School Leadership Reimagined - Structure Gives You Freedom

Never Waste A Crisis

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You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast, episode 69.

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 than 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 reimagined podcast. I'm your host Robyn Jackson, and today I have another Mindsteps isn't for you, but before I jump into that, I want to give you two reminders. Number one, I want to remind you that we have a free popup group happening right now and in that popup group, I am in there every single week. I am doing workshops to help people refine and craft their vision statements I'm doing every single week a masterclass. In fact, this week's masterclass was really about taking a look at the current state of your school and looking for the opportunities that you have before you, especially as you try to navigate what's going to happen for students when they returned to school in the fall. Whether you're going to be working remotely or whether you're going to be face to face and what's that going to look like.

We're doing a workshop about that this week. I have office hours every single week and they've been a lot of fun where people can just pop in at any point during office hours. Times ask a question, get help on a challenge and we've had some real breakthroughs that have been a lot of fun for me as well. If you are not a part of this popup group and you are missing out and the best part about it, it's all free now. It's a popup group which means that it has an expiration date. I want it to do something to provide real support to people while we're going through quarantine, teaching and remote learning and and the pandemic. But at some point I am going to have to close the group down and so we're looking, we're probably going to keep the group open for at least another month, but then after that we're going to have to shut it down.

So you need to get inside of the group while the getting is good.

We still have a couple of surprises up our sleeves for the people who have been in the group and getting some amazing work done. It's been so much fun for me to serve in this way and there are so many people in the group now who have had breakthroughs that we are just collecting all of these success stories inside of the group. You need to be a part of this group and so if you want to join, just go to Mindsteps inc com and on the homepage you will see a space. You scroll down a little bit and you will see a place for you to be able to join our free pop-up group. Now this second announcement, I am so excited about this week, my team and I sat down and we've been thinking about this for a while, but we sat down and put pen to and took all of those thoughts and conversations that we've been having over the last few weeks and we just actually sketched it out.

We've been waiting to see about whether or not we are going to be able to do builder's lab live this year. We have two summer builder's labs coming up and we believe so much in this material that we have been doing our best to make sure that we keep it live while unfortunately because of some restrictions that schools are having on travel and some restrictions that we're having in some of the regions where we are hosting builder's lab live, we are not going to be able to host builder's lab live anymore, but we have something even better. This, I'm announcing this for the first time we sat down this week, we mapped everything out and we are going to be hosting a virtual builder's lab this year. Now this is not like anything that you've ever experienced before. I've been sharing internally some of the plans and ideas that I have for this and people are saying to me, wow, that might be even better than build his lab live.

I didn't think we could make the event better, but I think we did and so we are calling it the builder's lab 360 experience.

Now, if you think this is just going to be three days of zoom made meetings where I drag you through my slide deck, you are sorely mistaken. This is going to be a highly interactive experience. You will get all of the benefit of live, so all the materials, all of the, the, the training, all of the gems and the golden nuggets that people get live, but you're going to get it in a virtual environment and not only that, because we are working virtually, there are some things that we can do to really personalize your experience. I can't go into everything now. My team is going to kill me if I tell too much before we get a couple of things solidified on the tech side, but we are planning something unlike anything you've ever had before in your life.

You may have taken an online course before. Maybe you've even taken one of our online courses and they're great, but this is not an online course. Maybe you've attended a free training or a webinar, maybe even inside the popup group we've done some masterclasses. This is not a masterclass. This is a 360 degree immersive experience. It will involve you coming in and we will work together with you over three days to help you turn your school into a success story with the people and resources you already have on day one we are going to refine your vision and your mission and your core values and we are going to do micro slicing. Yes, micro slicing hasn't gone anywhere and in fact now micro slicing can be even more immersive because instead of looking at it on the screen and build this lab, you will be able to kind of go into that classroom with me and you'll be able to kind of, you know, have these conversations together about what's happening.

We're not going to just micro slice classrooms. We are going to show you how you can micro slice your school.

This is something new this year that we're adding. So by the end of day one, you will not only have a clear vision, mission, and core values, but you will also understand the root cause of the challenges that you are facing in your school right now. You will know what is the biggest barrier that is getting in the way of your ability to realize that vision and that mission and those core values in your school. That's his day one. And then on day two what we're going to do is we're going to say, okay, now that we know what we want to do, and we know what our biggest barrier is, how do we equip our staff to move? How do we get them to buy in?

How do we get them to to be excited about this work and to be fully committed to this work? So on day two, we're going to look at the people component and we're going to help you figure out how do you get your people moving. We're going to teach you some things that you can use right away to get your people moving. There's always going to be some coaching in there. There's going to be some small group work. There's going to be some large group training experiences. It's just a lot. And then on day three we are going to come back and now we're going to develop a plan. We're going to take the blueprint that you've been developing over the last two days, your builder's blueprint, and we are going to turn it into a concrete plan. Now that would be great enough, but then once you leave builders lab, you're going to get 90 days of followup support.

We will have dedicated office hours just for you. 

Remember the popup group will be gone by then. So this will be your chance to still get office hours dedicated just for builders lab folks. Not only that, but you're also going to get accountability check-ins to make sure that you're staying on track because you don't want to just do all this wonderful work and then get distracted. We can get back to your school. So we're going to be checking in with you to make sure that you're staying on track and to see if you need any help. If you're facing any challenges, there are a couple of bonus trainings that we're including in all of this so that you can get additional support and you will be a part of a dedicated group of builders so that you can support each other. That's just the tip of the iceberg.

The stuff that we are planning is though. Cool. I just, I can't wait to tell you, but my team is telling me not yet. Maybe by next next episode I'll be able to tell you a little bit more, but this is going to be an immersive 360 degree degree experience. And if you've ever wanted to come to builder's lab but you weren't released to travel or you live far away and travel would have been onerous or you never felt like you had enough time to step away from your school, now's your chance because now you can attend virtually. And I don't know if we'll ever do another virtual experience again. We had no plans for doing builders lab virtually and of course the world turned upside down. And so now we've created something that is, you know, just it's its own thing. It really is its own thing.

I don't know if we'll do it again.

We may go back to live events in the fall. I don't know. But I do know if you want to be a part of this immersive, amazing experience that we're planning for you, just go to Mindsteps inc com slash builders dash lab. That's mindset think.com/builders-lab. Now for those of you who already had builder's lab tickets by now you should have gotten a letter from us to talk about your options. And so if you've already, if you haven't gotten that letter, check your junk mail folder and look for that. And for those of you who have been waiting to see what we're going to do, registration is now open. You can get your tickets for builders lab three 60 and okay, I'm going to stop talking about it cause I will end up spilling all my guts right now.

What I do want to talk to you about is today's Mindsteps CISM and this one is an oldie but goodie. This is something that we say a lot at builder's lab and I have found myself over the last couple of weeks saying it more and more inside of the popup group. And that is structure gives you freedom. Now what does that mean? Well before I kind of go into that, I want to tell you about a study that someone shared with me recently. They took a group of kids to a city park maybe about a block large and they took them into the center of the park and they told them to play and they noticed that the kids did not stray too much from the center. They kind of stay clustered around the center.

A week later they took them to another park.

An almost identical city park, but this time the kids spread out and they played all over the park and they explored all over the park. What was the big difference? It wasn't the size of the park. They were almost identical. It wasn't the park experience. Kids had an experience of staying in the center. The difference was simply this, the first park did not have a fence and the second park did. Now I know that seems counterintuitive. That structure actually stifles freedom, but that is not so structure gives you freedom. You see just taking kids to a park where there was a fence, the kids felt like they could, they were free to explore the entire park because they understood the parameters. When you take them to a park where there is no fence, the parameters aren't clear. And that's where things get very scary. Now, this is especially becoming true as we work through quarantines and when we're going back to school and what is that going to look like?

You're finding that a lot of people during this crisis started contracting. They, they got very scared. They kind of tightened up in what they were doing. They weren't willing to take risk. They, you got a lot of pushback. If that's the case, then it's probably no different than the kids who were at the park. When things feel uncertain, they often feel scary and people kind of, they don't take risks, but when you give people parameters, boundaries, it gives them a lot of freedom to be able to take risks because they know the rules, they know how to play the game. The schools that went into this pandemic and went into the quarantine with clear structures in place, those teachers have embraced the risk. Those teachers have really kind of, you know, done some extraordinary things in the classroom. Things that have surpassed everybody's expectations, the schools without clear boundaries, you're getting a lot of pushback.

You've got a lot of contraction. You've got a lot of people who are fighting risk taking. 

You've got a lot of people who are, are complaining about what you're asking them to do or just towing the line and following the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law. And the difference is simply that structure is missing. We're always so afraid to impose structures in our schools. We're worried about the fact that if we do that, people will will fight us. And you're right. If you try to micromanage, if you try to control everything in this school, people will fight you. And then at the same time, we want to put structures in place and we want to put those controls in place because we're not sure that we can trust our staff to do what we want them to do without those controls.

But there's a difference between controls and structures. Controls. You're going to get pushback, you're going to get resistance structure, you're going to get creativity, you're going to get expansion, you're going to get people who feel free, and so they're going to cooperate more because that structure has created freedom. So I want to talk now about some of the structures that will create this kind of freedom and some of the structures that won't. And if you know me at all, you know the first three structure is I'm going to say vision, mission, core values. When you create a vision statement the right way, you give people structure, but you give them a whole bunch of freedom. I've talked about this on another mind step system. When you have a good vision, you can be stubborn on that vision, but really flexible around the details. So instead of of of making people resent your vision, a good vision where you're stubborn on that vision but you're flexible around the details actually ignites people's creativity.

You know, when I'm coaching people around writing business statements, they always ask, well, what about shared vision? 

I was trained that we needed to do a shared vision with our staff and I have like I take a counter counter cultural or counter intuitive, a stance on a shared vision. I call a shared vision, a camel. If everybody is contributing to your vision and they're all want their pieces in, then what you end up with is instead of you having a clear vision statement that that clearly outlines what you want to do as a school. You end up with this paragraph full of all of these dependent clauses. You know, we were just working on one inside of our vision workshop this week where the vision statement was probably, Oh my goodness, it must have been, it was, it was one sentence but it must have been four or five long lines long and it was, we, you know, I'm not gonna hold it exactly, but all the catchphrases were there.

We, you know, provide a nurturing learning environment that inspires scholars to be their best selves and in a, in a, in a rigorous curriculum that respects cultural diversity and prepares them to be global leaders and good citizens. And you know, I mean, it's all, it just, it becomes this, this string of, of catch phrases and cliches and when you are finished, there is no structure because that vision is all things to all people. When you have a clear vision that says very clearly this is the outcome we're looking for, 100% of our students will, and then you follow that with a very clearly defined outcome. You've given people a lot of structure, but you've also given them a lot of freedom because now everybody's energy and creativity is focused on all right, if that's our vision, how do we get there and then it doesn't matter whether we are teaching face to face or where they were at teaching remotely. The question is the same that when when your staff had to quickly move to remote learning, people were feeling like, I've got to redo everything except for the schools where you have builders in place. Because in those schools the builder said, we're not redoing everything.

Our vision hasn't changed. The context has changed. 

Our mission hasn't changed. Our setting has changed. Our core values haven't changed. How we act out. Those core values may have to shift a little bit and when you give people that kind of structure, now they have freedom, so let's let's figure out together what are we going to do to make sure that we still deliver on that vision for our kids this year. And then all of a sudden people started getting creative. People will start it. Occupy a problem solving space rather than a problem. Finding space. Structure gives you freedom.

Same thing is true for your, your mission and your core values. Your mission says, this is why the work we're doing is important. And when you have a clear mission for your school, it gives you the structure to say, is that on mission or is that off mission? One of my and false. I believe that a lot of your faults are like the flip side of your gifts. One of my gifts is that I can see possibility in anything in anyone. And what that means is I have a lot of ideas and sometimes I go to my team and I'm like, we could do this and we could do this. And I read this great article and this other place is doing this and we could do this. And the problem is that not all ideas are right for our organization. We can't Sue every single idea that I bring to the table.

Without that clarity around our vision, mission, and core values, it would be easy to spend all of my days chasing squirrels. 

But whenever I bring a new idea, I have to sift it through the vision, mission and core values and then that tells me if that's something that I need to pursue. And at first I thought that's going to box me in because I'm creative and I have all these ideas, but you know what it does? It gives me such calm and peace because now I know I can have all of these ideas, but then there's going to be some filter in place that allows me to sit those ideas through the filter of my vision, mission and core values and I don't have to pursue all of them so I can have an idea. I can bring it to the team if it's not on mission, if it's not, if it doesn't align with our vision and our core values, I can let the idea go and I can make space for another idea that will serve us.

Structure gives you freedom. Same thing is true for your core values. People are so worried about toxicity in their culture and as I've spoken of on many episodes before, a lot of times what we do is we create rules and policies and procedures because we are trying to deal with someone who is bringing toxicity into our culture rather than creating rules and policies and procedures that actually serve our culture well. When you have a structure of the core values, then you don't have to do that. You, you don't have to try to control people Orain people in or I got to do this because if I don't do this, they won't do. None of that has to happen when you have core values because once everybody agrees with those core values, those are the guardrails. That's the structure. As long as your behaviors within those core values, we can figure it out.

When your behavior gets out of bounds full stop, it's non negotiable. 

In our school, you're out of bounds. And so that structure gives people a lot of freedom and it gives you a lot of freedom because instead of spending your days chasing, checking and correcting people, you know that people are holding onto core values and they are upholding those core values whether you're checking or not, if you do them right. Yeah. A lot of schools have core values, but most schools just throw a couple of core values on the wall. Our growth values are respect and and grit and I have no idea what that means to you. And so without that clarity, without turning your core values into non-negotiables, those core values don't give you any structure. It just gives people a lot of, you know, excuses to do what they want to do.

I was working with a builder this week and he has a teacher on his staff who is really kind of trying to, I want to say buck the system, but really it's the teachers trying to make it personal. The teachers are attacking this builders builder ship and the builders in the, of establishing a vision, mission, and core values. They inherited one or he inherited one when he got to the the organization. And now he's trying to kind of reestablish some, and they have started out with core values and they've, they've kind of stayed at what they want their core values to be, but they're not non-negotiable yet. And so as a result, when this teacher does things to try to kind of attack the builder, the builder has to deal with that attack on the merits of the attack itself. Rather than being able to invoke the core values and say, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa.

I want to hear what you have to say, but how you're coming at me, it's a violation of our core values. 

We gotta deal with that first before we can deal with your issue. Now when you do it that way, a lot of arguments stop happening. I remember when I first as an administrator, sat down with the staff and established core values with our staff. After that, when people would try to pull some of the foolishness that they had been trying to pull before, I could just step back and say, Whoa, wait a minute. Did, did he, do you still believe in the core values that we said? Yeah. All right, well, can we agree that this behavior is outside of our core values? Yeah. Oh, okay. And after doing that a couple of times, no more problem. And guess what? I had to align myself with the core values to even now, my team still pulls me aside.

I told you about how we have a core value of drama free work environment. Well, guess what? Guess who brings the most drama at Mindsteps? It's me. So there are times when my team has to pull me aside and say, okay, Robin, want to hear what you have to say? But that's a little bit too much drama. I say that it's because I'm very passionate, but they say is drama. And so I have to respect that. So that boundary, that set of boundaries gives people freedom to speak up and know that they can be heard. Those boundaries give me freedom to trust my staff or for give you freedom to trust your staff because you know that as long as we have these core values in common, then people's behavior can only go so far. Structure gives you freedom. There's another structure that I've been teaching in the sprint this week and it's something that we teach at builder's lab as well, and that's the structure of the meeting rhythm.

Now I know meetings are not sexy. 

I know everybody hates meetings and I hate meetings that are purposeless meetings, but I love meetings where we walk out and we've solved problems. And for us at Mindsteps, it's been one of the game changers for our company to start establishing a regular meeting rhythm. So when something comes up, a problem comes up. I don't have to carry it, I don't have to worry about it, I can just let it go because as long as we keep our meeting rhythm, I know that there's going to be a time in the very near future where that problem is going to get discussed and solved. So the structure of my meeting rhythm rather than the saying, Oh, I've got all these meetings this week, the structure, my meeting rhythm gives me freedom because I can be free, do the other work that I need to do and not worry about.

Some of the other stuff I used to worry about because I know there's a meeting happening where we're going to discuss it. I know there's an agenda that we stick to that makes sure we discuss it and I know that there's not going to be too much time that passes before we discuss it. So I can be free to do other things. I don't worry about stuff the same way. What are meeting rhythm is working. Same thing is true for you. If you don't have a meeting cadence that gives you freedom, then you're doing it wrong. And we have a meeting cadence that we've been teaching other people and they say, you know, we get feedback from builder's lab and we do a 90 day followup with builders lab and we get the feedback from people. They all say the same thing.

That meeting rhythm has been a game changer.

You know, it seems like, again, it's not sexy, but for a lot of people, that meeting rhythm, that structure of having regular times when we meet every single week and certain kinds of meetings, not the same meeting, it's not just meeting for meeting's sake. There's a specific type of meeting that you have in a specific rhythm on your calendar that allows you the freedom to be able to go out and do the work that you really want to do and not have to worry about a lot of nonsense because your meeting cadence takes care of that structure, gives you freedom. A third kind of structure that can give you a ton of freedom is having a structure around how you interact with people. We call the structure that we advocate the four disciplines of builder ship and so it's feedback, support, accountability and culture. And within each of those areas there are structures for how you give feedback and our feedback structure, which focuses on one one thing.

Feedback frees you up to be able to give teachers really honest feedback and direct feedback without ruining the relationship, without making the teacher defensive, without worrying about hurting their feelings. The structure that we teach you around feedback gives you the freedom to give people really good feedback. Same thing, this true for support. A lot of times we try to support teachers the same way that we support students. It's all remedial. We go give teachers support when they're struggling. We believe in proactive support. We believe in proactive support for students and for teachers and most of the time we're running ourselves ragged trying to help dig teachers out of holes rather than having a support system that provides predictable results. So just changing the structure of your support can give you a ton of freedom. Our support structure that we teach helps you help every single teacher grow at least one level and one domain in one year or less.

And those results are predictable and trackable. 

Which means that you don't have to worry about, okay, this teacher, she don't want to know. We teach you how to create a teacher dashboard where you can trace and track that support and now you have a freedom to just kind of be able to focus on the that only you can focus on and not worry about what your teachers are doing because you have a structure in place. Structure gives you freedom. Same thing is true for accountability. People are wearing himself out trying to chase check and correct teachers all the time. You feel like you have to be on top of teachers all the time, and one of the things that we've been advocating for the last several years of builder's lab is that you can't hold people accountable. That's a lot of work, but you can help people be accountable and you can set up accountability systems that make doing the right thing so much easier than doing the wrong thing that most people will do the right thing by default.

If you have those structures in place, you don't have to chase people around. You don't have to check on them all the time. They're doing the right thing. Even when you're not checking structure gives you freedom. Same thing is true for culture. People think that culture is something that just kind of emerges. It is not. It doesn't just emerge. You have to be intentional about building culture and a big part of that culture piece are two things. You have to have stories and you have to have habits and most people let whatever narrative has been being told about their school continue and they're not intentional about building a different narrative about their school. We teach you a narrative structure that helps you do that, that helps you do that in a way that, that that impacts people's hearts and their minds and it leverages an age old storytelling structure that has been used since the beginning of time.

That story structure helps you to be able to tell your school story in a way that really conveys your passion.

That gets other people excited about what it is that you're building so that you don't have to worry about trying to undo negative narratives. Instead, you have a story structure that helps you make your narrative. The reigning narrative, same thing is true for habits. We have a lot of bad habits in our school buildings and quite frankly during quarantine we are building a lot of bad habits that are going to be really hard to break later on. But if you're intentional about the habits that you are helping your staff build, then once they become habits again, the right behaviors become more automatic and the right habits start to change the story that you're telling about your school. But you have to know how to do that structure gives you freedom.

So I guess the point that I'm trying to make today is this. If you're feeling overwhelmed, if you're feeling like you are the bottleneck in your school, that every decision has to be sifted through you. You're CC'd on a million emails a day, you wonder why people aren't making decisions on their own. You got a lot of people complaining, you're working extra hard, you feel like you're always putting out fires. You feel like you never have time for yourself. Everybody else is kind of controlling your schedule and and you can't get the work that you really want done, done well. The answer is simply this structure gives you freedom and when you put the right structures in place, you free up more brain space so that you can think and be creative and start problem solving and really envisioning what your school is going to look like.

On the other side of this, it gives you time to be able to do the work that really matters to you. 

It frees you up emotionally because you're not getting drawn into a whole bunch of nonsense. Instead, you're doing work that's fulfilling to you and you're seeing the results for your kids. Structure gives you freedom, so if you need a little freedom today, take a look at the structures that you have in your school. Take a look at the structures that you have around the work that you're doing. The answer to getting freedom is not to get rid of the structure. The answer to getting freedom is to put the right structures in place. When you do that, you'll experience more creativity, you'll experience more time, you'll experience more freedom and you'll do it like a builder. That's it for today.

I want to thank you for joining me and if you don't forget to join the popup group, do it now. Do it while you're listening to this episode. Inside, you're going to find archives of past trainings. You're going to find a schedule for upcoming trainings. I would love to meet you face to face inside of the popup group and if you are international, that's fine. We have people from all over the world inside the popup group. Come join me there. Let's work together and let's continue to solve challenges and then do not forget the builder's lab three 60 virtual experience. And can y'all tell that I'm so excited about this thing that we are planning? It is. I mean I can't wait to tell you more and as soon as we get a few more things in place I'll tell you a little bit more but it's going to be amazing and you can find out more about how to register for the builder's lab. Three 60 virtual experience by going to Mindsteps inc com slash builders dash lab. That's mine. Step sync.com/builders-lab.

I'll talk to you next time. 

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

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