How to Keep District Mandates
from Derailing Your Plans


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You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 93. 

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, Robyn Jackson. And today we are going to continue our series on boss leader builder. And we're going to talk about the difference between the way that bosses, leaders and builders deal with the unexpected, and deal with all the mandates that they may be facing and how shifting the way that you deal with these mandates and deal with the unexpected could save you and your staff a lot of stress and set your school up to be better regardless of what happens. It's almost like when you start to make the shift from boss leader to builder and the way that you respond to things. You know, you you future proof you crisis proof, I should say your school. So we're gonna be talking about that today on this episode. But before we do, I want to talk to you about a couple of things that are going on right now. So one is the book is coming out any day. Now I've talked to the publisher, and it looks like next week is the day that the book drops, they don't have an exact date yet, with everything else going on right now snow pandemic, you know, things have gotten pushed back a couple of weeks. But I cannot wait for you to get this book into your hands. So I will let you know as soon as the book is out. 

We are all on pins and needles. 

I have also been shooting a mini Class A mini course to go along with the book so that as you're reading the book, you can also take the mini course and it just kind of goes a little bit deeper into the model that I'm sharing with you in the book. So that's going to be how by the time the book comes, we've got just a lot of cool things happening. We're working on a new quiz. That's all I can tell you right now. But maybe next time or the time after Next, I'll tell you a little bit more about the quiz and how you can go and take that quiz. So we've got a lot of stuff going on here at mind steps right now, the other thing I want to remind you about is that we are already making plans for builders lab 2021. And we are going to be doing another 360 degree experience. And so that means that you don't have to worry about traveling or you know, will we be able to travel then or will we not be able to travel then we have decided it's been working so well that we're just going to stick with the 360 degree experience. And so that's happening on June 28, through June 30 2021. And you can go ahead and get your tickets already. So Mark your calendars get ready for that if you haven't ever been to builders lab, you need to come to builders lab it is it's so I mean, it's probably my favorite thing to do. It's exhausting for us. It really is. But my team and I were kind of reflecting on the last builders lab that we just had and the level of engagement. It was just incredible.

Someone was trying to decide if they're going to come to builders lab and they said, You know, I went to an online conference and online learning is not for me. And I get that because I went to an online conference a couple weeks ago. And if that's what you're thinking and online conferences, then I get it. Because, you know, everything was kind of pre recorded. And you know, you just kind of sat and got sat and can listen to me and try to make it rhyme whether it runs or not. It's sit and get. And so yeah, I can see why online learning would not be for you. But that's not what builders love is. So builders lab, it's highly interactive, we have built out an entirely new studio, that allows me to see each and every one of you. So we keep it small. It's not hundreds of people there. It's you know, a very small group of people. So you can stop me and say, Hey, Robyn, wait a minute, can you go back a slide? Hey, Robyn, can you stop a second? I have a question. What do you mean by this? What do you mean by the other? And then I'm looking at you, if you look like you're stuck, then I stop and I say hey, you know, what's the what question do you have? And I try to get to your question.

Builder's Lab is very interactive, and because we wanted it to be a 360 degree experience, we send you the builder's box.

The Builders Box is the coolest thing. It's like one of our favorite things to source. We always put cool surprises in there. So every day you're opening up something New, and that add to the experience. And we want to make sure that all of your senses are kind of stimulated during our time together. And you know, what's been really weird is that we, we have a really cool playlist that we play over the breaks. And we do some lunch and learn things over the breaks. And people are like, they love the playlist, they want to play it. So I mean, we really do work to make sure that you are stimulated in all of your senses, and that it feels not like you're sitting in front of a screen all day, but it's so interactive, it You're so engaged and involved, the day just goes by. so quickly, we look up at the end of the day, we're like, Wow, I can't believe that it's already time for us to go. And we can't wait to get back to get the next day. Anyway, if you want to have that experience. And when you come to builders lab, the beautiful part about it is you get to really spend three days intensively looking at your school, we start out with an assessment that helps you figure out where your school is right now, and what your success path needs to look like so that you can reach and achieve your success story in the next three years with the people and resources you already have. And we take you through the entire process and you leave builders lab with a builder's blueprint, which tells you of all the things that you could be doing right now here is the most important thing for you to do right now. So that you can see results in the next 90 days. And so you can go back to your school and get started right away and see results within three months.

So the beautiful part about doing builders lab in a summer is this is a great time for you to come or even bring your entire team. And then you can think about how do you set this school year up to be successful? And how do you put things in place in June, so that by the end of September, you're already experiencing a some sort of success event. And so all you need to do to get your tickets is go to mindset slash builders dash lab. Okay, I think that's it for the announcements. Oh, one more build a ship University is coming up. And we'll be opening up enrollment for this cohort in a couple of weeks. So get ready for that. And the pop up group is winding down. So we are going to be closing down the pop up group at the end of February now will pop up again in a few months. That's why we call it the pop up group because it's not as consistent group but will pop up again in a few months. And then we'll you know, close it down again. But you want to be there. So you know when the pop up group is doing is active. So go to mind steps And you'll see on the page, the pop up group so that you can join the pop up group there. So I think that's it for the announcements.

Let's dive in today to the difference between Boss, Leader and Builder. 

Okay, so today, let's talk about the difference between the way bosses, leaders and builders deal with the unexpected deal with that mandate that comes down from the district or the state or deal with things that that happen where you automatically have to change course or do something different. So the way that bosses deal with that is that they always react. So the state says we're opening schools up earlier than than anticipated or the state says we're going to have a new grading and reporting policy or the district says, Okay, we're going to change your master schedule or whatever happens, that bosses react, they're, oh, my goodness, I can't believe we're doing this again, they don't care about us don't they understand. And so they just have a very emotional reaction. And that emotional reaction, it prevents them from moving their school forward. Anything they do, they're going to do grudgingly or they're going to do it, you know, it's going to be tainted by their emotion, their ability to make the decisions, in response to what's happening are going to be tainted by those emotions. So you don't want to be a boss. And you don't want to handle these things like a boss. Because when you react, you handicap your ability to kind of be forward thinking and figure out how your school is going to thrive in spite up. Now, leaders do things a little different. We know for the most part we've been trained, don't react, reacting, it's counterproductive. So what leaders pride themselves in doing is I don't react, I respond.

So we get a mandate from the state. We're going back to school in a couple of weeks for in person learning for everybody. We're changing the master schedule, we are changing the grading and reporting policy, something happens and the leader say okay, now I need to manage my response. So the moment that those mandates come down the pike, they immediately jump into gear and try to figure out okay, we're opening up in a couple of weeks Do we have everything that we need? Do we have we thought through how we're going to staff people and anyone who's not going to come back for health reasons Do we know Do we have enough subs and they immediately go into work mode with trying to figure out okay, this thing is coming. What do we do about it? And so it always feels like you are putting out a fire, and every announcement that happens, because you are trying to be responsive. Once it happens, that announcement dictates your agenda, that announcement can take your attention away from your vision, your mission, your core values, that that new mandate, then dictates how you run your school going forward. So it almost feels as if you don't have a lot of control. Because, you know, a lot of times I'll hear leaders say things like, Well, I'd like to pursue my vision, but the district or I'd like to pursue this, this this ideal for all of my students, but the parents are but the students. And so when you are in a mode of being responsive, you you're not reacting, you're not getting all emotional, but you are still being controlled by the circumstances that you face, you feel like you don't have another choice. And so the only power you have is that I can you know, I can't control what happens, I can only control my response, we tell ourselves that. And so we feel like the only way that we can exert any control is to say, Okay, now that this is happening, how do I make sure that my staff is okay, how do I make sure that we can survive this, and we put a lot of stock into being responsive, because we feel like that's the mature choice, we feel like, that's the only choice we have?

Builders are not going to react. 

Builders don't also put much doc and being responsive. Because being responsive means by definition, that if something happens, I must respond to it. And if I have to respond to something else that's outside of my control, then somebody else's agenda controls what I do. Somebody else's agenda controls what I focus on with my school. Now, a lot of people are saying, Robin, that is so cute, I would love to be that way. But my district requires but my district says we have to but the state says, and I get that. And so I'm not saying that builders ignore that and say we're going to do whatever we want Anyway, you do work as a part of a system, you are a part of a state we you know, if you have a private school, then the governing board takes it takes precedence. So whoever the school is, it often seems at schools that we don't have a lot of autonomy, that we have to do what our governing boards tell us to do. And so while it may, you've while we may not agree with it, while we may not want to be responsive, being responsive is the only choice we have, except for builders know that that's not true. Because the builders aren't reacting, they're not being responsive. What builders do is they anticipate Now, that doesn't mean that we're you know, clairvoyant that we can see into the future. But what builders do is when something happens, they don't react or respond because somebody else is driving your agenda. Instead, they take that information, okay, we're going back to school in a couple of weeks. And they anticipate how that might affect their work towards their vision. And they adjust based on their vision, not based on the mandate. If the state says, Okay, we're going to do something different, or they change the grading reporting policy, they don't just respond and try to help everybody get through it. And you know, it's not helpless.

We don't have a choice, what builders do is they say, Okay, here's where the state is headed. Here's where the district is headed. Here's where our governing board is headed. Now, how do I anticipate the challenges that might present to our pursuit of our vision? And how do I mitigate those challenges so that it doesn't take us off r squared, so it doesn't take our focus off of our vision. I'll give you a couple of concrete examples so that you can see how that works. So some some of our builders that we're working with right now in builder ship University, got word from their state that they were going to mandate that all districts go back to school. And honestly, they before we kind of went back and said, Okay, let's get out of leadership. Let's get out of being a boss. And let's get into builder ship. Some of them had reactions. And some of them were hearing the the mandates, and they they immediately went into responsive mode. So they immediately start thinking about Okay, so what do I need to do with this? And how will I help my teachers do that out? And so they started kind of reacting and responding. And when they came to office hours, and they were talking about it, we started talking about, okay, you can react, you can respond, but let's start anticipating, what's your vision? Because right now, you're not talking about your vision, you're talking about how are we going to cover classrooms for teachers who aren't going to show up? What how are we going to help our teachers adjust because now we're going to hybrid? So they were immediately getting into that responsiveness and we have to take a step back, pull out our builders blueprints and say, Okay, what is it that we said we're going to be working on right now? Now listen, to dissipate what this might look like under these new circumstances, and let's do things to make sure that the work still gets done. And so instead of responding and worrying about subs and things like that, we started thinking about, okay, we still want to hit this milestone, this goal in the next 90 days.

So what do we need to do? How do we anticipate the impact that this is going to have on our plans? 

Then, what do we need to do to adjust our plan so that we can still reach our goal at the end of 90 days? Do you see the difference? It's a subtle difference, but it makes all the difference in the world. When you are reacting or responding, you are in a passive position, you've taken a passive stance, you are the victim of your circumstances. But when you are anticipating, you're always looking forward and your eye stays on your vision. You feel very empowered, because you're not saying oh, no, what do we do? And you're not saying, Okay, wait a minute, how do I need to get something straight, because this new thing has come on, and it's taken your eye off your goal. Instead, your eyes stay steadily on your goal. I'll give you another example. I think I've talked about this before. When I was still in the school district, the school district decided to change our grading reporting policy, and everybody across the district was reacting. And a lot of people were responding. And what we did is we started anticipating we knew who we were as a school, we knew what we wanted to accomplish. So we began to anticipate the challenges that the new grading reporting policy might present to teachers. And we started putting things in place to mitigate those challenges. So one of the challenges was that the new grading and reporting policy required teachers to reteach and reassess. And we knew that our teachers would face the challenge of having to find time in the school day to reteach and reassess. or they'd be expected to give up their their afternoons, their mornings or lunch periods in order to make it happen.

Now, because we anticipated that challenge, we had time to adjust our master schedule to about a half hour block in the schedule every single day devoted to reteaching reassessment and enrichment. So when the teachers heard about the new grading reporting policy, and they said, what are we gonna have time to do it, we automatically had a time period set up, ready for them. So instead of responding and reacting, we anticipated what we needed to do. We built that into our schedule, so that that that new grading and reporting policy didn't become an onerous burden. And we were able to leverage that time in a way that moved us closer to our goals. So it was just a non issue. I'll give you another example. One of our builders saw that the school district was about to announce that they were going to go back from remote learning to a hybrid learning model. And she didn't quite know what that model was going to look like. But she didn't know that there was that model was going to include some days when the students were face to face, you know, cohort a, and then some days when they'd have cohort B but cohort, while cohort B was face to face cohort, a would be doing asynchronous learning. And so because you know, other people were reacting and saying, How are we supposed to do this? Is how am I supposed to do two different lesson plans? And you know, all the complaints that you've probably heard, then some people were being responsive thinking, Okay, so what do we need to do? Do we have enough PP? Do we have enough cameras for teachers? How do we set teachers up to do this, she started anticipating she started realizing that teachers were going to have to very quickly master a whole new way of planning. And if we left to their own devices, you might have 25 teachers who might come up with 25 different ways of dealing with that planning. 

Why are you going to add to teacher's stress by having everybody figure it out on their own? 

Instead, what she did is she planned some PD in advance of that, to talk about how do you plan synchronous learning and what works better synchronous and what works better asynchronously. She began to teach teachers a simplified planning format. So when that announcement came, that planning format was great for remote learning. But the planning format also was portable, they could use that same format for hybrid learning. So when the announcement came down the pike the teachers weren't as stressed out, that doesn't mean that the teachers didn't have some emotional reactions and some of their fears and concerns. But in terms of planning, it was a non issue. So when her school goes back to school, the students will not experience a break in their learning, because she anticipated that at some point, we're going to go back to hybrid and she tried to choose a planning format. That was that was context agnostic that didn't rely on a particular context in order to work something that teachers could use, whether they were teaching remotely or hybrid Li or fully face to face. a year from now, if the school is back in school five days a week, the teachers will not have to come up with a new way to plan because the same planning process will still work. And it's really a focus on the standards that's actually going to move students forward. No matter what circumstances they're in. You see, that's a difference.

When you're a leader or you're a boss, a lot of what you do and don't do is dictated by somebody else's agenda. And it's very easy to knock you off your square, it's very easy to distract you, it's very easy to get you to a point where you feel overwhelmed, because the moment that you think you've finally achieving some momentum in one area, some new mandate comes along some new decision is, you know, created by the school board, that completely takes you off track. And if you're not tired of that already, believe me, you will be soon because you can't get any traction, you can't get moving. Because every time you start something, somebody, somewhere, totally disconnected from who you who you are, what you're doing, makes a decision that takes you off track. So when you are boss, or when you approach things like a leader, you are always vulnerable, your plans are never truly trustworthy. Because you know that at any moment, somebody can come have a mandate, make a decision, and completely destroy your plans. I don't know about you, but living in that level of insecurity, not being able to have confidence in the work that you're doing. Because you never know when somebody is going to come along and completely destroy it is a horrible place to be. So as a builder, you know, you can do something about it, that it almost does not matter. You know, I don't get upset when things change. I'm watching things, I'm being very careful. But because I anticipate that changes are going to happen. And they're going to happen rapidly. And there is a lot of uncertainty happening now. And we've been talking about uncertainty for a year now. And it doesn't seem to go away. So as a builder, you recognize that.

As a builder, you anticipate that plans will change. 

As a result of that, you make decisions about what kind of planning that you're going to use and what kind of interventions you're going to use or how you're going to work with teachers in the curriculum, you do things that are context agnostic, so that if plans change, it doesn't mean that you have to completely ball up all of your plans, throw him in the trash and start with a clean sheet of paper. Instead, you have plans that are flexible, you have a process that is flexible. You know, one of the things that we are really working on and build a ship University for this first quarter of the year, is that we are working on developing, we just introduced a new 90 day planning canvas. And it has these what we call the six E's, these, these stages of change that that the planning Canvas accommodates. So instead of having just kind of a linear plan, you know, we're going to start here, and in 90 days, we're going to be here, but you don't account for the fact that things change along the way. Instead of doing that what we're doing is we're having a plan where says we're going to start here in 90 days, we want to be here but we understand the change process. We know that there's We have a saying in build a ship University called new level new devil, you probably heard me say that before. So that every time you start to create change, you face new things, new things you couldn't anticipate at the very beginning of the process.

You also know that 90 days is a long time and a lot can change in 90 days. So how do you build a plan? That is crisis proof that is change proof that is that his new mandate from the state proof. And so these six E's help you do that? So as we're sticking to our plans, when things come up, people come to office hours, and they're saying, Oh, you know, I thought I was I was having such a making such good progress in my plan. And then the district announced and instead, okay, how does that change things, go back to your plan, take a look at it. They go back to their blueprint, they go look at those 60s and they realize oh, okay, so that doesn't mean that we have to stop doing what we're doing. Because your plan is anticipated that those kinds of changes were going to happen. Now, the plan, like I said, it's not a crystal ball is not a magic eight ball where you just kind of you know, it's going to predict the future. But the plan knows that when you are trying to do something, to build something in your school, you are going to hit roadblocks, you are going to have some setbacks, you are going to have people shifting in their policies, you may have a surprise, and the plan accommodates for that. The plan recognizes that a lot since we plan. It's almost like everything's going to be the same. And maybe in the years past. That was true, but that is so not true anymore. So why don't create a plan that anticipates those challenges and has a recovery process for dealing with those challenges. Notice I didn't say that has a contingency plan because a contingency plan means that you were able to predict what challenges come up.

What you want is a recovery plan.

You want something that says, Okay, if we hit a roadblock, or if we hit a snag, how will we recover and recover quickly so that we can stay focused on our goals. As a builder, if you anticipate that you will have roadblocks, that you think people will make alternative decisions that may threaten what you're trying to do, and you have a plan to If this happens, here's how we will recover, no matter what happens. So you don't have to think about Okay, these are the five things that could go wrong because you, you know, principles to work with said, Well, I'm looking to the east, they're coming for me from the west, you can't anticipate everything you can't Well, I shouldn't say this, you can't predict everything. But you can anticipate something will happen. And if you build a plan that's flexible enough to roll with the punches that has a built in recovery feature, so that if you get thrown a curveball, you know how you're going to recover, you have a process for how we will recover, without having to predict every curveball coming your way, then it doesn't matter what people do. Nothing will keep you from pursuing your vision. So if you find yourself kind of putting your vision on a shelf, I sure would like to do that. But But I can't do it right now. Or if you're worried, well, I'd like to do that. But my teachers to stress with the district just came out with something else. And I gotta put my head down and figure out how I'm going to deal with this. Or, you know, if you find yourself delaying postponing your goals because of curveballs if you find yourself feeling helpless, because every time you get going, something happens that that curtails your progress.

You can never see true progress, because you never can keep going, you can't achieve that traction and momentum that you're trying to achieve. If you find yourself frustrated, because people keep making decisions that affect you and affect your teachers, and throw everything off, then I want to challenge you to step out of boss ship, step out of leader ship, and approach these new changes in a different way. I'm going to invite you to stop reacting, stop responding, and start anticipating, like a builder. Now, if you want some help with all of that, then watch out because builder ship University is opening up again. And that's just the kind of stuff we do and Buildership University not only do we give you the tools to start approaching your work like a builder, but we also have office hours where you can come in and and get one you know, personalized attention and support. And we also have clinics where if you're working on something you can come in and bring it to the clinic and and we can take a look at it as a group and give you feedback on it. It's this marvelous new community of builders, people like you who are ready to step out of boss ship and leadership and they they're ready to step in to build a ship. So look out for Buildership University. We'll be opening up at the end of the month. I'll let you know when and join us. I'm telling you, you will love it.

All right, 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 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 build a ship University. Just go to build a ship and get started writing your school success story today.

I'll see you then!

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