Photo by David Holifield

 

You probably know the metaphor of “the carrot and the stick” where a stubborn donkey needs to be encouraged to move. There are two basic options (as donkeys are hard to push around). You can dangle a carrot just in front of its nose and, if hungry, the donkey will move forward. The other option is to whack it on its hind quarters with a stick (no donkeys were harmed in the creation of this metaphor). If the “stick” hurts enough, the donkey again moves forward.

However, the ultimate donkey moving tactic involves both the threat of the stick and the promise of the carrot used at the same time. It’s more likely to work than either option individually.

 

 

In the 40 Hour Project we usually focus on the good things that you can expect by making healthy leadership/lifestyle choices – the carrots.

The problem is that human nature seems to predispose us to take a short term view of any possible rewards. If the reward is immediate, we are more likely to buy in than if the reward is several months or years away.

For example, if we buy a lottery ticket each week we get the immediate thrill of possibility, but we could save the $20 and at years end have a guaranteed $1040. Not many people take option two (even though it is almost certain to be a better reward).

It’s the timeframe that stops us being smarter.

 

 

So today, I want to mention a motivation technique that’s all about the stick rather than the carrot.

This tactic is one that Tim Ferriss uses regularly to help make uncomfortable changes (he calls it fear setting).  Tim argues that if a change needs to be made, staying with the status quo is not a neutral position – it comes with a cost.

He starts by asking the tough question, “if I don’t make a change, what will it cost myself, those I’m responsible for (e.g. my school) and those who care about me?”

Some examples are health costs, financial costs, family costs, and happiness costs.

To expose the costs more, you put a timeframe on them. What will the status quo cost me in 6 months, 12 months, 3 years, 10 years?

Here’s  a simple example using a health cost:

Let’s pretend you love donuts and you regularly buy them from the awesome bakery conveniently located just down the road from your school. When you’re feeling generous (or guilty!), you buy them for your team as well. This is fun, until you visit your doctor and she  points out (annoyingly) that you’ve gained 3 kilos since she saw you last year.

We can plot the future pain using Tim’s method:

Weight change in:
6 months + 1.5kgs
12 months + 3kgs
3 years + 9kgs
10 years + 30kgs

You can see that the timeframe magnifies the reality of not making a change. 1.5kgs worth of “stick” might not be enough to move you at all, but somewhere between that and 30kgs it becomes a lot more compelling!

You can apply this method to a whole range of other areas. The only initial self-discipline needed is to ask the uncomfortable question of yourself and to plot out the “costs” so you can clearly see the situation evolving in your future.

A work example that I have used is around time spent sitting. It seems the longer I’m a school leader, the more time I spend on my butt. I’ve seen the media reports about what this means to the future me and I don’t like it!

I used this “fear” idea and worked out that I was sitting approximately 30 minutes longer each day than I did a couple of years ago. This was of course just a guess, but I then plotted it on a timeframe. You can do  the maths but it looked bad to me!

.

.

 

The bit of this process that stirs some worry (the stick) is the way a negative thing amplifies over time. This little exercise has meant I’m way more conscious of how much sitting I do – I now try to stand up if someone comes in when I’m sitting down, I have an easy to use standing option on my desk, and I make sure I go for regular walks around our site ‘just because’ (which is easy to do in a school!)

Have a go, pick something that in your gut, you know is holding you back as a person (and of course as a school leader) and ask yourself that uncomfortable question – “what will it cost me/my family/my school if I don’t make a change?”

I’ve found it even more compelling when I write it down.

Dave

 

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Photo by Raul Varzar

Those of you back in the land of Level 3 lockdown (NZ context) have my utmost sympathy. There’s no easy way to run a school under these conditions and you have a massive task on your hands. Kia kaha – you are in my Level 2 thoughts!

This week I’m “piggy backing” off Steve’s suggestion that right now, amongst the uncertainty, is when we need to take half a step back from the action and reflect.

For those of you in Level 3 the status quo of school is gone. For those of us (a little nervously) sitting in Level 2, we know we might join you at any time.

Now is the time to seriously consider change.

A while ago we discussed the idea of making small, incremental changes to arrive at a new “normal” – 1% better as James Clear would say.

But I believe right now is the perfect time to by-pass that timeline and jump to a new position. To metaphorically advance around the Monopoly board and choose where you land.

Now equals opportunity.

.   .   .

So here’s my challenge – 

Find one aspect of the usual way of working at your school that through the lens of this pandemic, is no longer fit for purpose.

I’m talking about things like:

the number of physical meetings each week.

aspects of your school’s reporting

expectations around teachers being onsite

the shape of your lunch rosters

the amount of extra-curricular activities

the values you say are most important

This list is as long as your imagination!

A fundamental test you can apply is to ask people “why” something is done. If the answer comes back with some variation of, “because that’s how we’ve always done it”, you know you have a likely candidate.

I’m not suggesting that you go nuts and change lots of things, or even much at all – just one.

One thing that is now redundant because the world is shifting, and to be relevant, your school needs to shift too. One thing that might just start the change process that our students need.

When you pause for a moment, with the pandemic shining a light over your shoulder, what do you see?

 

David

 

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When your team’s winning you don’t change the captain – even if they are an arse. When your school maths results are going up you don’t bring in a new system – even though some individuals are failing. When it’s Mothers’ Day you don’t suggest that chocolates are unhealthy – even though Mum . . .

If change is needed, success or failure often relies on timing. Particularly changes to things that have been around for a long time, because then you are dealing with the status quo.

However, a global pandemic is a game changer, it’s a crisis. And for those interested in change, it is huge opportunity.

.  .  .

A couple of weeks ago, Steve wrote about time and pace in the (then) locked down world and it really struck a chord with people both inside, and outside of, our game. (Check it out here if you missed it.) There was agreement that the conditions he described were real and good. He had put his finger on something that many others were thinking and feeling too.

It seems many of us recognised positive side effects of being in lockdown. Somewhat counter intuitively, there is an almost “wistful” recognition that what we’re experiencing is about to disappear.

Of course, there’s a scale of stress versus happiness that obviously drives our own viewpoint. We all had different experiences: kids or not, work requirements, what the local school expected, whether another person was with you, money security . . . there were as many variations as there were bubbles.

But despite these things, the “good bits” still managed to show through.

Amongst the stress and mess people noticed, and as we move closer to a lifting of restrictions, we can see aspects of life that are better than we had before.

And we want to keep them!

Lots of people agree – I asked our school community what they valued about the lockdown period and received this response. It neatly encapsulates the other replies I got and is written with honesty and a real sense of possibility –

Time to be bored! A very unfamiliar feeling for a lot of our family as life has just become so routine, busy and we find ourselves in automatic pilot. We ‘get through’ the week, so we can enjoy the weekends… a huge imbalance!

We have been reflecting on what we can do to slow life down a little bit during the week so that this isn’t the case. Do we need to work so much? We did not realise how much money we spend on unnecessary items and how this money would be better spent working less and spending it on time! Time is the most precious thing that we will value from this experience. It gave us the opportunity to get back to some old fashioned fun- creating new and creative ways to spend time together! Previously the thought was “where should we go?” – this has now changed.

When I hear my child say “I’m bored” I’m so grateful that he has the opportunity to be bored. So, so many valuable things learnt. My children valued the first time they got into the car because for once they didn’t have to bike or walk- this is a luxury! They were excited to receive mail, to see their teachers online, to do art, to play music- to play board games- those are all things I hope we will continue to enjoy as a family!”

So, for many of us, a question has started floating around in our heads; “how do I deal with my real-life obligations and retain the good bits of working/living from home?”

And the good bits seem, person to person, surprisingly consistent:

  • Time – to cook, to pause, to read, to get stuff done . . .
  • Connection with family
  • Connection with passion hobbies (your identity)
  • Exercise (maybe that’s about time as well?)

They all add up to a slower pace of life, – a sort of “hello the sixties, I wish I’d known you” type wistfulness.

It seems that working from home, or at least being at home more, gives us things that were so often absent in “the old normal”. And they are things that we will miss.

Unless .  .  .

Unless we choose to keep some of them.

.  .  .

I recently stumbled across a quote from Noah Kagan, a well-known entrepreneur, where he says, “ . . . for anything important, you don’t find time. It’s only real if it’s on the calendar.”

That’s truth right there. When you have a meeting with your leadership team, it’s on the calendar. When you want to see what is happening next week, you check the calendar. Meeting your appraiser? Yes, it’s on the calendar.

Have you considered putting some of the good bits of “working from home” on your calendar?

Because you could.

 

Dave

 

There’s been a great video circulating on social media recently by Tomos Robertson AKA Tom Foolery called The Great Realisation. Maybe you’ve seen it. It really is wonderful and follows a line that David and I have been promoting for a while now. In our current climate of lockdown and isolation it’s come into even more focus. Put simply this is the notion that our old “normal” wasn’t really the wonderful place that we all thought it was, and that we are now in a unique position to re-image a “new normal”. This is what Robertson calls the “Great Realisation”.

If I was going to design a new Tee Shirt it would have the slogan; “Join the Realisation Revolution

Recently I’ve been feeling a bit guilty that I’m not that excited about going back to school. In reality what I’m probably not excited about is going back to an old normal

To be honest, I’m tired. For the rest of this paragraph I’ll use the royal “we” here because I’m sure that you’re just like me. We’ve had over 40 days in lockdown. We’ve moved mountains to make home learning a reality, we’ve sweated a lot of small stuff, and we’ve made plenty of big decisions. We’ve all been asked to act in a manner that none of us was ever trained for. But yet we’ve all stepped up and done it. We’ve told our communities not to panic, and that we’ve got this. We’ve worked hard to create a sense of calm and normality even when we’ve fretted about going from Level 4 into Level 3, and now into Level 2.  Wow. No wonder I’m feeling the way I do.

As a result I’m beginning to feel overwhelmed. 

At times like this I find it’s useful to start giving the logical side of my brain a bit of a work out. 

Invariably this leads to thoughts about how I can best rationalise the situation.

There are a few rationalised points that come to mind instantly:

1. We are all in this together …. I’m not alone. There must be hundreds of thousands of Principals world wide also going through the same situation. Certainly in New Zealand alone that figure has to be at least 3,500. There’s likely to be plenty of Principals feeling the same way. This isn’t a time then to think in an insular manner, quite the opposite – it’s time to connect.

2. Nothing is forever … this is a very powerful thought. In the old days we’d used to say, “today’s news is tomorrow’s fish’n’chip paper”. Largely it’s the same with problems and circumstances. Today’s issue is old hat by tomorrow – or at least by next week. New things will have come and gone. Think about where your thinking was this time 6 months ago, three months ago, or even three days ago. Things change, things move. We’re in a very fluid time of our lives, but it won’t be like this forever. As a result of  this going back to an “old normal” doesn’t have to be the way if I don’t want it to be. There is time to consider a “new normal” and to embrace that on our return. 

3. There is always an upside…. Sometimes it is hard to find the silver lining, but over the last 40 days there have been many examples of “extreme positivism”. From a professional point of view I look at my staff and feel so proud. They have all stepped up in so many ways that six weeks ago I would never have thought possible. Yes there have been some bumpy times and things often haven’t gone to plan, but yet they’ve pulled together and done an amazing job. This will have a huge benefit when it is time to head back to school. As a result our new normal can be quite different to our old normal.

4. Where there are challenges there is room for personal growth … things happen and opportunities arise. The logical side of my mind opens up to all the new learning and growth that I’ve been a part of over the last six weeks. I’ve grown, and not just because I’ve eaten a lot of baking! And quite frankly it’s time to use that growth to consider new ways of doing the same old sh#t!

So as we head into the new uncertainties of COVID-19 Level 2 and we all get our team back together under the same roof, look for those opportunities to connect with your people about what the new normal might look like. I imagine that they too will be feeling like you. 

You could start by using a simple PMI about the experiences that your team had during lockdown from both an educational and personal point of view. Find the commonalities, look for ways to take on board the positive ideas in a school based format. 

One of my favourite bands, R.E.M used to sing a song called, “It’s the end of the world and I feel fine”. Originally  released in 1987 it is now back in the charts throughout the world as people use it as a rallying call for change. We might not change everything, there may be things totally out of our control, but for those things that you and your team can change to improve lives then now is the hour. Join the Realisation Revolution!

Steve

The other day I found myself looking over my wife’s shoulder as she viewed a clip on line from comedian and TV personality Miranda Hart. Some of you may know her show, “Miranda”.

“Turn that up,” I said to Helen, “what did she just say?”.

Miranda was talking about life in lockdown and the pressures, stresses and uncertainties that this created for everyone. And then she quoted a guy called Dave Hollis which really took my liking;

“Hear this: in the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”

Bang! Wow! What a great thing to say. And on he went; 

“If things go back exactly as they were we will have missed the opportunity to take the good from this bad.

The gift nobody’s asked for is sitting here for us all to open — an opportunity to do some housekeeping in where we focus, who we spend time with, what we consume, how we work, what matters and most importantly what doesn’t.

Take notes. We’re getting a lesson we cannot forget when things return to normal.”

I liked what this guy Dave was saying. 

On his Facebook page, he describes himself in this way; “Every day Dude, In love with Rachel Hollis, Dad x4 Dominating the roads, NYTimes best selling author”

I like this description greatly. I don’t even know the guy but in a very small precis he’s told me he’s not a big noter. He’s just an every day guy who loves his wife and family. Oh, and he’s a NY Times best selling author – but that bit comes last.

It resonates with me because it’s essentially what David Armstrong and I have been promoting in the Forty Hour Principal project over the last year. We spend so much of our time in our professional lives leading, sorting, being accountable, mentoring, writing screeds of words, connecting, relating and being “fully there”. By the time it’s time for our other life, when we leave school each day, there’s so often little left but to collapse on the couch and nap away the evening in a state of exhaustion. At present I imagine that our professional Facebook pages would all read like mine; Steve Zonnevylle, Principal. Full Stop.

I want to be more like David Hollis’ Facebook precis. I want any description of me to start with the most important things. I want to be proud to be a principal, but I don’t want it to define me. As I’ve said in previous posts, I want my principalship to be a part of who I am, but not all of who I am. 

Last year, the other Dave (David Armstrong) wrote a great piece in our book “The Forty Hour Principal” called, “Be Slacker to Be Better”. Like the title of our book, the notion of trying to be slacker than normal in our roles is totally alien (as is the notion of actually working a forty hour week).

For most, using the words ‘slacker’ and ‘principal’ in the same sentence is akin to blasphemy. Recently we were asked to present at a meeting and we were keen to call our talk “Be Slacker Better”. However, the organisers quite rightly pointed out that many would see the notion of this as being almost disrespectful or rude. We could see their point.

.  .  .

So what is the point that we’re trying to make, and how does it relate to Dave Hollis’ invitation of not rushing back to normal?

Being Slacker Better is a call to arms. And when better than now, when we all have a bit of time on our hands to think things through to start to consider what a new normal might look like.

Plenty of people are talking up the premise that education will be different when we get out of isolation. If that is the case, then we should also be talking about the role that we play, and how we play it as principals.

We certainly aren’t advocating becoming slack. Instead, we want you to step up and look at the way you do your job. Take time to look at the habits you’ve bought into over time.  Take time to assess the way you want to live your life. Big questions. But you’ve got some time on your hands, so why not do it now?

Take a look at some of the things that you do now that you personally would consider slack if you did them differently. Don’t worry about the other side of the coin – things that other people would consider slack if you did them differently. This is your journey, not theirs. 

For example: 

  • What if you didn’t write so much in your Board Report? (Someone once said if you can’t explain it simply then you don’t actually understand what you’re talking about.)
  • What if you worked at home two days a term?
  • What if you left school at 4:00pm on those quieter days?
  • What if you closed the door of your office and made yourself unavailable more often?
  • What if you spent more time in classrooms and felt confident that administration trivia always has a habit of getting done tomorrow, or the next day?
  • What if you didn’t have so many meetings?
  • What if you viewed your role as the key relationship maker/connector instead of the key educator?
  • What if you looked to maximise your own talents within the school setting more?
  • What if you decided not to sweat the small stuff?
  • What would happen if …………..?

The list goes on, and is limited only by the questions you ask yourself. In the end, Being Slacker Better is less about some internalised concept of slackness, and more about finding those things that are actually the most important and getting to them more often by being efficient. 

With efficiency comes time. Not time to do more at school, but time to do more in the rest of your life. This is a very important point. It underlines the premise that being a principal is part of your life, not your whole life.

So to paraphrase Dave Hollis; in the rush to return to normal, let’s use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to and change those things that are not.

 

Steve

(What do you think? Add your voice in the comments below, or over on The Forty Hour Principal Facebook page.)

Anika Huizinga
 

I’m taking a chance here. A chance that you are just far enough into lockdown to be starting to wonder how things might look on the other side.

And here’s where that question gets both exciting and scary – it’s going to be different.

 

 

Before digging into this thinking any further I’d like to make a plea.

Please, please don’t try and make the distance learning programme you are about to roll out on the 15th April the same as “school”. In times of crisis it is normal for people to try and hold onto what they know. It’s understandable. The risk though, is that our eager, slightly bored teachers,  with secure jobs, warm homes and solid internet connections might just try.

Yes, a few of your families may want 6 hours of online learning activities daily, but what about those who are newly unemployed, sharing small spaces, and worried about their Nana? We have absolutely no way of knowing or controlling the learning environments our children will be operating in.

This is not a time to try and control people, it is a time to be flexible, kind and wise. A time to put humanity first and to stop any extra stress on families . . rant over.

 

 

Different – “different” is a word that implies uncertainty. Humans don’t like this. We are hard wired to seek predictability, stability and the known. ‘Different’ can be a frightening place to consider.

And when different arrives in the blink of an eye (what were your plans 4 weeks ago?), it’s even harder.

So What now?

Luckily (or unluckily), this is not the first time in history that major disruption has occurred and smart people have researched the way leaders (like you) can be most effective in the coming weeks.

Bernard Walker and Tracey Hatton from the University of Canterbury, wrote a useful article about this which you can read in full here, but a brief summary of their five principles is:

        1. Take an employee-centric approach – look after your team first.
        2. Quality communication – find the balance between enough and too much. Listen to your team.
        3. A common vision – keep the vision for “what now” clear.
        4. Collaboration and networking – connect with other groups/people for the advantage of all.
        5. Personal and organisational learning – keep up to date. Seek information.

None of these look extraordinary, but together they show you exactly what successful leaders facing crisis do. Number 3 is where I need to focus right now. My team need absolute clarity about what our game plan is. 

What Next?

The flip side of huge disruption is possibility. The possibility to do things differently, and better, and more fitting for a changed world.

Crisis brings opportunity for change – think of the way new societies formed after WW2, or the development of more productive varieties of rice when population growth in some countries threatened starvation. Change happened quickly and on a grand scale.

And that’s where you come in. You’re a leader in the most important community of all, the community where our future lives – children. Hold onto that hope for a moment as I describe what I believe is coming.

There’s tension about to occur in our post-COVID-19 world. The status quo of ever expanding globalisation, free movement of people wherever and whenever they desire, aligned with humankind’s belief that we can control everything, has just been tipped on its head.

Many people may presume that the situation will be temporary, and that at some point – in a few weeks, months, maybe even a year – all will return to “normal”.

The business world particularly will want that. Big corporations that have created models that (used to) make lots of money, will be planning and hoping that they can go straight back to exactly that. 

However, a “once in a life time pandemic” rewrites some fundamental rules. It strips away control and requires communities to respond whether they like it or not. And, what say it’s not a single, one-off event? What say our world is very likely to have another such experience? 

Well, that’s exactly what is likely based on research and knowledge within the scientific community. If you need proof, have a look at this short (8 minute) Ted Talk that Bill Gates shared in April 2015. 

 

None of the above is meant to scare people or cause more worry. I share it because it supports my belief that we must, very soon, lift our eyes up and start looking for the changes we will need to make in our schools. The changes that our children will need from us.

Where to start?

Obviously, we are in the very early days of change, and the day to day reality of being locked down at home is still a novelty (but wearing thin quickly!). We can’t ignore this, but it does also bring the opportunity to think.

I am fortunate to be part of the Springboard Trust this year (a programme aimed at increasing school leaders’ strategic capacity, and one that many of you in NZ have probably already taken part in). It just so happens that we (the participants) are currently being challenged to review our school vision statements to see whether they align with the reality experienced by our children and their needs looking ahead.

This means that I have had the opportunity to recently reflect on “what matters most” for our learners.

This I believe, is where we all need to start in our quest to serve our communities in a post COVID-19 world. The answers are most definitely not apparent yet. It is going to take time to clearly see the emerging needs, but we must start looking for this clarity.

We need to talk to with others, keep up with “real” news, and consider which aspects of our school direction are helpful and which need to change or be added to.

A simple truth is that we can’t lead if we don’t know where we’re going, and now is the time to start working this out – together.

Dave

What do you think? This is a huge topic and discussion is going to be essential – jump over to our Facebook page or leave a comment below.

I did an extraordinary thing last weekend. I rode a 36km mountain bike event.

Being in the race wasn’t extraordinary. Several hundred other people did the same. And it wasn’t my time nor the place I came, because it was by far my slowest ever for completing the event. It was by no means my longest or toughest race, and I hadn’t had to overcome any debilitating injury.

What was extraordinary is that I did it without any training and got to the end in pretty good shape!

No training, zero, nada, zip.

While sitting on the grass at the finish line, half a beer in hand, I realised that things have changed. I have changed, and it happened without me realising.

.  .  .

To give context, I have to briefly go back 7 years to the time when I was first talked into riding a bike at a local event. It started with a classic piece of misinformation – “come on Dave, anyone can do it, you’ll be fine.”  Naively, I turned up and had a go.

It was exhausting, confusing, and at times terrifying. I’m not sure what your definition of “fine” is but mine does not include bruised, sweating profusely and gasping for oxygen like a fish on a riverbank.

I was not fine.

 

Luckily for me I have persistent friends. They let time obscure the pain and then found another event to do. An “easier” event, much easier I was told. So, I did it. And this time it was not quite so new or frenetic and while I finished exhausted, I actually enjoyed most of it.

We started riding in more events and after the first year I was really enjoying the experience. My bike got upgraded, my biking fitness increased and I found that my times were improving. My competitive nature enjoyed the contests and to go faster I trained when possible. Life/work kept this to less than I would have liked but still, every event involved some focused training.

But not last weekend.

Last weekend I had to literally dust off my bike, pump the tyres up and move the junk that had accumulated around it in the garage. (Biking has been sacrificed to some other things I am doing at the moment.)

The thought of riding a race without any preparation worried me. After several years of turning up to events I understand how much energy goes into riding fast off road for an hour and a half. What say I “tanked” (ran out of energy) or made a bad (think hospital time) mistake because I was exhausted?

But none of that negative stuff happened. I just rode the thing with a friend. Simple.

A few years ago, this just would not have been possible.

.  .  .

If you’re incredibly patient and still reading, here’s my point –

The impossible can become possible given time and tiny incremental improvements.

An example in my professional life is batching (i.e. making regular time to work on one thing at a time). A year ago, a “normal” day involved bouncing from task to task from the moment I arrived onsite to the moment I left. I jumped on the figurative hamster wheel and spun it hard. I was super accessible all the time and responded to others’ needs/wants straight away. I would often end up at the end of a day/week having done a thousand things but not the one important task I had planned. Things needed to change.

Just then, along came a sabbatical with the opportunity to reflect and the possibility to learn from others and I heard about “batching” (read more here). It seemed impossible that I could create a space in each day where I wasn’t interrupted. But I was determined to make change so I started small – half an hour, three times per week. Door shut, phone/email on “shut up mode”.

It was awesome so I incrementally added to it. Now, a year later, it is no big deal to be focused for an hour, even two. The team around me accept it and actively help me achieve it. It is a game changer that frankly, seemed impossible a year ago.  

.  .  .

Maybe you couldn’t imagine anything worse than a bike race, fair enough. But maybe you would like to work less hours, or to run better meetings, or lose some kilos, or turn 40/50/60 in great shape,  . . .  we all have things we wish were different/better.

It’s the little actions that make the difference. One less meeting a week, one more glass of water, 30 extra minutes of batching, . . . if you make them habits, they will add up to you being measurably different over time. All you have to do is choose something positive, start very small and keep doing it.

Dave

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