School Leadership Reimagined - Why Builders Never Ask Anyone to Do Anything

A Sneak Peak Inside My New Book

VIEW THE SHOW NOTES FOR THIS EPISODE

Note: School Leadership Reimagined is produced as a podcast and designed to be listened to, not read. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, which includes emotion and emphasis that's not on the page. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.


You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 97. 

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're going to continue our series on the difference between bosses, leaders, and builders. But before I dive into the content for today, I just have a couple of reminders. So first of all, the book is out I if you missed last week's episode, then I want you to go back to Episode 96, where I read the introduction to the book and what's really been heartwarming, as many of you have already gotten your copies, and you're posting pictures of yourself in the book on Twitter, and tagging me and I love that. So if you get the book, please post a picture on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn and tag me, let me know that you got it. I can't wait for you to get this book into your hands and to see what you think about it. Now, the second announcement is that builders lab 2021, the summer is happening and it's happening June 28 28th, through June 30 2021, we're going to do another 360 degree experience, which means that you don't have to get on the plane, you don't have to drive you can you can experience all the builders lab from your home.

What makes us really a 360 degree experience.

We try to make sure that this is not just another zoom meeting, a three day long zoom meeting that you're sitting through because nobody wants that. It is very interactive, we built a studio, I have a bank of screens in front of me, I can see all of you can see me. And so you're not waiting for q&a, we're talking in real time and to each other, we send you a box with everything that you need and something new to open every single day, which makes it really fun. We just do everything we can to make it highly interactive. And in a way, I think that the 360 degree experience of builders lab is almost more interactive than the live builders lab. I don't know if it's because it's the intimacy of our being in your home or you being home or, or what it is. But the bonds that people kind of build at builders lab, they laughed, and people are showing up for office hours. And you know, we're just seeing so much headway being made after builders lab, when people participate that way. So that's coming up on June 28, through 30th. And the beautiful part about builders lab is that is three days of live interactive, you know, work in a virtual environment, but then we do three months of follow up with you just to make sure that what you create a builder's lab is something that you can Institute in your school. So when you go back to school, a lot of times from conferences, you know, you go back and you have all these ideas and you try to implement them and you fall off and you know, they the notebook goes on the shelf. But we don't want that to happen.

So for the next three months, we will send you weekly emails with reminders about what you need to do additional resources, follow up training, we have monthly office hours for three months where you can come in and ask me anything and get support and help and reconnect with all the people that you connected with App builders lab. And so that means that over the 90 days following builders lab, you can see a success happen right away. That's the thing i think i love about builders lab the most. So again, tickets are going on sale on March 15. You go to mind steps inc.com slash builders dash lab, that's mindset think.com slash builder's dash lab to get your ticket. Alright, so let's talk about the big difference between bosses, leaders and builders. This has been an ongoing series this season, where we're just really comparing and the how how these three different types of administrators handle things. And so today, I want to talk about the difference between the way that bosses, leaders and builders spur people to action. So if you're a boss and you are trying to get somebody to do something, typically as a boss, you rely on command. So when you want somebody to do something, you know you're a change of grading policy or you want people to start class and you know, use the five minute warm up in a particular way, or you want to shift curricula, whatever it is, you give the mandate to people, you tell people, this is the way we're going to be doing things, now you command them.

A boss is really about command and control.

You're relying on your authority to get things done. And I know that there are times even as builders, we often kind of default, sometimes to that command mode, especially when we feel a lot of pressure, or we're trying to get something done or moved in our school. But when you default to command, when you just say, this is the way things are gonna be sorry, you know, I'm in charge here. And this is how things are going to be. Even though it feels expedient, you sacrifice long term rewards for very short term and short lived gains. Because when you are commanding people to do something, then it means that you have to constantly Chase and check and correct them in order to make sure that it gets done. And the moment you stop looking, it stops getting done. So you are actually creating more work, I know what feels expedient, I know just look, this is the way it's going to be I don't we don't have time for conversation about it, there's too much going on. Let's just do this. And please, when you when you do that, you feel like you're you know, I just need to get things done. But what you're doing is you're actually creating a greater workload for yourself going down the line, because once you command people to do something, you have to stay on top of them in order to make sure that it gets done. And even if they do it, they may not do it in the way that you want it done.

They may obey the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law. Because you didn't win over their hearts and minds. You just said do this. So don't be a boss. Now, leaders know that to some degree. And so what leaders do is instead of commanding leaders rely on asking people to get things done. Now, the challenge with asking is that when you do that, you have to find a way to ask, and you have to hope that people say yes, and then there's the option that they'll say no. And you're always nervous about that. And so a lot of times leaders will come to me and they'll say okay, how do I get my staff to do X? Or how do I get a particular teacher to do y? And we as leaders, we kind of get obsessed by that. Like if we feel like if there's there's some magic in the ask. So a lot of times we want people to be reflective. So we go to these trainings on on how to ask the question in just the right way. And we get these weird questions structures where we say things like, I wonder about. By now everybody knows the game, right? When you're saying I wonder about you're not wondering about it at all, you're asking me a question because somebody has done something wrong. Or you're asking a question, because some what you believe someone hasn't considered something. So automatically, when people hear I wonder about they seize up a little bit, because they know that what comes after that is really a question with an agenda. And if you really want people to reflect, instead of helping them reflect you, you actually shut down reflection, because people are too busy trying to figure out what is the hidden agenda behind your wanderings. And it's hard for to be reflective when you believe there's a hidden agenda there. And there usually is, you know, or we go to workshops, and we say,

Okay, how do we ask people in the right way?

We spend an inordinate amount of time in our office trying to craft the perfect ask? And when you do that, when you're obsessed with getting the question, right, and it's really it becomes manipulative, because it's not about helping people choose to do whatever the right thing is, it's really about if I can ask in a particular way, maybe I can convince people to do this. Or maybe I can, you know, the the magic of the question itself will get the Yes. And if you're worried about that, again, you're creating a lot of work and stress for yourself. Because you are constantly trying to mute or maybe not mute. That's not the right word. You're constantly trying to edit what you say you're constantly trying to say the exact right words and the exact right way. I've seen people really stress over those post observation conferences, because they're trying to get that reflection from teachers. And so they're, they're not being very reflective in the in the process, because they're so busy trying to, you know, what do I need to say, in order to get teachers to say the thing that I want to hear? That's not reflection, that's not a genuine conversation, I see people stressing out when there's a new mandate that's come down for the district, and they have to go before their staff and ask, and usually what happens is one of two things, either we do the ask, and we're asking people to just, you know, to eat their spinach. So we're saying to them, Look, I know this is not ideal, but you know, the district is really asking us to do it, and can you please and so you're relying on the relationships or you're relying on their commitment or you're relying on their own willpower.

Those things all have a fatigue factor. And if you keep going to the well too much at some point that well is going to dry up. And so you're not feeling there. Well, you're constantly taking through your ask, right so we default that way or the other way we do it is we we try To put lipstick on a pig, we tried to take something that we're asking them to do. And we try to make it spin so that people may like it. And that feels deceptive. And it sets people up for false hope. And it shows that you don't really you're not really convicted by what you're doing, but you're trying to make the best out of it. And so on some level, it feels deceptive, it feels, it feels manipulative. And we're not intentionally trying to be deceptive. But when you rely on the ask, you find yourself in that position more often than not. So we don't want to do that. We don't want to command people. And we really don't want to ask people.

Here's what Builders do. 

They're not demanding. They're not asking builders invite. And there's such a difference between commanding and asking and inviting. Because when you are commanding, and when you are asking, you're asking people to do something out there that you haven't done yourself. In many cases, it feels like you're having to go to people with your hat in your hand and beg and plead or you're going to people and you're just ordering them to do something. But when you invite, it's totally different. It's not about Okay, I'm going to do this because we have a relationship where I'm going to do this because, you know, you've guilted me into doing this, or I'm going to do this because you know, I'm a good team member instead. So I'm going to do this because I want to I'm going to do this because this feels like the right thing to do, I can see the merit in doing it this way. What builders do is we don't wait for anybody to agree or for anybody to you know, to be convinced about something that we haven't actually done yet. When said we go build it, we start building. And once you start building, then instead of asking people to go into the great unknown, you're inviting them to something that's tangible, that they can see it's already there, you've already started building it, and you're inviting them to join you in building something that they can see is incredible, you have to convince them that it's incredible, they can see it.

So what builders do is we go out and build. So let me give you an example. Let's say that you want to do a new, you want the teachers to do a new curriculum. And instead of going out and picking the curriculum and doing the research, and then coming back with teachers and saying, I've done the research, and this is the curriculum we're going to use and trying to sell the curriculum. Instead, what you do is you go to the root of the problem, the challenge is that this curriculum is not allowing us the ability to help students think critically. And so you go to people with that. And so what I want to do is I want to try to figure out a way the goal is we want more critical thinking not the goal is we want a new curriculum rollout, we want more critical thinking or we want to help students develop reading fluency. And the curriculum is not helping students do that, or whatever, you know, whatever. The reason is that sends you out searching for new curriculum in the first place. And then what you do is you say, okay, we instead of just going out and finding a curriculum, you start investigating.

You invite other people to join you in that investigation. 

It's not about well, this curriculum does this and this curriculum does that it's always that bigger goal, what is going to help us increase that, that that critical thinking, and so you're inviting people on the journey with you, you don't have to convince them, they convince themselves because they are a part of the journey. Let me give you another example. Let's say that you have a district mandate that says you have to now you know, devote X number of minutes to reading or a new district mandate, that changes your master schedule or a new district mandate that says that you have to you can no longer give zeros. Even as students don't turn in work. The grading reporting policy says you have to give 50% whatever it is, instead of going to the staff and saying, Okay, look, I know you guys are going to be upset about this. But what you do is you invite them to join you in figuring out how to make that mandate work for the goals that you have for your school. So you're not convincing anybody of anything. Instead, you are including them in the journey, you're inviting them to take the same journey that you're taking, so that they can come to the same conclusion that you've come to.

The difference between commanding and asking is that you stand on one side and your staff stands on the other side. When you are inviting people you're not there are no sides, you stand in the place that you want the school to be, you help people see why this is so important. And you invite them to join you on the journey to building that school. And so you never have to worry about going to people and saying they're going to kill me if I say this, or they're going to hate this. Instead, what you do is you go to people and you say, Hey, listen, we've got to go on a journey together. I've already started building this new thing. Here's why I'm building it, here's what it's gonna look like, but I could use your help in building it. And the difference is that when people join you, when people accept your invitation, people don't tear it down, but they help build. So if you involve people in the building process, if you invite them to join you in that journey, they're not going to tear it down. So that's why builders are never terrified when when they propose something to them. Staff, what they're doing is they're inviting them.

People always say, "Well, what if they don't join you?" 

Well, then if they don't join, you have to look back and see if the thing you're building is worthwhile. And if it is, eventually they will join you view it first, you know, the early adopters will come, and they'll help you build something better and make it more inviting to the others. So you don't worry that everybody doesn't join you at first. If nobody joins you, then you have to say, is this something worth building? Do they not see the value in building it? And so it becomes a self correcting mechanism. You don't waste your time or people's time building something that isn't valuable. And so even when they say no, that's information to you to help you adjust what you're building till it becomes something inviting enough that people begin to join. You may say, Well, what about the holdouts? There's some people who never say yes, well, you don't give them enough time. First of all, you have to build something and the more you start building it, the more than naysayers will be either one over or they will leave, you never have to worry about getting rid of people, you have to worry about the people who are initially reluctant. Because a lot of times the reluctance isn't about the idea. It's about the fact that they can't see it yet. Start building, the more you build, the more convincing you become, stop wasting time having conversations about what will be instead build it. And then there's no conversation, people who are saying, well, that will never work. Well, they have a grounds for it when it's theoretical, but when when you're building it and showing that it's working, they can't say it any more. They can't continue to say that will never work.

They can't continue to push back because it's working. So you stop trying to convince people instead built, show them and then invite them to join you. The people are standing on the sidelines, and they're saying, you know, that will never work, they start seeing it work. So then, you know, they shut up or they say, well, that's not going to work. Well. He said, Well, why? All right, great. That's a good idea. Come, let's fix it. Let's adjust it. And you still invite them when you come from a stance of invitation rather than than stance of command or even a stance of asking, when you when you invite people to join you. You don't have the same kind of stress? Well, they won't pay instead, you know that if they haven't joined you yet, then you need to figure out how do I make this so inviting, that they can't resist my invitation. And that challenges you that that makes it better. I remember one time, I was an assistant principal. And I was trying where our team leaders did teacher evaluations. And I was trying to help them give teachers better feedback. And I came up with this what I thought brilliant idea to create a checklist for when they went in and did informal observations. And I use the school evaluation instrument I'm base it on the checklist, it was beautiful. I shared it with my other people who were in the cohort that I was in the the assistant principal cohort through the district. And they were like, this is amazing. I want a copy.

So I'm feeling pretty good, right? 

Like I'm feeling like I just have solved, you know, a Rubik's Cube, I've got the holy grail of observation instruments. I'm bringing it back to my team. And I'm like, this is what you all can use to give teachers observations. And so I'm going to be using this I'd like for you to join me, I've already used it a couple of times, I've shared it with a couple of APS, they give me feedback on it, I think it's gonna be amazing. And one of my team leaders looked at it and studied it for a while. And then she said, I'm not doing this. And I said, Okay, well, why? And she said, she started talking about why. And I said, Okay, well, I invite you to try it. And then if it doesn't, you know, just take it, you don't even have to give the feedback to teachers just use it in the classroom and see if it helps you. You know, think about things that you might not have thought about in the classroom. So she agreed to do that. And then she came back and she said, the problem is it's a checklist. And when it's a checklist, people look for all the things you either checked or didn't check. She said it would be better if it was narrative. And I said, Okay, so I started adjusting it based it based on her feedback, and she helped me build a better instrument. And we use that instrument. And then once we we rolled it out, and we tried it out together, everybody loved it.

So I could have commanded people look, this is the instrument we're going to use from now on. And I want to I want everybody using it right? Or could have asked them and then gotten that pushback and then tried to convince her about why my instrument was better. But instead, I invited her to join me in creating it because the goal wasn't the instrument. The goal was how do we give teachers meaningful feedback that changes their practice. And as a result of her, joining me of her accepting the invitation not to use my instrument, but to give teachers better feedback. She made my instrument better. And it stopped being my instrument and it became our instrument, and the teachers loved it. And the team leaders really started using it to give teachers better feedback and everybody's happy and We achieved the goal because the goal was never about the instrument. The goal was about giving teachers better feedback.

That's what happens when you invite people to join you. 

You don't worry about pushback anymore, because that pushback is focused on building something better. It's not on, you know, resisting your ask or resisting your command. The differences when you command somebody, then I either accept your command or ever Bell, when you ask somebody, I either say yes or no, when you invite somebody to start building it with you, it's not about whether I use your thing or not. It's about whether or not I believe in what you're building what you're trying to build. And if I believe in that, then I come along, and my objections actually make the thing better. My, my concerns are not about whether or not I'm going to do what you asked me to do, I'll do what you command me to do. My concerns are about how do I take this thing that you are building? And how do I make it the best thing, and that creates a lot of energy, it creates a different energy in your school, because now you are not the the evil bad guy coming to people with another Ask or another command, your co builder. And you start to tap into the talents and the intellect of the people in your school. And they bring those those talents and that intellect to create something so much better than anything that you could create it by yourself. That's the difference.

So I want to challenge you this week, when you're thinking about something that you want people to do. Think about how you approach them? Are you commanding it? Are you asking them? Or are you inviting them. And if you're nervous about inviting them to something, then I want you to check and make sure that the thing you're inviting them to was worth being invited to right. Like I would be nervous about inviting people to my house when it's filthy, right. But if I clean my house and I prepare great food, then I'm excited about inviting them. Because I know that when they get there, they're going to have an incredible experience. That's what you want. If you're nervous about bringing something to people ask yourself, Is this worthy of the invitation? Is it is this something inviting enough. And what that does is two things. First of all, it challenges you to stop asking people to do stuff that's not worthy of their time. And instead inviting them to something that is worthy of your time. And the second thing it does is it gets you less focused on the thing itself, and more focused on the goal, which helps you let go of any ego that you may have around that thing that you are commanding them to do or asking them to do and get you and keeps you from getting, you know, stressed out when people resist right away. And the stress. It's amazing how the stress goes away when you invite people because if they say no, then you say, Okay, alright, that didn't work.

So, what is it about what I'm inviting them to that's not inviting? 

Now how do I change it? How do I make this more inviting, and then the process you make it better? So there are no makes you better? Right? And then the other thing is that when people join you, and they have objections, the objections don't feel personal, because their objections are really less about whether or not I'm going to do what you tell me to do. Or I'm going to, you know, agree to when your ask their suggestions are more about how do I make the thing that you're inviting me to join you in building better. So you don't get stressed out about it in the same way. You know that I guess it's a big thing about the difference between bosses, leaders and builders throughout this series. I keep saying I feel like sometimes I'm repeating myself over and over again, because it's true. When you're a builder, a lot of the things that stress us out about our jobs right now they go away. They're just not, they're not there anymore. And it's because you've just made a simple shift from being a boss, and a leader to being a builder. And when you do that, everything changes. Everything changes. I guess that's the point of this whole series, the stresses that you're dealing with right now. You don't have to deal with them. The reason that you are even experiencing them right now it's because you're using a boss mindset or leader ship mindset. When you shift to being a belter, same situation, same challenges, different mindset, no stress.

So this week, I want to challenge you think about something that you are asking people to do and how do you turn that ask into an invitation? Think about something you're considering commanding people to do? How do you turn that command into an invitation and when you do, you can invite people to join you and building something incredible. Because you've done it like a belter. That's it for this time.

I'll talk to you again 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 buildership University. Just go to build a ship university.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.