For the past eight weeks, I have been focused on leading change within an organization. I would like to take a moment to reflect on what this focus has taught me. The funny thing is, whether I reflect or not, I am living it right now. My innovation proposal was supposed to be the focus of my organizational change, but two things have happened recently that have allowed me to get life experience. First, I am replacing our former head track coach. Secondly, I am involved with a small group on campus that is looking to change our school site morale. We have two goals, first we want to improve teacher morale, and second we want to improve student morale. As a result of these two items, I am seeing the ideas regarding organizational change play out right before my eyes.
The Influencer Model was the first book we read. The premise of the book is how we can influence behavior within an organization. Grenny argues that there are three keys of influence, and six sources of influence. You can read more about the influencer model here. For both my track team and school site morale project, we have had to identify the key behaviors that we want to address. For track, we were able to identify that the biggest problem on the team that we inherited is the lack of consistency. Athletes come to practice, or they don’t. Consistency became our focus, and I will talk more about that at a later time. The big issue that we are having for the school site morale project is measuring our results. The good news is that we have time to work on this, the bad news is trying to come up with effective measurement tools.
“How can we influence change?”, has been a major question in both projects, but I am going to specifically talk about track. We had to have a “huddle” meeting with our athletes, to explain our “Why” to our team (click here to see one of my “Why” statements). We didn’t blame shift (Friedman), or complain. We explained the circumstances, then we explained our “Why”, then we explained the vital behaviors that we are going to address. We have started building a sense of urgency, and as coaches we are helping athletes do what they can’t.
Currently we are working on employing the six sources of influence. The major focus for us right now is building structural motivation and ability within the program. An example of our structural motivation is as follows:
- Any unexcused absence will prevent you from running in the meet this week.
- One tardy, you have to run extra at the end of practice.
- Two tardies equal one absence. In this case, see number one.
Our second focus is building personal motivation. We are in California where schools have not been meeting in person. As a result of COVID, many of our teams around the state are just at a building stage. We are no different. So what is the personal motivation? We have told our kids, “There is no I in team, except this year. We are trying to get each one of you to the CIF Southern Section Meet. This is the one year where we are really focused on you as an individual.” As a result we are hoping that they will be personally motivated to be at their best performance levels.
4 Disciplines of Execution
“How do we install the changes that we need to make?” Let’s take a look at the 4dx model for our site improvement and how it relates. Please remember that We haven’t put all of the pieces together, so this is just a basic rough draft. It should also be mentioned that this initiative is not being led by the admin team. In our current state of affairs, if the admin team led this movement, it would die. Our group is trying to make this happen organically. The overall goal is to move the site forward in all aspects (staff morale, student morale, lower suspension rates, higher rigor in classes, more kids prepared for college and career, etc.). Our widely important goal (WIG) is to improve staff morale. We need to make sure that we are extremely clear on what staff morale is. We are planning a meeting with the positive deviants, regarding how we can improve staff morale. We have had discussions regarding the whirlwind, and its impact on the lives of teachers. We haven’t completely figured out our lag measure. Part of the reason why is because we want to use the ideas of COV(A) in the initiative (you can read more about C.O.V.A. here) So, we want to allow the positive deviants to help us build this initiative. It should be noted that we are in the planning stages, and won’t have our meeting with the natural leaders on campus until mid to late May.
In terms of lead measures, we are going to actually build a team competition between the teachers. The “field” will be school events. If you are a teacher whose room ends with an odd number, then you are Maroon. We hope that placing students on teams will create a cadence of accountability. If you are a teacher whose room ends with an even number then you are Gold. At every school event, teachers will have to take a selfie, put it on a google form, and then get points for their team. We will then place scores on a scoreboard.
We hope to have a series of video announcements that are shown for 2-5 minutes in our department meetings, that will act as WIG sessions. As well, we hope to hand the baton off to the natural leaders in our groups, so they can have WIG sessions and WIG huddles. The 4 DX model is interesting, intriguing and very relevant. To read more about the 4dx model and its stages, please go to my 4 DX page.
Self-Differentiated Leader and Crucial Conversations
The idea of a self-differentiated leader comes from Edwin Friedman’s “Failure of Nerve”. There is a lot of information in this book, A LOT. So if you want to read a more detailed account of the self-differentiated leader, you can find more information here. Friedman’s basic premise is that a leader must be courageous, have a strong presence, and have a strong sense of self. Friedman calls this sense of self, being. So how does this relate to change? Let’s go back to the track team, and my 1st coaches meeting. If you recall from above, one of our structural motivations revolves around consistent attendance. One of my sprinter coaches argued that we are doing the athletes a disservice by not letting them run. I let her state her path (Crucial Conversations), but in the end I had to stand by my vision and perspective. I don’t have to explain, but here is my path. If we allow kids who do not attend to run, they won’t know how to work hard. They won’t understand or trust the process (Dweck). We will be relying on natural talent, which then alleviates the need for coaches. As well, if the kids are not attending consistently, they can’t get any better. If they don’t get better, they can’t win or place. If they don’t win, or score high our team scores will be low. From the Influencer model, we can remember that punishment sends a message, but so does its absence. Friedman argues that two traits of a good leader are being headstrong and ruthless. These traits are counterintuitive in our current cultural landscape. The fact of the matter is that I have a vision for where I want the team to go. If anyone is not on board with those choices, they are free to go. I don’t have to bang my fist on the table, I just do what I do with confidence, because I realize that I am the head.
I have discussed some crucial conversations that I have had with players and coaches, let’s look at them in the backdrop of teacher morale at my site. We have to start with the heart, and let the staff know what is at stake. Is anyone going to lose their job? No. Is the school going to shut down? No. Will people suffer burnout? Yes. Will people desire to leave the profession? Yes. We want people to realize that they are not anonymous or irrelevant. It is these traits that are signs of a miserable job according to Patrick Lencioni as referenced in the 4 Disciplines of Execution. This is why our group needs to start with the heart, as well as learn to look at what is going on in the conversation. We have a mutual purpose, regarding teacher morale. As we are discussing, we need to make it safe for others so that they feel like they are valued and can add input. At this point we need to state our path, but we have to give other people room to state their paths while we explore their paths.
The key for the self-differentiated leader is that they will not always be in a position where they can be “headstrong” or “ruthless”. In those cases, the self differentiated leader needs to employ the methods outlined in crucial conversations. If not, they could potentially run people out of their organization.
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