Why Settle for Good When You Could Be Great?


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You're listening to school leadership re-imagined. Episode number 59

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.

Hey builders.

Welcome to another episode of the school leadership re-imagined podcast. I'm your host Robyn Jackson. And today I want to ask you a really important question. The question is this, why settle for good when you can meet great. Now good to great has almost become a cliche in education circles. And it all started with a book by Jim Collins called good to great. And if you're anything like me, your superintendent or somebody handed you this book and told you to read this book and apply these business principles to your school. And you know, we quickly found out that it was a lot harder to do that than we've thought and it kind of fizzled away. But the phrase stuck good to great. And in fact we say it all the time and I work with schools and they will work on their vision statements and they'll give me a vision statement that says, my vision is to go from being good to great, but the problem is we don't often know what we mean by good to great.

I work with a lot of schools who are good and they're kind of stuck at good. 

They, they could be great, but there's something keeping them from being great. I work with other schools who are in so much trouble that good would be a relief. You know their, their, their goals that they're setting for their schools are actually good goals. They're not great calls because they can't even see beyond the good to get to the grade. And so I thought that on this final episode of season four of the school leadership reimagined podcast, I would talk about this phenomenon and challenge you not to settle for good when you really could be great. But before I jump into all of that, I just want to remind you that ticket sales for our January, 2020 builders lab are now closed, but don't despair because we will be opening up shortly.

Ticket sales to our June and July, 2020 builders labs. We are making the final arrangements right now and if you go to Mindsteps inc com slash builders dash lab, you can find out the most UpToDate information about windows tickets, sales wall open and how you can get ticket to build lab. And if you're on the fence, if you're thinking about coming to the builders lab and you're like, yeah, I really want to get there one day, I strongly encourage you to come during the summer. You know, we, we've scheduled builders lab at opportune times during the year. So our January builders lab is great because you get double benefit. You find out what you can do to make this year, this school year, the current school year, you're in work really well, how you can hit your goals this school year. And you also learn what you can put in place now in January to, you know, set yourself up for an even better school year the next school year. So you get that double blessing when you come in January when you come in the summer.

This is why we do two in the summer. 

You can actually come with a team so you're not, you're not in school, kids are out and you actually have the time and space to sit down and calm. And so it's a great opportunity in the summertime to really write a stellar strategic plan for the upcoming school year. So I love builder's lab in the summer. The energy is very different than the builders labs that we do during the year because you really have the opportunity to reflect on the prior school year and to put plans in place now for the upcoming school year and you actually can see those plans come to fruition. So you're not just planning for those 90 days. You can plan for the entire school year. So that's the benefit of coming in the summer.

When you come in the fall, we usually do another builder's lab in October. It's a great opportunity to get a tune up. So the school years just started. Everybody's kind of end place. You're looking at your data and maybe the plans that you made over the summer, you're already kind of losing track of those plans. People will come in October really get that booster shot that they need in order to stick with their plans during the school year and make that school year really productive. So it's October is a great time if you are trying to impact the current school year and you want that booster shot. So we are very strategic about when we schedule builders labs throughout the year so that they can serve you wherever you are. And so I wanna encourage you to go to Mindsteps inc com slash builders dash lab to get your tickets to builders lab. Also, if you are listening to this somewhere in real time in December, 2019 there's a really cool thing going on right now.

We are having the 12 days of buildership and each day you get an email with a another free resource. 

It's, you know, we're getting such great feedback from the people who are already signed up for the 12 days a builder ship because they're getting cool things like you know outlines of meeting agendas. They're getting infographics that demonstrate the will skill difference. They are getting interview questions that they can use to interview members. We are taking some of our best resources and we are sending you one resource every single day. So if you want to sign up for the 12 days of Buildship, we're going to have this going on up until the end of December. So the 12 days of Buildship we'll end in December. So if you are listening to this in the future, you won't be able to get access to those 12 days.

But if you want to get signed up for the 12 days of builder ship, all you need to do is go to Mindsteps inc com and there'll be a pop up on the homepage that will give you the opportunity to sign up for the 12 days of Buildship. But hurry up because this is only going to last until the end of December. We are getting set up for some really exciting things in 2020 and so if you and I are not connected on social media, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or if you are not a part of the Mindsteps tribe, you really are going to miss out starting in January of 2020 we are going to be launching something that you are going to love. And the cool thing about it is it's absolutely free. It's another great way to get access to resources and training. And that's all I can say about it right now, but I am so excited about that.

We are launching something else in the spring of 2020 that is going to be a huge game changer. 

Especially for those of you who are international members of the Mindsteps community and can't often get to builders lab. But in order to hear about these things, you need to be signed up. You need to be a part of our tribe and being a part of our tribe is free and simple. Just go to Mindsteps inc com and there'll be a place where you can, it'll say join our tribe or become a member and just click on that button, sign up and then you will stay abreast of everything. And we have, I mean in 2020 we have some big plans for 2020 and you don't want to miss them, so make sure that you sign up. Okay, let's talk about going from good to great.

Again, it's a cliche at this point. Everybody talks about going to good to great, but what do they really mean? I want to read to you a Jim Collins definition of good to great. He says a great organization is one that delivers superior performance and makes a distinctive impact over a long period of time. So you need three things in order to be great. You need superior performance, you need distinctive impact and you need over a long period of time. So let's take, let's kind of break each of those down. Superior performance doesn't just mean that you're better than the other schools around you because if the other schools around you are performing poorly, that just makes you the tallest Jackie at the racetrack. It doesn't mean that your performance is really superior, so superior, it's not comparative to the other schools around you. Superior is you're able to serve your students better than any other option available to them.

The second one would be distinctive impact. 

You are making a difference in the lives of these students that they can't get anywhere else and they have a third one over a long period of time. I've seen a lot of schools work really, really hard one year to raise test scores and they make improvement. They grow by 10% maybe 15% but the next year of a test boards go back down because as soon as they stop all of the bandaids that they are using to try to raise test scores, they can't sustain those scores over time. So when it says a long period of time, are you consistently delivering the kind of distinctive impact and superior performance to your students? That's what makes you great. And Jim Collins also says, and I love this quote, in fact I want to read this to you. This comes from the book good to great.

And it's really that first chapter. And he starts out with this quote and I love this quote. He says, good is the enemy of great. And then he goes on, he says, and that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don't have great schools principally because we have good schools, we don't have great government, principally because we have good government, few people attain great lives in large part because it's just so easy to settle for a good life. The vast majority of companies never become great precisely because the vast majority become quite good and that is their main problem. I love that section of good to great because I think it describes what I see in the field all the time in the schools that I visit. I think we don't have more great schools because we have so many good schools and people talk to me all the time when they say roll Robin, you know like the things that you're teaching about builder ship, you know, my school's not in trouble.

I already have a good school, but that's precisely what Jim Collins is talking about. 

If you already have a good school, good is the enemy of great and in fact you are probably less likely to become great if you're already good then if you're starting from scratch when you are, if you're starting and tried to transform a school, you know that's really, really failing. And so when I talk about school transformation, a lot of times people think that I'm only referring to failing schools, but in reality there are a lot of good schools that need to go through. A transformation because they're going to stay stuck at good if they don't and they're never going to become great. So I want to start out by talking about why are so many of us stuck at good right now and why do so many of us settle for good and think, well, that's all it's going to be.

And one of the main reasons is that we often think that good is the best that we can do. There aren't a lot of examples unfortunately, of great schools and so the bar gets lowered and lowered and lowered until we think, you know good is great. We substitute that. I remember working in a school where they had an 80% proficiency rate and they thought that they were a great school because 80% proficiency is not common. A lot of schools are struggling to get to 50% but if you're at 80% proficiency, while the new must be doing a really good job and you are, you're doing a good job, but it's not a great job because you still have 20% of your students who are not hitting proficiency. It's really hard to Pat yourself on the back when every single day, 20% of your kids are not getting what they need.

How can we settle for 80% and say, well, it's a B. We're not talking about grades here. We're talking about kids.

 It may be a B in terms of percentages, but 20% of your kids are not hitting the bar. And it's not okay to just say, well, I mean at least we're not doing as poorly as some of these other schools in our district. It's not okay until every single one of your students is proficient. You're not done yet. And so a lot of times we settle for good because we think that's the best we can do all students is just too big of a goal. You know, people look at me all the time and they say, you're so naive to think that we can reach all students. And my question to them is, why are we in business? Why? What? What is the promise of education?

If it's a crap shoot, if it's well, maybe you'll be proficient, but some of you aren't just, you're just not going to make it. How is it that we can get up every single day and look kids in the eye and say, you know, some of you just aren't gonna cut it. Some of you are just always going to be failures. Is that really why we became educators, so call it naive if you want, but I can't imagine how we as educators can stomach the idea that we are going to our best. The best we can do is going to let some kids down. Now we have to continue to transform and redesign the system until it serves every single kid because that is the promise we made to those families. When we said send your kids to our school, I mean imagine going to a parent and saying, Hey, send your kid to our school and they've got a bout a 80% chance that they're going to be successful.

Is that really what we want to be promising our parents, an 80% sounds good?

Most of our schools right now, if we were to kind of really be honest, most of our schools are performing in a way that we are basically saying to parents, Hey, if you send your most precious child to our school, he's got a 50 50 shot. I've been successful, but go ahead. Roll the dice, send them anyway, because who knows? Is that really why we're in business? So we've got to stop settling for good because we don't believe rate as possible. We really do need to check ourselves and start to ask ourselves, do we really believe that it is possible for all of our students to be successful? Now, here's where we get stuck. A lot of times we look at our current system and we say, and rightly so, I don't believe it's possible in our current system.

Okay, change the system, transform the system. That's what we're talking about here on this podcast. How do we reimagine what we're doing so that it is possible? What would our schools have to look like in order for all of our children to be successful in those schools? That's the work. That's what it means to be great. Anything less than that is good and a lot of us are settling for good because we just don't believe great as possible. The second reason we often settle for good is that a lot of us are satisfied with the status quo. This is something that I see with people who kind of builders lab all the time. These are builders who are so frustrated because they have a staff that's satisfied with the status quo. It's not just that they don't believe it's possible. They just don't even believe that we should be shooting for higher than what we have.

I worked in a school once where the proficiency level was like 90 something percent and it was in the days of no child left behind. 

And if I'm recalling this correctly, it seems to me that by 2014, no child left behind said we should be at a hundred percent proficiency. And of course the closer we got to that, the more we realize, Hey, it's not happening. So we just kind of abandoned the whole idea of no child left behind. But I remember being in this school and everybody said, well, we're already at a 91% proficiency or something like that. So we don't even have to pay attention to no child left behind until 2012 2013 when the number, the sliding scale or the sliding goal, as we slid closer to 100% actually pertains to us. They were satisfied with the status quo. They didn't have a sense of urgency because they said it's only 10% of our kids.

Well, when you put names and faces to that 10% then you're really saying, you're saying that it's okay that Jeremy isn't successful. It's okay that Sasha isn't successful. It's okay that Akila isn't successful because after all, they only represent 10% of our population. Come on. No, that's not why we're here. And so a lot of times people come to builders lab, not because they're satisfied with the status quo, but because they are facing a staff that satisfied with the status quo. And so one of the things that we talk about in builder's lab a lot is how do you create that sense of urgency? Around a hundred percent vision. How do you take people who seem to be satisfied with the status quo and create a level of with the status quo? Because until you do that, you will stay stuck at good and you will never get to great.

The third thing that keeps us a lot of times stuck in good is we're just tired and I get it. 

I mean it is hard work when you're striving for greatness and after a while you, you hit a milestone and you're just like, you know what? Okay, let's do this. Can we just rest here? But here's my question for you. While you're resting, what's happening with kids? What's going on are while we're resting, those kids are still matriculating through our school systems. Those kids are still failing. There's more time to rest. We have a sense of urgency. There are things we should be doing for our students and so we can't settle for good just cause we're tired and frankly the reason we're tired is because it's a lot harder to be good than it is to be great. This is something that I have learned recently.

Getting to great doing that work, making that investment in your school actually makes your life easier, not harder. I talked about this a little bit last time when I was talking about whether or not build ship gave you an unfair advantage. And after I recorded that episode, I did some work in a couple of schools the following week and it just became glaringly obvious to me that once you implement builder ship as opposed to leadership, not only do you move towards greatness, but you don't have to work as hard. So let me give you an example. When you are good, you are still, you still have to stay on top of everybody. Being good is a function of your sheer will. You are the Superman or superwoman in your building. You are dragging your school towards a goal. The teachers are individually dragging their classrooms towards a goal.

Everybody is working hard and your success or failure is dependent upon people working hard. 

The degree to which people work determines your success or failure. And so you have to get to good by the force of your effort and your will. But when you are great, what makes you great is that you have systems in place and when you have those systems in place you don't have to work so hard. So I was working in a school with a group of principals who are putting some of the systems that we teach at Mindsteps into place in their schools and once those systems got in place, they're not running around chasing, checking and correcting people. It becomes so much easier once they put these systems in place. Teachers aren't falling through the cracks. They're not worried that their teachers are not growing and moving every single year.

They're not frustrated that teachers are stuck. Those schools, once they put these systems in place and they are seeing teachers grow at least one level in one domain and one year or less. That's the way the system is designed. And so it's a lot easier. They don't have to look at each teacher and take each teacher on a case by case basis. They have a system that quickly diagnosis where a teacher is, gets the teacher the exact support that teacher needs and helps that teacher grow in a critical area so every single year they are raising the level of instruction school wide and they're not working nearly as hard to do it. I was working with another school, they're putting systems in place. One of the things that they are working on is how is is raising the rigor in classrooms and before they have done some training and book studies and things have failed or the teachers give up before they're seeing a difference.

By putting a system in place they are starting to see the level of rigorized school wide and it's a lot easier. 

They're saying they, in fact they almost don't trust the work because they're saying this is too easy. I thought I was going to have to work harder. I thought I was going to be more exhausted. They are finding that it's less work to do put those systems in place and that's a thing. When you are good, you are working hard because good relies on your effort and your will. When you become great, you don't work so hard because greatness is not about your effort or your will. Greatness is about the processes that you're putting in place so that regardless of whether you are monitoring that process, the process still works and the process outlast you, which means that if you leave this school, you'll look at the school five years later and the school is still in good shape because you put things in place to make that school almost impervious to a downturn.

You've turned that school into something great and here's something else. When you move from good to great people who are parts of great schools, you don't have the same personnel headaches that you have when you're a part of a good school. The personnel headache that I see a lot in good schools is that most of the staff is doing. You get child, but it's just though that one person or about one team or that one grade level. If I could just get them on board, woo. Then maybe things would be better. That's a sign. You're in a good school, a great school, you don't have that. And when people present challenges, you're not scratching your head or stressed out about what you're going to do. No more sick feeling in your stomach. When you go sit in to give them feedback or to hold, help them be accountable.

When you are a part of a great school, you know immediately how to respond. 

The moment somebody underperforms and you know how to get that person back on track, that's the difference. So you're not stressed out, you're not working until midnight, you're not, you know, scratch shaking your hand and trying to figure out what else can I do to help this person instead at a great school you things are running very smoothly and so it's less work. So why would you settle for good when good is going to wear you out when you could be great and being great takes less work and effort. Once you set your school up to be great, then it does to stay good. I don't get it. Why would you settle for good? So in this last episode of this season, I want to challenge you to not settle for good when you can be great.

Don't settle for tiny incremental little gains when you can make huge gains in your school. Don't settle for compliance. When you can get a staff that's truly committed. Don't settle for a piece of a plan that hopefully gets done when you could have a process that shows tremendous gains every single year. Don't settle for getting some teachers on board when you could have every single one of your teachers working and growing and helping students. Don't settle for a goal that still promises that you're going to fail some percentage of your population and create a goal that is truly compelling because it involves 100% of your students.

In other words, there's no reason for you to settle for good when you can be great like a builder. 

And just to give you a sense, I've mentioned a couple of times during this episode, this is the last episode of the season, but we're coming back. And just a few weeks with season five of the podcast. And I'm going to devote a significant portion of season five of the podcast talking to you about how you move from good to great. And the best way to do that is to move from being a boss and a leader to being a builder. So look for those episodes. And in the meantime, in between seasons, I usually try to sneak in a bonus episode or two. Usually it's highlighting a success story just so that you can hear from other people about how they're implementing these principles and some of the results that they're seeing in their own schools or districts. So I'll be able to do that. And also you and I can stay in touch. So even though this is the last episode of the season, there's no reason we can't continue the conversation and the dialogue on the socials.

So I'm on LinkedIn at Robin Jackson. I'm on Twitter at Robin underscore Mindsteps and I'm on Facebook. So whatever your social network is of choice, go ahead and send me your friend request. Now, if you're friending me on Facebook, please, please, please, if it's not obvious in your profile that you're an educator, please send me a message that says, Hey, I'd like to be your friend and I'm an educator. Cause a lot of times I just want to make sure that I'm being very selective about who I friend on Facebook. And I want to make sure that I am friending people who are actually educators rather than, you know, random strangers or bots or whatever. You get my point. And then also remember that if you are not a part of the mindsets community, if you are not receiving regular emails from me and you're a part, you have a into the website to be able to download additional resources. If you are not, you haven't done that yet, then I strongly urge you to make sure that you go to Mindsteps inc com and sign up because I'm telling you January, 2020 we're going to be releasing something that you're going to love and it's absolutely free. 

We also have some really cool things happening in the springtime that are only for our tribe members. 

And so if you are not a part of the mindsets community, make sure that you go to mindsets inc com and join. Finally just one last invitation to build this lab. Tickets go on sale at the beginning of 2020 for the summer builders labs date. So I want you to just kind of Mark your calendars, go to Mindsteps inc com slash builders dash lab in order to find out the summer dates and locations. You're going to be really, you know, happy with some of the locations that we have set up for you for the summer and start putting this into your plans now. And then if you have any questions or you need any help, you know that you can always give us a call at (888) 565-8881 thanks so much for joining me this season. And before you know it, I'll be back with season five of the school leadership re-imagined podcast. I'll talk to you that.

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.