Byron's Babbles

Leadership Influence Formula

The ability to influence others is crucial to a person’s success as a leader. Let’s face it, leadership is influence. All of the successful and effective leaders I have encountered developed the way they communicate and influence. After activities involving identifying Mount Rushmorean leadership influencers in their life yesterday, our 3D Leadership participants in Georgia set out to develop the top 5 list of leadership influence. This very creative group went a step further and invented a leadership influence formula.

This happened because of a lively discussion while trying to narrow the list down to five. This had taken place using one of my typical strategies of having participants fly airplanes with their personal top three influencer traits. They then glided their airplane to someone else and so on. We then compiled the list and got down to eight. As you can imagine, it got lively at this point.

The beauty of our 3D Leadership Program is that our participants come from all positions. We have teachers, facilities professionals, principals, and many others represented. This gives us the unique ability to have all vantage points represented in a discussion. This affords us what Dr. Nicky Howe and Alicia Curtis call “diversity of thought” in their great book, Difference Makers: A Leader’s Guide To Championing Diversity On Boards. They contend that what really matters are not the visible differences between people but their unique perspectives on the world.

What I believe we are creating through our cohorts of 3D Leadership participants is an organizational culture that is committed to fostering open-ended, inclusive dialogue. It is about recognizing that every person is a rich tapestry woven together from a million threads. Participants’ age, background, experiences, abilities, job responsibilities, gender, race, family story, and many other things all matter. There is a fallacy that people who look alike have the same views. Nothing could be further from the truth, though.

Bottom line is, this “diversity of thought” enabled us to develop a pretty cool leadership influence formula. Here it is: Innovative + Integrity + Compassion/Caring + Listen + Inspire = Leading By Example. Pretty powerful, don’t you think? As we decided, even you wanted to switch some traits out, if you were doing all the parts of this formula, you would be getting along pretty well.

Do you follow the additive value of this formula? If you follow these traits you will stack things in your favor to quickly become a key person of influence.

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A Cup Full Of Mindfulness

I finished the great book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, by the great author Scott Eblin this week. I have enjoyed learning more about mindfulness ever since taking a mindfulness course at Harvard University. I believe in the power of mindfulness, but just not very good at it – or so I thought. Then while reading this book, Eblin taught me that some of the things I do are mindfulness activities and I just need to recognize them.

One of the things he pointed to was having objects in our offices that remind us of our core values, goals we have, or other important events or people. These serve as reminders to bring us back to a state of mindfulness. I do have objects in my office that do this, but what actually came to mind was my coffee cup collection. My coffee cup collection is extensive. But, it is not like you think. They are not all up on a shelf collecting dust. No, they are in the cupboard ready for use – a different one every day.

For example, as I am writing this post, I am drinking coffee from the cup I got when my family and I toured The Hermitage. The cup serves as a reminder of the leadership of Andrew Jackson and the importance of spending quality time with family. When I am using that cup, I am taken back to that excursion. It really does take me to a state of mindfulness.

Anyone who has traveled with me knows if the trip has been great I will be in a gift shop somewhere buying a coffee mug. Certain mugs inform about my identity or affiliations. I have mugs from my alma maters and favorite sports teams, places I’ve traveled to, conferences I been to, and organizations I’m a member of. I do not just leave selection to chance either. I actually think about what kind of motivation or mindfulness I need at the time. Just like my Clarity First coffee cup given to me by another great author, Karen Martin, reminds me of being mindful of always bringing clarity as a leader. My coffee cups become my loyal mindfulness partners that don’t judge me.

My coffee cups also earn my affection because of the hot beverage they contain. Research shows that just wrapping your hands around a warm mug can conjure up warm feelings toward others. Pair that with the mental reminders of the message or pictures on the cup and you have the environment to practice more effective mindfulness.

These mindful moments with my coffee cups set a positive tone for the rest of the day. What do you have that reminds you to be mindful each day?

Leading With No Brown M&Ms

Posted in Global Leadership, Leadership, leadership mantra, Servant Leadership, Talk Triggers by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on April 8, 2019

IMG_5234I had the chance over the weekend to live out a rock and roll legend first hand. When I got to Washington D.C. on Saturday for the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) Legislative Conference I checked into my hotel, The Madison Hotel. When I got to my room I was pleasantly surprised by a bowl of M&Ms®, a bowl of peanuts, and a bottle of wine. To me the best part was the M&Ms®. As I was getting settled in I got the text below from Mizane at the hotel:

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I had already tweeted a fun message and then promptly texted a response to Mizane. Check these out here:

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Here is the response I got back, now from Jarro who was ensuring customer care:

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The story goes, and it is true, that the 1980s superstar rock band Van Halen (I went to many of their concerts, by the way) demanded, via a clause embedded in their tour contract that the dressing rooms would have bowls of M&Ms® with all the brown ones removed. This was not as David Lee Roth (band front man) described it, “a simple rock star misdemeanor excess,” but an ingenious way to know that all the details of a very complex contract were followed. The clause was buried deep in the contract and it would need to be read and followed carefully to catch it.

So now the rest of the story back at The Madison Hotel and their attention to detail. Yesterday I got, you guessed it, a bowl of M&Ms® with the brown ones removed. Of course I tweeted about it. Here is the tweet:

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The staff of The Madison Hotel certainly understand the importance of talk triggers. You know I have been telling the story all over the place to my fellow state board of education members from all around the country. Therefore, what would my talk trigger look like? First, I was texted as to how I was doing and if I needed anything. What I found was, the staff cared what I said and really was listening on the other end. How do I know this? Because even having fun and asking for another bowl of M&Ms® with the brown ones removed – I received it!

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Paolo Pedrazzini, Me, Jarro

This reflects the hotel and staff’s attitude of care and commitment to meet every need a customer puts forth. When we pay attention to the little concerns of customers, it is unlikely that many major concerns will occur. Then, at a reception this evening lo and behold Jarro came to a reception we were having to meet me. I had the opportunity to publicly thank Jarro and the General Manager of The Madison, Paolo Pedrazzini. I believe this is a great example of customer relations and care at its best.

This is not a matter of perception, but is a reality, and one with which we, as leaders, and our organizations should make peace with and do. Here is my question for you. Are you willing to remove all the brown M&Ms® for those you serve?

You’re Not a Fraud!

IMG_5200Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. This definition came from Wikipedia (retrieved 4/6/2019). To start this post I needed a definition to frame the discussion. The context for this post came from a discussion during one of our Indiana 3D Leadership sessions last year and I am just getting to it on the list of topics I want to blog about. We were discussing how sometimes individuals move quickly to different positions in schools for doing good work. These aspiring leaders were concerned, however, that sometimes they have some imposter syndrome symptoms and believe they might not be as good as others think they are. At first I wasn’t sure I was catching what they were pitching, but then in studying this I have found this really is real.

For example, a perfectionist sometimes falls into this trap. Think about it. The perfectionist sets lofty goals for themselves, tend to be micromanagers, or won’t delegate at all. Then, when things aren’t perfect, he is super hard on himself. This is also the person who had to have straight A’s and the highest scores in the class. I never needed to worry about this and am certainly not a perfectionist. My dad, conversely, was a perfectionist and actually it would keep him from getting things accomplished at times. I remember when he passed away back in 1988 I found several projects not completed around the farm because he was constantly working to make whatever it was perfect. I always said it was like the old adage “measure twice, cut once.” The problem was he kept measuring to try to get it perfect and never got the board cut. Make no mistake, I loved my dad and I respect him more than anyone, but we were very different on the trait of being a perfectionist. I’m not sure I have ever worried about being perfect a minute in my life and have certainly never worried if someone didn’t think I was perfect.

Sometimes people with this syndrome want to know it all. She never believes she will know enough. Remember, to lead a highly effective group or organization you do not want to be the smartest person in the room. Learning has to be agile. There are things we will need to know tomorrow that we don’t know today. Don’t worry about trying to second guess, just be ready to learn when the need arises (which will be always).

If you’ve ever experienced imposter syndrome you need to realize that you have gotten where you are for a reason. It may have been because of your ability to produce, chance, connections, or some other factor, and that is great. Go ahead and embrace your abilities, embrace what makes you different from everyone else, and play off of your own strengths and capabilities. You are not a fraud.

 

 

Are You Setting Precedent?

This week while reading On Grand Strategy by John Lewis Gaddis I came across a phrase from Queen Elizabeth I. She was reported to have said: “It is much better to set precedent than to have to live by it.” I loved this. To me it meant that she understood the importance of being an innovative leader and the power leaders have for setting the course for the future. One precedent she set was to rule by good counsel and trusted advisors. Many times I hear people in meetings saying that we don’t want to set precedent. Well, I say if it is a good thing then we probably should set a precedent. We basically have three choices: sit back and accept the status quo, let someone else lead, or we can lead by setting new precedents.

A great example of the latter was George Washington. Washington was well aware that he had been given the power to shape the American presidency. He believed that the precedents he set must make the presidency powerful enough to function effectively in the national government, but at the same time these practices could not show any tendency toward monarchy or dictatorship. He was said to have commented frequently that, “I walk on untrodden ground.” There are many things that Washington set the precedent for during his presidency that are still in place today. A few include:

  • Being called “President”
  • Presented the State Of Union as a speech (Thomas Jefferson broke the tradition, but Woodrow Wilson started again)
  • The White House protocol still used today of mornings and daytime for business and afternoons and evenings to entertain visitors
  • Because of Washington’s love for being at Mount Vernon, he set the precedent of presidents retreating to their homes or other places.
  • He set the precedent of a maximum of eight years in office (FDR broke that precedent, but in 1951 we made the constitutional amendment for a two term limit)

Never forget, great leadership is about standing for something bigger than yourself, and setting a precedent where it is needed. After all, an organization’s culture, or country’s culture for that matter, is a reflection of its leaders. Which means it all starts with you.

If You Cannot Lose, You Cannot Win

IMG_5157I always have a long list of topics that I want to blog about. With this post I get to one that hit the list on Christmas Day, 2018. My father-in-law had a page of quotes from a magazine and he did a little devotional reading before we sang Happy Birthday to Jesus (a family tradition on my wife’s side). He handed me the copy when he was done and I got to reading the other quotes. One quote really jumped out at me. Better yet, it hit me like a ton of bricks. It is one of those that I needed to read two or three times to really comprehend what it was saying. Here it is:

“If you want to do something where we can’t lose, then we must accept the proposition that we cannot win.” ~ Gene Hill, A Hunter’s Fireside Book, 1972

Read it one more time. This quote really caused me to take pause. It is very true. I we want to do things that we cannot lose at, then we have to accept that we will never win. At the time I was reading this I was really thinking about lots of things in a winning and losing context. Whether it be in the public policy arena, football bowl games, or many other things. It is very frustrating to me that many times people do not want to get behind, support, or associate themselves with new and innovative things until they know they are going to be successful (a win). That to me is playing not to lose, not playing to win. In athletics, one of the worst things you can do is play not to lose. Very rarely will that strategy get the person or team the win. I believe this is true in all other areas as well.

Not being able to take a loss or having fear of losing will keep us from ever making progress. Trying not to lose is not the same thing as trying to win. Trying not to lose is reactionary. It’s prevention. Most of the time it prevents us from winning. Worst of all, it starts with the belief that we should focus on “not losing,” which gives the idea of losing too much power. “Playing to win” begins with the belief that we can and will win. It’s empowering. The belief that we can win and the desire to do so allows us to take initiative, be creative and innovative, to be resourceful, and to take the necessary actions that will better the chances of winning—even if taking those actions comes with a particular risk. We cannot live risk free and have guarantees that everything we do will be a winner.

We’ve all seen athletes, athletic teams, businesses, and political leaders try to play it safe and approach games, life, and administrations from a safe and play not to lose vantage point. What usually happens? At best, nothing! At worst, the loss. If you’re like me you have probably been in the situation where you were really working hard for a win with very little support of others who were afraid you might lose. Then all of the sudden when the win came, lo and behold, everyone was there to take credit. Amazing!

When we are playing not to lose our focus is not on what we could gain, but on protecting what we already have. When playing not to lose energies are channeled into shoring up the status quo, and guarding against what we do not want to happen. So play to win, not to not lose. In the larger game of leadership, playing it safe is the most dangerous game plan of all. Playing to win might just be the greatest of all leadership traits. It requires putting what you already have at risk for the sake of something bigger, something better. Additionally, it requires throwing caution to the wind and having the courage to creative something new and be innovative. This takes a great deal of courage and a trait that I am so glad I have been blessed with: “being comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

So, lets get out there and play to win. Remember, without failure there can be no real progress. I leave you with the great wisdom of Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

 

 

As Leaders, We Create The Weather

How do you show up? Think about this: do you show up sunny and bright or stormy and cloudy? Bottom line: if you show up as sunshine it will be a shiny happy day for the team. If you show up as a thunderstorm, however, it will be a rough ride. Either way, unlike the weather outside, you have the ability to influence the weather of your organization.

If you don’t believe this think about if you have ever worked with someone who you need to ask others what kind of mood he or she is in before talking to him or her. If you’ve experienced this then you have experienced leaders controlling the weather.

Therefore, we need to be intentional about the weather systems we create. Think about about the extremes: blizzards, hurricanes, extreme heat, or tornadoes. Then think about that sunny day with a calm breeze and moderate temperatures. Which of these weather patterns would you want to be creating?

Your teams and organizations will take their cues from you and whatever weather pattern you are projecting. If your outlook is sunny and bright, the organization is sunny and bright. If your outlook is full of storm clouds, the weather in the organization will be pretty much the same.

Next time you are with your team or people, imagine you are the weather map behind the meteorologist on television and she is about to give the weather report. If you take this moment of being mindful, it will help you to calm any storm fronts and bring sunshine and calm breezes to your organization.

Don’t forget, you are your organization’s meteorologist. As leaders, we create the weather. What kind of impacts do your weather systems have on your organization?

Hailey’s Energy Bus

Several years ago I read the great book, The Energy Bus, by Jon Gordon. It is an outstanding book written as a fable. The book is written from the perspective of a middle manager (George)  who is leading a team heading nowhere. Through a series of events he ends up riding a city bus with a positive motivation guru at the helm and a group of “energy” converts in the seats. After riding the bus for two weeks he has learned 10 lessons.

I was reminded of this book this past Thursday night while working with our Carolinas 3D Leadership participants in Kannapolis, North Carolina. The participants were working on a creative activity of putting 10 of the top influencers of leadership in their lives into a collage. Low and behold as I’m circulating I find Hailey’s Energy Bus. It immediately took me back to The Energy Bus book. Hailey Wade Odum realized that these leaders who influenced her, gave her energy. The energy to be a great teacher leader and K-5 STEM Lab instructor at Cabarrus Charter Academy Elementary School. She even tweeted, “Hop aboard the #Leadership #EnergyBus.” Jon Gordon would have been proud!

This really made me think about the ten lessons in The Energy Bus. They all applied to Hailey’s picks of her top ten influencers. Here’s the ten lessons (rules):

  1. You’re the driver of your bus.
  2. Desire, vision, and focus move your bus in the right direction.
  3. Fuel your ride with positive energy.
  4. Invite people on your bus and share your vision for the road ahead.
  5. Don’t waste your energy on those who don’t get on your bus.
  6. Post a sign that says, “No Energy Vampires Allowed” on your bus.
  7. Enthusiasm attracts more passengers and energizes them during the ride.
  8. Love your passengers.
  9. Drive with purpose.
  10. Have fun and enjoy the ride.

All of these rules I’m sure went into Hailey’s picks of her influencers, but in listening to her report out I believe that rules 2, 3, and 9 were pretty important in the decision. It’s all about personal responsibility. We are each responsible for the direction of our lives. And the direction of our lives is shaped by each day, each thought, and each person we use as a mentor or exemplar. If we are complacent in our lives we let others drive for us. We need to be driving our own energy bus. Have you ever felt out of control? Well, it’s time to take charge and drive your own bus. In my experience, the realization that my efforts now can reap big rewards in the future has always been very empowering.

The other thing we spent time visiting about is that people are constantly being added to our bus. As our lives evolve and we continue to iterate and reinvent ourselves, some of our influencers will change. Unlike like the real Mount Rushmore that is literally carved in stone, our personal Mount Rushmorean leaders should be molded such to be constantly evolving. Who’s on your ENERGY BUS?

Be You!

Last night at our Carolinas 3D Leadership gathering I was struck by a phrase that Stephanie Klingler, the Assistant Principal at Cardinal Charter Academy, put on one of the projects we were working on. The project was identifying Mount Rushmorean leaders and the influence other leaders have on us. Her statement was:

“Be You! Stay strong. Get up! Be the example to others.” ~ Stephanie Klingler

Super powerful, don’t you agree? If Leadership is about influence then this is the example we want to be and what we want modeled for us. It’s about being authentic and doing what Machiavelli taught us: to declare. Who we are is how we lead, pure and simple. Being a great leader is really the simple act of being you. It’s about putting your experiences and what you believe into a package that guides how you lead and the example you are. Stephanie’s statement says it all: be you, be strong, be an example, and keep getting up. It is who she is.

Stephanie is on the left with her mobile office for being a leader of learning!

If we want to lead and be a Rushmorean (yes, I made that word up) leader, then we must know ourself. Being ourself means being authentic. It is okay to be you. It’s really the only person we can be. As my friend Sally Hogshead teaches us, you need to be the best you you can be. The fascinating you! The best way to become an effective leader is to find congruence between what you think, say and do. That said, in order to become an effective leader you have to know who you are: your values, your strengths, what you stand for, why you stand for it, and what your ethics are. Then act on them with conviction and without apology. This is what I believe Machiavelli meant when he says we must “declare.”

Are you being YOU?

Durability of Expectations

IMG_5030In a meeting I was a part of this week we developed a phrase that has caused me to do a lot of thinking: “Durability of expectations.” Our work was in the context of thinking about student success, outcomes, and what the profile of an Indiana high school graduate should look like. I like to combine all of this and talk about student success outcomes. Success looks different for all students and some students have not really had an opportunity to have success modeled for them or even know what success can look like. I have often said that it is ludicrous, in some cases, to ask our students what they want to be or do in life because they have not had the opportunity learn what all is out there. That is why I believe it is so important to make sure we are doing a great job of career exposure, career exploration, and career navigation for all students. We need to career coach our kids.

Success: “Knowing what one wants in the world and knowing how to get it.” ~ Dr. Felice Kaufman

We must make sure we are giving our students the opportunity to innovate, be creative, and take risks. This will help them to persevere, adapt, and develop a growth mindset and begin to understand lifelong learning. We need to help our kids understand what is out there and that getting where they want to go will be a non-linear process in many cases. Most of the career paths those of us in the baby boomer age are characterized of having relative stability. The career paths for today’s students are now times of discovery, restlessness, and exploration. The last I read, boomers will switch jobs 11 times during our lifetime, but millenials and younger will not only switch careers but change entire career trajectories. Therefore, the modern career trajectory isn’t necessarily a climb to a destination, but rather a continuum.

illustration-playground-climber_superdomeWe will need to offer solutions to our students that help them understand and give them the opportunity to skill, re-skill, and up-skill as they embark on their non-linear career paths. This is why I am such a believer that we must begin to identify the transferable skills our students. These skills, according to employers, hold much more weight than the traditional way of looking at academic records or even work history. Life is not linear, it is more like a Jungle Jim, so we need to make sure we are facilitating learning for our students that gives them the transferable skills to have durable expectations of what they can do. In other words, our students can have a lasting expectation that they have the skills to start and understand how to stay skilled to make the desired career moves that become available. Even if our students take a non-linear path in life, if they have credentials and transferable skills they will have what is needed to provide the on and off ramps to whatever career moves come available. This will give durability to the expectations our students have as they move through life and professional careers.

The old adage that you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards is true, but we need to give our students the ability to zigzag. By preparing students through career coaching, exploration, work based learning, and transferable skills and credentials we will add durability to the expectations of our students and their parents. We have an obligation to make sure our students are prepared to see and be prepared to seize the opportunities no matter how unconventional or surprising.