Byron's Babbles

Typical Discourse

Posted in Civilized Disdain, Discourse, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, NASBE, Typical Discourse by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 19, 2019

IMG_7106Earlier this week during our National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) Board of Directors meeting a comment was made during a discussion about our Public Education Position report about “typical discourse”. The comment was that we did not practice typical discourse any more. This got me thinking about what was “typical discourse”, anyway? I guess I see typical discourse as having vigorous debate about what to do with challenges and opportunities. This vigorous, honest, and transparent debate must involve all stakeholders, different political parties, and the entire political spectrum.

So, we have a complicated challenge on so many fronts. These fronts include education reform, equity issues, workforce, economy, and real human suffering just to name a few. This amounts to desperate need for a vigorous debate and our best thinking. Instead, it seems we have become a society of character assassination. In many cases we have become trivial, oriented toward turf protection, and despicable. This reminds me of what I believe the Ancient Greeks called an “ad hominem” attack. With this attack, the opponent attacks us personally, changes the subject, and uses “virtue signaling”. I blogged about virtue signaling in Leading Without “Virtue Signaling”.

Bottom line: we have strayed from civilized disdain and discourse and safe disagreement. I blogged about these in Safe Disagreement and Civilized Disdain Vs. Political Correctness. We need to find a way to turn discourse back to something substantial. Let’s work together to get to useful dialogue.

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Questions?

Posted in 3D Leadership, Communication, Education, Educational Leadership, Leadership, Questions by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 5, 2019

Yesterday at our North Carolina 3D Leadership gathering we went to Phillips Farm pumpkin patch in Carey, North Carolina to get pumpkins for an activity. The activity is not the focus of this post. The focus is on a booth set up at the farm for answering questions. The kiosk literally had a question mark sign on it with the word “questions” (see picture). Everyone in our group was immediately struck by the feeling of being put at ease knowing that we had a person and place specifically designed to answer any and all of our questions. What a simple sign and simple concept!

The young lady at the kiosk was able to answer all our questions and get us set up to get everyone the chance to pick out their very own pumpkins. She even gave us a Dum Dums sucker, telling us that no question was too dumb to ask. But the part that continued to amaze us was how comfortable that sign made us feel when entering the area. There was no anxiety trying to figure out where to go or what to do.

We then began to discuss how we should make kiosks in our schools during parent events or back to school events to make families comfortable asking questions. The question mark sign had empowered us to ask questions. It gave a very different feeling than if there would have been a sign that said “information” or just people standing around to answer questions. It was just comfortable – there is no other way to describe it.

This reminded me of the research that has been done in schools on surveys of climate and culture. Research tells us that if we were only able to ask one question on a survey the most important one would be, “How comfortable are you asking questions in your class?” If students are comfortable asking questions the schools is most likely on an upward trajectory. Therefore, we need to make our classrooms comfortable places for inquiry and empower our students to ask lots of questions.

In fact, as leaders, we need to make every environment we facilitate a safe place to ask questions. Think about the last meeting, professional development session, or gathering that you didn’t feel comfortable asking questions. Miserable, wasn’t it? Then, think about the times when no question was a dumb question and there was a free flow of inquiry. Makes us feel very empowered and comfortable, doesn’t it?

So, let’s start staffing “Questions?” kiosk both literally and figuratively, and creating empowerment through comfort in asking questions.

Discovering What Is Uniquely You

Posted in Blue Bloods, Educational Leadership, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 5, 2019

I love the television show Blue Bloods. The show that stars Tom Selleck as Frank Reagan as the New York City Police Commissioner always has scripts that really make me think. In a recent episode, the grandfather and retired Police Commissioner, Henry Reagan told his grandson, Jamie, that “Good cops are made by the world they police.” This really made me think about leaders. We, too, are made by the world we lead in.

We must recognize that there are different parts of our work, community, and our personal lives that affect each other. We, then, by being innovative, constantly learning, and experimenting become and continue to develop into the leader we are at any given moment. At the same time we need to be real, act with authenticity, know your core values, and vision. In other words you need to discover the unique you.

To do this we must harness our passions, interests, purpose, and skills and then make those things that make us uniquely ourselves valuable to others. In order to become uniquely ourselves we must become self-aware. Remember, self-aware is different from self-involved. Self-awareness is means accurately assessing how you show up in the world and what motivates you. Then, a self aware leader cultivates on a daily basis according to strengths and weaknesses.

Change and obstacles should be viewed as opportunities to further develop into the unique you by giving us the chance to be inventive, adaptable, and decisive in the face of adversity. Remember, leadership and learning are not mutually exclusive.

Benevolent Leadership

Posted in Benevolent Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadery, Servant Leadership, Visionary Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 27, 2019

I am reading a really interesting book, Tigress of Forli, right now about Caterina Riario Sforza. She was a great leader who started her leadership journey at age 10 in an arranged marriage. It caught my attention when the author, Elizabeth Lev, described Caterina as a “benevolent leader”. She was described as making sure the needs of her people and of the greater community were cared for. I then began to think about what it meant to be a benevolent leader or policy maker.

Being a benevolent leader has nothing to do with being a philanthropist, a humanitarian, or being altruistic. It’s about creating greater opportunities for our communities, states, nations, and the world. It’s really about creating different possibilities in the world. It’s about, as Caterina taught us, developing a sustainable future for the world and everyone living in it. Additionally, benevolent leaders use their leadership influence to address significant societal, human, and environmental needs. Really it is about being innovative for the greater good.

Think about a world where leaders wished well for everyone. I believe it is about being aware of what one’s actions create for everyone. This is what I talk about when complaining about turf and self-interest. I have blogged about this in The Frustrating Truth Of Turf. It is difficult for us, at times, to get past what might look best for us and think about the good of all.

Last evening in our Carolinas session of 3D Leadership we discussed becoming more externally oriented as opposed to internally motivated in order to move from serving to create normal leadership to facilitating fundamental leadership. We concluded this would give us more episodes of excellence. The driving question becomes, “What can we create together?” Also, what if we began to look at what could be expanded, instead of what has to be cut?

The world is a system. I believe we forget this at times. Every decision made either creates or depletes the ability to collaboratively innovate for the betterment of all. How about you? Are you wishing well for all? I’m so glad I had the opportunity to study Caterina Riario Sforza and the example of a benevolent leader.

Think Fast & Answer Quickly

I am reading the great book The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro. This book is about the leadership and power of Robert Moses. One of the strengths and attributes that people he worked with said he had was his ability to think fast and answer quickly. The context was his ability to quickly make a decision when asked a question or asked how to correct something and articulate the answer.

Usually, I consider myself a slow processor. I’m the one that when a meeting is ready to end will have a few questions to be answered or comments to be made. In other words, I’m a processor. This, I believe is very different than thinking fast and answering quickly. Actually, after thinking about this deeply I would argue this is a skill set we should develop and hone. Here’s why: it comes down to actively listening. We must work hard at actively listening. This means carefully listening to the very end. This also means resisting the urge to start formulating the answer before the other person is done asking the question. Concentrating on the question, rather than your answer, will result in a more thoughtful answer.

We are better and more powerful leaders when we are able to think on our feet, gather our thoughts quickly and deliver our points convincingly. The best leaders are able to do this. Think about it; we live in an unscripted world. Therefore, we must prepare ourselves to think fast and answer quickly.

Several years ago I was judging 30-40 sheep, cattle, and hog shows around the nation each year. I always said that many show committees asked me to judge because I was consistent (you always knew what I was going to pick to win, whether you liked my type or not) and I was fast. I could place a class of 30 lambs quickly and accurately. Which meant I could get through a show with 300-400 head without it taking forever. I always advised new judges to work quickly so the crowd didn’t have time to pick different favorites than what they had picked.

A couple of things we can do to hone these skills when being asked questions is to listen for trigger words. Trigger words will prompt you to be thinking about the most important parts of the question or point being made. It shows the listener that you heard their question or concern loud and clear and are addressing in directly and head on.

Another thing that I have to continually work on is giving the short answer first. In other words, get to the point and don’t ramble on. Give the quick answer first and let the other party ask clarifying or follow up questions.

In the end it really comes down to being authentic. We need to answer to the best of our ability and from the heart. Say what we really think.

Weakest Moments

Posted in Alter Bridge, Attitude, Community, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 7, 2019

I was finishing the day yesterday watching a news program and one of the persons being interviewed answered a question by saying, “I never judge a person by their weakest moment.” The comment caused me to think about how often we do this. It also caused me to pause and think about when I had done this, and who had maybe done this to me. Or better yet, those who had not done this to me. Think about it: we all have weak moments when we are not at our best.

It also made me reflect on a phrase in the great Alter Bridge song, Before Tomorrow Comes, “Will I be defined by things that could have been?” I’m not one that spends much time looking in the rear view mirror, so to speak, but with all the forks in the road and paths less travelled we come to, you can’t help but reflect at times.

My point here, however, is we need to not judge people on what could have been or, more importantly, at their weakest moments. It is shortsighted and foolish to judge people based solely on the worst or weakest moments in their lives. Would you want someone to base their opinion of you solely on your mistakes? My answer is no, and I am guessing that is your answer as well.

So, instead of judging others at their weakest moments, let’s as Myles Kennedy sings in Before Tomorrow Comes, “Take the hand in need; Before tomorrow comes; you could change everything.” Let’s grab those hands in need.

Is Your “Want To” Big Enough?

This morning I flipped through the television channel to see what was going on in the world and stopped on a channel with one of my favorite preachers, Joel Olsteen. When I tuned in he was asking the question, “How big is your ‘want to’?” I love this question. Many times our “want to” must get to a certain size for us to make a change or go after a desire.

This went right along with a discussion we had this past week in our 3D Leadership Program about the statement in Nothing More’s song Do You Really Want It?, “Everyone wants to change the world, but one thing is clear, no one wants to change themselves.” How big your “want to” is goes right along with this.

Your “want to” is how bad do you want to accomplish something. It is your “want to” that will be your driving force behind how far you go and how much success you will have with it. Many people like to talk big games, but “talk” and your “want to” are two different things. You have to really want something in life in order to accomplish it, especially if it is a big goal or aspiration. As with all big goals and aspirations there will usually be a lot of obstacles and roadblocks that will pop up along the way.

Other people call it your “purpose”. Some call it your “why”. Your “want to” is what it really is. How bad you want it, or answering the question Nothing More asks, “Do you really want it?” is what it really comes down to. Your “want to” will determine how far you will go to ensure success. The bigness of your “want to” must rise to match the power hidden in the thing you want.

Bottom-line: until your “want to” gets big enough, we will never make the changes, or do the necessary preparation, or other things needed to do the desired action. To achieve great things to change the world, you need a big “want to”. Your big “want to” should inspire and drive you to take the necessary action to achieve it.

Infectious Leadership

In the past week I have been with four groups of school and teacher leaders from three different states doing leadership development facilitation as part of our 3D Leadership Program. As part of this months focus we did a good leader/bad leader activity where each group developed a top 5 good leader trait and top 5 bad leader trait list. Two things that did not hit the lists were charisma and celebrity. It is clear that all want present and technically competent leaders who have a growth mindset and are contagious. This then trickles down to the team.

So what does having a growth mindset mean? To me it means having a transformative and innovative approach with the team. It means letting the team be curious and creative; finding ways to get better. Great leaders let go of certainty and open the door to other points of view. Great leaders also trust their team members and give them more latitude. These same leaders provide appreciation for all new ideas and achievements of employees. They are comfortable trying new things knowing that all will not work. It’s about being curious themselves.

To set the stage and paint the picture for modeling this growth mindset the leader needs to talk in ideals; ideal work, ideal team, ideal outcome. The question I always like to answer as an innovative and curious leader with a growth mindset is: “what does success look like?” One thing is clear from listening to all these leaders: we need to be present, communicate (including effective listening), and have a mindset for growth. Are you infectious?

Manufactured Culture

Tonight in our Central Florida gathering of 3D Leadership in Orlando, Florida we got into a discussion about “manufactured cultures” vs. “organic cultures”. Clearly, just like with food, organic wins out as best. We always talk about how great it is for things to happen organically, but I had really never thought a lot about how detrimental it was for leadership to try and manufacture culture.

Most team members truly try to be honest and try to make the environment a better place. Leadership, conversely, that is inexperienced or questionable results in bad decisions. These leaders then try to manufacture a culture that is contrary to that of the larger organizational community. This leadership lacks tactical and long term strategic vision. Ultimately, this results in a disconnect of culture/morale. Check out this list of top five good leader traits that would lead to an organic culture and top five bad leader traits developed by the participants tonight that would contribute to a manufactured culture:

In order to develop a community with an organic culture, leaders need to understand their own limitations and areas for growth and fix them. Additionally, great organizational communities identify the difference between finger pointing and leading. We must also listen to our long term team members, whose insight has been proven over and over.

Great organizational communities with organic cultures listen to their teams and fix issues right away. There is also always honesty about what is going on in the organization. Additionally, organizations sometimes become very cult like which results in a manufactured culture.

How about you? Are you leading in a way that lets your organizational culture develop organically, or are you manufacturing it?

We Hate The Buzz Kill

“Everybody wants to change the world…But one thing’s clear…No one ever wants to change themselves…That’s the way things are…All because we hate the buzzkill…Jaded when we need to feel…But we can change it all if you really want it.” ~ Nothing More in the song Do You Really Want It?

Today in our 3D Leadership, session with North and South Carolina participants, we discussed the concept of a buzz kill. This was prompted by a discussion and analysis of the lyrics to the great Nothing More song Do You Really Want It?

Beware of the buzz kill. That person who is in your organization, community, class, school, or government who takes a perfectly good idea, concept, or change and shucks it off as being worthless or not meeting their own values. They do it with their negativity and virtue signaling. The thing about buzz kills is they are usually smart, respected, and rationale people. they appear to be very noble in their actions, but are full of crap at the same time. Their points may make sense, but we do not want to hear them at the time. The goal of the buzz kill is to have you join their misery.

We also need to be aware that we can create the buzz kill for ourselves and those around us. Think about times when you’ve poo poo’d someone else’s, or your own dreams or steps to changing the world. Remember, if you are not experimenting with new ideas, you are probably stuck with old, out of date ones. Notions change all the time, after all. Stick with old ideas, and your thinking will end up obsolete.

We can change it all if we really want it. Ignore the buzz kill!