40. Mike Kleba | Teachers and School Leaders Transforming the Student Experience
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Daphné Vanessa

Shamil Rodriguez



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About This Episode

Mike Kleba ( is a public high school English teacher and theatre director who has served for more than 20 years in the classroom. Co-author of Otherful: How to Change the World (and Your School)Through Other People (with Dr. Ryan O’Hara, Candido Press, 2020), he is a school culture expert who has been invited to speak about educational leadership around the world. Interested in courage and vulnerability, he’s run the NYC Marathon, gone hang-gliding in Brazil, bungee jumped in New Zealand, and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. Mr. Kleba is co-organizer of the NYEdTech Meetup, the world’s largest edtech community, and sits on the SXSWedu Advisory Board. He collects vintage maps, and enjoys making cocktails and studying ancient theatre. 


  • How finding what motivates your students and peers is foundational to changing the culture of the classroom;
  • Why being “otherful” is actually a better form of leadership for long term success; and
  • much more… 


  • Amazon Link to Buy Your Own Copy of Otherful Here
  • Mike Kleba (@mikekleba) on Twitter
  • Mike Kleba (@mikekleba) on Instagram

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Mike Kleba (00:00): Caring for other people seems like an extra thing. It's not an extra thing. It's the heart of everything. And your leadership abilities grow entirely out of how much the people you lead believe that you actually care about them.

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Shamil Rodriguez (01:19): This is not professional advice. And we speak from our own personal views.

Daphné Vanessa (01:25): The student loan podcast is brought to you by start new, where you can serve your community and get rewarded with tuition and student loan payments to check out of start new is on your campus. Visit start new.com. Welcome everyone to another episode of the student loan podcast. Today we have Mike Kleba, who is not only a renowned public school teacher, but also author of other full and exciting book. We're going to get into leader of the New York ed tech group, which is where we had the blessed fortune of meeting Mike. And he's also done some really cool things in life, like climb Mount Kilimanjaro and run marathons. Like he's just the all-around most interesting guy in the world. So we're super excited to have Mike on the podcast. So with that, let's get started. Mike, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself? Well, I

Mike Kleba (02:22): Started teaching right out of college and I remember being an, I like starting kind of the story of who I am there because I was, I was 22 and I remember thinking I have no right being a teacher I'm too young. I don't know anything. And I've got these ninth graders. It was a, it was like a class of English and social studies students together in one room for a block. And I'm like, what do I have to tell you guys? And that undergirds a lot about how I approach education. That is to say with a sense of hopeful optimistic humble ignorance. Like what don't I know how much do, how much do I not know all the time, constantly try to remind myself of, of all the things I don't know. And, and that's what I talk about with teachers and school leaders is, you know, the best way to interact with other people is to leave all of your confident knowing of the world that you are so sure that you've got a handle on and let other people talk to you about it. I live in Brooklyn, I'm married to an amazing woman named Molly. I've got a dog and I love education and I'm committed to it. It's the best. It's the best profession in the whole dang world. No,

Daphné Vanessa (03:43): That's awesome. Well, we are so excited to have you on and thank you for sharing your version of your story. You humbly skipped through a lot of the accomplishments that you've done. So do you mind sharing some of those as well?

Mike Kleba (03:58): Sure. happy to you know, some of the key pieces to understand about where I'm coming from include that. So I'm certified in English and social studies. As I mentioned, I'm also a certified theater teacher and I've been directing shows for a couple of decades. I've been in the game for a little more than 20 years. And I really believe in a high school theater. I think that elementary, middle and high school theater is some of the most vital and important theater in the world. So I've, I've done, I don't know, 25 30 shows with students over the years that I've directed. And thank you everyone. Get your kids in the theater. Listen to me like it is the single best move you can make and they can do everything else too. You can, you can figure it out. They can play sports too.

Mike Kleba (04:42): If that's your January or an instrument or whatever, I'm always, I'm always selling that. You guys, I can't help it. What else? I wrote a book book that's getting around. It's it's, we've had a really good summer. I wrote it in 2020. We released it perfectly. I don't know if you guys remember March of 2020 really forgettable time, really? I mean, who even remembers a random March this right in the middle of it we were going to do it at south by Southwest I'm on the advisory board at south, south by Southwest EDU. And and it was, it was pretty disappointing for a while because I thought I'm going to get all this exposure there. It's it's going to be great. And then they canceled the conference, but it's been going well. And it's a book about school leadership. It's a book about how we lead through others, not on others, that, that all of our power, all of our impact, all of our influence has got to happen in relationship with other people.

Mike Kleba (05:35): And that relationship has got to be a real human relationship, authentic care, something. We talk about a lot authentic interest in each other, grace, forgiveness, compassion. I know people throw these words around, but you have to throw these words around and then you gotta, then you gotta walk the walk the best you can. It's hard. It's hard because we're, none of us are perfect. So we, we say dumb things and we, we, we make mistakes, but that's the key piece of leadership that we focus on in my, when I say we, my co-author is Dr. Rhino Hara. He is an administrator in oyster bay schools and our real mover and shaker just beloved by his teachers. Talk about walking the walk and a father of three and husband to a principal. Talk about a guy who's all in on education. And yeah, so for those three kids at all, oh my gosh, you know what the thing is, they do so much laughing and they D they do so much laughing.

Mike Kleba (06:28): They do so much kidding around and, and Ryan was not, you know, he'll tell you he was not the best student and that's important. You know what I mean? He was, he was a great learner and he still lives. But you know, our school systems, as you guys know, don't always do a very good job of identifying w w you know, who's, who's good at stuff, you know, it's, we use pretty blunt instruments in the academic field. So anyway, you mentioned that I'm on the New York tech meetup. I'm one of the, co-leaders there with Jessica millstone and Shiria, Huda two incredibly amazing people who inspire me every time we work together. And that's a, that's, that's a good little snippet of my story.

Daphné Vanessa (07:04): No, we love that. Talk to us more about teaching. Why did you become a teacher? What do you love about teaching today and how do you continue to teach all these years?

Mike Kleba (07:15): So I think first of all, I think teaching is the world's other oldest profession, and I think it is the profession. And I believe that it is the profession inside all the professions. And I really, I really mean that. I mean, the first part is a little bit of a joke cause it's good. But, but, but I, but I really, I actually, I do mean it. I think it is the oldest profession, and I do believe that you can have a single profession in the world without a teacher approach. You, you must bring yourself to what you're trying to learn and who you're trying to lead as a teacher. So it's just talking about that for a hot second when I try to teach. Right. And that's, that's what it is. It's always an effort. It's, it's what we started with you, you begin by looking at how other people approach things and you know, it is an act of humility, but I think it's also an awesome act of discovery to, you know, I mean, I I'm, I'm here for it.

Mike Kleba (08:04): You know, when I get to see how someone else learns something or sees something, if they disagree with the way I see it, or if they, they approach it in a totally novel way to me, I find that to be delightful. And that's, that's probably how I remained. So kind of enthusiastic about this field is that, you know, next year I have my class schedule, you know, I've got my classes set up. I'm a public high school teacher in the north shore of long island. And like I'm teaching a bunch of ninth graders, honors English, and I'm teaching a film class through Stony Brook university to some seniors. And I'm just like, I just go to it and think, what do you guys have to tell me? And I think of the curriculum as the relationship with the students, as opposed to a really hardcore map that we've got to like cover, you know, I always tell younger teachers, you know, map out the first quarter and then do your best to kind of map out the second, third and fourth call map out through like late October, early November, and then let the relationship dictate, you know, how you're going to do it.

Mike Kleba (09:01): Of course, we've got tests that we've got to manage. So you obviously have to hold yourself accountable to some of that stuff, even though I hate doing it, I do it on their behalf. Right. but, but that's, that's how I think about teaching. I think it's it's how I look at it. A lot of things, Daphne, it's a relationship. No, for

Daphné Vanessa (09:17): Sure. And because you love relationships, I presume that's why you've continued to do it for so long

Mike Kleba (09:22): Love of human beings. You know, we're, we're, we're so crazy, right. We're and we're terrible by the way, right. We're awful and we're complex and we're, we're stupid and we're angry and we get, we get into ridiculous fights about meaningless stuff, but we're also capable of such remarkable beauty and grace, the way people can, can give of themselves and receive, you know, humans are spectacular, although we are far from perfect.

Daphné Vanessa (09:50): I call us births parish site. That's about right. Whole separate conversation, but I digress. That's awesome. I

Speaker 6 (10:03): Feel like you have a great intro, especially a story about how you, or the definition behind your book, thinking about, you know, leadership leading through and just for the audience, right. To say like, well, why is Mike on today? Right. We really wanted to make sure that we stress the importance of leadership in school, especially with my background, he's really been in on the ground floor and in the front of the conversation for changing the shift in culture for how teachers lead the classroom and then lead amongst themselves. So we think it's really important and really valuable, especially if you're going to sign on a dotted line to take us through the most, to pay for school that you actually value your experience there. And so we think that bringing Mike on can actually help a lot of other administrators that do listen to the pod and teachers to view their leadership in a different way. So Mike, would you mind just sharing why the title other four, I thought it was such an amazing, you know, reason and interesting way that you guys came up with that book title.

Mike Kleba (10:54): So the name of the book is other full how to change the world and your school through other people and the concept behind it is this. So something that I see often among educators, and I see this among parents a lot too, so y'all take notes. Okay. Something that I see is, is that there's kind of two, there's kind of two ways people do it. There's either, there's the kind of the, the, the selfless way, right? And the selfless way is I need to basically deny myself entirely push comes to shove. I've got to do this for the kids and for a lot of teachers and parents, this means incredibly long nights, sometimes incredibly unhealthy patterns. Personal relationships can break down. I mean, all kinds of things can happen. We invite kind of a mental illness into ourselves. Sometimes we get sad, depressed because we're selflessly giving.

Mike Kleba (11:42): Yes, there is a reward. It also feels really good. There are times when it feels super good, like you just get really high on it, but, but there's this tax on you. And that selflessness often gets celebrated as some sort of great leadership model. And the thing is that it looks really good from the outside. It looks great, but from the inside, you can burn out and, and you get worn down. And we're seeing that in droves, by the way in education right now. I mean, the F the flight from all levels K through 12, and then obviously 13 through 20. I mean, you're seeing it everywhere. There's been a drip out of higher ed for, for years because, you know, the salary has just been sinking. And the, and you have like these teachers who are like, how much time can I spend on these papers?

Mike Kleba (12:24): How much time can I spend on each individual student? Especially if you're teaching a seminar class, that's got 150 kids in it, you know? And then you've got a couple TA's who may be do the interacting for you. You need to get this kind of like this. So that's the other part. So I'm going to flip it now, the other poll, which is what I call a selfishness, which is I'm looking out for me, look, I'm here to help you kids up to the point I can, but after that, I'm out, bye. Because I got to keep an eye on number one, I'm number one, I'm not going to get this done. You know what I'm saying? And the selfish leader, the selfish leader is often threatened by other people. The selfish leader is, is often feeling like they've got to play, you know, protect, you know, they're playing a game of like fortress and they got to like, be really, really hardcore about their boundaries, which can be healthy.

Mike Kleba (13:11): But again, it can also be really, really unhealthy. And I'm not a health practitioner. I'm not gonna say that I I'm some sort of expert on this. I just, I've been in the game a little more than 20 years. My partner and I Dr. O'hara, we just spent a lot of time researching this, and this is how we came up with other full. So it's kind of like the photographic negative of being selfless, because there it's a healthier leadership move to be selfless and to be selfish. It's true. If you got to choose one, it's a better move. The more leaders who are selfless do well. It's true. It's true. But we didn't like that model. So it's other full. So what does that mean? It means paying attention to other people fills you. It means that the work of other people actually doesn't diminish you, your interaction, your intimacy, and your connection and your focus.

Mike Kleba (13:55): It doesn't remove from you, but rather increases the size of your containers. How we look at it, like it's like, imagine, like, you know, you start as a parent or you start as a teacher, you start as a leader with like an eight ounce glass. And you're always like going, like, this is how much I have to pour out. And then I got to fill it back up, blah, blah, blah. Well, the other full leader, you know, becomes a hundred ounce glass over years because instead of trying to fit more into the glass, they grow the glass, right. You, you become a bigger container of yourself and that's what other falls about.

Daphné Vanessa (14:23): Wow. That's huge, Mike. And that's honestly applicable across, even outside of education. I would just say leadership generally, that principle that you shared taking and letting it fill you up is something that a lot of leaders could benefit from.

Mike Kleba (14:40): Yeah. Thank you. We've been hearing that, you know if you check us out on Amazon or they're full it's fun. It's fun to just type in that word and you'll find us, but like, honestly, I'm about a fourth at the reviews are all about how this isn't just about education. And that's been really fun for us because we, we would love to talk to people outside of, oh,

Daphné Vanessa (15:00): I mean, a lot of industries could hugely benefit from this. So we will move on. You talk other full about a lot of different areas, categories. I'm going to call it principles. What are those principles and how might they be applied to the 13 through 20 years, like you said,

Mike Kleba (15:22): Or has got three fundamental pieces to it. So the first thing is what we call natural accountability. Natural accountability is our way of exploring the notion that you can't make anybody do anything. They have to do it for themselves. So you can set up artificial accountability measures, and you will get behavioral change, but you won't get a lot of transformative change. And when you want to interact with somebody, what you have to do first is find out that they're actually motivated, like the laziest looking kid, or even a lazy looking restaurant. If you have one of those, you know, they're motivated by something, you know, and, and the key and Shamil, you know, this is somebody who's done a lot of work in yourself and leadership. Like when you, like, when, when you interact with somebody, you got to find out what, like what drives them.

Mike Kleba (16:05): And it isn't about changing what drives them. It's about maybe using what already drives them to help them find the drive within themselves. But so that's our first piece of the framework is the recognition. Just exactly, just a recognition that natural accountability exists. We're already accountable to ourselves. There's nothing you can say to me. And it's going to make me more accountable to myself. I'm already there, but I might be accountable to wanting to sleep 14 hours a day. You know what I mean? Like, that's the thing we're, we're, we're driven by our thing. And so when you start, when you start to realize that with other people, what you do is you engage them and go in like, well, why are you going for that? You know, what's your goal? What do you, what are you after? And it takes a relationship to do that.

Mike Kleba (16:43): The second piece is what we call the conspiracy ratio. And now that word conspiracy, right, that's gotten some really, really bad press in the last few years was part of the reason why we grabbed it because conspiracy actually comes from this beautiful Latin word. [inaudible] Which we know from the word breadth, right? That that's respiration. That's, it's perspiration. It's also inspiration, right? It's also the spirit, right? It's also, I tell my students when we do this, I'm like, it's like a Spire on a church, right? It's like, this is the breath of life and all of us and the con the conspiracy ratio is the more it belongs to me, the less it can belong to you. We need to breathe together. We need to conspire. So if I'm doing a project with you, if I'm like the boss, right. And I got this on lock, and you guys are all doing what I'm supposed to be, what you're supposed to be doing.

Mike Kleba (17:30): According to me, the conspiracy ratio is really out of whack. It's really, we're not working together. You're doing what I'm telling you to do. And that's our, most of our relationship, by the way, that's most of school for most kids, most of the time. I mean, let's just call it what it is in college, especially. It's true. This is why so many college, cause I think it confused cause they're like, wait a second. I have just went through K through 12 where I was told what to do all the time. And now I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to do. And I have all these different types of professors. I met talk to me in totally different ways. Sometimes it really hold my hand. Sometimes it just let me sink. I love it. Sometimes let me swim. Sometimes I hate it when they let me swim, you know, the whole thing.

Mike Kleba (18:08): And that's the conspiracy ratio. It's very confusing if you don't have it really clearly laid out. And, and of course the other side is if a leader isn't involved, the kids get lost. They feel confused. People who were following a leader who isn't sharing enough of him or herself or themselves, you know, they, they end up feeling like I don't get what's going on. So the conspiracy ratio is about an us even across the hierarchy, especially across the hierarchy, because I think a lot of people rely on the hierarchy to allow for control to happen so that they don't have to do the hard work of conspiring together. What are our goals together? What are our goals for you? What are our goals for me? What are our goals for us? Okay. And then finally can texting now could texting is a, the final piece of the framework that we think kind of brings it all together.

Mike Kleba (18:53): And this describes how, when you are trying to convey information to someone else, you need to fully understand where the other person's coming from, as much as you can so that when you deliver information to them, you diminish how much miscommunication can happens, moreover, right. And you need to know where they're from. This has got really powerful social justice implications in my book, because I think a lot of, you know, what we're talking about now, culturally finally broadly more broadly when we talk about things like everything from black lives matter and critical race theory, all the way to trans issues. You know, I think that a lot of what we're and disability issues, another another thing that I care a lot about what we do well, you know, what we gotta do. Awesome. What we gotta do, I think is we need to recognize that people hear things in their language, right?

Mike Kleba (19:43): And we all actually speak different languages. I mean, we might all be speaking English right now, but everybody, even in this interview has got a slightly different ways of, of understanding. And, and it, contexture is what we call it. It's somebody who goes, all right, I'm gonna figure out how everybody else listens. I'm going to do what I can to figure out where they're coming from. I'm going to have to learn their story. I'm gonna have to get more of their background. But when I do that, it's going to allow me to not only be more gracious and more caring, which is really important, but I'm also going to be pragmatically better at talking to them and listening to them. Because I, I'm not speaking the way I want to be heard. I'm speaking the way they need to hear it. Or at least I'm attempting to, and it also sets up to be a much more resilient relationship because I can then make a mistake and say, oh gosh, I'm really sorry. I didn't say that. Right. Or how would you like to hear it? And, and what it does is it allows for errors in miscommunication to be less dangerous and to be more opportunities for growth and you know, cooperation and collaboration. So that's it, that's the other full framework.

Daphné Vanessa (20:42): That's beautiful, Mike, honestly, this is way bigger than just what you laid out actually applies to just relationships generally. Right. And, and how people interact with each other. I think there's a lot of, of benefit that can be shared just, just from that piece. So thank you. I do have a question about administrators using that framework to communicate the game plan to, to a broad set of people, right? There are so many different students, so many different teachers, different stakeholders. How are they then communicating the game plan if they're with that many different personalities sort of to understand through other things? Well,

Mike Kleba (21:28): That's the that's the million dollar question that I know it really is because, because, because that's, that's, that's what separates the, the good leaders from the great leaders and the good leaders from the lousy leaders, you know, and you want to get to great as much as you can. That the move is the word we keep coming up against. And this is so funny, but we keep running into it. We're researching our next book actually, because we're really enjoying this space. We're learning so much Ryan and I are just getting a lot out of it. And we're, we're getting to interact with a lot of administrators across the country in every level. You know, we're working with college professors, we're working with high school and middle school and elementary school administrators, superintendents, principals it's been really, really cool.

Mike Kleba (22:12): And what we keep finding is the word is trust. It's, it's a word that we throw around a lot. I think culturally we, and we mean it in a couple of different ways. We sometimes just mean it illegally, you know in a sense kind of like almost kind of like socially, litigiously like, I can't trust that person because they're, they've already screwed me over. Right. Or they already told me one thing and they meant something else or whatever. And what we mean trust as an act of, it's a true act of collaboration. It's when you say, listen, I'm going to take you where you are. And when you make a mistake, I'm not going to make it an existential threat. I'm going to say that mistake was probably made in. Good conscious. Now, listen, listen to me right now. This is really important.

Mike Kleba (22:54): I know that this can sound overly forgiving and overly compassionate. And this is where the rubber hits the road. I think we're not saying be stupid. We're not saying be clueless. We're not saying, you know, give, give, give, and take nothing back. This is called other full. It means build that relationship with that person. When they make an error. When they, for instance, maybe tell their people, say you have an administrator, you know, who's in charge of a bunch of professors. And one of those professors kind of goes off script in a major way. Well, what the good leader does is takes that as an opportunity for us to learn as an organization, what we tend to do, however, an organization is we shame and blame. And then we're like, if the mistake is big enough, if the crime is big enough, then we're going to hook it onto that person and have them leave.

Mike Kleba (23:38): They can take all the badness with them and we go, yeah, it's unfortunate how that went. And we all know that's not how it works. You don't, it's like drilling a hole in the head to let that headache out back in the day when they did this 2000 years ago. That's not how it works. When you have problems in an organization, you can just like saddle the bad person and send them out. Oh yes, you can. Okay. You can do this. Like how about 5% of the time? Well, what do you do with the other 95% of the time? What do you do with the rest of the time? And so what, what we think is you have to have a lot of conversations between administrators. You have to have a lot of conversations about mission, and it can't be something you hang on the wall and that you don't really believe.

Mike Kleba (24:13): It's gotta be about human interaction and you gotta let students be disruptors. And you have to say, listen, students are disruptors. That's a good thing. Well, we're going to do like rip from them. The most important part of discovery, which is to see something new that no one else is talking about or does, or to fight for something that they want. No, that's the thing. So, you know, it's, you can't really run a school if you've only been there for a year, you can't, it's really hard. I mean, you can, you have to start somewhere, but you gotta think long ball three to five-year plans. You got to get, you got to try to stay around. You gotta hang in there. A lot of people jumped ship fast and they get tenure. You know, you gotta, you gotta hang, you gotta hang and you gotta listen and you gotta talk. Wow,

Daphné Vanessa (24:57): Huge. So you're, you're talking about that communication and how important it is to talk with each other, understand where the other person is coming from. How do you make sure that that person's response is being honest? So what if they are influenced by the organization in terms of how they think they're expected to respond? And so perhaps a teacher might not have a genuine channel of communication with an administrator because of how they're expected to speak. Do you, can you talk to us a little bit about that?

Mike Kleba (25:33): Yeah, that's great. And really good questions. Definitely. This is spot on. So this is, you know, this is where you really start getting into the meaty stuff. Okay. So here's the deal humans. Aren't always honest, you know, and your starting point, I think, is recognizing that we're dishonest for all kinds of reasons. You know, sometimes we're dishonest because we want to straight up manipulate and we want to get what we want. And we're pretty transactional about it. Another reason why we're dishonest is because we're afraid, or we have a pattern of not telling them the truth, because we've learned that if we tell the truth in certain situations, you know, we're gonna get in trouble and we're going to cause some real problems for ourselves or for things we care about. So my starting point always is like, let's call dishonesty what it is pretty normal, you know?

Mike Kleba (26:21): And, and, and once you get there and that people have a myriad of reasons and, and it's a very, here's the thing, it's a worldview. Right. But, you know, and I, I try to engage with people like when they're about being parents and about being siblings, because when you bring it to the family, you get, you get to stuff like I have, I have three siblings, right. And I've got God bless. Both of my parents are still around. You know, we're all really, really different humans, right. But it's, are, are any of my people in my family, evil? Do you know how rare it is that somebody actually is such a straight up manipulator? We love our stories about this movies about this. We we're, we're obsessed by it. But the reality is is that the majority of us don't tell the truth when we don't tell the truth, because we're trying to protect ourselves.

Mike Kleba (27:05): And we're trying to protect ourselves from what we perceive are as threats. So I'm giving you that whole lead-up cause now we're coming back to the trust and the compassion thing. We need to decriminalize errors. When we're leaders, we need to not confuse the skinned knee with gangrene. We need to, we need to make sure that what happens when a mistake happens or somebody doesn't tell us the truth. Are we going to jump this straight to a referendum on our relationship? And what I find is that when you make room for there to be people who are going to operate outside the will, the laws, they're going to operate outside the cultural norms. When they're going to say things to manipulate people, what you do is you go, all right, what if I didn't see this as a threat? What if I saw this as data?

Mike Kleba (27:51): What if I saw this straight up as like, okay, so I'm learning something here. And of course you got to figure out, you know, you've got your own system structures. Like how many strikes are you allowed? And you have to decide how big the thing is. But as my, my co-writer Dr. O'hare often says, he's like, people are gonna come to you with a problem. And they're going to come to you. Like it's an eight, nine or 10 all the time. If it's a one out of 10, but very few problems are eight, nine or 10. Almost none of them are most problems. Even the lies, even the ma manipulations are 3, 4, 5, and six, you know, deal with these things can measurably do not turn a small thing into a big thing. And honestly, this is one of the biggest problems we see in systems. That's. So that's, you know, you've got to make yourself resilient. That means you got to take some punches. You're going to, you know, you're going to get bruised, welcome to the game, baby. This is life. This is, this is leadership. You know what I mean? Like, what are you trying to do? And get a shutout every game it's not gonna happen. You know, you're gonna, you're going to get scored on, you're going to lose. It's going to happen. You know, that's back, get up. I love it.

Speaker 6 (28:54): Yeah. This is no, this is straight up right up my wheelhouse. And I think you you've been killing with your questions, Daphne. So I love it because there's that organizational structure that exists as well. But I think speaking on this part here, especially in terms of being resilient and being able to everyone is not, everyone's gonna, everyone's going to come through with their hair on fire. Right. That's how I was always taught. And then you, and you hit it there on the head, Mike, but what are, what are some of the ways, because you don't want to, you don't want to, you don't want the person that's coming to you with that issue to feel like you're diminishing the importance of what they're bringing to you. So what, what do you guys say in other full or what do you think that helps to communicate that? Where it saying, look, I appreciate you're saying, and I understand it, but we're going to handle it this way instead of, you know, turning on all the fire alarms, you know, because you came in here with this specific issue or problem.

Mike Kleba (29:52): Yeah. That's all. And what a great like sister question to the first one, because, you know, we find that, we talked about this. Some people listen to it and they're like, all right, I get it. So just be nice to everybody, you know? Like, like, like be cool with, be cool with anything, you know what I mean? And it's like, yeah, exactly. Right. And I always get a kick out of that because I'm always like, well, actually that's not what we're saying, but you really should be nice to everyone. It's better, but that's actually not the, that's actually not the point. Like I am a huge fan of people being kind to each other. I am. So there's a, there's a, there's a couple of different angles on this. First of all, you have to extend to yourself the same thing that you're extending to other people, which means sometimes you gotta make hard calls.

Mike Kleba (30:34): You know, this book is filled with what we call disclaimers. We knew when we, when we wrote this book, that one of the pushbacks we were going to get from folks, not that y'all are doing this, but like the pushback, I mean, it's a reasonable pushback is like, okay. So just be nice to everybody. Forgive things, be cool with stuff. But what happens when you have to be the leader who has the big club and has to take somebody out or has to make calls that aren't popular, or you got to like shut somebody down, you know, what about then? And we're like, well, thank you for asking. If you are truly building a space in which people feel like you are conspiring with them, if you look at your people and they look back at you and go, you know what, no matter what this person is going to give me a fair shake, what you're doing is you're diminishing the chances that you being a tough person is going to be hard for them because they start what happens, you earn their trust.

Mike Kleba (31:31): And, and this is the hardest part for people. And it's, to me, it's like, you know, a lot of my theater training comes in when kids are like, what if I forget my lines? I'm like, you're gonna forget them. You know, here's what you do. You plow through baby. You know? And, and, and the thing is we are obsessed with power in our culture. We're obsessed with leadership power. We think that the way you test the metal of a leader is can the leader smack somebody down hard? And we love seeing it, you know, especially when we're on the outside and we see the person who's being smacked down is deserving of that. And you do have to smack them down sometimes. I mean, I smack some people down. I've definitely put people in their place. I have failed students. Right. And when I say that, I mean, sometimes I feel like I actually did fail them because they failed.

Mike Kleba (32:15): But, you know, and, and, and I've had, I've helped students get suspended. A student get expelled once. That was one of the hardest moments in my career, but the kid had to go, but there's a good example, right? So I help one kid get expelled and I've taught like more than 2000 of them. I'm not shooting for zero. Everybody I'm not shooting for. And no leader, should you shouldn't shoot for zero mistakes. There's another thing we love is safety. You can't have zero mistakes. It's not possible trying to have zero. Mistakes will create more mistakes. You, you have to say, there's a certain percentage of I'm going to make some people unhappy. I'm a leader. Here's the thing, make a number for yourself. We tell people 10%, 10% of your people, no matter what you do are going to hate your guts. You could be, you could be a genius.

Mike Kleba (33:02): You could be mother to raise Jesus Christ Muhammad, all blessings honored to be upon him. Well, you could be all wound up in a one thing. You still gonna have 10% of people going like, yeah, but she's a jerk. You know what I mean? Like, no matter what you do. So, so to me, you know, it's people, judge leaders, not by one move. They judge them by, you know, a hundred by a thousand and they're tiny little moves and they're big moves. And you got to play the long game, the big game, even if the long game is one year, you're going to get, you know, hundreds of interactions with people through email, passing them in the hallway, you know, interacting with them about their kid's birthday, interacting with them about, you know, why they were late to work and why it's actually not their fault, but maybe they need help, like resetting their alarm. You know? Like you gotta do. You gotta do you gotta have a lot of, a lot of connection. That's my, that's my answer. Listen, I wish I had a fast one for you, but that's the answer. Yeah.

Speaker 6 (33:53): And I think that was, that was no, that was, that was a spot on Mike, because your job as a leader isn't necessarily to be liked. Right. And that's something I've been coached on or mentored on before. But I think it really drives a good home point because you're not, you're not looking to harm your students, right? You're not looking to make it a negative experience for people, but your job is to be the standard bearer, right? What are you doing? And you may hear that often, but like, you're actually just maintaining a standard, right? You're maintaining a standard. But I, what I like about what you said in the beginning of this episode is that first you need to find out what motivates people, right? What is it that drives everyone? Because if you use one specific block, you're going to tune out a lot of people.

Speaker 6 (34:31): And if your job is to educate and to help people get from point a to point B, right? In terms of transformation, it can't just be a one size fits all method. And so I think that's, what's important here. I mean, this is, to me, this is just become, like Daphne said, this is like beyond just teaching. But I think this is really focusing on teachers and administrators, because what you're doing and correct me if I'm wrong here, Mike, but what you're saying is like, look, find out what people are motivated by understand that your words are not going to be interpreted the way that you always necessarily mean for them to be interpreted. So you may have to change the way you're delivering the message. And then third, make sure that you're maintaining a standard. But if you do make sure that it's not just always a yes, yes, yes person, but somebody who's maintaining a standard for the long term goal. Is that right?

Mike Kleba (35:20): Nailed it. Chanel. I mean, we, you know, we, we studied leaders across disciplines. That's our starting point of this book. And our research was we were educators and we want to do this in schools, but we recognize that schools are often sequestered in a way they shouldn't be. Cause education is at the heart of everything. You're, you're never gonna watch this statement. You're never gonna meet anyone ever for the rest of your life, who isn't invested in their own education or in the education of others. We are all connected by it. We might not all go to church. We might not all have a good savings account. We might not all read. We might all work out. Everybody learns and everybody's got a relationship with school. So start there. And then we said, we want to study. What are the, what? Like, what are the structures of leadership everywhere.

Mike Kleba (36:08): We looked at the military, we looked at corporate America. We looked at leadership in non-governmental organizations, volunteer organizations. We looked at leadership in sports. We looked at leadership in small business. We looked at leadership through parenting. We looked at leadership in a faith-based organizations. We, we studied for years. I mean, Ryan and I started writing this, this bad boy, like 10 years ago. And it really just started with research. And what we found is what you just described. You have to decriminalize failure, you got to make it okay. That we miscommunicate with each other. You got to, you know, like when a miscommunication happens, you can't say like, how could that person have heard that? Oh my gosh, like that is so not what I said. Instead be like, oh, okay, well, you heard that. That's not what I like. You know?

Mike Kleba (36:57): And, and, and the leader who can who can bounce back because here's the thing. You will let some people down and you're gonna make some mistakes. You're going to fire somebody. You shouldn't have fired, you know, and you have to live with that. You're gonna, you're gonna, or you're gonna let somebody pass on something that you shouldn't have, let them pass on. And you're gonna have to eat that and find your way back and say, you know what? I'm pivoting, right? I'm flip-flopping it was okay, back then. It's not okay anymore. And you gotta, then you gotta eat that. But the, but the great leaders across the boards all say the same thing. Look at your people, care about where they're coming from. Authentically build authentic relationships with them and make it a collaborative experience in which your job as leader is not to control.

Mike Kleba (37:36): But rather to direct you're, you're just the person helping point the direction, you know? And sometimes the best leaders, you know, what they do. And I'm sure you both have done this. You flip it back to the person you're leaning. Like you're in charge for a minute, go, you know? And that's important. You know, that's another piece of relationship. That's, you know, that some leaders simply can't do. They can't say I'm taking off my stripes for a second and putting them on you because they're like, I just can't, you know, the hierarchy, my hands are tied here and we're like, there's no such thing. You're just not creative enough or willing enough. I shouldn't say you're not creative enough, but you just need to be a little more creative. Maybe you are maybe a little more courageous. Cause sometimes you gotta be courageous and say like, you know what, you're making a better call here. I was wrong. Let's go. It's amazing how much you can transform a situation in leadership by just paying attention to people, it doesn't happen overnight. It takes, it takes months, sometimes takes two years. But what are we doing this for? You trying to be a leader for 11 days, you know, what's that about? That's not going to work.

Daphné Vanessa (38:32): Nope. Like you said, you have to be in the, you have to be vested at some point. So no, totally with it.

Speaker 6 (38:38): Great. And well said because you're empowering your people, right? Like I just think it's not a final question. It's more of a comment. But I just think it's important for people to listen to on the pod, because I think this is really going to be something that I'm going to push for administrators. Like some people that I know that are listening to teachers and professors, because to me, this is a masterclass on leadership I really do. And I think that it's important when you're flipping the script on the person that's bringing the problem to you. You're getting credit, you're doing two things at once. You're establishing credibility with that person because they know they're being heard. And then you're empowering them to help contribute towards the decision, which a lot of people in organizations feel like their voice doesn't matter. And I think that's one of those beautiful things that you have highlighted there for, for leaders to hear, because you have to, if you have buy-in from your people, then you're going to have more ownership.

Speaker 6 (39:28): And if they have more ownership, they feel like they care and then know it goes down from there, which is great in a good way. So no, no, no final question there, but is, I don't know if Mike would elaborate on that idea because I do think it's important to allow for the experience of a student in college. Cause we hear often and it's unfortunate. We hear often a lot of people think that their degree wasn't worth it. It's unfortunate now we're not, I'm not going to say it's the majority. I just feel like more, like you said, if it's more than 10%, then it's a problem, right? It's not like the staff and the professors and the administrators were dedicated to their success. So is there any thing that you wanted to say that could help motivate people to remain dedicated to the success of their students, which is ultimately the goal of why you're going into teaching in the first place?

Mike Kleba (40:11): I'm just going to come back around to something you said a little earlier Chanel which is this whole, it's not your job to be liked. Right? So when you're a leader, so we agree with that, but we put a little asterisks next to it and we say, but it is your job to be as admirable as you can. And to try to earn admiration for the people that you're with and how do we earn admiration? There's two ways, but preening, right by peacock and by showing how great we are, that that gets people to admire you. And then there's the one that's really, really deeper and stronger. And that is the, when you look at somebody and you go, wow, I'd like to be like him. I'd like to be like them. I'd like to be like her, you know? And, and I invite teachers all the time.

Mike Kleba (40:54): I'm like, think about why you got in this gig. Maybe you got in this gig because you wanted to do something else and you just thought this will be better summers off. Okay. It's like one of the people's favorite things to kind of throw it teachers and professors, you know, or you can kick younger people around cause the power structures and your favorite, blah, blah, blah. And I'm always like talent teachers and professors. I like to tell them, I like to remind them like some part of you got into this. Cause you know that this is a noble profession. And by the way, it is noble. And when you, you know, on the day that you leave this earth and wherever you go next, when people are eulogizing you, one of the things that they're going to talk about and the highest most reverential tones is that you committed your to teaching, living up to that means a couple things.

Mike Kleba (41:36): We need to be the best versions we can of ourselves. We're not going to be perfect. We're going to make mistakes. So I get real inspirational about this with people, because I think people need to hear it. It's the world's most important job when you teach. And if you can't get up for it today to get up for tomorrow and have a bad day, but find that kid in that class or those kids in that class where you think to yourself, where is she going today after school? Where are they coming from? They taking care of a little one. They take care of elderly parents. They work in two jobs or you're going to judge them because they're getting high. And then they're going to play X-Box for the next eight hours. And it makes you feel good to say like, all I do is get high and play X-Box by the way, you know why they're getting high and playing X-Box cause they're medicating, you know, like you have to, you have to look at your people and go, am I ready to love these kids?

Mike Kleba (42:29): And we're not afraid of this word, am I, am I ready to love my students? And, and you're not always going to be ready. Sometimes you can be like, I'm not ready. But if you, you know, to the, to the, to the professors, to the teachers out there, you know why you got into this game and don't ever forget it. We're like the Avengers y'all like, we got called to this work. Like, think about it. We are the lucky few as Shakespeare. You know, we lucky for you were doing the great work. No, you are.

Daphné Vanessa (42:58): It is the most important job in the world. I have a fun question for you. Do you have any student success stories yet?

Mike Kleba (43:10): Oh man. Literally hundreds. Thousands of them. It feels, it feels like to me, I mean, to be honest, to be honest with you a blessing, oh man, you got that right. I mean, I've had a lot of success stories. And the thing is, first of all, I, I don't know how much I, I am responsible for those success stories. I know that I played a part, but I, I think a lot that it has to do with what the students have done themselves. So I, you know, I've got, I've got students across fields at this point, you know, I've, I've taught students who are everything from the professional spaces who are doctors and lawyers and accountants. And I know students who are entrepreneurs had, who are, are making and selling really beautiful things and services. I have, I have students who have become entertainers who are writing for some major television shows.

Mike Kleba (44:02): I've got students who are performing artists who are doing really, really well, you know, and are like killing it in Spotify. You know, I've got students who, who are teachers, you know, who've, who've gotten into that game and, and have become teachers themselves. And there's something really special about that. You know, I think about Ryan who started his own photography business and, and is shooting stuff all over the city and is, you know, totally in charge of his life. And he's been through some pretty heavy stuff, you know, and I think about my student, Troy, who created a design firm who is firing to me, you know, the, the work that he does and he helped do some work at some major museums across the country and world. I got a student named Morgan who is performing as a professional equity actress and she's incredible. And she's in a million places, you know, I've got, you know, students who are published authors, I've got, you know, it's, it, it ain't me, baby. I was a part of their story, you know, but I certainly get a lot, I get a lot of joy of watching it, you know, and hear about it.

Speaker 6 (45:03): Absolutely. And I think it's, it's, it's amazing that you're humble enough to acknowledge that you played a contributing part, right. Because all of those factors in one way or another, just like you said, for other full right. Our learning experiences, even the failures and the obstacles or the perceived failures, right. Or the obstacles that life throws your way. If you turn that into something that makes you more resilient or a path that you should avoid next time, if that's the case that if it's something like that, then at least you are becoming a better person than you were yesterday. And I, and I want to thank you, Mike, for, for, like you said before, teaching is, is the noble profession because without that, what would we be as a society? I mean, I don't even mean that as hyperbole. Like, I mean that literally, because if we were not passing down information from one generation to the next we would be lost.

Speaker 6 (45:59): Right. And so thank you so much, Mike, for joining us and for sharing all of the great work that you've put into and your effort that you've put into other full ensuring that with our audience today, I really hope that if somebody can take some of these lessons and just impact another student or an administrator, it can be more empathetic in helping someone when they're sharing their personal stories and, and, you know, requests for help that you, that you take that seriously. And you heed that call because you are in a state, in an, a position that allows and impacts the world in a much larger way than we can ever realize until until that person doesn't feel as their, their personal destiny, whatever that may be. So, Mike, is there anything that you want to leave the audience with before we go? That would be kind of like your last message to anyone listening to today's podcast. Sure.

Mike Kleba (46:49): I got one thing. And this one's for all y'all out there who think that other full might be a bit pie in the sky or there might be too much pronating towards, you know, being a graceful and compassionate and caring and you're sitting there going like, yeah, that's all well and good. But I live in the real world. So here, here's what I got for you. I want you to think about somebody who trusted you when you didn't deserve it. I want you to think about somebody who, who showed up for you when you didn't even ask for it. And when you to think about a time when somebody gave you compassion offered you, grace offered another chance, gave you mercy and think about how in that moment, it transformed. You don't sleep on this caring for other people seems like an extra thing. It's not an extra thing. It's the heart of everything. And your leadership abilities grow entirely out of how much the people you lead believe that you actually care about them. So remember how it came through for you next time. You're going feeling really cynical and dark is what I do when I get real cynical and dark. I go, Hmm. And then I remember bud stock, I think about Mrs. Podolski or coach Shetty. You know, I think about the people who came through for me and they'll come through for you. You'll see. Nice.

Speaker 6 (48:14): Well said, well said, Mike, Mike Cleveland, thank you so much, author of other full a co-leader of a New York ad tech meetup which is if you're in New York city, look it up on on meetup.com. You'll see when they come together. It's a fantastic organization. And Mike, where can people find you? Actually, I know you said that other fool is available on Amazon. So we're going to put that in the show notes, but is there any particular platform that you use or a way that you would like for people to reach out to you to interact with you?

Mike Kleba (48:42): Well, first of all, you can check us out@otherfull.com. That's one L other full although if you get two L's, it'll come to us anyway. And and you can also get me Mike Cleaver at Twitter or Instagram. I'm pretty active on my Twitter, especially in this capacity. So that's, those are the best places to get ahold of me.

Speaker 6 (48:59): Okay. All right. Great. Thank you so much for joining us, Mike. We look forward to sharing this with our audience. If you'd like to find more information on today's episode, visit the student loan podcast.com episode 40. That's the pseudomonal podcast.com/episode 40.

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