The Antidote to Judgement


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You're listening to the School Leadership Reimagined Podcast, episode number ​​​four.

Welcome to the School Leadership Reimagined podcast...

where we rethink what's possible to transform your school. If you're tired of settling for small wins and incremental improvement, then stay tuned to discover powerful and practical strategies for getting every teacher in your school moving towards excellence. Now, here's your host, Robyn Jackson. ​

Hello there, and welcome back to another episode of the School Leadership Reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robyn Jackson, and today we're talking about judgment, so I want to ask you a question. Have you ever worked with a teacher and thought, this teacher is lazy or this teacher doesn't care about students or this person is always whining, or am I the only one? Well, today, let's talk about that teacher. That teacher you might think as lazy or doesn't care or is always whining. I'll cut a solution for that and it may not be something you've ever considered before, but before we jump in...

​This episode is sponsored by...

my book Never ​Underestimate ​Your ​Teachers. It's one of my favorite books that I've ever written because in it I talk about how if you really want to impact a teacher, you need to address that teacher skill and that teachers will, the first half of the book shows you very practical ways that you can impact and improve a teacher's skill, but the second half of the book shows you very specific strategies that you can use to move, uh, teachers will and get a teacher motivated to improve.

Plus, I've got some really amazing tools that you can use as a builder to provide teachers with better feedback, differentiated support, and even a few tools to help you help teachers be more accountable. You can order your copy of Never Underestimate Your Teachers at And if you go there right now, you'll get 15 percent off the normal price. Again, that's Never Underestimate Your Teachers at

OK, so now let's dive into today's training.

A few years ago, I was conducting this workshop for school administrators and instructional coaches. At the beginning of all my workshops, I always start with q and a because by the end of the day, nobody cares. Nobody wants to ask a question, so I start with q and a and that ​q and a kind of drives the discussion for today. It's my way of inviting workshop participants to ​co-create the agenda with me.

Well, that morning and instructional coach asked me something that completely floored me. She asked, what do you do about a teacher who is just lazy? Well, immediately I knew just the kind of teacher she was talking about. I mean, we've all experienced a teacher who wasn't so keen on getting the work we thought was important done, or maybe the teacher has a ton of excuses for why they're not doing what we think is unnecessary and integral part of their jobs. So anyway, I stood there and I was trying to come up with a really brilliant answer, but I drew a blank for a moment and the reason that I was drawing a blank, what's because this is something that I struggled with as well when working with teachers, especially ones that I thought were lazy or mean or out of touch with kids. And I'll be honest, I have judged people for not doing their jobs the way that I thought they should.

So how could I be in a position to give this teacher or this instructional coach any kind of advice? So for a moment I just froze there in the middle of the floor and everybody was sitting there looking at me because I am the expert. I'm supposed to have the answer and I had nothing. So I was thinking fast and lucky for me. Just that morning I had listened to a podcast where the hosted interviewed a woman named Sherry Alexander. I'm sorry, Shari Alexander. It's spelled Shari s-h-a-r-i ​ I would say sorry, but it's really ​Shari Alexander. Now, if you're not familiar with Shari Alexander, you should be, and I'll link to her website in the show notes ​who has for years studied the art of persuasion and she's done it by looking at people who are in positions where they have to be very persuasive, so people like crisis negotiators or hostage negotiators or are CIA agents.

And this one really piqued my interest...

because it's kind of funny. She's also looked at con artists and pickup artist and she's studied how they persuade people to do things. So in the interview that I heard that morning Shari​ at this, she said people cannot persuade others if they are judging them. And when she said it, I remember that immediately struck me as being something very important. But I had no idea at the time just how important that statement would be. So back to my training. I'm standing in the middle of the room full of principals, assistant principals, instructional coaches, and they've all been required to be in the room with me instead of at their schools where they really want it to be. And they're all looking at me to give them the solution to this problem and the stakes were high because if I answered that question the wrong way, they were going to tune me out for the rest of the day and see the entire workshop as a waste of their time.

After all, if my materials can help them deal with this very real, very pressing problem that they were all experiencing, then it's just a bunch of useless theory. So my mind was racing and my throat started to get dry because the success or failure of the entire day hinged upon what I would say next. I'm not being dramatic. It just felt horrible. And at that moment I wasn't coming up with anything brilliant. So I'm really panicking and start just flat. And I started to kind of just, you know, my mind is scrambling and that's when I remembered ​Shari's statement from earlier that morning. If you're judging someone, you cannot influence them. So I said, I'm not sure I have the perfect answer yet. This is something that I'm still working on myself. But I do know this. If you're judging someone, you cannot influence them. Now. That made me sound really, really smart and I could feel everybody kind of leaning in to hear more.

So I just kept talking and I started talking about how I to grappled with this and I started saying things like, you know, as long as you see a teacher is lazy, you're judging them, and a few people started to rumble under their breath and I was losing the crowd at that moment. So I hurried on to explain what I meant, Lazy, his judgment and like all judgment, it fools us into thinking that our perspective is the only perspective when in fact what you see as lazy. Maybe something else altogether were grumbling. So I tried to explain further, so I said, maybe you're right. Maybe the person is lazy, but as long as you see them, that way they'll pick up on it. They'll throw up their defenses and they will resist your attempts to get them to actually do the work that you want them to do.

So then the coach who asked the question originally, she thought about this for a moment and then she asked a follow-up question. Uh Oh. She said, so what do you do? Well, again, this is something I'm still struggling with myself, but what I'm learning is this, you cannot judge and be curious at the same time. Judgment is the absence of curiosity. The moment you've judged, you've decided that the person is lazy in the story. There's nothing else to ponder. That means that you've already kind of stopped being curious about that person. Well, you cannot judge and be curious at the same time, curiosity and judgement can't occupy the same space. So whenever I find myself judging someone, it means I've turned off curiosity. So as soon as I catch myself doing it, I've tried to shift to curiosity. And when I do, when I get curious about a person, I immediately pull myself out of judgment.

The antidote to judgment is...

...curiosity. Well, that sounds really nice, doesn't it? But the coach and the other folks in the room, they weren't buying it. They wanted real answers. So someone asks, well, doesn't matter. Judgment or curiosity, the teacher is still not doing our work. OK, good question, and the people in the room started laughing and I did a little tube, but then I kept serious and I said, the difference is this. If you ever want to help a person stop being and I'm using air quotes here, lazy and start doing their work, even when you're not looking, then you have to be able to have some influence over them. Judgement cuts off all influence that you may have to be able to persuade them to do things differently. Curiosity opens up the possibility that you can influence them to do things differently, but that the room got quiet and I could see the light bulbs going off over everyone's head.

Like many of us, me included, they were frustrated by teachers who weren't doing what they should be doing and after trying tactic after tactic with those teachers, a lot of the leaders in that room had given up. They've convinced themselves that there were just some teachers who couldn't be moved because they were lazy or because they didn't care about kids or because they were mean or whatever. They had written those teachers off, but once they realize that those assessments were simply judgments, I thought they weren't necessarily true. Once they realized that there was a way to still have an impact on a teacher, even if they had formally written that teacher off, well, you could see them come alive with the possibility that all was not lost and there was still a chance to impact those teachers. The shift from judgment. It's such a simple shift and yet it is one of the most powerful moves in a builder's repertoire skills.

When you find yourself judging someone else, and notice I said when, not if, because we all do it, but when you find yourself judging another person, you must know how to shift from judgment to curiosity as quickly as possible. If you're going to have any chance of having an ongoing influence over those user. So here's how it works. Let's say that you're working with a teacher and you think that teacher doesn't care about students enough. The teacher is, in your opinion, letting students fail and not doing enough to support the students. For instance, the moment you start to think this way, stop and ask yourself this question. Under what circumstances would this behavior be logical? Under what circumstances would this behavior be logical? Then get extremely curious about the answer to that question. Now I'll. I'll give you an example of how I use this question.

Recently I was coaching an administrator

who would whine about everything. I'd give her a strategy to try and she would whine about how it probably wouldn't work. Even before she tried it. I would send her a resource and she would whine about how it was a pdf and she really wanted something she could redo and make it her own. She should go to to try a strategy that I would suggest and then she'd send me a 500 word text message and yes, I said text message whining about all that went wrong when she was using the strategy. It was becoming a real headache for me. In fact, I got to the point where I dreaded working with her. I. I can't stand whining all the time. In fact, I hate it so much that I built it into the ​Mindsteps core values. Our core value statement, one of them is we are a drama free work environment.

That means we don't create drama, nor do we tolerate anybody else bringing drama into our space. That's one of our core values. Well, this client was bringing a lot of drama with all of her complaining and frankly I had labeled her a class, a whiner. Now, at first I felt justified in my judgment. She was whining. She never had anything positive to say and like all judgments, my judgment began to feel like the Gospel truth. Well, I was complaining about her to a colleague of mine and and some people would say I was whining to someone else about her whining, but I'm not going to admit that. I'm going to say I was sharing my frustrations. That sounds way better, right? So I was talking to her, to a colleague of mine about how she was just driving me crazy with all this whining and instead of being a good colleague and just sitting there and agreeing with me, he said this, robin, I hear a lot of judgment in what you're saying right now.

He's so annoying, right? But I wanted him to co-sign with me on just how much of a whiner I was dealing with or show me some sympathy for my plight. And here he was getting all philosophical and, and, and holding me accountable to something that I say all the time. So the first thing I did was I tried to defend myself, but I really couldn't because I was judging her. But I was so annoyed with her that I really didn't care that I was judging her. I mean, have you forgotten like that? But this friend of mine, he was just totally relentless. He said, are you saying all the time that you cannot impact someone if you're judging them? I mean, don't you hate it when your friends listened to you and been holds you accountable for you? Say I want friends with very little long-term memory.

That's what I want in life, but it wasn't done yet. Then he said, maybe the reason you're not having the impact that you want to have with her is because you're judging her, and then he just kinda dropped the mic and walked away. Like I said, it's a really annoying friend, but he was. He was right and I hope he's not listening right now to hear me admit this, since he will never let me live this down. So yeah, I'm not going to say that to him in person, but I'll tell you he was, he was right. And so I asked myself the question, under what circumstances would her behavior be logical? And then I drew a blank because it wasn't logical to me at all. So here's what I did. Now I got curious. Instead of getting annoyed the next time she started whining to me about something, I just listened and I looked for clues to help me understand why she chose to whine all the time.

And then something magical happened...​

​​Before, as soon as she started whining, my stomach will get all tied. I was started rolling my eyes, my blood pressure would rise, I would just get annoyed. But the moment I focused on curiosity, instead of getting annoyed at her whining, I was fascinated. The more whined, the more information I got so she would start whining about how her team wasn't ready for real transformation and whereas before I would start rolling my eyes and thinking, OK, here we go again with the excuses. This time I asked her why not? And the more she explained, the more she told me about our fears and our past experiences and some of her insecurities. And the more I listened, the more I was able to figure out how to really truly help her and instead of being drained by the experience like I usually was.

I got off the call kind of excited. I mean, it was really amazing. So I'm telling you this works. It's like my friend once said to me, try to get curious instead of furious. I like that, don't you? I mean, it's an important reminder and frankly it's what builders do. And why builders have so much influence over the people they serve. I don't want to just leave you with this platitude here. I want to give you some practical ways that you can get curious instead of furious. So before we go,

I want to give you a list of things to help you get curious...

These are things that you can get curious about and then I want to show you how you can use them to help you have a greater impact on someone you may have thought you couldn't influence or someone who may be judging right now. Now again, I'm stealing from Sh​ari's work and Shar​i's work is amazing. So like I said, I'll link to it in the show notes, but Sherry has an acronym that she uses to help her focus her curiosity and come up with ways to influence someone effectively. And the acronym she uses his vibes. ​V-I-B-E-S a vibes.

So the V in vibes stands for values.

So when you are listening to someone and you are getting curious and you're trying to understand how is their behavior logical, how does their behavior makes sense? Under what circumstances does their behavior makes sense? One of the things you want to listen for are what values are you observing in another person? So in other words, you're trying to figure out what is most important to them. The value could be something like health or or free time or some people value being right.

I met someone recently and her big value is freedom or stability or creativity or tradition. You know, you don't have to agree with their values, but the better you understand their values, the better you can connect with them and the better you can connect what you're asking them to do with their values and that could have a big influence over whether or not they agree to do it. For instance, if you pick up on the fact that the person you're talking to values tradition, you might say something like, you know, I understand how tradition is very important to you, which is why I want to show you how this new initiative built on the traditions that we have held so dear in this school in the past to see what you did there. You can listen to their values and then you've found a way to connect their values to something that you're asking them to do it again, don't judge their values. Listen for their values, because they give you clues about how you can help people move forward. So that's The v. The V is for values.

Now, the I is for identifiers.

And for this one, this reminds me of, uh, one of my favorite quotes by my Angelo. And quite frankly, it's one of everybody's favorite quotes by Maya Angelo. I think I'm being unique here, but a lot of people love this quote. Maya Angel​​o says, when someone tells you who they are, believe them. Wow. If you are getting curious instead of furious, you're listening to people because people will tell you who they are. If you listen close and up, so they may say something like, well, you know, I'm real old school, or I'm a pretty strict teacher, or I'm more of a free spirit, or I'm a morning person. Listen to that. So if they say I'm pretty organized, disorganized, believe them that they're pretty disorganized.

Don't give them something to do that relies on their ability to be organized. So again, when you're getting curious, instead of furious, listen, because people will tell you who they are and then you can go back and say, is what I'm asking them to do? A direct contradiction to who they are. How can I leverage who they are in order to help them be effective in their jobs? So the values eyes for identifiers.

The B is for beliefs

...because a person's beliefs are the lens through which they see the world. Their beliefs are what people think is true until proven otherwise. That means that if you want to have a chance on influencing somebody later on can eat to understand their belief system first, so listen out for the little. If then statements that people make. For instance, a teacher might say, if students don't turn in their homework, then it's on them.

And you know, whenever I hear that, the first thing I hear is you just saw me. Why aren't you helping kids? Their kids? You have to inspire them to turn in homework, see how I'm judging? But if I really listened to that, I should take note. I don't judge the belief, I just take note of it and then later on when I'm trying to help that person see things differently, I can start from their belief system and I can address their underlying beliefs first and I need to do so before I'm going to be able to persuade that. So these four values I as for identifiers, the B is for beliefs and

​The ​E is for emotional triggers.

So you want to listen to their positive emotional triggers or another words, the things that put people in a good mood. And you also want to listen further, negative emotional triggers or things that put them in a bad mood. Then people's emotional triggers are different. You have to be careful of them because when people are triggered, it's hard for them to be influenced. So just listen for their triggers. So the V is for values I as for identifiers be for believes, the e is for emotional triggers, and

the last one is the ​S...​

...and the s stands for their secret and their stated goals and dreams. When someone tells you who they want to be, you need to be figuring out how you can support that. And then you can take their goals and their dreams and you can use them to appeal to their higher sense of self. And it's a great way to persuade them to move forward. So listen to that. Now, of course, you may not get all the answers for every single letter in the vibes acronym from one conversation, but if you listen carefully, you'll glean more than you thought you would.

And as long as you're listening for these things...'re being curious and you're not judging. So let's recap what we learned today. If you're judging anyone, you can influence them, and the antidote to judgment is curiosity and there are some specific things that you can do to be curious and some specific things that you need to be curious about and a great rate of. Remember them is. Remember the acronym vibes were v stands for values. It stands for identifiers. B stands for beliefs. IITS stands for emotional triggers and stands for stated or secret goals and dreams. Now, if you choose to be curious instead of furious and you really listen to people, they will literally tell you exactly what they need in order to get moving in the right direction. I always say this, people complain and they fuss and instead of reacting to that and judging that, if you are curious instead of furious, people will always tell you exactly what they need in order to move forward.

Trust me, when I'm working with someone and especially if it's someone I feel is impossible, I use the strategy and really listen and they always tell me exactly how I can influence them. They don't know that they're giving me the keys to how to motivate and influence them, but they are just the same as long as I listen. Now, there is one more strategy that you can use to get people to tell you exactly how to lead them and this one strategy is so powerful, so amazing that I'm going to need to devote an entire episode to it. So next week I'll be covering something I call will drivers, and if you're struggling to motivate a teacher or you're working with a particularly difficult teacher or you just want to learn how to have an even greater impact on the teachers who serve, then you need to listen to next week's episode.

I'm sharing the most powerful secret I know...

...for moving people, even those who have been resistant in the past and those who I don't have a lot of hope in. So make sure you tune in to next week because I'm going to be sharing with you my secret weapon for helping me not only get out of judgment and into curiosity, but then leveraging what I've learned to really have a major impact. On. Another person and to motivate even my most resistant teachers into moving in the right direction, so that's coming up next week. In the meantime, if you liked today's episode and you found it useful, what you do me a favor and go over to itunes and leave a review because I read every single review and it would mean the world to me if you leave one there and then let me know what you think of this show.

In fact, this week I want to give a special shout out to Principal Patterson and. Oh Martin, five for. You're very sweet reviews. They made my week, so thank you very much. And Are we connected on linkedin yet? I mean if not, come on. What are you waiting for? I keep begging. Don't make me bag. Just go ahead and find me. I'm Robyn Jackson on Linkedin because I would love to be a part of your network. OK, so that's it for today. Don't forget to be curious instead of furious, you can tweet that if you want. Until next time. I'm Robyn Jackson and this is School Leadership Reimagined. Don't forget, you can get the links and all the show notes from today's episode​ at slash episode​4 no space episode​4. That's it for today. Take care of everybody and I will talk to you next time.

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