What leads to success in your school, class or business?

14 October 2014
New years resolutions

One of the watershed moments in my teaching career was when I was reflecting on my struggles with a particularly hard class.  This class were close to uncontrollable and I felt like much of my time was spent being a juvenile justice officer.  I felt like I did very little teaching and a lot of disciplining.

New years resolutions


As I reflected on those students, it occurred to me, that those students didn’t wake up each morning strategizing how to fail more. They really did want to be successful at something.  So if they wanted to be successful, why were they acting this way?

Each one of those students were acting out of a culture of poor behaviour or a past history of bad choices.  Some had been labeled and were simply living up to the expectation, others were just easily influenced.  Whatever the reason, I discovered that day, that one of the best ways to lead was through success.

When I understood that each one of us wants to succeed, my approach to teaching (and leadership) changed.  I discovered that my students wanted to know what was the win; what did they have to do to succeed.  When they started to win, this became addictive, they wanted more of it.

Even your most disengaged / disruptive student doesn't wake up & strategize how to fail more. Help them succeed! Click To Tweet

What is the win?

When your staff or students don’t know what the win is, they will lose interest.  I tested this theory one day with my students.  I took them to a a basket ball court that had no ring and gave them a ball.  It didn’t take long for the students to start asking what they were supposed to do.

I simply said, “You figure it out”.

A few of the boys started a game of keeping the ball away from a student, the others were disinterested.  The boys that did play only did so for six minutes and lost interest.  When there is no goal, there is no motivation…

…BUT goals aren’t motivational

We have all set goals and then done nothing about them.  Goals in and of themselves have no motivational power.  However the right goal structured the right way can provide the motivation you, your staff, or students need.

Your goals need to be SPECIFIC and MEASURABLE

If you can’t measure your goals, then they aren’t specific enough.

When you communicate a goal, you need to paint a picture, so that they can SEE what you are SAYING.

Test this out on someone.  Go to them and say the word elephant.  When they HEAR that, they SEE a picture of an elephant, not the letters. So we communicate in pictures.  With this being the case, you need to make sure that the picture you see in your mind is the same one they see.

The more specific you are the clearer the picture.  My elephant is pink, has a long green tail and is small enough to fit on the dashboard of your car.  Now hopefully you are starting to see a bit clearer.

How do you apply this principle to your role?

For the business leader, your staff need to know where they are going and what it will look like when they get there. Paint a picture for them with your words.

You will know if you have done this correctly when your staff have a common language – they speak the same way, refer to goals and objectives using the same adjectives.

For the school leader, your staff want to know when they are winning.  You need to take the time to clearly identify what success looks like and celebrate it when you see it.

How will you know when your BYOD plan is a success? What will it look like, feel like, sound like?  You will probably need to change your thinking on this.  Most schools say they want to improve learning.  That is not specific.  How exactly will you know that learning has improved and how will you tie that back to the fact you used a computer?

For the teacher, don’t use general terms like “I want you to be quiet” that isn’t measurable.  You want to say something like, “You can speak quietly while you work, but I want the noise level to remain low enough so that I can speak to someone at the back of the room without having to raise my voice.”

That is now measurable 🙂

Our goal in 2017

Our goal at Using Technology Better is to help you determine what success looks like and then help you measure that success.  We have zero interest in showing you stuff, teaching you how to use a tool, or providing training in your organisation if it doesn’t make you more successful.

This is not some nice marketing spin.  We honestly need to feel like we are winning to stay engaged and interested in what we do.  If you’re not winning, then neither are we.

If this resonates with you:

For those in education, check out our Certified Trainer Program and our eReady Certified Schools Program.  You can also contact us about a customised training program

For those in business, contact us to access more information on our business transformation packages and change management pathways.



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In 2018, Using Technology Better designed and delivered a two phase post-migration training program for this New Zealand based graphic design firm. The initial goal of the training program was to reduce frustration with G Suite, with the long term aim of facilitating a change in culture and collaboration that can lead to transformative practices

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