Byron's Babbles

What The H@#* Is A Team Player?

I almost always write a blog post on the Fourth of July. Today, however, I first thought that my topic had nothing to do with the day honoring our nation’s independence, but on further thought, I believe it does. I’ll let you be the judge after you read it.

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me “he’s not a team player” or “she needs to learn teamwork.” These are very easy statements to make, but a lot harder to substantiate. Usually I even think the person making the statement understands less about teamwork than the person he or she is making the comment about. When I hear this, I always like to ask “What do you mean?” Most is the time the response I get reveals a very limited view of what it means to contribute to a team. Generally, the person making the statement wants the other person to fully concede to another way of thinking. And, if you’re paying attention, they will also use language like “reaching common ground,” as if we are looking for the best campsite.

Recently, I had a friend posit the reason individuals refer to others as non-team players is because it’s the easiest statement to put someone on the defensive. When thinking about the times I have been called out as not being a team player, it has put me on the defensive. When examining this subject in that light it really does reveal the ignorance of the other person’s understanding of team effectiveness, compromise, and consensus building.

If team effectiveness is the capacity of a group of individuals has to accomplish their own and their shared goals and objectives, then we must acknowledge the dichotomy that exists. Teams are made up of individuals and those individuals come with their own values, experience, and goals. That’s what made the melding together of the group that we call our nation’s founding fathers so powerful.

“The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.” ~ Patrick Henry

I’ve studied many former leaders extensively and the greatest of those leaders understood the difference between teamwork and marching orders. Teamwork should allow for diversity of thought and allow exposing the best of each individual. Again, as I said earlier, teamwork relies on style and strength differences of all individuals. Right now I am reading The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of The Senate by Robert A. Caro. In this study of power one sees that Johnson’s use of power and definition of teamwork is that of being loyal to him (Johnson). Real teamwork does not involve loyalty to a person or “marching orders.” These “marching orders” shut down new ideas and results in only doing the bare minimum.

Caro also laid out for his readers the fact that sometimes consensus can be reached by compromise and other times it absolutely cannot. In those times when it can’t, there must be a consensus built from scratch. In reality, many times compromise becomes a power struggle where some have to give up to accommodate others to get what they want. If this happens enough, it becomes a power struggle, not teamwork or consensus building.

Finally, the Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 people. Those 56 people did not have the same views. We must remember that not any one of these could have successfully lead us through the revolution. It took a team!

Adaptive Leadership – Great Blue Heron Style

It’s a great morning when I can enjoy wildlife on the way to the barn. There was a Great Blue Heron out in one of our freshly mowed hay fields this morning. The background for this tall, majestic, and shaggy feathered bird this morning was a corn field (see the photo I took, featured in this post). At first I thought, “Wow that corn is really tall for the 3rd of July.” The old saying “knee high by the Fourth of July” is very outdated. As you can see from the picture, we are way past that. Think about it; if Blue Herons are 53-55 inches tall, the corn in the background is well past that. Ok, back to the point; it’s just hard for the farm kid not to talk corn.

Anyway, I have always been fascinated with these great creatures. They are amazing to watch, particularly when they are hunting rodents in a hay field. These great birds with long yellow legs can stand like statues for what seems like forever while stalking prey by site. And, when prey comes by, they don’t miss. I have blogged about these beautiful birds that have wing spans of over seven feet. Click here to read “Blue Heron Leadership.”

Now, as we begin day 115 of the the COVID-19 Pandemic, I think about how we have had to really practice adaptive leadership. Great Blue Herons can occupy a variety of habitats in freshwater and marine coastal ecosystems: lakes, ponds, rivers, flooded farmlands and meadows, irrigation ditches, and wetlands. Think about all these different habitats and the adapting that must be done. These birds are able to forage successfully on a variety of aquatic and dry land environments. They also have a very diverse and extensive menu of prey. Actually, an adaptation of the sixth cervical vertebrae allows the bird to draw it’s neck into the characteristic “S” shape and then strike with lightning speed and killing force.

Each day presents new or recurring leadership challenges. Therefore, we must learn from and draw on the wisdom of prior experiences while learning, in real time, lessons from today. In order to adaptive with the agility necessary, we must be situationally aware and asking the right questions, not just devising answers. During times like these the process of sound adaptive leadership can get lost. A preoccupation with events may lead to a short-term focus and a reactive posture. To truly adapt, we must take the long-view and adopt a broader perspective incorporating data, information, and knowledge. This will allow for the cultivation of wisdom.

Wisdom can only be gained though experience. Wisdom is about understanding and being able to adapt. Understanding is fluid. Wisdom is knowledge that is not seen as being applied rigidly to one thing. By adapting, we understand knowledge’s essence and can see how it relates to everything else, with nuances and contradictions included. Wisdom inspires adaptable versatility and provides textured lenses for dealing with reality.

Day 💯 – Getting To Know People In A Different Way

Well, here we are; day 💯 of the Covid-19 Global Pandemic. During this time of discovering a new normal, I feel more connected than ever before. I have met the children, spouses, pets, and even a grandmother of people I never would have thought possible. I’ve even introduced some of our Jersey dairy cows to others while connecting virtually. Additionally, I’ve witnessed parents attending school events virtually, while at work, that never would have been able to attend before. My point? There are things that we need to consider becoming normal. I’m not saying replace necessarily, but supplement.

Having said that, I now begin to think about what else do we need to be thinking about? How do we leverage technology? How do we stay human? How do we get the right tools in the hands of everyone? How do we decide what the right tools are?

It’s interesting to me that before the WHO (I thought that was a rock band) named this a Global Pandemic we were talking about sustainability and the environment, health care, education, and many other things. While in the education realm we have been focused on connectivity and providing meaningful virtual education, and in healthcare our actions have been around caring for Coronavirus patients and stopping the spread of the disease, we will get back to talking about the major issues in the way we were before the pandemic took over. For example, we will, no doubt, be rethinking health care and how it is delivered. In education, I continue to argue that our conversation needs to shift to the idea that school is no longer a place.

Even though I served as moderator for an awesome global event last month that was virtual with 47 countries represented, I also wonder if our assumptions about globalization have been challenged. We had been talking about distance no longer being a factor, but in some ways I’ve seen us become more isolationist and seeing us care more about the locality we operate in and what we can touch and feel. But, we’ve also seen that we can hire the best talent from anywhere and bring them onto teams. The only remaining question related to that is how to do remote working well.

I don’t think I am alone with all of this thinking and pondering. We are now entering a time of needing to decide which practices still make sense and which need to change. We need to come together as families, businesses, schools, communities, cities, states, and nations to answer the question, “What can we create together?”

FACE Is Social Currency

Saving Face: How to Preserve Dignity and Build TrustSaving Face: How to Preserve Dignity and Build Trust by Maya Hu-Chan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one book that you will want to put on your “to read” shelf and then move immediately to your “currently reading” shelf. While reading this book there were many things that became immediately applicable and usable. This, to me, is the greatest of compliments. There were also times when, as I read, I would literally say, “So, that’s why I screwed that up so bad.” “Face,” as Maya Hu-Chan said is like social currency. The more you have, the easier and faster you can get things done.

IMG_8795Immediately after reading my advanced copy of the book I had the opportunity have Maya be a part of a professional development webinar I put on for teachers. Maya and I used Angry Birds as the throughline for presenting the professional growth. We actually watched part of the first Angry Birds movie and picked the part of the movie where Red is asked to be a leader and he says, “I’m not a leader.”

Screen Shot 2020-05-18 at 1.41.26 PM

“I’m not a leader!” ~ Red

This provided a great springboard for Maya to connect the teachings of her book. One of the things she discusses in the book is using the Platinum Rule instead of the Golden Rule (not that the Golden Rule is bad, mind you). The Platinum Rule is, “Treat others the way they want to be treated.”
Think about how just doing this would improve relationships – “face.” Needless to say, Maya’s teaching is a huge hit with educators.

Screen Shot 2020-05-13 at 10.11.50 AMOne of the most impactful parts of the book dealt with psychological safety. Hu-Chan posited that, “At the very heart of creating psychological safety in an organization is the ability to honor face, save face, and avoid situations where someone loses face.” Psychological safety is one of the number one variable for team performance. Psychological safety allows for moderate risk-taking, speaking your mind, creativity, and sticking your neck out without fear of having it cut off — just the types of behavior that lead to ideas, creation, and breakthroughs.

Finally, Maya also taught us the BUILD model in the book. BUILD stands for Benevolence, Understanding, Interacting, Learning, Delivery. By putting the BUILD model into action in our lives we will be able to live a life of significance while saving face. As you can see, you are going want to start reading this book right now.
View all my reviews

Coaching To Examine Meaning

Posted in Clarity First, Coaching, Educational Leadership, Global Education, Leadership, Psychological Safety by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on June 11, 2020

Coach the Person, Not the Problem: A Guide to Using Reflective InquiryCoach the Person, Not the Problem: A Guide to Using Reflective Inquiry by Marcia Reynolds

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book truly was written as a coach’s guide to reflective inquiry. As a person who coached, mentored, and worked alongside a new school principal this year, I found myself wanting to tell stories and use reflective inquiry as I read, highlighted, and dog-eared the pages of this great book. Of course, I love the fact that Dr. Reynolds used case studies instead of acronyms for bringing clarity to her teaching. This book provides information that is immediately actionable.

Dr. Reynolds put five tools in our reflective inquiry toolbox in this book:

1. Focus: coaching the person, not the problem
2. Active replay: playing back the pivotal pieces for review.
3. Brain hacking: finding the treasures in the box
4. Goaltending: staying the course
5. New and next: coaxing insights and commitments

She also gave us three mental tips to provide psychological safety. I am so appreciative that Dr. Reynolds spent time in the book discussing how our brains work and why psychological safety is so important. I believe this might be one of the biggest issues in organizational culture today. I even tweeted the following while reading the book: “I’m always appalled when someone tells me they are nervous & fearful of talking to their leaders. This is aweful! ❤️ Love that @MarciaReynolds addresses the brain science of this in her new book #CoachThePerson. 🧠” I also tweeted: “…Additionally, @MarciaReynolds drove home the point in her great new book, #CoachThePerson, that we must create cultures that foster the psychological safety to fully express ourselves in conversations.” Here are her three mental habits:

1. Align your brain
2. Receive (don’t just listen)
3. Catch and release judgement

Toward the end of the book, Dr. Reynolds reminded us that we need to say it out loud to make it real and that our brains are meaning-making machines. In every scene of our personal and professional lives we pull from our past experiences, beliefs, values, fears, and present assumptions to make sense of the situation we are living at the moment. In this book, Dr. Reynolds taught us that, “Coaching is intended to examine the meaning people give to situations to determine what else could be going on that would change their approach going forward.” Everyone who works with people should read this great ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ book!

View all my reviews

Getting Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

Screen Shot 2020-05-29 at 1.50.24 PMI first drew the illustration featured in this post for a webinar that I presented as a part of for the SMART Factory League back in April. Then I used it again this week for two webinars I did for teachers entitled “Embracing the Changes: Let’s Not Go Back to Status Quo.” The drawing represented how we are being nudged, pushed, or even shoved to make changes, given our current uncertain and unprecedented times. I hoped the drawing represented going from the massive, unorganized scribble that was the uncertainty and confusion we first experienced when dealing with the COVID-19 Pandemic to a very focused, straight line. On this, now day 80 of the pandemic, I would argue we are not at the focused, straight line yet, but are moving closer.

So, how do we get started? To borrow from our friend Goldilocks – we must get our focus just right. Focusing to narrowly on just one of our challenges will not work, but it also will not work to try to change everything at once, either. We need to change in a controlled fashion. But, what does that mean during this time of both the normal disruption of things and the ongoing pandemic? We are all trying to cope with unprecedented levels of uncertainty.

In fact, studies show that we are loss-averse and gain-seeking. We want the sure thing. We will accept less to lower the risk of failure. Sometimes we even give up success to not experience failure. We contemplate this a lot in athletics. Do we play to win, or play not to lose? Most teams who play not to lose, do just that – lose.

One thing I know for sure, we have done a lot of developing our “dealing with uncertainty capability.” One of the most important ways I believe that I have been able deal with the uncertainty has been to fully embrace the fact that every day was going to be a learning experience. I have literally asked myself, “What can I learn today?” These past 80 days have put the mantras of “lifelong learner” and “growth mindset” to the ultimate tests. You see, when something’s too easy or we’re not facing uncertainty, we’re not learning. Numerous scientific studies show that when we confront setbacks and we can adjust our view of these setbacks to see them as lessons, our brains literally begin to change.

None of us were trained on how to respond in a global pandemic and our immediate response to the challenges might have been “I can’t do this” or “We’ll figure it out.” As Nora Bateson (2016) so aptly put it in Small Arcs of Larger Circles: Framing Through Other Patterns, “No one is qualified to talk about uncertainty. You cannot get a degree in it yet, to the best of my knowledge.” Furthermore, she went on to say, “How, after all, can I pretend to offer you any kind of lesson on what I do not know?”

But, learn in adversity is what we did in education. While in the beginning it looked like the left had side of my scribble, we have been making our way across the page to the straight line. Wednesday and today we began to chronicle our learning by embracing the changes and discussing how to not go back to status quo. Here are two graphic recordings done by Amy Reynolds, Principal of Governors Charter Academy, during our session: “Embracing the Changes: Let’s Not Go Back To Status Quo.” Check them out:

The information in the graphics came from over 200 teachers working in breakout groups answering the following “What if?” questions:

Screen Shot 2020-05-29 at 4.01.48 PM

Screen Shot 2020-05-29 at 4.02.05 PM

Screen Shot 2020-05-29 at 4.02.22 PM

I learned to use “what if?” questions from the late Dr. Clayton Christen. These type of questions allow us to challenge assumptions, allow for innovation, and allow us to prepare. How about you? What have you been learning during these uncertain times?

“Easy To Say, Harder To Live By”

“What have I become during the pandemic?”

I had another Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) Blue Bloods quote that made me do some reflecting. He said, “Easy to say, harder to live by.” We all have heard people say, or said things ourselves that are very easy to say, but much tougher to actually do. I wrote about another quote from Frank Reagan in “Life Isn’t Fair, But You Can Be.” It’s easy to set set ambitious goals or say you will do the right thing, but it is a much harder thing to do the work to achieve them.

We talked about this last night during 3D Leadership. The participants made Flat Stanley’s and Flat Sarah’s representing what they have become during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Almost everyone talked about new and exciting things they are doing or have started to do again. Many talked about how at first was easy to get down, but then once they started learning and doing it became exciting to be doing great new things.

Remember, it’s easy to say. Much harder to do. But, it’s the hard stuff that separates the ordinary from the extraordinary.

“Life Isn’t Fair, But You Can Be”

We need to develop dexterity when dealing with others and leading. One uniform way of doing things will not work in all contexts. We all have micro-behaviors we can use to be agile according to situation at hand. We have seen this first hand from many leaders during the COVID-19 Pandemic. During this time we have become, in some ways, more atomized and insular.

The is a great line by Frank Reagan, played by Tom Selleck, to his granddaughter, Nicky Reagan-Boyle (played by Sami Gayle), in the television series Blue Bloods where he says, “Life isn’t fair, but you can be.” It’s true, life is not fair. Life happens in the context of others. Our actions affect others and their actions affect us. However, the actions of others are not some cosmic judgement on your being. They’re just a byproduct of being alive.

As I stated earlier, there just isn’t a uniform style of leading or dealing with others that works for everyone, every situation, or every relationship all the time. When dealing with people, we must remember that most are just trying to do their best, under different circumstances than your own.

Therefore, we, ourselves, can be fair. But, the idea of life being fair isn’t obtainable. Nor would we want it to be. Life would be insane if it actually was fair to everyone. There would be no choosing of anything. There would be no failure to understand success. It’s actually mind-boggling to think about. Many times we get too hung up on our view of how the world should work that we can’t understand how it actually does work. Embrace that life is not fair, but that you absolutely can be.

More Smithsonian Exploration

As a former Smithsonian Teacher Ambassador, I am very excited to be partnering with the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) to provide a webinar in our series of Noble Education Initiative opportunities for learning. Back in April we partnered with the Smithsonian Learning Lab and had two fantastic webinars and were able to provide outstanding resources to educators. I blogged about these webinars in Bringing The Smithsonian To You. Since then, we have continued to be asked for more from the Smithsonian Institution.

Tomorrow, May 20th, we will do just that with More Smithsonian Exploration: A Journey To The Smithsonian Science Education Center. We want educators and caregivers to join us to learn to use the resources that provide tremendous opportunities to learn with their students. The SSEC offers curriculum and digital resources that support educators and caregivers in providing authentic STEM experiences. EVERYONE is welcome and can still register here: https://m.signupgenius.com/#!/showSignUp/60b0b44a5a92ca7fe3-more.

I am really proud of this partnership to bring make this free webinar possible because of the aim of the SSEC to transform and improve the learning of science for K-12 students. Click here to view the SSEC fact sheet to learn how the world’s largest museum, education and research complex is bringing an interdisciplinary approach to education using science, history, art, and culture.

The SSEC is also providing tremendous resources and support to teachers who work with newcomers from all over the globe and English Language Learners (ELLs). Our webinar will be engaging and inquiry-based to model the strategies that are effective for effective learning with our ELL students. We will also get a first hand experience with the SSEC’s real world and relevant featured curriculum dealing with COVID-19: COVID-19! How Can I Protect Myself and Others.

Join us tomorrow and see how the Smithsonian Science Education Center is transforming science education.

Good Enough: Five Positives For Every Negative

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Growth Mindset, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on May 17, 2020

IMG_5711I finished reading a great book, The Power of Bad: How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule It by John Tierney and Roy Baumeister this morning. This was an interesting book to read during the COVID-19 Global Pandemic. It’s interesting to me that I interact daily with people who are very positive right now and those who are extremely negative. There does not seem to be much of an in between. Anecdotally, there seems to be more negativity than positivity. Tierney and Baumeister told us this is because negative experiences are more powerful than positive ones.

44902133The authors reminded me that the Gottman Ratio is a pretty good rule of thumb. The Gottman Ratio tells us that we are happiest when we have five positive interactions for every negative one. The authors posited this is a pretty good rule, but that we should aim for at least four positives for every negative. Kind of makes you think about who you want to be hanging out with, or Zooming with, whichever the case may be. Or, if others want to hang out with you.

“If one thing goes wrong, don’t interpret it as a harbinger of inevitable doom, whether you’re dealing with a personal setback or contemplating the state of the world.” ~ John Tierney & Roy Baumeister in The Power of Bad

If we want to keep things positive we must avoid the negative things. A Yale study really caught my attention described in the book where abusive parenting was found to have a statistically significant effect resulting in unhappy children. The opposite of very supportive and loving parenting did not lead to a larger number of happy children. Therefore, reducing negatives was more important than adding more positives. I found this to be encouraging because I believe it is easier to reduce negatives that increase positives. For one, I can do this by just having a positive attitude myself.

Furthermore, I was reminded of what Voltaire said, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” I would add that “Perfection is the enemy of done.” Progress, tweaks, checks, re-do’s, and reviews do not equal perfection. Good or effective work is about moving toward the destination than about getting things done with spilling or knocking something over in the process. Momentum matters! As Confucius said, “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” For example, if I am needing to market an event for next week, would it be better to have already gone out with an advertisement made by me that will for sure not be perfect (a marketer, I am not) or on Sunday of the week of the event, still be waiting on the perfect advertisement? For me it is the former rather than the latter.

“Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well.” ~ William Shakespeare

In The Power of Bad we were taught that rather than always striving for perfect, we need to think in terms of being “good enough.” Make no mistake, this does not mean lowering standards. It means paying less attention to transcending expectations and paying more attention to getting the basics right. Being steady and reliable is much more effective that dramatic ups and downs. So, don’t forget, your mood and demeanor and the mood and demeanor of those around you will have a huge impact on your own and the feelings and effectiveness of those with you. Positivity will cause social support and negativity will cause social undermining. Get out there and be positive and “good enough.”