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Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals

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1 Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals
An Approach to Difficult Conversations Presenter Philip Gardner VASSP Project Services Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals

2 What do you find difficult?
What professional conversations have you had recently that you found difficult? OR What professional conversations do you expect to be difficult?

3 General Tips on School Culture Around Feedback
Establish school’s protocols and procedures around feedback Be clear on agreed behaviours, developed with staff input Have regular conversations around expectations and roles Be positive and supportive of team decisions Establish the 4Ps process for discussions: permission – what do you want me to do if…..? parameters – what are the things we will discuss? purpose – what are we trying to achieve in this discussion? process – how and when, outcomes, feedback

4 How we tend to listen For the problem/the fault in the argument
For opportunities to sound intelligent/clever For a chance to say something funny For how I could sound important To information I want/For how it affects me [“meeting behaviour”] To external distractions – other noise, music, etc For what’s going on for the other person/what’s it’s telling me bout them For approval of what you have done To my own thoughts, not listening to the person at all To be able to understand the problem For how I can benefit For the opportunity to one-up the other person For what I need to do to help solve the problem [“teacher/leader/principal behaviour”] For how I can undermine the other person’s point of view or position For how I can change or end the conversation [“busy person’s behaviour”]. [Based on: Leadership Teams Development Program by Insight SRC & SACS Consulting]

5 The 4 pillars of organisational health
Empathy The degree to which leaders understand the needs of staff members Clarity The extent to which staff members have a sense of purpose and know what is expected of them Engagement The extent to which staff members collaborate, share ideas and solve problems together, leading to a shared understanding and alignment of team goals Learning The extent to which staff members feel their efforts are being recognised and their capability is being developed through appropriate learning and development opportunities. Four Pillars developed by Insight SRC

6 Your role as leaders Empathy – building trust, respect, and mutual understanding Clarity – building dialogue, discussion, focus and accountability Engagement – building teamwork, empowerment, and shared ownership Learning – building in feedback, personal growth and challenge

7 Examine your own behaviour

8 Work on me first …the first step to achieving the results we really want is to fix the problem of believing that others are the source of all that ails us” Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler

9 Task or relationship When faced with a difficult conversation, it is important to balance the focus, thus avoiding: too much on the task (just tell them what they’ve done wrong and what you expect next time) or too much on the relationship (and by soft-soaping never really say what the problem is) For a discussion of this, see Viviane Robinson

10 Your team What behaviours do you expect of the leadership team?
Are there behaviours that you tolerate in this team or the team that you lead that you know are counterproductive? Listen carefully to the people around you. Do you hear the language of responsibility? Or the language of blame and excuses? Does your team’s culture harbour any deep-seated excuses for poor performance? If there are issues of concern, how do you hold each other accountable?

11 Red zone or blue zone

12 Red zone traits A child mind state
Red zone traits A child mind state. You can see any 2-5 year old showing some or all of these. Your attention is more focused on your own needs, agendas or outcomes You tend to be pessimistic You tend to be vigilant, looking for differences to your expectations You express negative emotions and thinking with high energy You stay stuck in a problem You tend to make global statements like "I always get the slow queue", or "You are always doing this to me" or "You never keep your room tidy” You tend to link your current mood or circumstances to any possible future states "I'll never get the job I want", or "This class will never learn" (tomorrow will be the same as today). You tend to be more impulsive, not being able to defer reward or gratification until a later (perhaps more appropriate) time You tend to ask poor questions like "Why did you do that?" or "Why are you always late?" (what useful answer is there to these?) Andrew Mowat

13 Blue zone traits Your attention is more on the needs and outcomes of others You tend to be optimistic You are calm, open, present and connected with others You make accurate (not global) observations like "I feel frustrated right now" or "Boy this is a slow queue" or "I see that your room is untidy” You find solutions, or more importantly, you help others find their own solutions You are able to isolate poor moods and unhelpful experiences to how it is just now, and that ‘tomorrow could well be better’ You can manage impulses and defer rewards and gratification You ask better questions, like “What do you need to be able to arrive to class on time?” or “How might I think about this differently?”  To be our best for others, whether it be as a leader, a teacher, a partner or a parent, we need to be in our adult (Blue Zone) mind state. From this mind state, we can resolve disputes, solve problems, manage behaviour (in others) and inspire others to action in a way that is impossible in the Red Zone.

14 What to watch for Think | Pair | Share Thinking about the last professional conversation you had that left you frustrated or annoyed, what was it about the person or the conversation that irritated you?

15 Open to Learning

16 Listening Seek first to understand, then to be understood (Stephen Covey) Ensure that you hear the other person, and that the other person knows you are hearing what they are saying.

17 Pay attention Give the speaker your undivided attention and acknowledge the message. Recognize that what is not said also speaks loudly. Look at the speaker directly (make eye contact). Put aside distracting thoughts. Don’t mentally prepare a rebuttal. Avoid being distracted by environmental factors. “Listen” to the speaker’s body language.

18 Show that you are paying attention
Use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention. Nod occasionally. Smile and use other facial expressions. Note your posture and make sure it is open. Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like yes, and uh huh. Don’t become distracted by electronic devices.

19 Summarising & Clarifying
Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said. This may require you to reflect what is being said and ask questions. Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. e.g. “What I’m hearing is…” and “Sounds like you are saying…” Ask questions to clarify certain points. “What do you mean when you say…” “Is this what you mean?” Summarize the speaker’s comments periodically. If you find yourself responding emotionally to what someone said, say so, and ask for more information: "I may not be understanding you correctly, and I find myself taking what you said personally. What I thought you just said is XXX; is that what you meant?”

20 Coaching Who owns the solutions? People should be empowered to come up with their own solutions to challenging tasks. Use future-focused coaching questions rather than comments or judgements Where are you now? Where would you like to be in a year from now? What do you have to do to get there? How and when will you do it? Use your Leadership Team meetings to build a database of effective questions/strategies.

21 Questions to ask Where induction is required (e.g. someone says they build good relationships with my students): What does that look like in practice? If I came into your classroom, what would I look for that demonstrated that? Where deduction is required (e.g. someone says what happened in a classroom or describes the behaviour of a group of students): What did you learn from that? How would you approach that in the future?

22 How will you sustain success?
Questions to ask once action has been decided: How will you ensure that you carry out these actions? What might get in the way? How can we address that? What needs to be different about your thoughts, feelings, behaviours or environment to ensure you carry out these actions? What support/structures are needed to maintain this? From Growth Coaching International “The Leadership Coaching guide”

23 Good listeners Think | Pair | Share Think about someone you regard as a good listener. What qualities do they display that makes them a good listener?

24 Cool conversations Warm Conversations
The meeting Cool conversations Warm Conversations

25 What’s the meeting about?
Warm – you are telling the person good things about their work (things they are doing well) Cool – you are telling the person something they don’t want to hear (areas of improvement)

26 Acknowledge the rocks, but don’t dwell on them…
More financial support from the government Smaller class sizes; lower teaching allotments More preparation time for teachers More support staff to assist students - teacher aides, counsellors, social workers, etc. More supportive parents The abolition of national testing Higher teacher salaries Fewer initiatives from the centre More financial support for teachers’ PD Better academic preparation of students in primary schools/lower levels Better facilities Students with a stronger work ethic and reduced sense of entitlement based on article by Rick DuFour

27 Warm conversations Use frameworks to write positive comments E5 PoLT
VIT Workshop this with your team. Point out to teachers that all reviewers are doing this to ensure consistency and the meeting of accreditation standards.

28 Is the team ready? Do all staff have the same expectations of:
What they must do in preparation for the meeting What they must supply to the reviewer prior to the meeting, and how long before the meeting it will be supplied How long the meeting will run for What will be considered evidence of meeting the required standards The type and length of comments that will be written The time it takes for the reviewer to complete/sign off the review

29 The Professional Conversation Framework That Uses A Growth Coaching Approach
Identify a behaviour one of your team is demonstrating that you need to address. Tell your partner about this. What is current reality for you at the moment? Is there anything about the current reality that might give you cause for confidence that this behaviour might be positively addressed? What options do you have that might be worth pursuing as a means of achieving your goal? Now identify one of those actions that might best work for you. Commit to it. What strategies will you adopt to help you achieve this? What strategies will you adopt to ensure that you can embed this behaviour? How will you hold yourself to account? How would you help the person whose behaviour you want to address hold themselves to account? What feedback would you like to receive about the above, and who do you want to provide this? How? How will you respond to the feedback if you don’t agree with it? How will you address this issue with the person with whom you are conversing?

30 1. Do your homework Ask for material to be submitted prior to the meeting to allow you to look at it. This may include: Data – student results, surveys Student work Have all facts at your disposal. This depend on the nature of the conversation. It could include: Student results (e.g from VCE data service) Complaints (e.g from parents and students) Advice (from Conduct and Ethics, VASSP or VGSA 2008 and its Implementation Guide if necessary). At this stage, the process should be managed by a member of the Prin Team

31 2. Be prepared Have an appropriate time and place for meeting
Plan your comments - but don’t read from a script. Cover the points you want covered. Think about possible questions you may be asked and discuss these with a colleague. Rehearse/role play prior to meeting. Set up the room as you would like it, for all to be comfortable Have an appropriate time and place for meeting Don’t be rushed

32 3. Decide who will be at the interview
Will anyone be with you? Offer same opportunity to staff member Define their role It may be one person both parties are happy with

33 4. Keep focused and on task
Have an agenda / plan Focus on the issue, not the person Be clear about the aim, expectation, outcomes and next step of the meeting Plan questions / dot points for response When next you have this (difficult) student, what could you do differently? To be the best teacher you can be, what do you think you need to do more of / less of? Avoid deflections – acknowledge peripherals, but go straight back to the issue

34 5. Stay emotionally controlled
Understand you can’t control someone’s response. Don’t engage in the emotion “I can see this is upsetting for you, but I would like to find a solution that works for everyone” Respond quickly to a situation, but hold the meeting later when emotions have cooled. Recognise that this meeting may be uncomfortable for both.

35 6. Listen actively to the person’s opinion
Try to give person ownership of issue and solution Provide an opportunity for the person to speak their mind, to tell their story Reflect on their opinion

36 7. Recognise when to hand over to the next level
Should an Assistant Principal or Principal be involved? Is this a case for Unsatisfactory Performance or Misconduct? Would a support group be of help? Is counselling necessary?

37 8. Keep clear notes Restate what has been agreed at meeting
Have a written summary and any other documentation collated Share notes – both parties have a copy Assume these notes may be used in other forums (e.g. Merit Protection Board) and write them accordingly.

38 9. Use accepted frameworks
Include areas which require improvement/are to be worked on. This is especially important where future action may need to be taken.. Use phrases from DEECD documents for areas of improvement as well as for achievements VIT accreditation E5 Instructional Model PoLT Whatever framework you have agreed to/discussed

39 10. Invite a follow-up meeting if desired / necessary
Enables debriefing Where to from here? Encourage staff member to seek feedback from others if appropriate

40 A Difficult Conversations Framework
Identify the purpose of the conversation, express it concrete, SMART goal terms. Explore current reality. What are the factors that inhibit what we might want to achieve? What factors might assist in moving things forward? What options are there that might be worth pursuing as a means of achieving the outcome? Now identify one of those actions that might be worth trying. Commit to it. What strategies might be tried to help achieve this? What strategies can be adopted to ensure that might serve to consolidate the action, to embed practice? How can we hold ourselves to account for following through with what we decide? How can we use feedback as a mechanism for ensuring progress?

41 Scenarios Using one of the scenarios provided, practice the conversation you might have with the person. Do this in groups of three where: One person plays the role of the difficult person One person is the leader who has to initiate the conversation One person is an observer, looking for whether the conversation progresses along coaching guidelines. Keep notes for feedback.

42 After the meeting

43 How did it go? Seek feedback about the process with staff
Keep Try Change Discuss what was agreed before the process was begun.

44 Where is your team? Goal - What does the team need to achieve in relation to difficult conversations? Reality – what is happening now? Options – What could you do? Will – What will you do? Tactics – How and when will you do it? Habits – How will you ensure you carry out these actions? Think | Pair | Share What are the main things you think should be kept in mind for conducting difficult conversations?

45 Professional Development
Reading John Whitmore: Coaching for Performance (Nicholas Brealey) Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler: Crucial Conversations (McGraw-Hill) Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler: Crucial Confrontations (McGraw-Hill) Viviane Robinson “Open to Learning Conversations” Courses/Resources GROWTH Coaching ~ Andrew Mowat ~ Monash University ~

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