How to Keep Objections From Derailing Your Next Initiative 


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You’re listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 48. 

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.

Hey Builders!

Welcome to another episode of the school leadership re-imagined podcast. I'm your host Robyn Jackson and today we're going to talk about how to keep other people's objections from derailing your next initiative.

Now last time I talked about how to get everybody excited about your new initiative and let's suppose that you did that. 

Let's suppose that you went to everybody and you, you rolled out this new initiative, you explained it, you, you helped people see the why in terms that they can understand and relate to rather than in terms that you can understand and relate to. You told this story of change and you've gotten by it. People are excited, they're riled up, they're ready to go, and you're excited because you really believe that this time, this initiative could make a difference in the lives of kids. This is the thing that you need to do in order to move your school ahead.

And maybe you've had initiatives in the past that haven't worked so well. Maybe you've had other initiatives fail and this time you're really feeling like, you know what? Maybe this can make a difference because you've generated that excitement. Everybody is ready to go. Everybody is excited, people are coming in talking to you about it and you feel like, you know what? Maybe this time, this time, it will actually happen. I may have had initiatives in the past that have failed or fizzle doubt, but this time it's going to work. And then you hear the first objection that first naysayer comes in and maybe they start out nice. Maybe they say, oh well, you know I, I can't while you're trying to do by, and then they start with the bud or maybe they're not so nice.

Maybe they start dampening everybody else's excitement behind your back.

In the staff lounge or in the parking lot or on the playground during recess duty or in the lunch room, they start subtly planting seeds of doubt in everybody and then all of a sudden a week later, two weeks later, that excitement is fizzled out. And now people are starting to say, but what about this? Or maybe that or I'm not so sure this can happen anymore. Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever gotten people excited about an initiative? They agree that we need to do this. They agree this is the way we need to go. They are ready to go. They bought in and then all of a sudden the cancer of doubt and, and any window and, and, and naysaying starts to in effect that incite excitement and, and it takes the excitement away. Well, on today's episode we're going to talk about what you can do about that, how you can keep the momentum going after that excite stage.

How will you can actually get people moving so that you're not just talking about it, but now people are actually starting to do the work and they're not getting discouraged and they're not fizzling out before you've even begun. In other words, today we're gonna talk about how do you keep your initiative going and make sure that the objections don't kill it before it has even had a chance to, to get off the ground.

Before we do that, I have two things I want to talk to you about. 

So the first thing is that we are on episode 48 and episode 50 is coming. And I thought, let's do something different. Let's do something special for episode 50 so we're going to switch things up a bit for episode 50 and instead of me getting on and doing kind of a training like I've been doing, I'd like to address some of your questions.

You know, from time to time you'll send me questions in linkedin. And by the way, if we are not connected on Linkedin and you've been listening to this podcast for a while, why are you making me beg? We need to be collected connected on Linkedin and a lot of you are not on linkedin. I recently published an article about why school leaders needed to be on linkedin and I'll make sure that I link to that in the show notes, but what I'd like for you to do is in preparation for episode 50 I'd like to hear your questions.

What are some of the challenges that you're facing right now that you'd love to get some help with? 

What are some of the questions that you have that have been burning questions and you'd love to see tackled on this podcast? And you can send me your question three different ways. The first way is you can just send me a direct message on linkedin and we, if we're connected on Linkedin, it's pretty easy to just go in and send me a direct message. If we're not connected on Linkedin, send me a connection request and then put your question in the connecting request and then I'll get your question that way. So the first way is through linkedin. The second way is to shoot me an email and you can just send your questions to questions at mindsteps INC com.

Again, that's questions at Mindsteps Inc com and the third way is to just send me, if we're connected on Facebook, if you and I are friends on Facebook or if you follow the Robyn Jackson page on Facebook because you're following the book journey and you'd prefer to connect there.

Go ahead and just send me your questions on Facebook.

You gave the do it through messenger or you can just kind of post a question to the wall and what I want to do is I'm going to look over all the questions that I get. I'm going to choose some that are, you know, kind of really universal things that I think really mattered to most of most of you who are listening to this podcast. And I'm going to tackle those questions on episode 50 so I'm really excited about the questions and go ahead and hit me with your hard questions because I really want this episode to be meaningful for you and then we'll see how it goes. And if you like the format after we try it out then we'll see whether or not we make that a regular feature of the show where I am tackling your questions. Okay, so that's the first announcement.

Second thing that I want to remind you about is builders lab, so builders lab is coming up. The next one is October seven through nine in Dallas, Texas and the deadline for tickets for that has passed, although there are, I think the late registration deadline has not passed. I think you still have a few more days if you're listening to this podcast in real time, but we are already planning for builders lab 2020 and so on or about October 1st somewhere around the first week in October. We are going to be announcing the dates for builders lab 2020 most of them will be in Washington, D C but we have one city we're working on right now. That's going to be really fun. We've never come to this city before, so just be on the lookout for that and make your plans now to join us for builder's lab in 2020 I let you know how much I love builders lab. It is probably my favorite thing to do because normally when I'm speaking or when I am doing public workshops, I have large audiences, so I'm on stage, I'm sharing information, but I don't get a chance to work with you as closely or intimately as I would like and we created builder's lab to give me that opportunity.

It's pretty selfish.

I mean you benefit from it too, but it's pretty selfish for me because it gives me a chance to really get invested in a small group of school administrators or instructional coaches. We keep builder's lab really, really small, so we have less than a hundred people and usually we have somewhere around 50 to 75 people at builder's lab and that means for three days, this small intimate group, we bond. We, I get to work with each of you individually. You get my support, we sit down, we grapple with your issues, build a slab.

It's not a sit and get three day conference. It's a, it's three days of intensive work on your challenges. So in builder's lab, not only are you learning how to move your school forward, how to turn your school into this raving success story and how to do it with the people you already have. You're not just learning kind of how to do that. The big, how. Every time you learn something we immediately apply it. So when you learn how to give teachers more effective feedback, we immediately practice it so that you've got it down and you can go back to school and do it right away. In fact, most people go right back to their school and the next week, the next observation, they are using those strategies and they feel confident in using those strategies because we've practiced and they've gotten feedback at builders lab. You're going to learn how to support your teachers and you're going to be developing a support schedule and strategy for your teachers. That builder's lab that you can go back to your school and implement it right away. 

You're going to be learning about how to make your organization more accountable

You actually do the things that you say you're going to do so they don't just fizzle out midyear and then you're going to go back to your school. Actually, you don't even wait, so you go back to your school during the implementation lab, you start putting some of those accountability measures in right away, so by the time you returned to your school, you are already a more accountable organization and then you're going to learn about culture and how to move your culture and you're going to get practice right there at builder's lab, and then you go back to your school and immediately start healing your culture, growing your culture, strengthening your culture at your school.

Not only that, but you're going to be working on your core values, your vision and your mission and you're going to develop an entire plan for how you roll this all out to your school. And I keep mentioning the implementation lab because on day three of builders lab, you have time in builder's lab to start applying everything that you've learned and build his lab to your own school. So that implementation lab, it's not me upfront, it's me and my team circulating amongst you and you are working on things, taking what you've learned at builder's lab and putting it into practice right now with your school, your teachers, so that by the time you return back to your school, you've already started making changes. You've already have started seeing results. That's the power of builders lab. And it's one of the reasons why I love it so much because I feel like we make a real difference.

We don't have to wait six months to a year to hear your success stories. 

You start having breakthroughs and successes right there in the room. And to me it's so gratified. So, like I said, it's pretty selfish about why we do Boulder's lab and I think that you'd need to benefit from my selfishness. It's mutually selfish because one of the rules of builder's lab is be selfish. You come to builders lab and it's not about the group and and trying to, you know, I don't want to ask this question because it may take everybody off track, know and build your slab. We tell you be selfish. Everything we teach you should be directly applying to your practice. You should be thinking about how can I use this? And when you're asking questions, you should be asking questions about what's happening in your school. That's the power of it.

So anyway, it's a mutual selfishness society. If I can say something like that at build lab and I would love to work with you, I'd love to spend some time working on your stuff with you and helping you start to turn your school around. I mean, a lot of people think, when I say turn your school around, I mean that you have a terrible low-performing school and we're going to make it better. That's not really the kind of person that typically comes to builder's lab. They usually can't get away, you know, for three days when their school is in crisis. The people who come to builders lab are people who already have a decent school. It's, it's going pretty well. They, they have teachers for the most part who are committed to kids. Maybe one or two that you know are kind of off, but for the most part there, these are people who are doing pretty well.

They're pretty satisfied, but they feel like their school could be better and they've kind of hit a wall. 

They, they keep trying these different things and their school just kind of plateaued and builders lab is about how do you take your school to the next level? How do you get out of that slump into the next level anyway, if that's your situation, I would love to work with you personally and directly at builder's lab and so make sure that you go to mindsteps inc com slash builders dash lab in order to get tickets to an upcoming builders lab. Like I said, we're going to probably be doing three or four public builders labs in 2020 and we also have a couple of private ones. If you know, if you're up for larger school districts that don't want to kind of send a whole bunch of people to the builders lab, they have a critical mass.

They actually bring us in and we do builders lab in that district. So that's also an option for you as well. Anyway, you can find out more information about all of that by going to mindsteps inc com slash builders dash lab. All right, so now let's talk about how we can keep other people's objections from derailing your next initiative. Cause it's frustrating isn't it? You know, you're excited. Other people are excited and then all of a sudden here come the naysayers and immediately the, the atmosphere changes immediately. They start sucking all the air out of the room and typically we avoid those naysayers, those naysayers, you know, make our stomachs turn up in knots. They they, they make us start rolling our eyes and sucking our teeth because here they come.

I'm going to propose something different to you today because I don't think you should avoid the naysayers.

In fact, one of the things that we teach you when we're talking about really how do you sustainably transform your school is we teach you that you should intentionally surface objections. You don't run from objections. You should actually, when you are rolling out something new, you should actually be asking for objections. You should be digging for objections. You should be looking for them. Why? Because when you do that, you take the air out of the sales of anybody who's trying to sabotage your initiative. Plus those objections. When you intentionally surface them, actually make your initiative better, it actually helps you develop an initiative that is, that's almost fail safe because you've taken time to really consider the objections, not just the ones that you can generate, but the ones that other people are bringing up. So instead of running from objections, I want to encourage you to actually go out and get them.

And here's what I mean by that. So one of the strategies that we teach you at builder's lab is we teach you that. When you get to this point in rolling out a new initiative, the first thing you should do is you should ask people what do you see are going to be the big problems? What do you think would keep us from being successful? You're not going to do this in a big group because mob mentality takes over. What you're going to do instead is you're going to visit small groups of teachers and you want to talk to every teacher in your building. So whether it's one on one with some of your big naysayers, whether it's in small groups, your PLCs, your departments, your teams, your grade levels, you want to pull teachers together and you want to ask them, think of everything you think that might get in the way of our being successful with this initiative.

What would keep you from getting started? 

What are some of the things that you're worried about? What are your fears about this initiative and about this change that we're looking at making? In our school. What do you, where do you have doubts? Where do you think we know we may be off the mark and then, and here's the most important part, shut up. Do not defend your initiative. Just listen, write things down. All you're doing right now is you want to get people to exhaust themselves with objections. I remember one time when I was a brand new administrator and I was just figuring out how to deal with parents cause it's different when you are an administrator versus when you're a teacher dealing with parents. And I was trying to figure it out and I remember a parent called me and he cussed me out.

His son was having trouble and you know, I was the son's administrator and this was like my second week on the job and the parent called me and I was the only one in the office. So I took the call and evidently he had had a history with the school before, you know, complaining about the school, not serving his son. And I walked into a blind. So I said hello. And then he started and he used words that you know would make a sailor blush. And he taught, called me all kinds of names called the school, all kinds of names. Talked about what we weren't doing for his son and how he was going to sue us and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And he just went on and on and on. It was kind of, it was, it was so vitriolic that at one point I think I did put the phone down, but you could hear him yelling in the phone and the receiver, I just put the phone down, you know, did a couple of other tasks and then after a while pick the phone back up, realize he was still going, but the phone back down, let them go, just go. And he must have cussed me out for a solid, you know, it felt like three hours, but it's probably five or 10 minutes, just straight boom, boom, boom. 

When he was finished, I just sat silently. 

I actually just didn't know what to say. So I can't, you know, attribute this to my own brilliance, but I just let it just kind of hang out there in the air. And you know, finally the father said, you know what? You're a really good listener. And I said, thank you. He says, okay, well, you know, we've got to come up with a plan for how to help my son. And I said, yes we do. And I gave him a couple of options and he says, that sounds reasonable. I'm just so frustrated. Let's just go with that. You know, whatever you decide, that's fine. And then he hung up and I sat there flabbergasted because the call started out with all of this vitriol.

And by the end of the call he sounded almost reasonable. It just blew my mind. So I learned from that conversation that sometimes when you have people who are, are, are, are agitated or upset or frustrated, sometimes you have to hear them out. Okay, so what does this have to do with your initiative? The same thing is true. Sometimes you just have to let people get it all out until so that they can feel like, okay, it's out there now. Now I'm open to this initiative because I've been heard out. I've fully expressed how I feel. So when you are going around and you are surfacing objections, it's not your job to fix them. You don't have to feel like you're going to fix them right away. I think that's what we do.

Sometimes we hear an objection and we immediately think we have to defend it or defend our initiative or address the objection right away.

You don't have to do that. All I want you to do is at the very beginning, just go around and listen and you want people to get it all out. You don't want people to give you one or two and say, okay, thank you, and move away when they have another five or six in their back pocket. You want them to empty their pockets, all of their objections, put them out on the table. So you want to spend time here and all you're doing is listening and recording and what? Here's what you're listening for. You're listening to see if these are just one off objections or is there a pattern is more than one teacher saying the same objection or expressing the same fear because then you'll see these are the things that will derail your initiative and it's better to know your enemies. So what are the constraints that people are bringing up?

What are the fears? What are the limitations? Even if you think they're ridiculous, remember they are real to the people who are expressing them so you can't judge their objections. You simply must listen to them, collect all of their objections and just look at what they're saying and try to be objective about their objections. Look at everything that you're seeing and just kind of, you know, spend a few moments. Look for patterns, look for for other stuff that you hadn't considered. Look for stuff that maybe you've considered before, but you're saying, yeah, I'm right. This is confirmation. This is really going to be a challenge. That's all you're doing in this first stage. The first stage you just go out and you just collect them and sometimes it means to have a conversation. You, you, you have it in a small group.

You say, okay, what are your fears?

And then when people finished talking, you make sure, hey Bob, you haven't said anything while I agree with everybody else. Okay. Which part did you agree with the most? What do you, what do you think it's going to be the biggest one? How do you feel about this? What is the fear that maybe you haven't heard express? I mean, you really want to push here. You want to make sure that you are getting from people, all of their objections. You want them to spend themselves. And if you have someone who has typically been a naysayer in your building, you want to pull that person aside and say, you know, I know you had objections after the meeting, but you know, I really depend on you to kind of help us see where the roadblocks might be. What are some other roadblocks that you may be that maybe I haven't considered yet?

What are some other things that you're concerned about? Now there's a method to your madness though on the surface, yes you are getting these objections and this is good information for you, but here's the method to your madness. Just like with that father on the phone, sometimes you need to let people just get it all out in order for them to exhaust all of their pushback so now they can be open and receptive to now solving these problems. As long as you leave objections out there, unstated, unnoticed on, on solicited, then they will show up in conversations where they weren't invited. They will show up in a conversation about the solution you want to have everybody just give themselves, you know, give everybody as enough time to be able to say everything they need to say when you're talking about objections so that they're on the table.

So now people are free and open to be able to hear solutions. 

But here's the other piece, and this is the Ninja part of it. When you do this and you collect these objections, you now control the narrative. You have now eliminated the back channel because if you don't go out and look for these objections, it doesn't mean that people won't express them. It just means that they're not going to express them to you. They're going to express them in the parking lot. They're going to express them in the at the happy hour after school. They're going to express them other places, and that back channel can completely undermine your initiative. You want to eliminate the back channel, and the way you eliminate the back channel is you bring all of that into the light. You say those are instead of leaving people to have those conversations on their own, you want to invite them to have those conversations with you.

So the first step is you have to intentionally surface objections. Now the next step is then after you've gotten everybody to kind of tell you all of their objections, now you need to get people back together and say, hey, based on all my conversations that I've had with you, here are the key objections that I've heard. And you want to just go through the list of all of the objections you've heard, even if it's an objection about by one person and nobody else agrees with that. You want to make sure their objection gets on the table. You want to put everything that you've collected out so people can see, yes, I was heard, yes my, my objection was noted. It wasn't dismissed. And so you put it all out on the table. Even the one that was just by that one person who always has that weird objection that everybody looks at them like, why would you do that?

Put it out there so that they know that they've been heard. 

And here's the thing, you don't have to judge it and say, well that's stupid. I'm gonna take it off the table. Let the teachers do that. So once you've put it all out there, you can do this with the whole group and you can go back to small groups. Then what you want to do is this, and this is a Ninja move here. You want to ask people of all of these things, what do you think are the one or two things that will keep us from getting started and you want them to prioritize? Now, here's why this is a Ninja move. When you asked that instead of having people focus on all the things that might keep you from getting started or being successful with your initiative, what you are doing instead is you are asking people now to go through and start solving problems there.

They're prioritizing, oh, that's not a big deal. We could probably get started with that. So rather than going and convincing them, okay, I know this exists, but we could still get started and I'll, we'll spend some time working on this instead of kind of going through and trying to convince them of it, they convinced themselves. When you have them prioritize, they start thinking, is this really something that keeps us from getting started or is this something that's annoying? Is this a big deal or is it not a big deal? So rather than you going and saying being defensive and saying, oh, that objection is not a big deal. Your, you know why that's shouldn't keep us from getting started and it's important. It's because of the kids. The teachers say that and when the teachers say that, when they prioritize the objections, when they go through and say, this is really a big one, I don't see how we get past this one.

This one's not so big of a deal. 

They have gone through and they have already started talking themselves into moving forward. I told you it was an injury. When you do that, when you ask teachers prioritize a, where do you think our biggest obstacle is going to be and you give it back to them, you also help teachers feel like they have some sort of control and it's not pseudo control. They really do. They're, they're shaping the priorities. A lot of times when you roll out an initiative, it feels like, okay, it's already been settled. I don't have any say. There's nothing I can do about it. I just have to go through and do what you tell me to do. When you do this, you, you don't compromise on your initiative, but you give teachers control over the things that matter most to them.

The things that are going to get in the way. You help them identify it, you help them prioritize it. You help them set your agenda for how you're going to move forward. And the, I always say this, I say this all the time. People don't destroy what they help build. If you really want to keep an objections from destroying your initiative, then you have to give teachers control over that conversation about objections and then even control about prioritizing where we start and how we start based on these objections. Because if they do that, they're less likely to tear it down because they helped build how you're going to go forward. So first you're going to have to have intention. You're going to have to have conversations where you intentionally surface those objections. Secondly, you're going to go back to people and you're going to say, okay, here's, here are the objections we've heard.

Now we need you to prioritize them. 

And then last, this one is one that people often neglect. They don't think it's important, but I have learned with working with schools for the last few years that this one's pretty valuable. The last step is then you need to have people set success criteria. Now, this is different from creating a picture of success. You, you, you, you want to build, do that too. You want to build that picture of success. That's kind of part of what you do during the excite stage where you are getting people excited about what you're doing. You're showing them what success look like, but this is a little different. This is about setting criteria for success. You see, you don't know what's going to happen. You don't know how the initiative is going to change over time, but you want people at the very beginning to say, this is what success would look like in order to be successful.

This initiative needs to do x, y, and Z. And you want to involve people in that conversation so that you understand what success looks like to them. And you have agreement as a school about what successful implementation looks like. So, and this is going to be really important when you get further down the transformation cycle because if people are starting to push back and say, well I don't want to do that. You said, well you said success looks like this. How do we get to success if you don't do this? So it becomes an accountability piece, not only for the teachers, it's a way for teachers to hold you accountable. So you're not saying success is going to look like, you know, it's not always going to be, you know, success is gonna look like, you know, everybody implementing, if everybody implements and nothing changes for kids, it's not successful.

So you want to involve the teachers and see what success looks like. 

So teachers may say something like, success for this initiative to me will be that we see a change in classroom practice, but it doesn't feel like too much more work for me. Now when teachers say something like that, notice how powerful that is. That gives you what a quick win. Oh look like that shows you what does a win look like for teachers. So that then when you are rolling things out and you're trying to figure out where do we go and what, what strategy do we use, you're gonna automatically gravitate towards the strategies that create the least amount of work for teachers. If teachers push back after that, you can say, wait a minute, you told me that this is what success looks like, which is why I made this decision. Are you no longer believing that?

Is that no longer a success criteria for you? So notice how, although it creates more accountability for you, it also creates more accountability for the teachers without you going and being the bad guy and say, we need to do this and if you don't do this, I'm going to write you up. And you know all the things we typically do because here's the point. When you're rolling out a new initiative, it will never be successful. If you are dragging people to the goal, that's not how you make a successful initiative. Instead, you want to go out, remember this is what builders do. Builders go out and build the thing and then they invite people to join them as their building, but they get started first. So if you launch an initiative and it's already kind of laid out and nobody feels like they have any ownership in it, and then you're saying, so here's where we're going, and then you're behind pushing people towards this goal, you're never going to get there.

That's what bosses do. That's what leaders do. 

What builders do is they invite people from the very beginning. Here's the goal, here's why it's important. That's the excited stage. Then during the explore stage, you go in and you say, now immediately from the very, help me start building this, I need your input because I want to make sure that this is successful. I need your input because I want to understand what our big obstacles are going to be, what our constraints are going to be, so that we can start removing it. And when you, from the very beginning, before you've even done anything else, start inviting people in first inviting the men through your story, through the excite stage, inviting them further in by inviting them to bring their objections and, and talk about what success looks like. Then the, the subsequent stages are a lot easier because from the very beginning you have invited people to build this thing with you and remember, people don't destroy what they helped build.

So stop being afraid of objections. Objections are actually your friend when you manage them the right way. Don't worry about the objections. I want more if people don't give me enough objections, I'm telling people, is that all you've got? No, no, no. We need to hear a mall because it's going to not only help me create something better, but it already automatically invites people in to help you start building the thing that you want to build and they don't even realize it. But the more that they raise those objections in those forums, the more invested they become, the more they identify success criteria, the more invested they become. And so then when you move to the engaged age, which we're going to be talking about next week, you've already gotten people invested.

You've already gotten people willing to be engaged and they're even more invested than they were when you did the excite piece.

Because now instead of this being theoretical, the x, the explorer stage starts making things more tangible and more real and they start seeing, wait a minute, this is really going to happen and this is what it's going to take. And people start making micro commitments about making it happen because every time they raised an objection and prioritize an objection is talk about success criteria. They are becoming more and more committed to your program. So this week I want you to think about how you normally handle objections. What do you normally, how do you normally handle it?

Are you, does your stomach get all caught up in knots? Do you immediately start feeling defensive? Do you immediately start feeling pressure to solve them? If that's true for you, I want you to stop because objections are nothing to be afraid of. In fact, objections actually help people be more invested.

You know the person I'm worried about. 

I'm worried about the person who doesn't have an objection because that person's not invested. They're not even invested enough to push back. I want the objections, I want the pushback. I will solicit it. And if you do it and you manage it right, you will find that objections actually help you get more people invested because when you do it right, when you, when you surface those objections, that's how you get people invested in your initiative. And that's how you do it like a builder. All right, so before we go, a couple of reminders. First of all, builders lab, you want to go in and check out the upcoming dates and start getting your ticket now. Take out your calendar right now. Look at 2020 and make a decision and a commitment for when you're coming to build his lab and then go to mindsteps inc com slash builders dash lab and get your ticket.

Also, don't forget, send me your questions. What are the challenges that you'd love to see addressed here on the podcast? I'm going to be doing a special Q and a episode for episode 50 and you can send your questions or your challenges to me via Linkedin, Facebook, or by sending me an email to questions at mindsteps inc com. Now let's talk about next time we have gotten everybody excited. We have gotten everybody even more invested by going through this explore stage where we surface objections and now it's time to get people actually doing something. So next time we're going to talk about how do we get people to start walking the talk and you're going to learn how to do it like a builder.

I'll talk to you next time.

Bye for now. See you next time. 

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