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Submitted by Hexemom on


First of all, I need to acknowledge the obvious. Businesses and schools are very, very different. However, I believe that the Trinity would be powerful to unleash in schools. The problem is that, as a principal (with no vice principal) of an elementary school with 600 students and over 50 staff to supervise, I feel that I cannot do O3’s justice! It is impossible to meet with 50 people weekly . . . Even monthly! 

I could meet with grade/department teams (of 3-5 people) more easily, but that really wouldn't be considered O3s. Those would end up being a status type meeting anyway. I have 36 teachers and approximately 16 support staff (paraprofessionals who do clerical work, recess duty, work one-on-one with students, etc.). I suppose I could just do O3's with the teachers . . . But again it's tricky to do weekly or even monthly. Teachers' time isn't as flexible because they are with students all day except for their 40 minute planning period or the hour of time across before/after students are in session.

Is there any one out there who has tried to implement the Trinity with such a large number of directs? Should I throw in the towel on this one? Or, maybe I should just accept that the education world and the business world are apples and oranges? 

Thanks for your insight!


mattpalmer's picture

Doing O3s with 50 directs weekly would be theoretically possible if everyone's time was flexible, but it'd still be insane to try.  In *your* situation, where 36 of your directs are unavailable for 80%+ of the workday... I don't use the word "impossible" lightly, but I think this is a reasonable time to lay the word on the table.

Instead, you're going to have to create some hierarchy.  I'm in the process of doing that in my organisation, to reduce my number of directs down from around 30 to 6.  I've asked for volunteers to be team leads, and will be structuring the department into teams of no more than 5 people (including the team lead).  I'll manage the team leads, and the team leads will manage their teams where "manage" is basically the trinity, plus a bit of light delegation).  At the moment I'm running training sessions (each an hour long) covering all the key aspects of their managerial responsibilities, laying out my expectations in each area, and then some practical exercises to show them how they can go about meeting those expectations.

Having worked in primary education in the past (as an IT support person, not a teacher), I know that the world of education is very, very different to where I am now, and I think you'll probably have a harder job executing a restructure than I am.  However, we should always seek to take the difficult right, rather than the easy wrong.  I think if you demonstrate the benefits of MT techniques, you'll slowly win people around.

leanne's picture
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I have a couple more ideas/suggestions/thoughts:

1. Do you have an assistant principal? (It doesn't look like it from what you said, but you know what they say about assuming...) If you do, delegate some of it to them.

2. Shorten the O3 time.  I don't really like this one, but it can make it easier work into teachers' schedules, possibly.

3. As Matt suggested, reduce the number of directs. Maybe one to three people from the non-teachers, who then handles the rest of those folks with O3s of their own; then maybe try bi-weekly with the teachers (that'd be 18 per week, still quite a lot, but with shorter O3s it might be workable) - or even every three weeks if you have to. Or put in 'department/grade heads', if you don't already have them, and meet with them. (Don't forget skip-level meetings in this case...)

4. Remember that O3s are what Mark and Mike call 'teachable equivalents' - that is, a way they can teach people how to develop relationships with their directs. Can you come up with other ways you can work on relationships with the teachers? What about over the summer? I don't know how teachers' summers work, whether they have them off or not. But could you wait until the summer and then work with them then? Once you establish a good relationship, I suspect maintaining it during the school year would be easier.

5. Present the problem to the teachers and let them figure out a workable solution! Call a general staff meeting to announce that you want to try them, much like in the Rolling Out The Trinity casts.  And in that meeting, tell the teachers, "I'm really not sure how we can work something like this out with the way your schedules work, so I'm going to start with the other folks. If you guys can help me work out a good way to do this, I'll add them in for you guys also."

GlennR's picture

I would encourage you not to start with trying to figure out how you can complete the weekly or bi-weekly round of 03's. Remember, they are a means to an end, not the end themselves. The question I believe that needs answering is, "How can I build relationships, improve communications and manage the development of my staff?"

Time to build a better mousetrap. The 03 model recommends a set time for each appointment on a weekly basis. To quote the elder George Bush, "Not gonna happen." 

What is an 03 at its most elemental level? It's a private meeting designed to monitor progress, build relationships, improve communication, and assist in the development of staff. Right?

Let's  focus on the "private meeting." You have plenty of opportunities for short conversations, right?  I'm sure you practice management by walking around (MBWA), you probably have an open-door policy for staff, parents, and students. Take the 3 elements of a good 03 and see if you can replicate them in those environments. So focus less on the scheduling and more on taking the opportunity when it presents itself.

You may already be an expert at reading body language and listening, but I'd strive to reach the point where people would say about me, "Every time I talked with him, I knew I had his undivided attention. He always valued my opinions." You might learn just as much in two minute conversation as others learn in 30.

Also, try Leanne's #5 above. Just asking them that should improve communications. And they might come up with a solution.

Hexemom's picture
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Thank you for your insight! I am remembering a quote that Mark says often, "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king." I think I've been letting perfect be the enemy of the good and shying away from doing what I can because it's not EXACTLY the O3 model. 

Leanne, I don't have an assistant principal, you are right. Asking teachers to meet with me during their summer vacation would get me into all kinds of trouble with the teachers union, so that's not an option either. However, I do have frequent opportunities to talk with teachers and I will strive toward including the three elements of a good O3 into my other one-on-one meetings/conversations with them.

I think I was making this too rigid and black and white . . . Hopefully I can find some gray area and make it fit for our situation (without tarnishing the intent of or "bastardizing" MT's model).

You all were great help!

Thank you!


GlennR's picture

Here's one of my favorite "management" quotes:

But there’s no substitute for getting smarter faster. And the way you get smarter is to screw around vigorously. Try stuff. See what works. See what fails miserably. Learn. Rinse. Repeat.”

 --Tom Peters, quoted in “Fast Company” Dec. 2001.

Good luck! (...And don't look at it as "tarnishing the intent..." You may wind up creating V2.0 or an 03 model best suited for principals.)




Hexemom's picture
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 A wonderful way to look at things, GlennR! Who knows, maybe I'll develop a "Principal Tools" podcast!

drenn18's picture
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Hex, I empathize with your situation. I'm a restaurant manager with 37 directs (and counting). I've been trying to figure out how the nature of shift work allows us to have scheduled times. Obviously, we can't meet while they are serving and even worse, my work is often my directs' 2nd job.  There's less incentive for them to develop than what a career would provide. I have to ask them to come in early when they have a full-time job as it is!

I've decided the important thing is that they get done; how is secondary, as suggested by several members here. I announced them at a staff meeting, and since then have enjoyed having them come to me to ask for O3s. The "O3s with shift workers" cast might be useful to you, as well.