What to do with "people problems"


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You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast, episode 70.

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 ism for you. Think about this. Over the last few weeks you've been working to get everybody kind of organized and focused, and now you're starting to see that there's some people who are not stepping up. There's some people who may not be doing what you expect them to do or they may not be doing it in the way that you expect. Maybe you're starting to notice some resistance. Maybe you see some people who are floundering and you might be getting frustrated and it may be easy to start blaming the person. You might be thinking they're lazy, they don't care, they're overwhelmed, they're not good, whatever that is, you might start blaming that person. You might even confront that person and then you've created more tension and conflict.

And if you've done that, I don't blame you. It's the way that we were trained to do. If a person is acting up, leadership trains us to go after that person, get rid of that person, straighten that person out. But one of the things that builders understand is that most people problems aren't really people problems. In fact, there's something else going on, something much more insidious, but also something that gives you greater control, greater flexibility, and a greater ability to actually fix things. And so today I want to talk about what that is, but before I do that, I cannot wait to tell you. I've been sitting on this for several weeks and I am terrible about keeping this secret. We just opened up this week ticket sales to builders lab three 60 you see the beginning of the year we had several builders labs planned.

In fact, we had two planned for this summer. 

One was going to be in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the other one was going to be right outside of Washington, D C and you may have heard me talk about builder's lab for the summer and then the world went into quarantine and we faced a huge decision. Do we stick around and wait and hope that quarantine gets lifted? And even if it does, do we put everybody's health at risk by hosting an event prematurely or do we cancel builder's lab altogether? And neither one of those options sat well with me because I believe now more than ever, you need what you're going to learn at builder's lab. So we did what builders do when we didn't like our options. We built a third option. And that third option is that we have designed and immersive three 60 experience that we are calling builders' lab three 60 it is three days of all of the goodness that you normally get a builder's lab, but from the comfort of your own home.

So here's how it's going to work. You still are going to need to take off work because this is a live experiences. It's not, you know, some zoom meeting where I just kind of drag you through my slides for three days straight and it's not, you know, some recording where you hear me talking in the background while you can do other things. No, you have to show up and be fully present and that's because this is going to be in an immersive and interactive experience. There's going to be teaching for me, there are going to be small group mentoring sessions. There are, there's going to be individual work where you're working on your stuff. There's going to be opportunities for you to work one on one with a Mindsteps coach.

We're going to have lunch and learns where we're going to come together, bring our lunches and learn from some amazing builders.

We are going to be having you know, sessions where I'm teaching, but not just kind of walking and looking at slides. We're going to, I'm going to be writing and you're going to be writing. And the whole idea is that in these three days, you're going to step back and take a good hard look at your school. You're going to start with your vision, mission, and core values, and those are not serving you right now. You're going to build new ones and we're going to support you in that. We're not going to be happy until you walk away with a vision, mission, and core values that excites you, that will carry you through any crisis. And then next we're going to show you how do you get your people committed. In fact, we're going to spend an entire day learning how to move the will and the skill of your staff.

We're still gonna do micro slicing for those builders, lab alumni who are worried about it. Micro slicing is still there and we've actually made it even better. And then on day three we're going to say, okay, you've gotten your people committed. You've got a vision, mission, and core values that really excite you. Now what? Now? What do you do with it? And what should you be focusing on first, you know, instead of trying to do all the things, we're going to show you how to figure out what is the biggest obstacle in your way right now from achieving your vision, mission and core values and how do you remove it and you will walk out of builder's lab with clarity around what your work should be, what your school's focus should be, how you can turn your school into a success story with the people and resources you already have. But that's not it because unlike other conferences where you go, you learn a lot, you come back and then you know life hits and stuff drops off and falls by the wayside or you're stuck because you have to figure it out on your own.

We are going to walk with you for the next 90 days. 

When you come to build your slab three 60 you will get our follow up support for the next 90 days. What does that follow up support look like? It looks like office hours where you can drop in and ask questions and get additional support, additional training and resources and masterclasses and exclusive portal for just builders where you can go in and interact with other builders and get feedback and support from your other builders and accountability check-ins to make sure that you are sticking with your plan and to help you when you get stuck.

So do you see what I mean by a three 60 experience? So if you have been wanting to come to builders lab, but you've been telling yourself, Oh, I can't get away for three days or the travel or I'm worried about that or you know, I'd like to come but I want to bring my whole team. But who's going to be back at this school now is your shot. Now you have an opportunity to attend builder's lab and get all of the goodness of builder's lab from the comfort of your own home builders lab. Three 60 ticket sales just started this week and I got to tell you, we're probably already a quarter of the way sold already to get some tickets. Sales have been open for like three days and we're probably a quarter of the way sold. And because builder's lab is, it's an intimate experience, we want to make sure that three 60 is also an intimate experience.

So we're not going to just sell thousands of tickets. 

We are probably going to limit ticket sales to what we can handle and make sure that everybody gets that personalized experience. So go ahead. If you've ever wanted to come to builder's lab before or if you have been to builders lab before, but you need a tuneup builders lab, three 60 is the answer. And to get your tickets go to Mindsteps inc com slash builders dash lab. That's mine step st com slash builders dash lab. Alright, let's talk about the challenge and I've got a mindset this isn't for you. If you are finding that you are frustrated by the people in your organization, then here it is. Don't blame people, blame the process. I mean, the thing that's a lot lately as people problems have been popping up inside of our Mindsteps popup group, people are coming into office hours and office hours.

For those of you who are not a part of the group we once a week I sit down, I dedicate some time and people can just jump into the pop up group, ask questions, get my personalized help and coaching on challenges that they're facing and we're doing it all for free. The popup group is going to be around for a few more weeks yet. So if you haven't joined the mindsets popup group, you really should. And you can just go to mindset inc com and on that home page you will see a place to join the Papa group and it's totally free. But in the pop up group lately I've been seeing a lot of people come in with people problems. Either someone doesn't have the will or the skill that they need to do something that's critical for our school to be successful and for our children to be successful. And whenever you deal with people problems. But temptation is there to blame the person or to to look at that person and say they are the problem. But one of the things that organizational psychologists have been telling us for years is that every system inside an organization gets exactly what it was designed to get. 

In other words, if your system is giving you toxic people, it's not the people, it's the system. 

Those same people, if you put them into a healthy system, would behave differently. Don't believe me, while I have a couple of examples for you, one of the schools that I worked with recently was trying to get the teachers to really create more rigor in the classroom. So they sent the teachers to rigor training and they bought the teachers rigor books and you know, they had rigor conversations and all year long they're pushing for more and more, more, more rigor.

And it just wasn't happening. And so they asked me to come in and help them figure out how to increase the rigor. And when I walked in, I immediately saw the problem. Although they'd had all this training, they had not changed the systems around how teachers plan instruction. So these administrators who were thinking these teachers are struggling and floundering or maybe they are resistant to rigor, when in fact what was going on is they had told people to shift to more rigor, but they hadn't changed the systems inside of the school. And quite frankly, the systems inside the school were very unregard. Thus, once we tweaked the system, the same teachers who weeks before, we're still giving on rigorous lessons, immediately started increasing the rigor of their lessons. We didn't change the teachers, we didn't go in and give them magical personality transplants. We changed the system and the system change the people.

You see, if you go in and you think I have a people problem, then your only solution is to change the person.

And as I told you in a previous episode, nobody likes to be changed but a baby. So if you go in and you try to change people and you think that's going to solve your problem, then I am sorry. But you are going to be disappointed. It is really hard to change people. It's extremely hard to do it. Not only that, it's very frustrating and in fact the moment you go in with the intention of trying to change somebody else and they pick up on that, they immediately start UN in a defensive stance. And that's because when you go in and try to change somebody, the underlying messages, there's something wrong with you. You are flawed. You need fixing, and I am going to fix you and immediately are react.

If a person's reaction is going to be, wait a minute, there's nothing wrong with me. How dare you? And they're going to try to protect themselves from being fixed by you. That's the underlying dynamic that's happening. Maybe people aren't saying that, but that's what's going on underground underneath the surface. So when you walk in and you think you have a people problem, when you treat people like they are the problem, you, you create resistance, you create a defensiveness, you create a bigger problem. But if you go in and you, you, you treat the people like people, like they're a valuable asset to your school and you don't try to change them, you accept them for what they are. But you build a system where they can successfully implement the desired behaviors you want and then you set them up for success and you provide them with the feedback, support, accountability and culture that they need to be successful.

You can get the behaviors you want from the same people you already have. 

And that's really important because a lot of you right now are beating your head against the wall, trying to change people, trying to drag people to your goal, trying to rest people into doing the right thing. And you're wearing yourself out and you're wearing yourself out because it's a fool's errand. You can't change people. So what do you do if you can't change people? Then some of us say, well, if I can't change anybody, then I have to get rid of them. Another falls, Aaron, you're wasting your time. You are working hard at getting rid of people and while you're doing that you are not building. So what's the solution? Because the things you want people to do are important. The things that you want people to do matter, the solution is stop wasting time trying to change people.

Look at the process that you're asking people to engage in and create a better process. You create a better process. You get the behaviors you want from the very same people. You know when I started Mindsteps, one of the things that I was really interested in was how to go into a school and achieve something really remarkable and amazing right now with the people who are already there. In fact, that's why we always say we can help you turn your school into a success story with the people you already have. Too many of us have our vision, mission and core values held hostage by people because we are focusing on the wrong thing. I don't care who is in my organization, I don't care. It doesn't matter. What matters is that if you have a strong vision, mission and core values and you can create an environment where everybody understands them and buys into them, it doesn't matter who the people are, it doesn't matter how they behave because what you do is you set up systems so that everybody inside of your organization can successfully implement the right behaviors.

You make the right behaviors easy. 

You make the right behaviors the default, and when you do that, people shift and you haven't changed them a bit. You see it. It goes to this basic kind of human thing, which is that most human beings choose the path of least resistance. If the right thing is the default thing, then you're more likely to get it out of people, but at the wrong behaviors have somehow become the default. Then you can try all day trying to change people. People are going to choose the path of least resistance. If what you are asking them to do is harder than doing the wrong thing, good luck. Not going to happen. Stop trying to change people. Instead, look at your process. I'll tell you another story. At school I was working with, they were trying to go to a full middle school model.

They wanted everybody working on teams. They wanted those teams to be focusing on keeping all kids safe and making sure that none of the kids fell through the cracks. Well, they started this process and they immediately got frustrated because in the team meetings the teachers would sit around and they would just kind of complain about the same three or four kids because those three or four kids were kind of the biggest headaches for that team. And so every team meeting, instead of talking about all the kids, they just talked about the same three or four kids over and over and over again. And they would try to encourage them, we need to talk about all kids. Maybe for a couple of weeks they'd throw on a few more kids, but then they were bright back to those things. Same three or four kids and the team meetings were turning into quite fast.

The team meetings were becoming more and more negative and toxic, and so the administration was just at their wit's end. 

They were like, you know these teachers, they're so toxic. All they do is complain about kids. We're here to help kids. You know the drill. We, we have all done it. And so they started doing that and I said, well listen, let's look at, instead of trying to change the people, let's look at the process. And we did and we said let's create a new agenda. And so instead of an agenda that just had, okay, let's talk about kids, we picked 20 kids from the team roster and all we did is just go alphabetically. So 20 kids, the next 20 kids. Then the next one he gets, and we just pick 20 kids every single week. And we sat down with those 20 kids and everybody on the team had to come prepare to talk about those 20 kids.

We would send their names out ahead of time. We'd go around for one team member to the next. So we'd say Susie Jones. And then each team here would say how that is doing, Susie Jones is doing in their classroom. And we found that when we did this, we could catch a lot of kids before they started to truly flounder and we can intervene with kids very quickly. What was also nice is that every marking period, we can honestly say that we had gone through and talked about every single child on our team at least twice. It made the team more effective. It helped us catch kids who were kind of slipping through the cracks. It helped turn the tone of the team meeting from one where everybody was complaining about kids to one where everybody was rolling up their sleeves and working on behalf of kids.

We did not change the team. 

They were the same people who were in that meeting a week before, but when we changed the process, we got entirely different behaviors. Out of those same people, you have to believe it's a builder that you can achieve something extraordinary with your staff, the one you have right now. Otherwise, your dreams, your vision for your school are always going to be held hostage by that one person who just won't get on board. Is that what you really want? Do you really want to wait until that person gets on board before you can get started? I think things are too urgent. You can't afford to wait. You've got to get moving right now. So how do you do that? You don't blame people. You blame the process if your people are not giving you the behaviors that you want. It's typically because the processes that you currently have in place are delivering exactly what those processes were designed to deliver.

You want different behavior, get a better process. Don't blame the people, blame the process and in fact that's my challenge to you this week. One of the things that we've been doing a lot inside of the popup group and we've been doing a couple of additional trainings for people, is showing people how they can put processes in place to get the behaviors that they want out of people to create a healthy culture, to overcome personality quirks and and people frustrations. And it's working y'all. I mean people are really starting to see the power of this and if you could believe that, if you could believe that you can get dramatic behavior change without changing the people in your school, all of a sudden the possibilities open up. As long as you are focused on the person and you think that the person is what's in your way, you will be stuck because you're going to say, I can't do anything until this person moves.

Do you really want to be held hostage by somebody who is bringing toxic behavior to your school? 

Do you really want to be held hostage by people who are not invested in your vision, mission and core values? Is that what you really want to do because there is a better alternative and that alternative is changed? The process. Just this week we have been working with some principals on putting processes in place, systems in place to not only kind of get the things that they want done done every single day to make them more productive, but also putting systems in place that are actually strengthening their school that are actually helping everybody in their school do the right work the right way and we had one principal and teachers were resistant to that principal dropping in on their online classrooms. The teachers did not want feedback from the principal and we gave her a feedback process.

We, we realigned our feedback process. We involved the teachers in designing a better feedback process and now that principal is welcomed into classrooms that two weeks ago she was shunned. That principal is now able to give people feedback without people getting all upset and hurt. Their feelings are hurt. In fact, people are welcoming her feedback. Same people, new process. Don't blame people, blame the process if somebody feels like they are in your way, find a better process.

If somebody is not being successful, look at the process and improve the process. 

If work is not getting done, stop blaming people, give them a better process. You do that and nothing will stand in your way. You do that and all of a sudden you have way more control over what happens for your school. You can't control people, but you certainly can control process. Don't blame people. Blame the process, improve the process and improve your school like a builder. That's it for this week. I will be back with you next week. Don't forget about those builders lab tickets. I'm telling you all this is going to be unlike anything you've ever experienced before and we are working very hard to make it an amazing experience for you. So to get your tickets to builders lab, go to Mindsteps inc com slash builders dash lab. That's mindset sink.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/

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