Your Eye on The Prize: Time and Effort

The toughest, hard nut, push-you-every-day, wake-up-at-4am people you interact with each day can be your single greatest ally.

Let’s not jump ahead though.

Picture this:

You walk into a classroom, boardroom or office first thing in the morning. You’ve grabbed your usual morning fair trade, organic, ethically sourced, single blend, mochaccino with whipped cream, and are all set for the day – bring it on.

Then something interesting takes place. The day kicks off and your students or team aren’t responding to you. They are busy searching cat videos, sad grandpa news stories or discovering what ever happened to the kids from “Saved by the Bell”, instead of completing the task clearly outlined.


Matter of fact, they are blatantly doing it in front of you and don’t really care that you know that they know that you know. (Pause, read again and then continue).

While that is all taking place, you also have a few key individuals demanding attention, any form of attention that can come their way – positive or negative – from anyone around them. The time, effort and energy you had reserved for the whole group becomes concentrated and devoted to a select few.


8 hours later, you reach down, grab your bag and search to collapse on the nearest bed/couch/rug/object near you (I recommend always having a beanbag nearby).


Tiring? Definitely.

Especially if you are stuck focusing on all the negatives and what’s not occurring.

Sometimes all we see is the negative behaviours or aspects, and we ignore all of the positives we could be drawing on and recognising.

This is when we become stuck seeing the negatives and miss all of the positives surrounding it, what Bill Rogers* calls (surprisingly) the black dot in the white square.Black Dot

In a classroom that one dot represents those naughty kids distracting others, giving up or yelling and screaming. In a typical office setting…well, they are the same, just bigger and louder.

How often are we focused on that one dot – the naughty kid, toxic colleague or inconsistent team member?

What can you do about making a change to the situation?

These questions aren’t intended to make you feel guilty, we all get drawn into focusing on these people at times, and feel like some things are out of our control.

That’s because they are – things are constantly out of our control all the time.

But, we can control certain aspects. That next lesson you are teaching or team meeting you are overseeing? You can take control of your input, actions and perceptions – if you are willing to.

So, let’s start with two simple questions I often ask teachers needing assistance with  claiming back their control in the management of their class:

What are the top three successes you are already seeing?

What is the one thing you would change if you could?


This first question is focused on getting you back to the positivity within the square (the white space) – all of those great people, working hard, putting in effort and demonstrating the expected behaviours or results.

(Bonus points: it also gives them an opportunity to say aloud things they are doing well already)

The second question gets you to the next stage; taking back control of a situation that feels uncontrollable, identifying a goal and creating a plan to achieve that goal.

Majority of the time, when we are working with people, the issue we are facing boils down to social and emotional needs or differences, which direct our behaviours.

A person continually turns up late to meetings or class?

Is it that they can’t tell the time? Can’t navigate their way to the venue?

Possible, but highly doubtful.

Maybe they grew up with modelling that turning up slightly late was acceptable or have never considered the impact of their lateness on others.

Instead of thinking of it as them being unable to complete a simple skill (listen and follow Google Maps) the aim is to focus on them as a person – who they are, what they believe in and value.

You might be annoyed at a person’s inability to arrive on time, or not to speak over others during class discussions, but they genuinely may not believe in those things as much as you.

So, what? How can this change?

Start with why.

The reasons why we do things is crucial, before you can begin clarifying expectations of individuals and the group they need to know why they should be doing this.

Why should we arrive on time to work or school?

Why should I wash my mug up and not leave it passive-aggressively just next to the dish rack in the tea room?

If you can’t provide a believable reason things will never change for the better. Using fear may get people to do things for a time, but it won’t bring in positive change – it will simply get people to do the bare minimum to protect themselves, instead of doing what they can for others.

Once we know why we need to be working on something, we are able to identify and explain the positive and negative consequences of our group’s choices…and when the group can explain their expectations and consequences, they seem fair and justified to everyone.

It isn’t all smooth sailing with this though. Creating expectations, discussing consequences and constantly speaking about why we are doing this is amazing, but investing in relationships within the team is crucial.

Mighty Ducks

Yes, it’s true, not everyone will be your best friend, however, choosing to continually invest your time and effort into others has a cumulative effect. Trust and teamwork slowly build up and will spread across the team…though the time it takes to do so will depend on how consistently you invest your non-renewable time and effort, the previous experiences, attitudes or values of your group, and other outside factors affecting your organisation (reports, unexpected demands, staff turnover).

If we aren’t willing to invest in others, why would they invest in us and our goals?


As the group becomes cemented you’ll find things suddenly begin to change. People will not only seek to uphold the group’s expectations, but will begin to call others out on not fulfilling these expectations, and accepting the consequences.

This doesn’t mean you need to do this in front of everyone. Simply having a clear discussion focused on the expectations you’ve all voiced can be incredibly effective – we are simply holding them up to expectations they asked for.

The amazing thing about creating clear reasons, expectations and consequences is that suddenly following through and living up to them becomes easier…we don’t focus on the person not upholding them, we are focusing on the team’s expectation or behaviour not being met.

It’s becomes less about the person and more about maintaining the strength and values of the group as a whole.

We all have that black dot of doom in our classroom or team, but we also have all that positivity surrounding it. Take time to see what you are already achieving and doing well before you find that one thing you want to see changed.



Now to you.

What are the top three successes you are already seeing?

What is the one thing you would change if you could?



Why should it be changed?

How could you all work together to start that change?


*Bill Rogers: a leading Australian, and international, guru of behaviour management and theory…an amazingly observant, patient and open-minded individual who has shaped many a classroom and school.


Further Upgrades


Bill Rogers – You Know the Fair Rule

Fred Jones – Tools for Teaching (Positive Discipline theory)

Simon Sinek – Why Leaders Eat Last (amazing!)



Blogs – a blog that discusses all things education, learning and teaching – focused on amazing things in life that can help us live and think better


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