I was working with a group of folks recently and we were talking about moving through some pretty tough resistance they were facing.  I did some modeling and scripting for them on how to have straight-forward conversations with some key staff members who were causing an unnecessary ruckus (by the way, there are times that call for necessary ruckuses…I should know!).  We talked about how, as leaders, you owe it to the people doing the “right thing” to do some confronting (hate the connotation of that word, but you catch my drift) of the people doing the “wrong thing.”

I also told them that I don’t think that just because people are doing things differently than we might expect them to, that they’re “wrong” – but the results of these particular ruckus-causers were really very poor.  Their students were struggling and something had to be done.

As we were talking and modeling and coaching each other through how to have these conversations, one of the principals turned to me and said, “Oh, I’m just not like you.  I don’t like confrontation!”  I laughed (I’ve heard this before) and said, “Are you saying that I like it?”  And she said, “Well it seems like it!”  We all laughed even more.

What I told her is this: “I get butterflies, stomach-aches, moments of wanting to live in denial and all of that other stuff when I have to talk with someone about following the plan, poor behavior or anything else that might be deemed confrontational. The difference is this: I just do it anyway.”

See that’s the real deal in school improvement, classroom improvement, teaching improvement, score improvement or anything-else-improvement…we OWE IT TO THOSE WE SERVE (the kids) and the ONES WE WORK ALONGSIDE (our colleagues) to bring it every day.  And we really owe it to them to take care of situations where it’s not being brought every day.  Catch my drift?

I am more than convinced that leadership in the classroom, school and district is about skill, for sure.  But it’s more about guts.

Guts = Success  (Notice I didn’t say Guts = Perfection, because I know for sure we don’t have to be perfect to get the results in the classroom that we want!  That’s the good news!)

Do you have guts?

Let’s put it to the test…

I would like you to pull out a post-it note.  (Yes, really do this…I promise it’ll be worth it!!!)

I want you to jot down the FIRST name that comes to mind when you read this question: Who is the one person that is getting in the way of my teaching/leadership/coaching improvement and success?

Jot down the name.

Now on another post-it note, I want you to jot down (really quickly – don’t think too hard – we’re going for a gut check here) the answer to this: What 3 specific actions does that person engage in or display that is getting in the way?

Now look at your list.  Cross off anything that is a feeling, a thought, an idea…only leave actions on the list.

Now to the hard part…

I want you to make an appointment with that person for a time within the next week.  Instead of saying, “Wanda, I’d like to make an appointment…we need to talk” (that always gives me a heart-attack and makes me want to move…to Siberia), say something like, “Wanda, can I have 30 minutes of your time on Thursday at 3:30? I want to run some ideas by you as I’m getting in my right mind for the next school year.”

When you sit down with Wanda, for example, start off by saying something like: “Wanda I need your help with something…” or “Wanda, I’m really trying to be more efficient this year…” – – put it on yourself.  But at some point (do it quickly before you chicken out), you will need to add in there, “Would you help me improve by making sure that when we’re in our team meetings, we stick to our agenda?” (If, for example, the off-topic talking by Wanda is inhibiting your team’s work)

The bottom line is this: The instruction doesn’t just happen in the classroom with the kids.  Many times there are staff/team/colleague issues that we need to hash out so that we can improve the quality of our teaching – and to ensure that we’re bringing the best to our kids each day.

You’ve got to have guts in order to improve your performance – and that of your kids.

Do you?