“I Can’t Deal With That Right Now”


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You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 88. 

How do builders like us make a dramatic difference in the lives of our students in spite of all the obstacles we face? How do you keep your vision for your school from being held hostage by resistant teachers, uncooperative parents, ridiculous district policies or lack of time, money or resources. If you're facing those challenges right now, here's where you'll find the answers, strategies and actionable tips you need to overcome any obstacle you faith. You don't have to wait to make a difference in the lives of the people you serve. You can turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Let's get started.

Hey Builders,

Welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robin Jackson. And today, I want you to imagine with me a specific scenario, I want you to imagine a principal of a school trying to survive in the middle of a global pandemic. And in the middle of quarantines and in the middle of virtual learning spaces. And right now, the his teachers are overwhelmed. They've been teaching, it's almost the end of the year, and the teachers are just burned out. Not only that, they're very frustrated, because the school district has gone back and forth about whether we're going to do in person learning or out of school learning that the teachers really want to be in front of their kids, they can't wait to quote unquote, get back to normal. Some teachers are very scared to be in front of the kids. So there's conflicts happening within the staff about whether or not we should be back face to face or whether or not for safety reasons, we should remain in virtual learning environments. Maybe you have a hybrid model where kids are coming some days and not other days, you are trying to get parents on board, you're trying to get kids to show up, you are struggling to just kind of maintain, you know, just the regular school setting and trying to still accomplish something for your students this year. Right?

Imagine this principal has a vision. 

He's very clear about his vision. He knows exactly what he wants to do for school. But right now he feels like nobody has the bandwidth to really achieve that vision. Or to think about it. Everybody's too busy battling all the other challenges like how do we get kids online every day? Or how do we manage technology glitches? Or how do I manage my own stress? Because the virus and the pandemic is causing people, you know, stress in their personal lives, not just with regard to school? So the principal has to make a decision? Does he continue to push and stick with his vision? Or does he set his vision aside for now? and focus on teacher wellness and self care? Does the principal continue to align the work around the vision? Or does the principal let up a little bit? You know, relax, not worry about the vision right now and just worry about getting through the year. So we're gonna talk about that dilemma in just a second.

But before we do, I want to talk to you about builders lab first, because the next builders lab is coming up January 2020, we're actually going to be meeting January 25 to 27th. And we do. It's crazy, because we are planning for that builders lab. And I am so excited. We had our first virtual builders lab this summer. And it was such a huge success that we're repeating it for January, we're calling it the builders lap, the 360 degree experience. And this is not just three days in a zoom meeting, I know people are just zoomed out right now. So don't worry, this is not that we do use zoom as a platform. But we built a studio, we bought a new technology. So we've made that zoom meeting so much more interactive. It's not even a zoom meeting more. It's a really a 360 degree experience. Not only that, but we have worked on we've taken some feedback from the summer, we've worked on tightening up the schedule a little bit, you're just going to love this schedule, you have so much time to really think about your school year. So it's time to kind of step away from all the chaos of the day to day to really get refocused on what's important. And January is a great time to come to build a slab because you have a year under your belt.

There's so much uncertainty ahead. 

It gives you time to get settled to get refocused and to start figuring out what you're going to do to make sure that you finish the school year strong. Now, the thing that I was giggling about just a second ago was that we had a call today as a matter of fact with someone that we are partnering with for something that we're putting inside of the builders box. So when you come to builders lab, because it's a 360 degree experience, it's not just all virtual, we send you a huge amount box. And that box has all the materials it has, you know, a couple of fun things in there as well. And we just worked out this new thing that we're putting in the box that I'm so excited about, I want to tell you about but I can't let, you'll just have to find that when you come to builders lab, but we just are being very intentional and thoughtful about the entire experience, not just the content, but how you go through the content, how you experience the content, we've made it so that you're connecting with other people, if you come as a team, we're setting it up. So you and your team have plenty of time to strategize. And we want to make sure that you have access to me. So we are not doing 300 400,000 people at builders lab, we keep it around, you know, 30 5070 people who come to builders lab, and that means that you get one on one support with me.

Not only that, but we have a team available of coaches. So you can schedule your own private coaching session with one of our coaches during builders lab 360. If you get stuck, there's time to ask me questions there. It's very interactive experience. I'm not just dragging you through my slides. And when you walk out a builder's lab, you have the clarity that you need to pursue an ambitious vision and achieve it. We help you figure out what is the big thing standing in the way of your moving your school for this year. What is your big barrier, and hint, it's not the pandemic, it's not virtual teaching, it's not kid showing up, there's something else underneath. And we help you uncover what that is what's really causing all of that. And then we help you develop a plan to solve that once and for all in the next 90 days. But that's not it. Because after you come to build your slab, you spend three days with us in builders lab, we spend three months with you after builders lab, helping you actually make your 90 day plan work helping you work through the challenges that you face. When you get back to school, we're not abandoning you, you actually have our support throughout that 90 days so that you have a success story to tell at the end of that 90 days. I could go on and on about builders lab. But do me a favor, just go to mind steps inc.com slash builders dash lab, and you could read more about the experience and you can also get your tickets at mindset sync.com slash builder's dash lab. All right, second announcement. This is so cool, too.

The pop-up group has popped up again. 

So back in March, right when we all went into quarantine, I started a free pop up group for people who are builders just like you who are in the mindsets world to give you free training and support and coaching to help you navigate the the the pandemic crisis and help make sure that your school would be okay. We did that throughout this spring and people just loved it. And then we close it down because it was a pop up. We weren't gonna be here forever. But I missed you guys so much that we have popped up again, and we decided to make the pop up group just that it will pop up from time to time and I'll get in there I'll provide free training and resources and community for builders just like you and so the pop up group has popped up again, if you've already been a member of the pop up group, go back and see what else we have going on. If you are not a member of the pop up group, you can go to mindset sync.com, that's mind steps inc.com. And on the homepage will be a pop up about the pop up group. And you can just click on that and sign up for the pop up group, we will probably keep the pop up group going until January and then we'll you know kind of put it on sleep mode for a few months. And then who knows when it'll pop up again. So if you are not a member of the mindsets pop up group, you need to be a member.

Just last week, we did our very famous vision training that is everybody's favorite training. And we even talk every time I try to kind of stop it people get upset. So we do that frequently. So we did a vision workshop. And then we did a special training on how to help everybody in your school stay accountable even in a virtual environment. The week before that we talked about giving teachers feedback in a virtual environment. this coming week, we're going to be talking about how do you set yourself up for success in 2021, I'm going to be giving you a five step process. And then we're also going to have an Ask me anything coaching session where you come on during the hour that I'm on. And you ask anything about any challenge that you're facing your school and you get personalized feedback and support. And not only that you can hang out listen to other people's questions too. So we're going to be doing that next week. So if you're not a member of the pop up group, go to mindset sync.com and join the pop up group.

Now, let's get back to our scenario. 

This principle that I'm talking to you about even I'm saying it's this principle, and it's an imaginary principle. A lot of principals I'm working with right now are dealing with just this dilemma. They have a vision for their school, there's something they want to do for their school, but this year with the pandemic and virtual learning. their teachers are so stressed out. They're so burned out the principles are so burned out that they are starting to wonder whether or not now is the right time and they're starting to say I can't deal with Right now what I talked to them about their vision, they're saying, I can't deal with that right now. Now, a hardcore builder knows that you don't ever say that about your vision that you're always pushing forward. But can you really blame these principles for feeling this way? I can't deal with that right now. Because there's so much else going on. Well, actually, you can't blame these principles, because what they're experiencing right now is totally natural. It is a human phenomenon that Reacher researchers have been looking at for years. And researchers call this thing tunneling. And tunneling is this idea that researchers have found that when people experience scarcity, whether that's scarcity of money, or time, or resources, or bandwidth, that the the people can't deal with the big problems, they can only do what's right in front of them, hence, the name tunneling. It's almost like, the more scarcity, you experience of time and energy and resources and money, the more it's like you're putting blinders on, and you cannot see everything around you, the only thing you can do is deal with what's in front of you.

When that happens, it's not that the big problems proud out the little problems, it's that the little problems, keep us so focused on what's right in front of us what's the most urgent that we oftentimes don't deal with the bigger problems. And when you do that, you always get trapped into this cycle of putting out fires and, and, and, and, and dealing with things in the immediate, the urgent and never actually solving problems once and for all. But you've heard me say this before, builders see themselves not as problem solvers, right? We're not looking to solve problems. You know, that's how leaders think about it. Your job is to solve problems. And maybe you bought into that to that your job is to solve problems. No, that's not your job. A builders job is not to solve problems, a builders job is to prevent problems. And you can't do that when you're tunneling. Problem is, with everything going on in the world right now. Many of us are tunneling I fell victim of this too, you know, when when the when the pandemic first started, and, and we couldn't travel anymore, which meant that in a lot of my business went out the window, because I can no longer travel, I got into this tunnel mode of how we're going to make payroll and how we're going to and I just started solving the problems that right, were right in front of me. And it wasn't until we all in my entire team took a step back. We said, Look, we can't do this, we have to be strategic, we can't just be reactive. And we took a step back, we took a retreat, and we said, okay, how do we get out of problem solving and get into problem prevention? What are real problems? And what just feel like real problems right now? What can we do to make sure that we're going to be okay, not just in the short term, but in the long term. And when we did that, we were able to come up with things that that we hadn't even imagined before.

It transformed the way we do work. 

It's made us so much more effective in serving our clients. So when we look back on this pandemic, we're not going to say, Wow, we made it through, we survived it, we're going to be saying, this was a huge inflection point that allowed us to pivot to be even better, not just during the pandemic, but while into the other side. How many of you can say that about your schools? How many of you right now are in the problem solving mode? How many of you are tunneling, and you're just swatting at the problems that come at you the most immediate problem dealing with the urgent stuff every single day, but not laying the groundwork for long term success? You see, it's not just as simple as I can't deal with that right now. Because when you do that, when you make that very short term decision, it has long term consequences. Sure, in the immediate instance, what you're really doing is kind of kicking the can down the road, right? But it's almost like when you do that you're taking out a payday loan against your future. You know, payday loans are when you need the money right away. And so you borrow the money at some exorbitant interest, because you need the money right away. And you haven't solved the problem. You sure you solve the immediate problem, you have the money right away to do what you need to do. But you've created a long term problem, because when you have to pay that money back now you have to come up with even more money because of the exorbitant interest.

Well, when you stop and take your eyes off of your vision and get into tunneling, where you're just kind of swatting at problems. It's the same thing. Sure, you're dealing with these immediate problems, but you're just kicking the can down the road, you're just delaying the inevitable implosion of all that you're trying to build. And you are are putting off when you put off for tomorrow, what you really should be dealing with today. That stuff snowballs, it doesn't stay the same. It's not going to be the same problem tomorrow, it's going to be worse. And now you've created even more work for yourself. Sure, you've got that immediate, you know, kind of payoff. I don't have to deal with it right now. But you will have to do Deal with it. So, if you don't deal with it now, it just snowballs. If you do deal with it now and eliminate it for good, you never have to deal with it again. And so we have to shift our thinking, you know, we were trained as leaders Listen, you will you deal with the problems, we are rewarded for dealing with problems in the immediate sense.

Builders are not superheroes.

Leaders kind of glorify the feeling of being a superhero. Listen to some of the stories that leaders tell, right? They talk about how they walked into to the school, and it was a mess, and they turned it around, and how, you know, this challenge came up, and they solved it, and they save the day. And saving the day feels really good. I mean, we there's a huge payoff in saving the day. And a lot of times leaders pride themselves in solving problems quickly and being resourceful and working around the system in order to be able to serve kids. And that's great, but it's very gratifying. But it's also very exhausting. And you get trapped into this cycle of always having to put on your cape and be the hero. Now I get it. Like I said, there's a huge emotional payoff for that I often fall into the trap myself, everybody loves feeling like a superhero. And they don't make movies about people who prevent problems. They make movies about people who solve problems, look at look at the movies about educators that we love to watch, or we'd love to laugh at it but secretly in our hearts wish that could be our story. We those movies are about people who never fix the system, they they fight the system, they they work around the system, they they they achieve in spite of the system, but they never fix the system. Because that's not a cool movie, that if there's no problem, if there's no antagonism going on, then there's no fun in the movie, there's no emotional payoff in the movie. So they're never going to make a movie about a builder, who is just taking time and stepping back. Looking at the situation, finding the real root problem, solving that problem before becomes a huge problem and preventing it from ever derailing them from their vision, mission and core values. There's no movie, there's no drama, and all of that. But that's the point, isn't it, there's no drama in all of that.

Instead, you're just making steady progress towards your goals. So we got to get out of the superhero trap, we've got to, we got to stop saying I can't deal with that right now. And then when it becomes as big issue, we throw on our cape, and then we save the day, hopefully, we never have to do that in the first place. And if we had just dealt with it, it never would have been a problem, we could retire our capes, and instead, go home, have dinner with our kids, pursue our hobbies, travel, take time off, you know, live till you're 100 because you're not creating all this stress that's creating all these health issues for you. Enjoy your work. Again, not sexy, not a not something they're going to create a movie about. But way more rewarding, because you're actually seeing consistent progress, you're actually seeing reliable and predictable success for your school. So we got to get out of tunneling, right, we have to stop being professional problem solvers and become professional problem preventers. Because the immediate cost of putting something off mate may seem to justify it, you know, like I don't have to deal with that right now is so much other stuff, our teachers are really stressed out, we really should be focusing on their self care. But when you do that, even though it winds you points, it makes you the popular principle, all you know, you're so great. a year from now your school is no better off a year from now, your school has not made any progress. And you want to know what feels demoralizing to go through all of that stress and not have anything to show for it.

When it comes to Builders, their teachers are stressed out too. 

For builders, their teachers are are frustrated too. But with builders, their teachers, their teachers self care, it's not just about you know, sending them bath bombs and, and you know, giving them the Friday off from their PLC meetings. Their self care is we're doing work that's really important. We're starting to see progress with that work. We are achieving our vision in spite of everything that's going on. And we're not letting this pandemic deter us from the very important work that we are supposed to be doing with our students. That's their self care. That's how they're taking care of their teachers. They're taking care of their teachers, by giving their teachers something that means something you know why teachers are frustrated right now? Because they feel like they're working really hard and they're not seeing any progress. You know why they're overwhelmed right now because they don't have a way to predictably and reliably increase student achievement or reach their students or connect with their students. And your your your soothing of them. is not going to solve the root problem. The builders who are not talking to me about teacher stress and burnout, they're not talking to me about it not because teachers don't have some form of stress. We're all stressed out right now. But they're not talking about it. Because it's not the main issue. The main issue is, how are we going to achieve our vision? How are we going to achieve our mission and live that out every single day? How are we going to live out and align our work to our core values under these circumstances? That's the problem that they're working on. They're not saying I can't deal with that right now.

They're not kicking that can down the road. They're not taking a payday loan out on their students futures. Know, they are dealing with the most important work right now. And they are seeing progress. their teachers aren't as burned out. Why? Because the teachers aren't doing work that's meaningless. The teachers are doing work and seeing progress. The teachers aren't as stressed out as other teachers. Why? Because they're not being asked to do things that don't make any sense. And they're not being told that, oh, you know, this was important last week, but you're really stressed out. So don't worry about doing that really important thing. You just hang out over here until you feel better. It's a fool's errand. But we often get stuck in that because we're tunneling. It's not just that I see this at the district level where districts are saying, Yeah, we want to move our school for but the pandemic and then to give me this knowing look like I'm supposed to understand, but I know too many districts who are making progress in spite of the pandemic. They're positioning themselves now so that when they come out, not only are they going to survive the pandemic, but when they come out of this on the other side, they're going to be better. When you say, I can't deal with that right now. 

My basic question is, If not now, when?

And what happens? If you put it off? What happens if you delay it? You see, if you can't prevent problems, if you don't start thinking about your work as problem preventer, then you're doomed to stay in an endless cycle of reacting to problems, but never really solving them. So you got to get out of the tunnel. And there's a very simple way to get out of the tunnel, even though it feels very unnatural, right? How do you escape the tunnel, you've got to step away from the day to day and give yourself time and space to focus on eliminating your problems for good. You need, you need time to emerge from this tunnel, and focus on removing problems rather than staying in the tunnel and continually swatting away at problems, but never really solving anything. But here's the deal. escaping the tunnel never happens naturally. But you have to be intentional about recognizing that you're in the tunnel and getting out of it. Because quite frankly, when you're in the tunnel, everything feels urgent, because you're only looking at what's right in front of you, you're only dealing with what's what's right in front of you, you're not, you know, taking a step back to kind of look at the bigger picture. And you don't even feel like you have time to do it. So it's not going to be natural, you have to be intentional, you're not going to just at the end of the day, say hey, you know, that was tough. Let me go ahead and step outside the tunnel and be proactive. Now, it doesn't happen that way unless you are intentional about it happening that way. And the reason that is is because there's always going to be something, there's always going to be something that's going to demand your time and your attention. There's always going to be something that feels urgent.

It's an act of bravery to step away from this thing that feels life and death to take a step back and realize, wait a minute, why are we dealing with this problem? What can we do to solve it? What can we do so we never have to deal with this problem again. So you have to be intentional about stepping outside of the tunnel, you have to be intentional about stepping away from your day to day work of solving problems. So you can do the real work of making sure that you never have to deal with that particular problem again, but when your attentions, always what's on, right on what's right in front of you, you never stopped to question whether you're going in the right direction in the first place. You just stay stuck in a tunnel that may be leading you nowhere. So you got to be intentional.

Now is a good time of the year to be intentional. 

We're heading into a break. A lot of people are saying I need a break. And I'm just gonna just take some time away from everything and step away from everything and I'm not gonna deal with work. And maybe you need that. I'm not saying that you don't need that. But if you are not intentionally using some time to step away from everything the day to day your life to really kind of take a broader look at your organization, then you're going to come back to work after your break. And you're going to be right where you started. Now am I saying give up your break and lock yourself in your basement so that you can figure out how to solve problems. I mean, that works for some people and for some people, you really need to take a break. But when you get back to work, you don't just go back to business as usual. When you go back to work, refresh and recharge. You should take a day and step away from this day to day work of your job. And look at what you've dealt with for the year, take some stock, go through that work and figure out what is the most important thing? And how do I prevent more problems from impeding our work in the new year? So you need to take some time when I said a day, some of you were just like, Oh, I can't take away a day, I have so much work to do. Yeah, I mean, you're always gonna have work to do. I mean, if it were up to me, you take three days.

If it were up to me, you would just come to builders lab because that's what builders lab does. We are the the tunnel killers. At builders lab you come and we help you get out of that tunnel, we help you take a step back, we help you figure out of all the things that you're facing What are urgent, what are really just what are the ones that are really important. And let's figure out which one is the most important thing that you should be doing right now? And how do you solve that problem once and for all and prevented from ever showing up again, that's what your 90 day plan does. So were up to me, you kind of build a slab. But this is not a builder's lap commercial. So I'm just telling you that if you're not coming in doing it a builders lab where you have a structure and a safe place, and support and coaching to help you kind of step outside the tunnel, and really figure out what's the right work to do, then you need to do it on your own. You need to take a couple of days you your admin team, step aside, take a broad look at the work you've done so far the work that's ahead of you get refocused on your vision, your mission and your core values, and then figure out how do we get out of the process of solving problems and get into the process of preventing problems in the first place? And then you need to pick a problem and figure out how do we this is a problem that is continuing to plague us it's keeping us away from achieving our vision, mission and core values. How do we prevent it so that we never have to deal with this problem again, see, if you stay stuck in a tunnel, then you're always going to have to deal with problems. And if you're okay with that, if if you're happy with if you get some sort of emotional gratification out of you know, being the problem solver, then you know, do you but understand that you're never going to move your school to where it needs to be, as long as you're stuck in the tunnel, and you're just solving whatever problem is right in front of you. Sure you get to wear the cape, you get to be the superhero. But you're not wanting to transform schools. And and you have to think about that you have to think about get beyond wanting to be the superhero, and realize that often we play the superhero at the expense of our students success.

I'm Just gonna say it plain and it may sound harsh, but I think we need to hear it. 

If you are more invested in being the superhero being the the one who comes in and saves the day and solves the problem, then you have to realize you're doing it at the expense of your students. Because if you have to rescue them from a problem, it means there's a problem that exists that threatens them, it means that they are constantly in a state of being threatened by something that you could have prevented in the first place. Also that you get to wear the cape. It's a leadership paradigm that that paradigm is flawed at its core. You have to know the real superheroes are. They're unsung. They're the ones who are consistently trying to figure out, what do I need to do to make success happen for my kids? What do I need to make it happen for every one of my students? When they see a problem, they're not just going in and rushing in and putting on their cape and saving the day. They're saying, Wait a minute, why is probably even happening? They do the work of trying to figure out what's causing this problem? What's the root of this problem? And how do I eliminate it? How do I how do I nip it in the bud at the root so that it never threatens my students again, they may not make a movie about you for doing that.

Your students lives are going to be better because you chose the route of a builder. And you chose to become a problem preventer and you chose to step outside of the tunnel and stop solving problems and prevent those problems from ever happening again. So what do you ask yourself this week? Are you stuck in a tunnel? Are you spending all of your time solving problems one after the other? Are the little things that may feel urgent but in the grand scheme of things, they are little things? Are they distracting you from focusing on the things that are are bigger, more important, more lasting? And if the answer is yes, then I invite you to step outside the tunnel. Take some time away and really think about what's happening. Trace that symptom of a problem down to its root and eliminate that root one Once and for all, so you never have to deal with that problem again. That's how you approach your work every single day and make a difference, like a Builder.

That's if for today. I'll talk to you next time. 

Hey, If you're ready to get started being a builder right away, then I want to invite you to join us at builder ship University. It's our exclusive online community for builders just like you where you'll be able to get the exact training that you need to turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Inside you'll find our best online courses, live trainings with me tons of resources, templates and exemplars and monthly live offers. office hours with me where you can ask me anything and get my help on whatever challenge you're facing right now. If you're tired of hitting obstacle after obstacle and you're sick of tiny little incremental gains each year, if you're ready to make a dramatic difference in your school right now, then you need to join Buildership University. Just go to buildershipuniversity.com and get started writing your school success story today.

I'll see you then!

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.