The Minimalist Educator Podcast

Episode 015: Prioritizing People and Protocols with Dr. Phil Echols

November 28, 2023
The Minimalist Educator Podcast
Episode 015: Prioritizing People and Protocols with Dr. Phil Echols
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode, Phil talks to us about the parallels between his roles in education and health care, specifically about time use and meeting structures. His pare down pointer is about managing your yes’s and no’s.

Phil Echols, former teacher, school counselor, and administrator for the Wake County Public School System, currently serves as an Organizational and Diversity Specialist for WakeMed Health and Hospitals in North Carolina. His expertise includes effective collaboration, coaching, diversity, and inclusion for large systems. He has over two decades of experience in education, public speaking, facilitation, and international training and development. Dr. Echols has presented sessions on creating positive and productive professional cultures for ASCD, Learning Forward, and the Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools, specifically in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, and Bangkok. Dr. Echols believes diversity enriches the community, and all have the capacity to learn and grow. His work is anchored in his mission to inspire and support individuals and groups in doing and being their best.

Today's episode is sponsored by Plan Z Professional Learning Services - forward-thinking educator support. Find more information about services offered for educators at www.planzplservices.com. Follow us @PlanZPLS on Twitter and Instagram.

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Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Minimalist Educator Podcast, a podcast about paring down to refocus on the purpose and priorities in our roles with co-hosts and co-authors of the Minimalist Teacher Book, Tammy Musiowsky-Borniman and Christine Arnold.

Speaker 2:

In this episode, phil talks to us about the parallels between his roles in education and healthcare, specifically about time use and meeting structures. His pared down pointer is about managing your yeses and noes. Phil Eccles, former teacher, school counselor and administrator for the Wake County Public School System, currently serves as an organizational diversity specialist for Wake Med Health and Hospitals in North Carolina. His expertise includes effective collaboration, coaching, diversity and inclusion for large systems. He has over two decades of experience in education, public speaking facilitation and international training and development. Dr Eccles has presented sessions on creating positive and productive professional cultures for ASCD, learning forward and the Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools, specifically in Abu Dhabi by Rain and Bangkok. Dr Eccles believes diversity enriches the community and all have the capacity to learn and grow. His work is anchored in his mission to inspire and support individuals and groups in doing their best.

Speaker 3:

Welcome to this week's episode of the Minimalist Educator Podcast. This week we have with us Phil Eccles. Welcome to the show, Phil.

Speaker 4:

Thank you, anne, thanks for having me.

Speaker 3:

I'm excited to have you on because we've known each other for a few years now and have a lot in common with the way we think about organizations and structures and things like that. Our initial touch point is ASCD Emerging Leaders. It's been great to just have that as the place that we started. Like many of our guests that we've had is that initial connection with ASCD. We've gotten to know each other through that, which has been awesome. When we first met, you were in a different role. You've done a little bit of role moving over the last few years, but always keeping in mind, like I think, about the work that you've done with teams and coaching and getting cultures in good places. That's a big part of creating a minimalist mindset culture in organizations. Can you talk a little bit about some of the work that you've done in the past where you really relied on, like some structures and protocols that you put in place to develop cultures?

Speaker 4:

Yeah, absolutely Just a quick kind of jumping around. I've always prided myself on getting in a job or staying in a role and giving it some time, and so, surprisingly, I have moved positions rather frequently, I would say, but it's all been aligned with my values, personal goals, professional goals, and so some of the work to answer your question some of the work that I'd done where structures, protocols, processes were really important was when I was working for our largest school district here in the state of North Carolina. I was in the role of professional learning specialist, or in transition to become an administrator of professional learning, and so one of my roles was supporting professional learning communities, and so that was really an area where structures, processes, goal setting, collaboration was key, and I really kind of sharpened my saw in that area, having moved from school counseling, where my department had functioned as a PLC, but now supporting the structure across a large district. Like processes, protocols, facilitation was really essential, and so, especially thinking about it from a larger scale, it's one thing even scaling it from a school building or a grade level to now thinking about, well, what are the essential processes and structures that everyone should be adhering to, what are the best practices across a district, kind of boiling it down, particularly with just a minimalistic look at what are the essential, what are the bare bones that we need to have and a couple of those things I'll just mention, one just being roles, such as having a facilitator. Like meetings need facilitation. Somebody has to be steering the ship right. It's nice in theory to think we can all come together and just make it happen and make it work, but someone does need to be kind of steering the ship. Also, just recording, like note taking a recorder, someone taking minutes, just for sustainability. People may not agree with taking minutes in the moment, but when you think about well, where have we come and how have we grown over the past three years, when you think about onboarding new people, things like minute taking and recording are essential for sustainability. One more thing I'll mention even like time keeping, it's really hard for a facilitator to always be watching their clock, and so sometimes we think about roles as just things to do, but they're really essential when you think about a team and a group being effective. But that's just one example.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it's interesting that you mentioned time, because that's something that Christine and I talk a lot about is where does our time go? I think we all talk about this, but this is something that she and I have a particular interest in just learning about different ways that our time gets sucked up right. And so right now it's like you get trapped in your phone and you're scrolling or you'd think that we're going to have an hour meeting and you're going to have an hour meeting, and then it's like five minutes past, 10 minutes past, and then we start losing respect for people's time, right, because we haven't adhered to a protocol to say no, we're only needing for this hour, and that can cause some types of fatigue. So, in just keeping those kinds of things in mind, did you find that people were more willing, maybe in meetings, to like they knew that meeting with you, you would stick to these protocols and like our meeting yes, it's just going to be an hour. So there was like a better, a more positive feeling or like a positive that helped develop the culture.

Speaker 4:

I think when, when people experience successes, that helps create ownership. Like staying away from the word buy-in. It helps create ownership when people see that these things can be effective, like it's one thing to just say do this. It's another thing to model it, to have conversations about the purposes behind it and then to see it in action and to experience success with it. So I think when we would see the effective use of these roles, for example, even processes, facilitation protocols, those types of things. And going back to what you were saying about honoring people's time, I think that's another thing too like not having a meeting just for the sake of meeting, or having an hour-long meeting, if it could be a 15 or 20-minute check-in. And then, additionally, if you are having an hour-long meeting or if time is allotted for an hour in the example of like PLCs being, like best practice being an hour or 45 minutes of protected time, how are you maximizing that time? And so, I think, just answering your question and to make those roles what they need to be for the people who are in the space, because those things could look differently, like you might need a co-facilitator and that's just unique to what that team might need if it's too much for one person to manage. You might need two people taking notes, one person taking lead and another person pitching in to help balance it. So I think, just using those roles in ways that are most effective and unique to what a group might need and them experiencing some success with it when they make it their own, to really have some ownership over continuing to use it.

Speaker 2:

Building on that idea of culture and how, tips and tricks for us to sort of build that positive culture. A lot of our conversations, when we're talking about purpose and priorities and pairing down, has been around relationships, like a lot of people bring that up regularly when we're talking about what our priorities are. So I'd love to hear your point of view, now that you've worked in all these different jobs and roles and fields. Even what are some consistent truths about relationship building that you've come across through all of your different experiences?

Speaker 4:

I would say I think, having moved from public education into healthcare, I think it's true of all organizations and all work where people are at the center, like relationships, relationships, relationships. And so years ago when I went through Critical Friends Group it's one of the things from national school reform faculty I remember in that training particularly, you talked about how relationships are the foundation, how processes and structures and the tasks and the goal are kind of the roof and the walls, and so processes and structures and tasks make the house livable, but the foundation, the relationships, keeps it all together. And so it's one thing to have processes and structures and a goal in place. It's another thing to have relationships at the center and at the heart. And so I think that's true of all work, all people-centered work, just relationships. Even having moved from professional learning into organizational development and diversity, I find those same essential elements of collaboration, communication, respect for people, all of those things have relationships at the center, and so it's it's it's still true across the board in many different organizations.

Speaker 3:

I think it's really important to hear that, because you have made a shift from education to health care, and so knowing that you know the belief or core value I guess would be you know we're still focusing on people, no matter where we are is essential. But there's also other commonalities, right, like we experience overload and education in different ways, and so what's it like then, having shifted to a new field and Like, what are some some of those other parallels that you're seeing? So, even though we want to, like you know, pare down essentially, but there's always gonna be that Stuff that overloads people. So yeah what are some parallels there that you're seeing to I?

Speaker 4:

Think, um, like to that come to mind? Initially one, I mean I could, I could sit here all day and name Like 15, but the two that come to mind, the one that was probably the most glaring and for me when I made the transition into organizational development, was one just the predictability based on socioeconomic status, based on like zip code. Like that is still true in health care as well, and an example of that is Healthcare, the goal being patient outcomes, education, student outcomes or student achievement, and so I think life expectancy based on zip code is like a real thing, like you can look at zip codes, even in our area, and you can know what the life expectancy will be based on zip code. The same can be true in education with zip codes for Student achievement. Like you can, you can almost predict how students will perform based on where they live, based on socioeconomic status. Like the all of that is true. So that was one of the first glaring things, the second being Kind of an alignment with chapter three in yours book around. Like decluttering initiatives, like initiative, initiative fatigue is also a real thing. It's like I felt like in many schools that I had supported, even even not in the school district I worked in, but across the country with like consulting as well, it's a lot going on. You have you have many different or multiple initiatives, some being Mandatory, or some that you have that that you have to engage in and some that you choose to from administration, in which you all talk about that in the book. That's true in health care as well, when you have teams that that are having to go through mandatory training, such as unconscious bias, or teams that have to do like disc assessments or Just new initiatives. Rolling down the pipe Can I can burn people out, can contribute to burning people out, when we're not just, we're not all Finding congruency or alignment with what our goals and our values and and our purpose behind doing it can be. So those are two things that that stood out initially.

Speaker 2:

I I'm curious now as well about you know, when they talk about care fatigue, health and education are two massive ones that come up. Do you find more parallels there or does it manifest in different ways? Are we dealing with sort of different care fatigue issues in the two fields?

Speaker 4:

I think it, from what I have seen, it shows up very similarly. I mean, of course, off of the heels of the pandemic. I mean it's still a real thing, but definitely not at the height that it was a couple of years ago. I think we're seeing, yes, just kind of burnout manifesting itself in people still feeling undervalued, maybe not compensated financially as much as they would like to be, which is across the board in a lot of areas. Also, with turnover people not having as always, kind of on the recruitment side, we're looking to fill positions for people who may have left or, for whatever reason, people having to cover extra shifts. I think we still see a lot of that in education as well. I think people are still working kind of double time and overtime and that's tough when you think about, even before the pandemic, the fact that people were doing that already and now it's like having less people in the workforce and still having to have the same types of results and patient outcomes and student achievement and all of that just kind of contributes. And people still have the big hearts that they've always had and that just contributes to it's harder to leave it at work. I'm finding it harder to leave it at work, and when I say it just meaning the level of care, the concern for patients, the concern for our students, like all of that is true, more than ever and heavier than ever.

Speaker 3:

That's a really strong parallel and I guess I started thinking about that more during the pandemic as well with just healthcare workers working you know, not enough of them and trying to care for everyone who is falling ill and all of that. We're at the point in the show fill that, like we've talked about quite a few things already. But we always ask our guests to give us like a pare down pointer, so something that you know in your role you found as an effective way to just kind of keep your purpose in mind or keep yourself prioritized or paired down. So what can you share with our listeners?

Speaker 4:

I think a couple of things that I'll pair down one with kind of staying center and staying whole and staying as healthy as you can. You know we talk a lot about finding balance and self care right, you hear that, we hear that a lot now and I think, just from a polarity approach, where you're managing the things that are most valuable to you, I think just recognizing that you don't have an unlimited amount of yeses or no's, keeping that in mind, can help keep you kind of sane and center. You know you can't say yes to everything, you can't say no to everything that goes for initiatives, that goes for covering other people's shifts, that goes for just spreading yourself then. So I think keeping that in mind and staying true to what's most important kind of coupling that question of well, where am I with my yeses and no's and what's most important to me, can help. I think another thing is being data driven. I mean I know we talk about that a lot, definitely in healthcare, also in education, but staying true to what is the data when we think about our purpose behind doing something and that goes for self as well when is the data that supports my actions, my behaviors, the initiatives that we're taking on the tasks that I'm saying yes to just always coming to the table and providing some data to support what you're doing, and not just because it feels good or it's something you want to do. Yeah, those are the two that kind of come to mind initially. One more this is the last one, I know I said three and this is also a parallel that I've seen in healthcare and education. People aren't really taught per se how to run meetings, and so I saw this true in our facilitation work with professional and communities. It is definitely a parallel with teams and units in healthcare. It's like even teacher prep programs. We don't necessarily teach people how to run meetings, yet there are tons of meetings that we have to attend and facilitate, and so I think honing in on facilitation skills can help keep meetings on the right path, effective, efficient with time, and so I think just investing in or honing in or refining your facilitation skills if you're someone who runs meetings or in meetings constantly, that can help keep you kind of centered and sane as well. So those are the three things that I would say.

Speaker 2:

A good reminder for all of us about keeping those meetings on task, and I love. Any pointer about data makes my little nerdy heart happy. So thank you for all of that. Thank you so much for all of your wisdom that you've shared with us today. I think we've got some really good points to reflect on and some good tips to work on as well, so we thank you very much for your time today.

Speaker 4:

Thank you, it was a pleasure being on. I've admired yours work for far. I love your book and was just excited for the opportunity, so thank you.

Speaker 2:

Today's episode was brought to you by Plan Z Professional Learning Services Forward Thinking Educator Support. Find out more at PlanZPLServicescom.

Speaker 1:

Be sure to join Tammy and Christine and guests for more episodes of the Minimalist Educator Podcast. They would love to hear about your journey with minimalism. Connect with them at Plan Z PLS on Twitter or Instagram. The music for the podcast has been written and performed by Gaia Moretti.

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