3 Things You Must Do to Generate Momentum, Silence Critics, and Disarm Cynics


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You’re listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 49. 

Welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host Robyn Jackson, and today we're going to talk about three things that you must do if you want to generate momentum or silence your critics or disarm your cynics, especially when you are trying to transform your school.

So imagine this you, if you've done everything that we've been talking about doing so far this season, by this point, you've gotten people excited about this new initiative, this new transformation you're trying to take your school through, and then you've also overcome objections so that now people are ready to start.

So now it's time to move forward with your plan.

Now it's time to actually implement what you've been saying you want people to do and you're excited because you've gotten this far, but you're also worried because maybe in the past you've gotten this far before, people have been excited, but when it came time to actually implementing actually getting people engaged in the process, well things start to fizzle out and you're also worried that maybe as excited as they may be, your teachers may not all have the will or the skill required to really make this transformation happen.

And you know that this transformation is important because this thing, this, this transformation that you've identified is the thing that's actually going to move your school forward. Your kids really, really need this transformation. So you develop a PD plan, you bring in support, you bring in outside training, you buy all these resources, but you are noticed that teachers aren't participating fully in the training. And you also notice that some teachers, after they really kind of see what's going to be involved, they start to complain that they're overwhelmed, that this new thing you're asking them to do feels like just one more thing or they don't have time for it.

They don't really understand what you're trying to do. 

And you start to get a little bit of push-back. So today what I want to talk about is how do you set people up for success from the very beginning and get them meaningfully engaged in your transformation so that they will move forward so that you don't just get stuck at this point, because I've noticed when we work with schools, a lot of times this is where their stock, they've gotten people excited, they've gotten, you know, buy from most people.

But when it comes down to actually getting people started, it's really hard to do. So today we're gonna talk about how you do that. How will you can start generating momentum and actually getting people engaged and how you can do that. And at the same time silence your critics and disarm the cynics so that they don't slow things down so that people actually believe this time it's going to happen. But before we get into that, a couple of things. One, many of you have joined me over in Facebook and you're following my book. I'm writing journey and I have to admit I'm did a lot of travel right now so I'm not writing as much as I should be writing.

If you want to follow along on that journey as bumpy as it is, then go ahead and send me a friend request on Facebook.

Now, if it's not clear from your Facebook profile that you're an educator, if you could just send me a note and say, Hey, I listened to the podcast and I want to join you. That way I know that you're somebody legitimate and not some, you know, bot or some sort of crazy person and then I'm happy to accept your friend request and then you can kind of join me on this journey. And you can see, you know, kind of behind the scenes, the frustrations, the, the thinking that goes into writing this book and I can't tell you how excited I am about writing this one. This is different than any book I've ever written before because it really lays out what for me is a framework that I've been trying to develop for the last 10 years and I cannot wait to get this book into your hands.

I just have to get it out of my head and onto paper and that's tough, especially with all the travel I'm doing right now, but I'm doing my best and seeking of travel. I, you may notice this, there's a slight difference in my voice today because I am battling a cold, but I am not going to let this hold me back because it's called half to be gone because I leave for Dallas in a few days for builders lab. This is the last builders lab that we're doing for 2019 and it's going to be in Dallas. Now registration is closed for this builder's lab and we're in, you know, get ready mode at this point. You know, shipping all of our stuff. I'm getting in the mindset of getting ready for builders lab.

I do want you to know that we are going to be releasing the 2020 dates for builders lab in just a couple of days.

So hopefully by the next podcast, next week's podcast, we will have those dates available for the 2020 dates and we're going to try, instead of releasing them one at a time, we're gonna try to release them for the entire year so that you know what, when are the dates and you can pick which date works best for your schedule and get your ticket right away. Now we're making some changes for builders lab in 2021 of the ones that we've been experimenting with, and we're actually going to make an a part of the process now, is that now when you come to builders lab, you don't just get three days of intensive training and support and coaching. We also follow you for the next 30 days. So once you leave builders lab, you're not left by yourself to kind of figure things out on your own. For the next 30 you're going to be hearing from me.

We're going to be supporting you together. 

You have access to me and to the team to ask questions and followup questions so that when you leave builder's lab and you have this 90 day plan, we don't just leave you to follow it on your own. We are there to support you as you implement your plan so that your plan can be successful. So that's something that's coming new. We also have another surprise for builders lab, 2020 participants. I'm bursting to tell you, but I can't tell you yet. We just have to get a few more things in place, but I promise you're going to love it. It's just we're just packing as much value as we possibly can into builder's lab and we also have some really interesting plans for Mindsteps for 2020 and I'll be telling you some of those over the next couple of weeks. We were going to do a pretty big announcement, you know, maybe by the end of the year may be by my birthday, which is at the end of the year.

I get, I don't know. We'll see. We'll see how things go. We're still in the process of just kind of finalizing some things, but I am telling you it's so exciting. I cannot wait to tell you about it so that that's coming up with Mindsteps and then the last thing is that I want to remind you that if we are not connected on LinkedIn, we should get connected and I'll tell you why.

Next episode, I'm going to be doing a Q and A episode. 

If you want to get your questions answered, if you have a challenge that you're facing that you'd like for me to deal with on the air, then you can just send me your questions via LinkedIn. That's the easiest way. Now, if you're not a LinkedIn person and you're not on, you want to send me questions, you can also email your questions to send them to questions at Mindsteps inc com or you can send it to info at mine, sub sync.com whichever one is easier for you.

Anyway, I'm going to be looking through the questions. We've already gotten a couple of really good ones in, but you still have time to do that. Just get me your questions and then I will tackle as many as I can on next week's episode, which is pretty special because it's episode number 50 and you know when you start something like this, you know you can hardly imagine one episode and we have 50 episodes. That's 50 episodes of actionable training that you have for free in your ear PD, in your car PD while you work out. It's awesome. And I was excited and I feel really, really good that you've been sticking with me. Some of you have been listeners from the very beginning and I love you. I am so grateful for you every week tuning in and sharing this time with me. I know your time is valuable and so I don't take it for granted that you spend this time with me and I want to thank you for doing that. I can't believe it! We've been together for 50 episodes and I hope we're together for hundreds of episodes more. So I'm really excited about it.

So, speaking of episodes, why don't we jump in today's episode. 

We're going to talk about how you move people through the engage stage. Now, if you've been tracking and listening to the episodes, you know that last time we talked about how to overcome objections during the explore stage. And before that in episode number 47 we talked about how get people really genuinely excited about the transformation and the new initiatives that you have coming up in your school. And all of these are elements of the Mindsteps transformation process. And remember there are six elements. There's excite, explore, engage, expect, evaluate and extend. So we've already covered excite and explore. Today we're going to cover engage episode 51 is gonna deal with expect 52 with X a valuate and then 53 what extent.

So by the time you're done, you're going to have, you know, kind of a step by step process through the whole transformation process. And this is the process that we found that actually works in transforming a school that makes new initiatives stick. We found that the schools who have successfully implemented new initiatives to the point where those initiatives have become an integral part of their school, it just becomes the way that they do things. All of the successful schools followup predictable pattern, whether they know it or not, they start out by creating this compelling vision and getting people to understand that vision and get excited about it and to feel ownership around it. They deal with a lot of push back in and concerns very quickly during the explore stage and then they do what we're going to be talking about today during the engage stage, which is a, they have a way to get people meaningfully involved from the very beginning and to get people set up for success.

Then once they do that, they set new expectations. 

They then evaluate the process and they extend, so we're going to talk about that and you'll see the whole picture by the time we are done what those next few episodes today we want to talk about the engaged age because the engaged age is really the stage where you are intentionally setting people up for success. A lot of initiatives fail when it comes time to implement because even if people fall in love with the idea when it actually comes time to actually put the, you know what their, their, their money, where their mouths are and that's a horrible thing. That's not exactly what we're doing cause nobody's spending any money but to actually start to implement and put their effort into this work. That's when a lot of you get, you get a lot of people falling off because while it's an idea, it's easy to get excited about it.

But once it's an expectation, once it's something that we are actually starting to do, that's when you start to get pushed back. That doesn't show up before. It doesn't show up during the explore stage because that pushback is still theoretical. That pushback is around the idea during the engaged stage. The pushback that you're going to face is around the implementation. It's around, you know, I tried it and this is really, really hard and I don't know how to do this or you know, I believe in the idea, but when am I going to have time to, to change how I'm teaching? I already have strategies that I'm using and now you're asking me to do something different or how am I going to get adjusted to this new schedule?

This is when people start to feel discomfort because they have to do something different.

And if you don't set them up for success, if you don't give them the tools that they need to navigate that discomfort, this is where a lot of people will drop off. This is where you will have people who are, you know, paying lip service implementation. But when their classroom door closes, they go back to doing the same thing that they were already doing. So you have to be intentional at this stage. A lot of people get through the excite stage and the explore stage and they're like, okay, whew. All right, we got everybody buying and now I can relax. No, don't relax because there's still work to be done there. You can't let up. And I think the mistake that a lot of people make is that this is where they start letting up or they think that they can outsource this day to somebody else.

So a lot of times we'll get calls in our office and people will say, we're starting this new initiative on rigor and we need you to bring me and we need to bring you in for the training. And they kind of outsource the, this part of the process has engaged States to us. They expect us to come in and our training is going to get people engaged. But if you are not following up, if you're not setting people up during the training, if the training is not a part of a bigger plan during this stage, then the training is going to get the people who are already excited, even more excited. But it's not going to support the people who are starting to Peter out. It needs to be a part of a bigger process. So during this stage you really want to spend some time outlining how the range of acceptable behaviors is going to narrow.

This is something I teach a lot in builder's lab. 

I talk about how during any kind of new initiative when you're trying to get from where you are to where you want to be, when you're trying to transform some aspect of your school, that as you get closer to that goal, the range of acceptable behaviors necessarily narrows. In other words, things that were okay before when you started out, behaviors that teachers have been getting away with for years. As you get closer to that transformation, some of those behaviors will no longer be acceptable. And although we assume that everybody kind of understands that, we don't map that out, we don't make it clear that the things that you were able to do before and that works perceptible before are no longer going to be acceptable if we're going to reach this new goal. So it's not just, okay, you did this before and now you can't do that anymore.

This is not just a rule shift. We have to help people understand why that's not going to be acceptable anymore. We have to help people buy into the fact that that behavior is hurting them and their ability to implement this new transformation that we're trying to create in our schools. And if people don't understand that, if people don't understand a, those behaviors are no longer acceptable and be why those behaviors are no longer acceptable, then you are going to get a lot of pushback. You're going to get a lot of passive aggressive, silent rebellion because you haven't made a clear case for people. So people often will continue old behaviors because they don't even that those behaviors are no longer acceptable or they may resist and hold onto those all behaviors.

You haven't made a compelling case for why they need to let them go.

So you have to do that as part of the engaged date so that people have clarity about the new expectations. Not only that, but you need to equip people with the skills and the resources that they need in order to make the shift. So let me give you an example. When I was an assistant principal, our district changed our grading reporting policy two weeks before the beginning of school and they made a radical shift. So all of a sudden teachers could no longer give zero's the lowest grade they could give as a 50% teachers had to accept late work and teachers had to offer retakes. So these are three major shifts in teachers grading and reporting policy. And we got the news two weeks before teachers came back from the summer break and we had one week during pre-service week to equip teachers to be ready for this new thing.

So we didn't get an excite stage, a prolonged excite stage. We have like a day to get people excited about it. And we had a huge obstacle because this wasn't a philosophical conversation that we have been having with teachers all along. This was an announcement, this is the new way it has to be. So we have to make that announcement in a way that could at least help people understand the vision behind it and understand the reasoning behind it and help them connect it to our bigger school vision, mission, and core values.

We didn't have any time to give people opportunities to explore. 

We had about a 90 minute staff meeting to go through the explore stage where we struggled. We got through all of that, but where we struggled was that during the engaged stage now teachers are saying, okay, we have to do it.

You know, here are objections and we're trying to do all those objections and now we're trying to get teachers who do it because we had one week for teachers to shift their grading reporting policy and they had to be put in the syllabus by, by the end of the week. And we had to submit that to our district to show that we were in compliance with the new policy. So we have one week to get through the first three stages of transformation and we did our best, but during the engaged age, that's where we started. To see pushback on, and we saw pushback all the way along, but that's where people started getting stuck. So I can't even call it pushback at that point because at that point people were just stuck because this is a whole new way of doing it and so they're trying to figure out how do they reconfigure the way that they have traditionally graded things.

What do they do when someone doesn't turn in a project? 

How do they set a due date and then when at what point do they not accept work anymore? So people were really struggling and we saw that and a lot of people were getting stuck because they didn't know how to implement this new policy. So what we had to do is we had to take some time, step back and provide some training, provide additional resources. We had to sit down and provide coaching for a teams of teachers to come up with strategies to deal with some of their objections. We had to do that in order to get them ready. A lot of times when we roll something out, we kind of announce it. We may give them an introductory training or preliminary training, but then we don't sit down with people and help them work it out and we blame them afterwards because they're not implementing.

But did we give them time? Did we give them support? Do we give them resources that they needed to help them out? And I'm not just talking about throwing random resources at you. I mean, how many of us have gone through new curriculum rollouts where you get a half day training, they throw a whole bunch of resources at you, they give you the new curriculum guide and then they say go forth and teach us new curriculum. And they don't sit down with teachers and say, okay, how do you shift what you're doing into to make it work with this new curriculum? How, how does this new curriculum change the way that we normally teach stuff? We don't go into that kind of detail when we're providing training. So the first step is if you really want to set people up for success, you have to provide them not only with training but follow up training support.

It's not just a one time, one shot deal. 

The training the first time is introducing them to the new idea, helping them kind of see the bigger picture. But then the training has to provide real support. So I'll give you another example. A lot of times schools will bring us in to help their teachers increase the rigor of their instruction. And our rigor training is very specific. So you can't just buy one day of our rigor training, we have a series because what we've learned is that it takes people an entire day to just wrap their heads around what rigor is, what it isn't, how it works, what it looks like. It takes them a whole day just to get the concept. And if you bring us in and you give people just the concept and you don't do the next step, which is to give people an opportunity to actually roll their sleeves up and apply it, it will never work.

So for us, we have a rigor training series and you have to buy the whole series in order for us to come in and do the work because otherwise we're wasting time and money by just giving people all conceptual understanding. So the first day you get that conceptual understanding, but then the second day we have teachers bring their resources and then they have to plan a rigorous unit during the time period. So the whole day we are walking with them step by step using their resources, their, their curriculum guides, their standards to help them plan a rigorous unit.

And what that does is now people start to realize. 

They say, I thought I understood it conceptually, but now I don't really understand this part and there is a coach there to support you or this makes sense, but I'm struggling to figure out how to make it work with my curriculum.

When we do that, you see a lot more teachers actually implementing rigorous instructional strategies in the classroom because they didn't just get the conceptual understanding. We also gave them time to play with it, time to practice, time to try it out. In a non-evaluative setting so they're not getting evaluated. Nobody's going in and checking saying that unit that you created during that mindset workshop, where is it? I'm going to go observe you and I'm going to tell you whether you did it right or wrong. You give time, people time to play with it, time to try it, explore it first before you start evaluating so that people can actually feel what it's like. They can feel confident before you come in and evaluate. Now the second thing is that once you've done that, once you've set people up for success, the next part is you have to listen to people's feedback.

You've already set this feedback loop in motion during the explore stage, but you can't just say, okay, we're done with feedback. 

Now you got to go and do it. You have to keep that open so as people are struggling, you have to make sure that you're listening to those people, hearing how they're struggling and adjusting your training or your timelines or your support or your resources to respond to that feedback. You also need to be looking at the data as well. So if we're doing something where we're changing how we are implementing instruction, we're designing more rigorous units. Then part of it is that after they go to the workshop, how many teachers actually completed at least one rigorous unit during day two of the workshop. How many of those teachers have those units ready to teach within two weeks after the workshop is over?

So now you're looking at that date and you're saying, okay, teachers didn't get through the the units and that never happens. Our workshops, teachers actually do two units before they're done because we want them to have an opportunity to try it once, struggle with it and grapple with it and then show them that now that you've done that, it's going to be a lot faster. So the first unit might take them a couple of hours. A second unit takes on like 45 minutes. That's when they feel like they're confident and you're more likely to get people to actually plan this way. If you given them time to practice with a couple of units and get the support they need so they feel confident that they can do it. On their own, but let's suppose you know you're looking at the date and you're like, okay, the teachers didn't complete two units.

Well that data is important, that tells you teachers may not feel confident to do this on their own.

There may need to be some followup coaching and support so you're not just listening to the date of the feedback from the teachers and soliciting that. How do you feel? Where are you struggling? Where do you feel like you need help? What feels overwhelming? All of those things. You're also looking at the data to see how many people are actually doing it, and this is really important because you don't just want to go through training and say, all right, we've done the training, so go forth and do the thing you got trained to do. You actually want to track it. What difference did the training actually make in terms of how teachers are implementing instruction? What difference did the training make in terms of how many people are now implementing that training?

If you have a training and then nobody implements as a result of the training, that training wasn't really good and you need to follow up with something else. So you need to be listening and collecting not only their, their verbal feedback about how things went, but actually looking and seeing what people are doing as a result of the support that you're giving them. So the first thing is you've got to set people up for success. Then you've got to make sure that you're collecting feedback. And then the third thing, and this is my Ninja tactic, is that you need to create, at this point, some sort of quick, unambiguous win because by now this, you've been talking about this transformation for weeks. You've gotten people excited about it, you've gotten people to explore it and raise those objections and you've collected those objections and you started dealing with those objections.

At this point , people will start to get tired because now they have to actually implement.

And a lot of people who may have been believers before may feel a little differently when they actually have to do the work. They may start to feel a little discouraged, like it's a great idea. I just don't know if it's going to work with our kids or with our schedule or I'm trying and I'm struggling. And so you need to at this point create some sort of quick win. So for example, with our rigor workshops, the quick win is you have two units that you can use in your classrooms right away. At the end of day, two of their training, other schools have created quick wins where you know, like they've done a new, like a new grading reporting policy. They create a quick win because they look at the progress reports and they see that kids are actually performing better as a result of the grading reporting policy.

The idea of a quick win is that it has to be something that shows that this thing will actually work. It has to give people hope that all of this effort that they're putting in will actually pay off at some point. So you want to figure out a quick way, and that's not to say yay, you know, you got your syllabus complete. You know, that's not a win. That's just, okay, we've hit a milestone, but that doesn't demonstrate that just because I have my syllabus completed with the new grading reporting policy that the report grading and reporting policy is actually going to work. You can do all kinds of things for quick wins. You could implement something and then share a success story with a particular student who has benefited from the grading and reporting policy. You could implement a new schedule and show people how that new schedule is actually giving them more time every week for planning.

You need to  show them that even though we're not there yet, even though we still have work to do, we can have a win right now. 

This thing will work, and when you do that, not only do you silence critics who say this would never work. You're like, what do you mean it will never work? Look at this example, this quick win. It's already working, so not only are you going to silence critics, but you're going to disarm cynics, cynics who say, yeah, we've been this, we'd done this before. It's never worked. You know? So they're kind of sitting on the sidelines waiting. You get a lot of those cynics involved and excited when you can show them, Hey, this actually is working. So maybe you have a teacher who's really embraced it, who then presents at your staff meeting and says, I've already started to see the results from my kids.

Maybe that cynical be, Whoa, you mean it might work? I may try that in my classroom. But you need to be deliberate. You don't wait for the quick win to happen. You want to orchestrate it. You want to engineer it even so that at this stage people can already start to see, wait a minute, this is working. Wait a minute. We're not just paying lip service to it and then in a year from now, we're going to abandon it and we're not going to see any change. This is actually making a difference. This is actually starting to our school. So think about the thing that you want to do, the transformation you want to make, and then figure out what's a quick win. What's something that we can show that it's working already and we don't have to have everything in place. We don't have to have everybody trained.

We don't have to have things working for six weeks.

It is something that can happen at the very beginning of the process. Then we'll encourage people that will show people, you know what? This is working. This is making a difference already because nothing is more compelling than success. Success breeds more successful. How can you set people up for success? How can you collect feedback so that you can help people be more successful and then how can you show them that they're already being successful by having a quick win? When you do those three things, you get more people engaged and more meaningfully engaged. Very early on. You silence your critics, you disarm the cynics, and you create this momentum towards your goal. Now you're not finished yet. There's still work to do, but you've overcome one of the biggest humps that happens in transformation, which is how do you get everybody started? How do you create momentum and generate that with your people?

And when you get over that hump, it makes it a lot easier to complete the other stages of transformation. 

So this is the big hurdle. People underestimate how big of a hurdle it is. But if you can overcome this hurdle, then you really create this momentum that you know starts to kind of feed on itself. And then after that first quick win, you just start seeing win after win after win after win, and you get more and more people engaged in the process and you actually start to see change. So that's all for this week's episode. I want to challenge you that if you're thinking about a transformation or if you're in the midst of a new initiative, take some time and figure out are you doing these three things? Are you setting people up for success by a, showing people how the range of acceptable behaviors is gonna narrow so they have clear expectations for what's going to be ahead, but be giving them the support and training that they need to be able to do this.

Then are you collecting feedback to figure out what's keeping people from success and then how do you help them overcome those obstacles so they can be successful and then finally are you orchestrating a quick win? Building it into your process so that people can see early on this thing can be successful and that generates hope. It silences your critics and it disarms your cynics. You do those three things and you will start to see major momentum happening in your initiative because that's how you deal with it. That's how you handle it like a builder. All right, let's talk about next time. Next time we are going to talk about the expect stage and whenever I start talking about the expect stage, a builders lab, people are like, yes, finally, when can I start expecting people to do this?

When can I start holding people accountable?

We're going to talk about why we don't start doing that until midway through the process. We're going to talk about how you can start holding people accountable in a way that doesn't make you the bad guy in a way that keeps you from running around. Shakey's chasing and checking and correcting people all the time, and we're going to talk about how you can build accountability into the process so that people are accountable even when you're not looking. We're going to deal with that next time. Well, we're going to talk about how do you set expectations like a builder.

I'll talk to you then.

Bye for now. See you next time. 

Thank you for listening to the School Leadership Reimagined podcast for show notes and free downloads visit https://schoolleadershipreimagined.com/

School Leadership Reimagined is brought to you by Mindsteps Inc, where we build master teachers.