Does Buildership Give You An Unfair Advantage?


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You are listening to school leadership re-imagined. Episode number 58

Welcome to the school leadership re-imagined podcast where we rethink what's possible to transform your school if you're tired of settling for small wins and incremental improvement, then stayed tuned to discover powerful and practical strategies for getting every teacher in your school moving towards excellence. Now here's your host, Robyn Jackson.

Okay builders. 

Welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host Robyn Jackson, and today we're going to talk about your unfair advantage. You see, there's something that I don't talk about a lot as a builder and sometimes I even feel guilty about it because people come to me all the time and they ask for my help and things and then I help them and they're saying, Oh wow, how did you know that? Or people come to builder's lab and then they go back and, and they, they, they start transforming their schools and other people look at them and they say, wow, what do you know you, what's your secret? And sometimes I feel guilty about people giving me credit or people even giving other builders credit because there is no real secret. What they're talking about is the unfair advantage that you have when you're a builder.

And here's what I mean by an unfair advantage. If you look in the business world, they're always talking about finding your unfair advantage and it's really about doing something that can't be copied by your competitors, something that sets you apart. But what many of you don't realize is that when you approach your job like a builder, you automatically have an unfair advantage. It's not some special talent, only possessed by a blessing. Phew. It's not some extraordinary gift that you have. It's simply knowing how to approach your job like a builder. And when you do that, it automatically gives you an unfair advantage. So today I want to talk about that unfair advantage. I want to kind of demystify it a little bit and let you know that that unfair advantage is available to every one of you who chooses to do your job, like a builder to start occupying this space to start being a builder.

When you choose to be a builder!

When you choose to view your work through the lens of a builder rather than a boss or a leader, you automatically have an unfair advantage and speaking of unfair advantages, I've got another for you. You see, when you come to builders lab and you build your own builders blueprint and you take it back to your school, people will start looking at you and say, what got into you? What happened to you? What's happening? Because all of a sudden those challenges that have been so seemingly insurmountable in the past, all of a sudden you're tackling those challenges, those obstacles that have derailed your plans in the past. All of a sudden you're removing those obstacles. All those people who have been so challenging to work with in the past, all of a sudden you found a way, not only to work with them, but to help them grow and thrive and move towards your vision and your mission and your core values.

People come to builder's lab and they go back to their schools with a with a brand new sense of purpose with with new tools that they didn't have before and they start having success after success after success and if you want to experience that then I invite you to join us at our next builder's lab. Now the tickets for January are no longer available, but we have two builders labs coming up this summer and now's a great time to start planning for that. In fact, one of the things I like about the summer builders labs is that you can bring your entire team, so there are two builders labs coming up this summer, one at the end of June and the other one in July and you can go to Mindsteps inc com slash builders dash lab to get your tickets now for one of our upcoming builders labs. Again, that's Mindsteps inc com slash builders dash lab.

All right, let's talk about this unfair advantage. 

What do I mean by an unfair advantage? You see a lot of times the way that we've been trained to lead in schools, whether that's as an administrator or as an instructional coach or even in the district office, the way we've been trained to lead, well, it yields kind of uneven results. And here's what I mean by that. A lot of the leadership skills that we've been given, we've been taught that those skills will help us to be successful in our jobs. And sometimes they work in ideal situations, they work. But when situations are less than ideal, a lot of those tools that we were told we're going to be fail, safe, fail us. Or a lot of those tools that we were taught, this is the way you do things, don't work in certain situations. They don't work with certain kinds of people.

And so what ends up happening is that when we apply those tools and they work great, everybody's excited, and when they don't work, we're left scrambling for another solution. And it can be so frustrating because again, none of us came to this, this job, this, this, this work. Because we wanted to fail. We came because we care about kids, we care about education, we want to make the world a better place. We want to make a difference in the lives of our students. And so when those tools fail us or when they don't work as well as they were represented to us, then it can be very, not only frustrating, but a little demoralizing because we often blame ourselves. We think while maybe I don't have what it takes or, or maybe I'm not cut out for this kind of work, or we blame other people.

They're lazy. They don't care about kids, they're unproductive either way. 

At the end of the day, we're not seeing the results we want to see, and when you're a builder, you don't experience that same frustration. You don't, you don't feel the same kind of self-blame where you feel like maybe it's my fault and here's what else. You don't blame other people like it's their fault because you don't experience those same kinds of failures and frustrations as a builder. That's not even a part of your vocabulary anymore because you know how to deal with people. You know that. If one thing doesn't work, you have five more things that you can try to make it work. When you hit an obstacle, you turn that obstacle and an opp into an opportunity. When you encounter a person who's being very resistant, you understand how to diagnose a will problem and separate it from a skill problem and you know the right approach to take instead of being frustrated by your challenges, you're energized by them because you, once you understand the challenge, you have the solution, you know how to solve it, and that can be almost an unfair advantage.

When you start approaching your work like a builder, people start to wonder how is it that you just go from one success to the next? How was it that you were able to handle this person when I couldn't? How is it that you were able to overcome this obstacle when it's held everybody else back and because being a builder, it becomes so much a part of you. A lot of times you don't really know you. You just kind of shrug and say, well, I don't know. I just, I kind of figured it out or I don't know, I just kind of knew what to do or I don't know. I just kind of, you know, found an in with that person. But in reality, you do have an almost unfair advantage over people who are using the boss approach or the leadership approach because the things that, that, that derail a boss and the things that frustrate a leader, they just don't derail you.

They don't frustrate you because you have a strategy and a way to solve it. 

And so what I want to talk about now are I want to give you some very specific examples of that unfair advantage and how will you can start to leverage that advantage to your advantage. How you can start to leverage, build your ship to give you an advantage over your problems. So one of the foundations of Buildship are the disciplines of Buildship. And those four disciplines are feedback, support, accountability and culture. And a lot of people hear those disciplines and they say, Oh, I do that already. And I don't disagree with them. They probably already do or provide some form of feedback. They probably already offer some type of support to teachers. They probably already hold people accountable. They probably already am tried to do some things to deal with their culture, but when you approach those four things like a boss or like a leader, you will always encounter obstacles and failure.

But when you approach those four things and make them disciplines and you approach them like a builder, you will almost always encounter success. It gives you an unfair advantage. Let me give you an example. Let's take feedback. For example, most leaders give feedback. In fact, for a lot of leaders having to give feedback is really the bane of their existence because they're always trying to find time to get into classrooms and many leaders dread the feedback conversations because they know that certain teachers are going to give them pushback or they don't know what to say. Or even if they have the conversation, they know the teacher's going to ignore their feedback and they're going to go into classroom a week later, a month later, a year later, and they're going to continue to see the same thing. So feedback is a big deal for leaders.

Most leaders practice some form of feedback and yet that feedback isn't really successful most of the time.

And a lot of times it just feels like another thing that I have to do, I have to get into classrooms. I know that some districts I've been in require that you get in a classroom so many times a week and some people are just kind of going into classrooms and you know, giving people random feedback. But there's no system, there's no process and there's no progress. But when you approach feedback like a builder, you do things differently. Instead of scrambling to get into classrooms, you have a plan and a strategy for not only getting into classrooms, but getting into the right classrooms at the right time. And you're able to do that without sacrificing the other things that are on your plate. The other responsibilities you face getting into classrooms doesn't feel like an interruption to your day. It doesn't feel like the hope you have to jump through.

Getting into your classrooms feels like a very natural part of your job. You actually look forward to it and the reason you look forward to it and you also look forward to those feedback conversations is because you know that the teachers are not only going to welcome you into their classrooms, but when you give teachers feedback they will welcome your feedback and they will immediately implement your feedback. You don't dread those difficult conversations because you're equipped with how to handle them. It doesn't matter if the teacher is struggling or if the teacher is one of the best teachers in your building. You have an approach that you can take with that teacher that takes any teacher that you're giving feedback to and helps that teacher grow and improve and get better. And so teachers look forward to your feedback. You are giving teachers feedback that is actually meaningful and not only that, you're giving teachers feedback that helps them improve and they take that feedback.

They implement that feedback and you see improvement from one visit to the next. 

Now what's the secret? It's all feedback, right? No. When you give feedback like a builder, you have an unfair advantage. And here's why. Builders don't spew feedback all over teachers. Builders know how to understand the root cause. When they go into classrooms they are looking for the root cause of what is going on in that teacher's practice at that particular moment. So when they give teachers feedback, they, because they're giving them feedback that addresses the root cause. They are giving teachers feedback with which the teachers cannot argue. It's just true. And when teachers hear that kind of feedback, whether it is negative or positive, when they hear the truth about their practice and when administrators are consistent or coaches are consistent and giving teachers that kind of feedback, I call it one thing, feedback.

When you do that, teachers have no choice but to accept that feedback and to start implementing that feedback. So you don't play these games where you go in and give teachers feedback and they ignore it and you go into classroom and you give them more feedback and they push back against it and you go in the classroom again and you give them more feedback. When you've seen the same thing over and over and over again, you also don't have those feedback conversations that end up in tears or those feedback conversations that end up as arguments or in strained silence. And you also don't have those feedback conversations where people play the feedback game where you know, you say something and then they say something and both of you know that you're just going through the motions and at the end of the conversation, both of you can check that conversation off your list and then move on with the rest of your lives, but nothing actually changes in the classroom when you know how to give one thing.

Feedback like the builder, those feedback conversations are meaningful. 

Those feedback conversations actually lead to change. One thing. Feedback gives you an unfair advantage. It's feedback that teachers have probably never experienced before. It's feedback that helps teachers focus on the right issue. It's feedback that helps you have a meaningful conversation with teachers that actually will matter and doing that gives you an unfair advantage. Other people are giving people feedback where they're just kind of going through a laundry list or a checklist of feedback or they're giving feedback about a whole bunch of stuff and never getting to the root cause or they're giving surface feedback or they're giving useless feedback because they are going through the motions. When you give feedback like a builder, not only are people welcoming your feedback, not only is that feedback dialing in to the absolute most important issue that needs to be addressed right now.

Not only is your feedback so focused and gives teachers so much focus that they actually can improve for one visit to the next. You can do it in less time and with less drama. That's your unfair advantage. Let's take something else. Let's take support. Everybody gives teachers support. I get calls all the time. We have a PD day coming up in February. Can you come and I say, what do you want me to do? I don't know. We need something to fill the day. I don't take those gigs, but people are going and it's surprising to me how many people are wasting time and energy and money on support that doesn't have a focus. That doesn't really matter and that's not going to change. Teacher practice, most leaders offer some sort of PD. They went to a conference in the summer, they heard somebody speaking, they felt, Oh man, we need to do that, and they bring that person in or they see a program and they're saying, Hey, we have that problem.

Maybe this program will help, and they provide the support. 

They even provide personalized support. I can't tell you how many coaches and administrators have told me that they're working with a struggling teacher. They give the teacher resources. They even go in the classroom and demonstrate how they want the teacher to teach and it's still not working. But here's the unfair advantage. Builders have. Builders don't give them random support. They're not just throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks. Their support is strategic, their support is designed to help teachers move from where they are to where they need to be and it's done in a systematic way. Support is not ad hoc with builders. In fact, builders know how to give support in a way that will help every single teacher in their building grow at least one level in one domain in one year or less.

That's the goal of the support. So one of the things that we teach a builder's lab is we show you how to develop an entire support plan that's differentiated, that's developmental for teachers and that's designed to help every single teacher in your building grow at least one level in at least one domain in one year or less. And you can do that without killing yourself. In fact, our support process doesn't involve you going in and teaching teachers classes for them. The support process really hones in on where the teacher and then helps you pick the exact kind of support that the teachers need in order to move one level. And it shows you how to track it for every single teacher throughout the year. So whether you are a coach or you're an administrator, you have a systematic process that moves teachers.

You're not doing random support.

You're providing support where you can track the effectiveness of that support and you can see teachers moving every single year until every single teacher in your building is a master teacher. That's, that's different. That gives you an unfair advantage where other people are doing PD throughout the year and maybe a couple of teachers adopted, but the teachers who really needed don't do anything with it. Or maybe you are providing support with a couple of teachers who are really struggling and you see a little teeny incremental improvement, but it's kind of frustrating because even though they're working really hard, it's not making the big difference you want to see happen in the classroom. That's what everybody else is doing, but builders have an unfair advantage because they have a support process that actually works. They have a support process that actually produces measurable results for teachers. It's an unfair advantage.

Let's take something like accountability. Now, accountability is a dirty word unless you're a builder. If you're a boss or a leader, most of the time accountability means you have to hold people accountable. In order to hold people accountable, you have to constantly stay on top of them. You have to constantly chase and check and correct people. It almost makes you into the bad guy and you are so worried about holding people accountable that you feel like if you don't watch people, then they are going to go back to doing what they was they weren't supposed to be doing in the first place. But being a builder means that you're going to approach accountability differently. Instead of holding people accountable. You're wanting to help people be accountable so you're not going to chase and check and correct people.

Builders know how to help people be accountable even when nobody's looking.

When you approach accountability, let the builder, you could have confidence that even if you're not there right there in the classroom, monitoring things are right there in the school. Monitoring things. The right thing will still get done. And the reason that you have that kind of unfair advantage is because as builders, you know how to build accountability into the very fabric of everything that you're doing. You see, a lot of times we rely on people's willpower to be accountable or we rely on the strength of our own determination and chasing people to hold people accountable. I know administrators right now who feel like they are doing such a good job of holding everybody accountable, but what it means is they're working late. They're working nights, they're working weekends, they're, they're checking up on people. People are having to submit things in. People are having deadlines, and if they're not getting, doing the deadlines, they're, they're being written up.

People are, are being forced to do things that create more work for them so that you can hold them accountable. That's not accountability. That is you working harder than you have to work in order to, to, to make people do something that they are unwilling to do unless you make them. That's not, that's not commitment. That's, that's not cooperation. That is compliance or coercion. And it's unsustainable. It's gonna wear you out, it's gonna wear everybody else out and it's gonna kill your culture. Realtors know that. And so what they do is something different. And it gives them an unfair advantage because instead of chasing everybody and checking and correcting and, and having to hold people accountable, they put things in place. So that being accountable becomes the easiest route for people to take. They make it easy for people to be accountable.

They help people want to be accountable.

And so while your colleagues are bemoaning how people aren't doing what they need to do, and, and, and while your colleagues are creating other things to kind of make people do the right thing, as a builder, you have an unfair advantage. Cause you don't have to make anybody do anything. They want to do the right thing because you have built accountability into your culture. And one of the things we do at builders lab is we show you how to do that. We show you how to weave it into your very culture. And I'll be honest with you, it's kind of unsexy. I mean it's, you know, I wish there was some sort of magic word that you can say, but there's some really basic things that you can do in order to help people be accountable without you having to, to constantly monitor them. And when you do that, you will free yourself up to do other work that's way more important and you keep yourself from being playing the bad guy all the time.

And all of that gives you an unfair advantage. Now let's take culture because as a boss or as a leader, a lot of times we've been taught, you know, culture is, is one of those tricky things. And so a lot of times people tell me I have a toxic culture in my school and there's nothing I can do about it. Or we think the only thing we can do to change the culture is to change the players. It's a huge mistake that I see people making all the time. They say, if I could just get rid of these teachers, my culture would change without ever questioning what turned those teachers toxic in the first place. A lot of times people focus on getting rid of people and thinking that's going to change their culture. When in reality if they get rid of those people and bring new people into that toxic culture, over time, that toxic culture, it's going to turn those great people you just bought in and to toxic people because if you don't change the culture, the culture is going to start changing people.

The thing is, most of us weren't taught in our leadership training how to really transform culture. 

We were taught to deal with it. We were taught to circumvented. We were we, a lot of times we complain about it, but we weren't taught to shape it and so that's why being a builder gives you an unfair advantage because instead of being a victim of your culture or instead of having to deal with the toxicity that's lurking in your culture or instead of having to sit by and watch helplessly while other people come in and hijack your culture as a builder, you know how to transform culture. You know how to shape culture and make it healthy. You know how to align your culture with your vision, mission, and core values to the point where even the most toxic people in your building come aboard and they start supporting this new culture and it happens quickly, not three years, not five years.

It can happen in the space of one school year with the people you already have. You see, even though it seems like on the surface as a builder, you are doing the same things as everybody else. You're not. Once you approach your work like a builder, you automatically have an unfair advantage. Number one, as a builder, you can do things other people can't do. You can turn around the school that other people have written off or you can take a school that's already good and people think, well, this is as good as it's gonna get, and you can take that school and turn it into a great school. Even though everybody was really satisfied with the status quo, you can reach people that other people haven't been able to reach. You can see solutions where everybody else just sees problems.

Not only that, as a builder, you can turn obstacles into opportunities.

You see most people reach obstacles and it derails their whole program. Maybe you've experienced that in the past yourself where you start the year, you're gung ho, you know that you want to do some things this year and the slightest little obstacle derails everything and it can be so frustrating. Well, as a builder, those obstacles just become new opportunities. You have plans that are so flexible that an obstacle doesn't derail it. In fact, you know how to take your obstacles and remove them for good and that gives you an unfair advantage. The other thing is that builders achieve huge wins where other people just achieve incremental gains. You know, a lot of people get really proud because they move their test scores by 3% 5% 10% even. But builders look at those and they say, Whoa, that's not good enough. We have a sense of urgency. We need to move things.

War. And so builders, they get huge wins when everybody else is just getting incremental gains and everybody looks in the builder and thinks that there's some sort of wonder kid when in fact they are just reaping the unfair advantage that builder ship gives you. Also, builders get more done with less. You see, because builders don't tolerate inefficient systems and in fact put more efficient systems in place. They are able to get more done in less time. They also don't get caught up in a lot of petty games and power struggles. Instead, they build a culture where people don't resort to those things because they're so focused on what we're all building together. They don't lose momentum for false starts or you know, because I've chosen the wrong plan because builders built in accountability so they don't, they don't, you know, kind of wear out halfway through.

They don't fizzle out. 

They don't look up in January and say, Oh yeah, we were supposed to do that thing and we should really start doing something more about it. They don't get distracted from their goal. They have built in accountability that keeps the goal first and foremost in their mind. It helps them stay focused even when as a human being, they may lose the discipline and the focus. The accountability that they built in compensates for the very human tendency to get distracted and keeps them on track. They don't wait for years and years and years for teachers to change or for teachers to improve or for them to retire or leave or for them to get rid of them. They know how to move with the teachers they already have. They know how to provide support that gets every single teacher in their building moving from the struggling teacher that really needs to move and move quickly to the veteran.

You know, amazing teacher who's already amazing, but his practice has started to kind of stagnate a little bit. They know how to get everybody moving. They don't struggle to get into more classrooms. They have a feedback system that helps them to get into the right classrooms at the right time. You see a lot of people focus on how many classrooms can you get into, but it's not about how many classrooms you get into. It's are you getting into the right classrooms at the right time so that you can give people the feedback and the support that they need. They also don't get into personality conflicts that drain their energy because instead builders understand will and skill and they know how to navigate the minefield of individual personalities in a way that helps everybody perform at their best.

Builders don't waste time creating plans that aren't going to work.

Instead they have a process that helps them create a concrete airtight plan and then they have a process to continue working on that plan until they see success and they don't get derailed by, you know, things that pop up along the way because their plans are so flexible that they know how to handle obstacles. In fact, they know how to anticipate them and they know how to remove those obstacles for good. As you can see, when you approach your work like a builder, it gives you an on fair advantage. And I say unfair because you can do things that other people can't do and you can get things done with less time. Other people are saying, well, I can't get this done because I need to, you know, more resources or I need different teachers, or I need different students or different parents. But when you are a builder, you know how to turn your school into a success story with the people and the resources you already have, and that gives you an unfair advantage that makes you special, unique, different.

It helps you to get things done that other people can't get done. It helps you to reach the goals that you've set for yourself without having the stress that other people are experiencing. And so I want to encourage you on your journey to build your ship today. I know that it's going to require thinking differently. I know it's going to require doing things differently and that can sometimes feel scary or intimidating, especially if you are steeped in leadership training or boss training. You're going to have to shift, but I can tell you that it's worth it because when you approach your work like a builder, it gives you an unfair advantage. It helps you to do things that seemed impossible before. It helps you to get started moving right now. You don't have to wait. You don't have to wait until somebody leaves or wait until you get the funding or wait until the district is in a different position position than it is now.

When you approach your work like a builder, you get it done. 

Now today, this school year, and that kind of unfair advantage is the kind of unfair advantage I want you to have. It's a kind of unfair advantage that helps you finally make the difference that you were meant to make that you've been trying to make all along. It helps all of the obstacles that you've been facing in the past evaporate and you start to make this progress towards your goals. I love talking to builders lab alumni. I love checking in with them and hearing the success stories that they have, things that have for years been bothering them or keeping them holding them back. They start evaporating. They start saying to me, I can't believe that I'm able to accomplish this. I can't believe that this teacher who I've been struggling with for years has finally turned around.

I cannot believe that this culture, that that has been slowly toxifying over time became so healthy in such a short period of time. That's the difference that you can make when you approach your work like a builder. So that's it for this time. Next time I'm going to talk about something that I've been thinking about for a while. A lot of people have been writing to me recently on LinkedIn and by the way, we are not connected on LinkedIn.

We need to be connected. 

I'm Robin Jackson on LinkedIn. Please connect because it's a great way for you to ask questions or to give any feedback or you know, to kind of see some of the behind the scenes things that we're doing with the podcast. But a lot of people have been writing me lately on LinkedIn and they've been sending me private messages and saying things like, you know, I really, you know, can see how builder's lab can help somebody with a struggling school, but I don't have a struggling school. So I'm not sure if it's going to be right for me. Or I can see how some of these things around Buildership could help somebody who's really drowning. But I'm doing a pretty good job already. So do you have anything for me? And so next time I want to talk about how do you take a good school and turn it into a great school and how do you do it? Like a builder? 

I'll talk to you next time.

Bye for now. See you next time. 

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