. Totally different conversation. And the problem is that we were trained to ask for permission, we were trained to get in line, we weren't trained to go through and say this is the support, I need to be able to get where we need to go. Those of you in bu you know that the way that you ask for support versus permission is to use the vision story. And that that tool helps you to be able to help your district support you and the way that your district needs to support you. The without something like that, the best you can do is ask for permission. And we were trained to do that we were taught you need to ask for permission. I remember when I was an assistant principal. So kind of a nobody in terms I was a brand new assistant principal, in a very large school district with tons of schools available, I was just kind of in a sea of aspiring administrators. And when you are an aspiring administrator, especially in certain districts who that treat the principalship like, you know, the biggest prize ever, you almost feel like you're playing an elaborate game of Survivor, you feel like you're getting hazed as an as an AP a lot. 

So I remember I was on a training program for a piece and the everybody there was so eager to be there, everybody there was so hungry to do a good job and to be considered for being a principal. And because of that, they began to kind of hide who they really were, I don't know why that's not the right word. They begin to adjust, they their desires, their goals, their dreams, their personalities, to try to squeeze into the district's ideal for what a principal looked like, to the point that by the time they became a principal, they kind of lost sight of what made them want to become a principal in the first place. And I didn't want that. And we were in a training program. And I remember thinking, if you are training me to be a principal who can who can really transform a school, I can't be that if I'm being trained on how to conform to your ideal because your district ideal is not transforming schools, your district ideal is toeing the line. But I want to be somebody who's going to be transformational. How, how is the training, showing me how to do that you tell me that, that that's what you want for me to how was the training shown me how to do that. And I began to question that. And then I began to start thinking if the training is really like what like the better trained I become the better of an asset I'd become to the district. So I need to make sure that the training serves me, I shouldn't be serving the training. And so I began to, to start talking to the people who are kind of guiding my training and grading my work and saying, let's talk about who the kind of principal you're hoping that I become the needs of the district. And let's kind of rethink some of the feedback that you're giving me and some of the support you're getting me so that I can truly do that. And people thought it was insane because you know look you don't rock the boat Don't rock the boat and I wasn't trying to rock the boat. So I didn't come from a place of arrogance, I think I came from a place of humility, I really want to do a good job. But here's what I need in order to be able to do a good job. 

And it's a different way of thinking. 

And it worked. They said, that makes sense, they begin to adjust to give me the training. So I got really, really good training. And I watched some of my colleagues who are just getting hazed to death, and being forced to do things and conform and jump through all these hoops. And I thought, they're not learning how to be a principal, they're learning how to, I don't know, please, this particular person whose outsides ego was forcing them to jump through hoops to prove to them that they were loyal enough to deserve a job. I don't, I don't, I don't want to do that. Because you do that for a day, if you're going to be doing it for the rest of your career. And so if you are worried that you are not getting support, or that you won't get support. And that's what's stopping you from making the decision, the first thing you need to do is think through, what kind of support do you need? Alright, are you? Are you looking for permission to do something that's right for kids? Or are you looking for support? And if you're looking for support, what does that support look like? And I talked to Bill all the time, they're like, Well, my, my superintendent doesn't support me. What what does that look like? Have you thought through what you need? And in most cases, what they're really asking for is some gold star, you may not get a gold star, but what do you need? Do you need funding? Do you need staffing? Do you need cover for parents? Do you what do you need? What does that support look like? And then what does giving you that support do for them? Because we're always thinking about me, me, me, me. But if everybody's thinking about me, then giving you support doesn't serve them unless you make the case for how it can. So you're not just going and asking for support. You're saying in exchange for this support, here's what more I can do for you. Here's what more I can deliver for you. And so when you do it that way, you often get the support that you need. But we don't take other people's perspectives where I was saying they're not supporting me, they were let's let's figure out why. 

If there's something that you need from your superintendent, or from your supervisor, and that that support enables you to do something bigger for your school for your students for the district, why wouldn't I give it to you, but we don't think through that way. And so as a result, the decision to sits there while we're waiting for support to show up, the support may never show up unless you ask for it. Problem is, how often have you asked for it, we just assume we're not going to get it. We just assume that everybody up there is playing politics, and maybe they are. But so what your students need you your staff needs you to be an advocate for them. Your vision demands it of you. And if you are letting some aspect of your vision mission and core values atrophy, because you are so worried that you're not going to get the support you need or maybe you've even had experience of not being supported in the past. What are you doing? So if that's stopping you, here's what I want you to do. I want you to sit down and think about what support do you need? You may not get the Goldstar. Stop, you don't really need that and you don't need their approval. You need their support? What support do you really need? Don't make a laundry list, what is the most important thing that you need from them in order for you to move forward in the decision that you know you need to make? And then ask for it. The worst they can do is say no. And then you find another way to do it. Anyway. Different episode. Okay, so we talked about you're not sure that it's the right decision? I think you've got an answer for that. Now, we talked about you're worried that you're not going to get support from your supervisor. I think we have an answer for that. Now, the last piece is some of us are worried about making a decision because we're worried about the fact that our staff won't support us. We're worried that we're going to get pushed back from our staff. And here again, I know I sound like a broken record, but I'm going to bring back the vision, mission and core values. Because the builders and builders ship University who have created and gone through the process of creating a vision, mission and core values and process that creates true ownership for your entire staff. This is not an issue anymore. 

Will you staff support it? I don't know. Do they co own the vision mission and core values to have they have you built that in your school because if you do, they can I was just talking to builder this week, Amy and Amy almost made me cry because Amy was talking about how she inherited a school that had a very toxic culture and not a lot of staff support. And she went through the process of creating a vision, mission and core values. And because of that, and because they filter every decision through the vision, mission and core values, the staff supports her even when it means more work. And she's very careful, she's not just piling on work and saying do it for the children and ignoring their human needs, no. But she said that the district has come down with a lot of things that they have to do in the school. And, and other schools are really struggling and the staff is starting to push back. But in her school, because they're filtering these initiatives through the vision, mission and core values, and finding ways to make the initiatives work, to move them towards a vision, mission and core values, these things that they have to do don't feel onerous, they're not she's not getting the pushback. If you're worried that you're going to get pushback from your staff, the first thing you have to consider is, first of all, is this decision, something that is in true alignment with your vision, mission, and core values. Because if it is, then you need to take it to your staff and talk it through and give them the opportunity to support it. And if it's not, you don't need to be making that decision. It's not the right decision. So when you become a builder, when you have that vision, mission and core values in place, when you have the systems of a builder in place, you stop worrying about what your staff will do. You start worrying about whether or not they will embrace the decision. Because if you are sifting through your vision, mission and core values that they own, that they created, that they helped you build. People don't tear down what they helped build, they see how it will move them forward, and they embrace it. It's just a non issue. You talk to most builders and are just, I mean, they don't worry about not having their staff support anymore. They just go to their staff and they say, listen, here's where we are with our vision mission and core values. 

This is a decision I want to make based on that. 

And the staff says makes sense. Okay, the PU for it isn't a worry. I don't know how else to say it. I wish I had more to say about it. But it's just not a worry when you put those things in place. So if you are holding off on making a decision, because you're worried that it's the right decision, then the problem isn't the decision. The problem is that you don't have a vision, mission and core values that you can count on to help you see clearly what the right thing is to do. So you need to just go ahead and do that. And then you don't have to worry about decision making anymore. If you're worried about making a decision, because you're not sure you're going to get district support, again, vision mission and core values gives you the conviction to be able to go to your to whoever it is you need the support from and ask for support, not permission. And if you're worried that your staff isn't going to support your decision, then first of all, you need to make sure that the decision truly aligns with the vision, mission and core values. And then if it does, you don't need to worry anymore, you go to your staff, you lay things out, and you trust your staff to see it and to do what's right, because people don't tear down what they helped build. 

So if you have a decision that's sitting there, and taking up space in your brain, and taking and creating a weight for you emotionally, if you have a decision that is creating either acute or low grade anxiety, because it's unmade. You need to examine why you haven't made that decision. And then you need to go ahead, take care of it and make the decision because here's what I know for sure. The more unmade decisions you have, the more weighed down you feel. You're feeling stress and pressure, right now, if you're feeling like, I'm not sure if this is the right job for me, if you're feeling like I'm overwhelmed, if you're feeling like I'm frustrated and tired, and I don't feel the feel the joy in my work that I used to feel at the heart of that it's probably a set of unmade decisions that are weighing you down. And I promise you if you if you can, you can figure out what decisions Haven't you made, what conversations Haven't you had? And you go ahead and make those decisions and have those conversations. The weight goes away. You feel better. And more than that, you are able to move forward in your purpose because you're not being held back by it. unmade decisions and unhedged conversations. The reason that builders are able to move so quickly and see success so quickly is that armed with that vision, mission and core values, they make the right decisions. They're confident that their decisions, they make them quickly, not haphazardly, but decisively and quickly, because they, they have something they can anchor in, that gives them the confidence, to make good decisions, and to trust their decisions, and to learn from their mistakes, and to make better decisions next time. And the people who get stuck, are the ones who never make the decision, keep putting it off, keep kicking the can down the road, and keep allowing themselves to be weighed down with all of these on made decisions. So my challenge to you this week, is to ask yourself, what are the decisions that are weighing me down the unmade decisions that are weighing me down? Why haven't I made that decision? Is it because I'm worried it's not the right decision? Is it because I'm worried I won't get support from above? Is it because I'm worried that I won't get support from my teachers or the parents, whatever that that fear is? I need you to go ahead and confront it. And make the decision so that you can shed that weight and move forward on behalf of your students and do the work that you were called here to do, like a belter. 

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 airship and get started writing your school success story today. 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 this question so 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.

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