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March 1, 2022
Vol. 79
No. 6
Step By Step

Four Steps to Build Change in a School

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    Leadership
      Several years ago, I read an article by a Harvard Business Review columnist named Umair Haque entitled "The Builders' Manifesto." He argued that what the world needed now was not more bosses or leaders but more builders. Haque offered this distinction among the three: Bosses say "go." Leaders say, "let's go." Builders say "come."
      I remember reading that article and seeing in that one sentence everything that was wrong with how school administrators are taught to move schools forward. When we act like a boss and say "Go," we are trying force our school to achieve goals. That never works. When we act like a leader and say, "Let's go," we are trying to push or pull our school toward our goals. That can work to a limited degree, if we're strong enough, obstinate enough, and assemble and deploy just the right resources. But when we become builders and say, "Come along with me," we invite others to help us create something extraordinary. There's no pushing, pulling, or dragging. We just get to work. And if what we are building is compelling enough, more and more people will choose to join us.
      Finding that compelling (and concrete enough) purpose—your vision—and connecting it to a specific goal all staff can share is at the heart of the "Buildership" model I've developed.
      When I read Haque's article, I'd already started putting together ideas about how principals need to change their approach to lead for real change; encountering this article helped cement those ideas. I began to assemble all that I had learned working with schools over the years into a cohesive model that any school can use to focus on the right goals and accomplish those goals right now, with whatever staff and resources they currently have. The Buildership Model has four parts (as shown in Figure 1):
      Robyn Jackson's "buildership" model
      1. Clarify your purpose. The clearer you are on your vision, mission, and core values, the more focus you and your staff will have, and the more accountable you and your teachers will be to achieving your goals.
      2. Grow your people. Look at how to grow the will and skill of your staff so that everyone is not only invested in your school's purpose, but equipped to help you achieve it. To do this, apply the Four Disciplines of Buildership—feedback, support, accountability, and culture—consistently and deliberately to help all your teachers become master teachers who are fully committed to reaching your vision, carrying out your mission, and living your core values every day with every student.
      3. Chart your pathway for effective action. Identify the biggest obstacle standing in the way of your vision, mission, or core values right now and figure out how to remove it. It's an opportunity to diagnose your situation and determine the right work to be doing so you don't waste anyone's time chasing problems or solutions that won't move you toward your purpose.
      4. Execute a plan in a 90-day cycle to remove your biggest obstacles. Because the process is iterative and cyclical, it's capable of powering both short-term successes and ongoing transformation. It's designed to anticipate the challenges you're going to encounter so you won't be derailed when you do.
      When you adopt this model, you'll gain clarity, as everyone is focused on doing the right work the right way; cohesion, as everyone works together to achieve your school goals; competence, as everyone grows the will and skill they need to be successful; and increased confidence that you will achieve your goals.
      Editor's note: This feature was adapted from Robyn Jackson's book Stop Leading, Start Building: Turn Your School into a Success Story with the People and Resources You Already Have (ASCD, 2021). For more on 90-day planning cycles, see her full article in this same issue of Educational Leadership, "The Problem with Annual Improvement Planning."

      Robyn Jackson is passionate about building better schools. As the CEO of Mindsteps Inc.®, she has helped thousands of K–12 administrators and teachers develop the clarity and confidence to turn their classrooms and schools into success stories.

      Jackson combines her experience as an English teacher and middle school administrator and her work in thousands of schools and districts to help teachers and administrators develop rigorous instructional programs that provide students with the support and motivation they need to reach or exceed the standards and helps refocus vision, mission, and core values to build better schools.

      She is the author of 11 books, most recently Stop Leading, Start Building (ASCD, 2021).

      Mindsteps Inc.® is a trademark of Mindsteps, Inc.

      Learn More

      ASCD is a community dedicated to educators' professional growth and well-being.

      Let us help you put your vision into action.
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