Byron's Babbles

What Is Your Brand?

Posted in Leadership, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership Development, Brand by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 28, 2023

Loved the quote “If you work for the ranch, you ride for the brand” by Reuben Frank in Book 4 of Threads West An American Saga: Moccasin Track by Reid Lance Rosenthal. Being an agriculturalist I have always understood the importance of brands in lots of contexts; cattle in the west needed brands, what brand of tractor or truck we had was a big deal (at least I always thought it was when arguing that Chevy’s were the best truck, which they are!), brand of seed corn, or the design on our silks when we were raising and racing race horses. You get the idea. Yesterday I was reminded how important it is to “ride for our brand.” I was in what I call a partner meeting, discussing what was needed from me for a custom facilitation for a group’s annual conference, when a member of the team said, “Byron, we want you to start the afternoon doing those ‘Byron things’ you do.” I asked, “Can you define that a little better for me?” He answered, “You know, those things where you engage us with reflection and new experiences so our brains can construct new meaning and be really fun.” Alrighty then! I gotta tell you I loved that as a brand being placed on me. I never want to be cookie cutter and want to create engagement that leads to more inclusive and complex perceptions and ways of seeing and knowing. Reflection is a metacapacity that research tells us is an important part of adult engagement leading to learning.

Back to the importance of our brand. Bottom-line is that perception is everything. We must tell the world who we are and what we are about. Then stick to that narrative. The world will see us the way we want to be seen as we walk in our purpose. This is walking the talk or walking the walk. This is what keeps me going. Every time I create a new experience for a client, it a re-enchantment, so to speak. Whether it is creating a new session, coming up with new and engaging ideas, or learning new content that I need to better serve others, it is through creating that I keep falling in love with the world. The other part of my brand I am passionate about is providing creative and collaborative help. We all have those things we do. I’m glad to know those “Byron things” have become part of my brand. What do you that is your brand? Better yet, are you doing things that make a brand you want to ride for?

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Trails Always Offer Choices

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 25, 2023

During the 1850’s, which is the setting for Book 4 of Threads West An American Saga: Moccasin Track by Reid Lance Rosenthal, thousands of immigrant Americans traveled westward. These pioneers had a choice of trails, but none was easy. In many cases the trail had begun a world away in another country. When losing one possible trail to an avalanche, Reuben told Johannes, “There may be no choice in trails but trails always offer choices.” After they parted Johannes said to himself, “Trails always offer choices. What did he mean by that?” I am about half way through Book 4 and I believe Rosenthal will probably bring us full circle back to this comment. Taking a stab at it though, I believe it is a metaphor for all the paths/trails taken for all of those whose threads have now connected through the journey west. Reuben and Rebecca who first met on the ship coming to America from two very different countries and backgrounds, are now married and expecting a baby – choices made. Rosenthal told us, “You will recognize the characters who live in these pages. They are the ancestors of your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers, and your family. They are you. They are us. This is not only their story. It is our story.” This is so true. While we didn’t have a say in the trails of our ancestors, those trails we were put on now offer us choices. Those choices will in turn affect our ancestors and the course of world history.

Our choices lead to consequences. The choices I witnessed in this novel are mostly made for pragmatic reasons of survival, but sometimes are unmotivated by pragmatism, or cultural acceptability. Sometimes the choices are made for emotional reasons, or strictly for pleasure. But always, the choices have consequences. We also know that the choices of previous generations influence our current decisions. Think about it; stories are told to help us be successful and keep us from making the same mistakes as those who have gone before us. While I get that the book inspiring this post is historical fiction, it is nevertheless historically accurate. I love the title Threads West, because it gives a visual metaphor of how the choice of trails and the choices made while on those trails weave us together.

It Ain’t Like You Get Do-Overs

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Regret by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 24, 2023

Johannes asked Zeb, “Do you ever regret not doing anything in your life?” Zeb answered, “Don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t ever regret something. The question is how many regrets we have, how big they are, and how long you let them last. It ain’t like you get do-overs, Johannes.” This conversation took place between western mountain man, Zeb, and immigrant from Denmark, Johannes, in Book 4 of Threads West An American Saga: Moccasin Track by Reid Lance Rosenthal. I love the insight of the character Zeb, here. Sometimes, we like to say we have no regrets, but the truth is that’s not very realistic. Regret is actually an emotion we are psychologically able to deal with. It could be something as simple as ordering the lobster mac and cheese and then seeing someone else’s salmon and wishing you had ordered it. Our mind instantly gives us the solution – we can order the salmon next time. Now, ordering the salmon next time works unless we are at a restaurant in a foreign country that we will never likely return to again. But, according to Zeb’s comment, this would be a small regret. We are probably not losing much sleep over it. Sometimes regret is just regret.

Most of the time we regret more the things we don’t do than the things we do. Zeb said, referring to regrets, that “…we don’t get do-overs” and there’s the question of “how long you let them last.” We need to keep in mind that we really don’t get do-overs. There are second chances, but not do-overs. Remember, the opportunity may, and probably won’t, present itself again. The thing I found most profound about these lines in the book was the question of how long we let regrets last. Sometimes reversing the regret could be as quick as making a phone call and saying what you wish you had said earlier. Sometimes it is not something that can be reversed or anything that can be done. I like the idea, however, of asking myself, “how long will I let this regret last?” Remember, it ain’t like we get do-overs!

I Know Things

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 21, 2023
The Closer

“I know things.” Detective Lt. Andy Flynn (Tony Denison) said this to Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) in The Closer. He made this comment in relation to a discussion about Johnson’s dealing with her father’s cancer. Flynn had gone through the same cancer with a family member. Don’t you love it when people know things. Better yet, we all know things. I try to learn new things every day. Those things then become knowledge I can share with others. In the case above that knowledge allowed Flynn to practice a type of empathy known as empathic concern. Empathic concern is the ability to sense what another person needs from you. When my father had cancer, my principal at the time had gone through the same cancer with his wife. He would brace me for how my dad would be reacting to different drugs and treatments. I needed this and was so grateful that Mr. Watson knew things. More importantly I was blessed that we had the relationship that allowed the sharing. Mr. Watson was critical in my making it through that six month ordeal and the passing of my father.

Each of us “know things” and have unique lives. Sharing what we know can make our lives worthwhile. Think of that feeling you get when someone gives you a needed piece of information. You too, give that feeling to others. Think about it; if you share with someone else, they could be transformed. We all have a way of being at the right place at the right time. We might just be creating their moment – opening a door of opportunity. Sometimes these moments have a way of transforming the person sharing the knowledge as well. Always remember, the more of what you know you give away, the more things you’ll be ready to learn.

It Is What It Is

Posted in Artist, Creativity, Curiosity, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 20, 2023

Those who know me well, know that I sometimes use the phrase “It is what it is.” When I use it I really do mean it. I never use it as an excuse or explanation for inaction. For those who hate the phrase, hear me out. A character, Reuben, in the great historical fiction novel, Threads West An American Saga by Reid Lance Rosenthal often uses that phrase. The context is usually that there is nothing that can be done so an alternative needs to be created. An example was wanting to use a shorter trail, but an avalanche had block the trail. Reuben commented “It is what it is” and began plotting a new way up the mountain. For me, recognizing something for what it is begins to make it possible to get creative with alternatives. I’ve always believed I use and believe the phrase because of being comfortable with the unknown. Sometimes we have to let things exist in their uniqueness. Sometimes there just is not an objective answer.

As a creative/artistic person I am okay with things being ambiguous. If something has the potential to unfold into different actual states than its current state it may very well be ambiguous. By allowing things to be ambiguous we get a richer, more nuanced understanding of them, which may lead to a new insight or invention. “It is what it is” can suggest a world of possibilities.

“It is what it is” is a statement of potential. The statement indicates acceptance of complexity and ambiguity. It can also be an anthem to accepting limitations. Sometimes we can’t control everything. Sometimes things just are what they are. By recognizing that we can add to the statement and say, “It is what it is, but we can…” Sometimes the contexts we are put in are malleable. We cannot control everything in our lives and organizations, but we can make a choice to learn, grow and become a better version of ourself.

Leader Vs Boss

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 15, 2023

I love meeting inspiring young leaders who share inspiring lessons with me. Last night I met Novella at The Cotton Exchange Tavern in Savannah, Georgia. Novella was our server and I was first intrigued by her name. I never had a student named Novella during my time as a teacher or administrator. In doing a little research I found that in the past six decades (1959 to 2018), the name “Novella” was only recorded 1,170 times in the Social Security Administration database. The name Novella is of Latin origin meaning meaning new or young. Also, persons with this name typically have a stronger sense of analyzing life. I would agree because Novella told us she had only been at The Cotton Gin for a week. Her boyfriend is a traveling nurse and works in 13 week shifts. They decided to take advantage of his career right now while they have no children or responsibilities and experience as many new places as possible. Brilliant! Now that is analyzing life perfectly.

Now, for the leadership lesson. I asked Novella if The Cotton Gin was a great place to work. She said, “Yes.” Novella explained she had worked in a corporate chain restaurant before, and really enjoyed now getting to work in a restaurant individually owned. “Before, there was no personalization; bosses just yelled and barked orders to get things done,” she said. Then Novella said, “Here, the leaders make sure you understand why and how to do everything.” Did you catch that distinction between “boss” and “leader”? For example, she told us that as part of her onboarding she tastes the different menu items and that she is given items to take home for meals so she knows all the products first hand. She told us, “I love this restaurant and need to understand and be able to describe what I serve.” Novella had recommended the Cajun Tortellini to me and had described it perfectly.

Clearly the leadership at The Cotton Gin Tavern motivated Novella to go places that she would nor otherwise go. In any business climate, good leadership is perhaps the most important competitive advantage a company can have. We need leaders who will be around when we need them, and who would give us substantive advice, not platitudes. Thanks Novella for reminding us the distinction between “boss” and “leader”.

Smiles For All Your Miles

As a friend, student, and fan of Dr. Joseph Michelli and all his books, I understand the importance of the customer experience. I was reminded of this when I stopped at Buc-ee’s yesterday. For those not familiar, it is a humongous gas station/convenience store/outlet mall (with Buc-ee’s brands) all rolled into one. It is an experience! Founded in 1982, the mission is pretty simple: to provide a clean and friendly in-store experience. In fact, if you haven’t been, you need to go, just to experience the award winning bathrooms. Yes, you read that right – award winning. In 2012, Cintas, a corporate supplier to the service industry, named the New Braunfels, Texas Buc-ee’s location the winner of a nationwide restroom contest. You can read about it here.

In Exactly What We Aim For I quoted Michelli stating, “…I believe that even greater customer value comes from moving from services to experiences (rather than from products to services).” Buc-ee’s understands that the experience is everything. The co-founders Arch (“Beaver”) Aplin and Don Wasek set out to make these extravaganzas the very best in the world. They had a pretty simple strategy statement: “To have the cleanest restrooms.” Think about it, isn’t that all we really want when traveling? When exiting for a pit stop, I have heard my family more than once say, “Pick the place that looks like it will have the cleanest restrooms.” With the Buc-ee’s experience, we know it will be them.

They have even made the billboards along the interstate part of the experience. When 212 miles away you are seeing a billboard telling you that you can stop at Buc-ee’s in, well, 212 miles. Then, when you leave and get back on the interstate, the first billboard you see says, “Until We Meet Again – 165 miles” (see photo). Again, part of the experience. The other thing is, you won’t have to deal with 18 wheelers – not allowed. Every fuel pump, of which there are over 100, has both diesel and regular. The Buc-ee’s I was at even featured ethanol-free fuel and DEF. And, if you need it, they’ve got it! They have (and most of it, their own brand) souvenirs, food, snacks, clothing, hunting gear, college wear (although they were missing the Purdue stuff!), and my favorite – a jerky wall.

When you go on Buc-ee’s website and look under employment, they say, “We believe our store should be clean. We believe our staff should be friendly. We believe our prices should be low. If you believe what we believe, come join the Buc-ee’s team!” Then they ask, “Do you believe what we believe?” If that is not customer experience driven, I am not sure what is. As a person whose life-work is supporting education, I wish every young person could have the experience of learning from this business. Check out the photo of the careers available and salaries. Students would certainly be learning leadership and the customer experience. Maybe the Buc-ee’s folks and I should talk! Next time you are on the interstate and see the Buc-ee’s billboards, start planning your incredible travel-stop experience.

Don’t Freeze Me Out

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 11, 2023

Last night on FBI International we were introduced to Special Agent Zoey McKenna (Kelley Missal). McKenna was appointed to the Fly Team without the team leader, Scott Forrester’s (Luke Kleintank) knowledge or input. Forrester was upset and seems to be facing a transfer himself, but still recognized specific skills and included Zoey in solving the latest case. In the end Zoey told Forrester, “I was pretty sure you’d freeze me out.” Forrester replied, “Not my style.” As a person who does leadership development, I loved that reply. Have you ever been the victim of a freeze out? Or, have you ever been the one doing the freezing out? Agent Forrester could have frozen Zoey out of the team, but to what end? She had knowledge and skills that were crucial to solving the case. Practicing great leadership, Forrester put the greater good of the team above his own personal feelings.

This really got me to thinking about how cruel the practice of freezing someone out is. Being left out, excluded, or not communicated with is a terrible feeling. There is the speculation running through our heads as to what might be going on on the other person’s end. I’ve actually heard leaders advocate for freezing people out saying that “they’ll take the hint,” but in reality because the leader didn’t communicate their motives, the victim wouldn’t necessarily know what’s happening at all. I am so glad this reflection was prompted last night because I have been the freezer before. When considering all this I am reminded that no one deserves to go through that and how wrong I was. It really is about being a decent human. Let’s all make sure we are never practicing the freeze out.

Playing To Strengths

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, NFL, Super Bowl by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 8, 2023

I have always been a fan of being a strengths finder. The best leaders find ways to play to the strengths of those they serve. My son and I watched the Jacksonville Jaguars win the NFL’s AFC South last evening. Their coach, Doug Pederson, is a strengths finding leader and someone I have studied and admired. First and foremost, he is genuine person who players have zero issues building relationships with – the most important leadership trait. Pederson can also relate and connect with professional athletes because of being one. Additionally, he has a credibility factor because of the success he has had as both a player and coach. Players call him “genuine.” Being genuine and authentic is about as good as it gets!

What has always impressed me is how Pederson builds a game plan around strengths and talent, not the other way around. For example he had Carson Wentz playing at an MVP level in just his second season with the Philadelphia Eagles. Then when Wentz was injured, in came Nick Foles, and the rest is history. Pederson made the necessary changes to play to Foles’ strengths and the Eagles won the Super Bowl. He found what Nick Foles did best and changed everything to compliment that. He has now done the same at the Jacksonville Jaguars for Trevor Lawrence. Changing everything to compliment what your quarterback does best and the talent around him – genius. Great leaders don’t try to fit everyone into their own prescribed way doing things; they make adjustments to compliment the strengths of the talented people they serve. Playing to the strengths of those you serve – great leadership!

More Found Than Lost

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 7, 2023

I loved the line, “Perhaps I was feeling more found than lost” in in Book 3 of Threads West An American Saga: Uncompahgre: Where Water Turns Rock Red by Reid Lance Rosenthal. The context was really the fact that the character, who was part of an 1855 wagon train westward, was feeling more found than lost because of being in such beautiful country, with newfound friends, and so much opportunity. And, feeling lost is many times a step toward feeling found. Also, all these characters left their familiar homes, friends, and families and were now with strangers in a very strange land. I heard it said once that sometimes we are never more found than when we are the most lost.

The members of the wagon train had become a very tight knit network offering vital connections between people who came to rely on one another. This network offered real, substantial support around a common vision. Unlike most our social networks of today. Another lesson we can learn from these emigrants is every one was aware of why they were doing what they were doing, I believe we learn from this how important it is for us to have a shared purpose and a network offering support.