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When they go off-script … what do they ask?

I was interviewed on The Project last week and the content of that interview really doesn’t matter right now.

The process of the interview alone spoke to me loudly about how to tackle the communication imperative facing School Leaders in the current great Coronavirus interruption.  

Waleed Aly is a really good bloke and fascinating to talk to – but he’s also one of those intimidatingly smart people that freak you out a little in person.  The fact that he’s as avid a Richmond supporter as I am, means I like talking to him that little bit more.

Before talking to Waleed on the show, I always have a few chats with the show’s producers who give me an idea of what questions are going to be asked of me.  

And every time I think “Yeah right.  Until Waleed decided to go off script”.  Last week, Waleed went off script and I was asked just one of the five questions that the producers prepared me for.

Can you see the look on my face in the pic above that says “Oh shit, Waleed’s going off script here!”

I got through the interview because I prepared for this moment as I drove into the studio by asking myself two questions:

  1. What are teachers and parents complaining to each other about when it comes to this topic? (These are what we call known spoken problems and include outwardly and blameful questions like “Why isn’t my kid’s school doing that?’ and “Are these teachers just on holidays or what?’)
  2. What are teachers and parents crying about in the shower when it comes to this topic? (These are known unspoken problems and are inward.  They include self-talk like ‘I have no idea how to help my kid do distance learning from home while I work and cater for elderly family members’ and ‘I have no f&%$ing clue what Moodle even is’)

When Waleed went off script it was always going to be through a known spoken problem.  In this case it was “Woah, are you really gonna move the goalposts on Year 12 kids by removing exams during the year.  Wouldn’t that stress them out even more?”

But because I’d thought about what the known spoken AND known unspoken problems are (as I traversed the Monash Freeway on the way to the studio), I was ready and was able to point out that this would actually reduce stress because most kids are petrified (crying in the shower) about how and when exams will hit them.

My question for you as you tackle a Term 2 like we’ve never faced before on a new and hastily re-imaged educative landscape are these:

  1. What are your key stakeholders complaining to each other and do you have answers to those questions yet?
  2. What are your key stakeholders crying about in the shower and have you prepared answers to those questions too?

If you do, your people will see you seeing them.  And you’ll have their trust in your expertise.

Waleed doesn’t agree with me all the time.  In fact, if it’s not a Richmond related issue, he rarely does.

But every time I’m on The Project he introduces me as an expert thanks me for my expertise.  You deserve that from your staff, students and parents too.