4 Steps to Influence the Underperformer – Part II

As we move into the depth of November, colder temperatures, the promise of Thanksgiving, boredom in school, and burn out in teachers, these are leading to some pretty ineffective classrooms.  Many students have absolutely shut down.  As I continue to work with these really good, but really tired teachers, I’m reminded of this podcast and blog that jumped out at me so much almost 7 months ago.

To this day, High Performance Habits, by Brendon Burchard, has remained one of the most impactful books that I think I have ever read…and I’m a book nerd.

Listening to his podcast one day last May, one of Brendon’s statements resonated with me:

“As a leader, it’s your job to let people know when they are not showing up as their best selves.  Leaders are forgetting to challenge people to reach their highest level of potential.  When leaders coddle, people could underperform their whole lives.” 

Substitute the word teachers for leaders, because teachers are the ultimate leaders, and students for people and this statement makes a whole lot of sense.

As a teacher, it’s your job to let students know when they are not showing up as their best selves.  Teachers are forgetting to challenge students to reach their highest level of potential.  When teachers coddle, students could underperform their whole lives.” 

This really reached out to me because I know I made this mistake with my students.  With only pure motives, I coddled, helped, and spoon-fed my kids so many times so they could feel “successful”- but really I was just deepening the dependent mentality.  I still lose sleep over this sometimes.

I wanted to take a moment and go back through the 4 steps that Burchard talks about taking to move people forward, and apply that to your classroom.

Let’s look at 4 steps to moving the students’ mindsets from underperforming to achievement – or from dependent learners to independent learners!

  1. Approach students with honor, respect and appreciation.
  2. Have an openness to learning.
  3. Challenge how they think.
  4. Challenge how they show up
  1. Approach students with honor, respect, and appreciation –  Many of these students feel very little value, and no self-efficacy. Starting a conversation with, “hey, you’re important to me, so I want to have this conversation with you” will go a lot further than, “Why haven’t you turned your work in?  You’re going to fail the class if you don’t start working.”
  • Have an openness to learning –  All behavior stems from a reason. Finding out the reason can often help us change the behavior.  Asking questions like “How are you feeling?” and “What are your goals?” and “Do you think you are reaching them?” and then listening to the answer can give us some real insight as to what’s going on.  Teachers can’t assume why the student is underperforming.

Burchard states, “Never underestimate the potential of God’s children. It’s the job of the [leader] teacher to stay open to the future potential of their [people] students.” Wow. It’s not for us to judge whether they’ve got it in them or not – it’s just our job to be open to what they could have.

  • Challenge how they think – “Prompt the students to think differently.” Guide students to think about themselves and their contributions differently.  Questions like “Have you thought about it this way?” or  “How would your best self handle this situation?” or “What do you think needs to happen in order to take one step forward?” are questions that can challenge the mindset, instead of just focusing on what they haven’t done, for example, “Why haven’t you turned in that assignment?”
  • Challenge how they show up – “I know you’ve got what you need to be successful in this class-can you commit to bring it everyday?” “I’ll commit to bringing my best self for you, can you commit to bringing your best self every day to 2nd period?”

Click here if you want some implementation ideas!

I think these steps are great ideas, but I also believe that none of these ideas will work with students unless the teacher has built an authentic relationship and alliance with the student, with the student fully understanding that the teacher cares for the student, and that they are on the journey to achievement together.  Aren’t we held accountable for our students’ achievement?  Don’t we hold ourselves accountable for our students’ success?  So, in truth aren’t we all trying to reach the same goals?

Click here for specific ideas on moving students forward!

Burchard, Brendon. High Performance Habits. New York: Hay House Inc, 2017.

Burchard, B. “Best Of: How to Influence an Underperformer”. Podcast: The Brendon Show. 6 May, 2019.

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