Byron's Babbles

Do You Know What Your Guns Can Do? Or Can’t?

Posted in Coaching, Education, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on April 27, 2012

Heath Ernest, 4/21/12

This past weekend my son, Heath, harvested his third turkey in a row on Youth Spring Turkey Hunt weekend. Two years ago when he shot his first turkey I posted Talkin’ Turkey About Coaching (click here to read entire post). I was reminded again this year how important knowing what you can do and what you can’t are. Let’s use Heath’s gun for this analogy.

Heath hunts turkeys with a Remington 870 Youth 20 gauge shotgun. The preferred gun for hunting turkeys would be a 12 gauge in order to have more distance, but the youth guns do not come in a 12 gauge. Therefore, we know that Heath has distance limitations – what he can’t do. We also have taken the time to practice with many different combinations of ammunition and chokes (the part of the gun that controls the patter) – what he can do.

Heath knows that when a turkey is 23 yards or closer he can be successful. At 23 1/2 yards his gun does not have a pattern left to harvest a turkey. He knows all of the capabilities of his gun because of practicing and actionable feedback. He harvested his turkey on the 57th shell of the season. In other words he had taken 56 shots at targets prior to harvesting his turkey. Because of the feedback from the targets and shots taken at different distances, Heath knows exactly how to adjust to any situation.

It is also important to note that from the time we first saw his big Tom it took 2 hours and 34 minutes to get him into acceptable range. There were a few times when he got close only to move back, well out of range. It took the guesswork out of decision making for Heath and I gave him distances from our rangefinder. He knew exactly what he and his gun could do and waited patiently for the turkey to be at the correct distance.

Let’s relate this to business and education. It is so important that we know what our guns (people) can accomplish and what they can’t, areas for improvement, and reflection on how to accomplish the mission and vision.  This feedback and reflection provides insight about the skills and behaviors desired in the organization to accomplish the mission, vision, and goals and live the values. The feedback is firmly planted in behaviors needed to exceed the organization’s expectations.

Just as Heath practiced with 56 shots prior to the one used to harvest his turkey, feedback is to assist each individual to understand his or her strengths and weaknesses, and to contribute insights into aspects of his or her work needing professional development. This is also why I am such a huge proponent of IC 20-28-11.5, a new law passed in the spring of 2011 relating to the evaluation of all certified teaching staff and administrators.  Without effective evaluation systems, we can’t identify and retain excellent teachers, provide useful feedback and support to help teachers improve, or intervene when teachers consistently perform poorly.

This timely, actionable feedback is crucial for any organization to know what your guns can do or can’t!


Flat Stanley Travel Tips

Posted in Coaching by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on April 10, 2012

Flat Stanley in the SWELL Classroom with Sydney Abbott

Yesterday I posted a story from our Spring Break trip about Pelican Leadership Lessons. Today’s post deals with the travels of Flat Stanley with me. The week before Spring Break my niece, Kate, sent me a Flat Stanley to travel with me for two weeks. Being the good uncle that I am, I gladly agreed.

Flat Stanley went to school with me. He went to meetings with me. Flat Stanley even went to a meeting with me at the Indiana Statehouse.

Flat Stanley at the Indiana Statehouse

Then, during Spring Break Flat Stanley traveled to Destin, Floridaand spent time on the beach. Through all this travel, Flat Stanley always had a smile on his face and was enjoying being where he was.

Flat Stanley got buried in the sand!

Now, for those who don’t know about Flat Stanley, he is based on the book Flat Stanley written by Jeff Brown. Flat Stanley had a bulletin board fall on him while he was sleeping that flattened him. It was then easy for him to travel by just mailing him in an envelope.

We need to all learn to be happy travelers like Flat Stanley. Let me explain what I mean. I travel a lot and believe there are people who travel well and those who do not travel well. By travel well I mean those who are flexible, always happy to be on an adventure, can handle last minute changes, and respectful of what the others traveling with him want to do – just like Flat Stanley. Think about the people you have traveled with. Isn’t it much more fun and productive to travel with a person who travels well? We have all traveled with those who do not travel well.

I realize Flat Stanley is is just a cut-out, but think about what a great traveler he is and use him as a model for being a good traveler.

Flat Stanley studying with the boys

Pelican Leadership Lessons

Posted in Education, Education Reform, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on April 9, 2012

Brown Pelican who became our fishing friend as my son and I were cleaning fish!

I just returned from our annual spring break trip to Destin, Florida. We literally live on the beach for eight days. One of my favorite things about beach life are the Brown Pelicans. Every year I am amazed by these majestic birds and the lessons we can learn from them.

The most amazing thing they do is fly in cooperative “u” and “v” shaped groups. They do this to drive the fish to shallow water. Many times they will beat their wings on the surface of the water to drive the fish. So, like many species they collaborate to catch their food. We can learn from the Brown Pelican that without collaboration, the group/team does not succeed.

It is also amazing to watch these birds fly in a straight line. It is really cool to watch them fly right over the surface of the water. The lead bird will go up and down with the ebb and flow of the waves just above the surface. All the other birds follow in a perfect rhythmic wave. We as leaders need to also make this smooth adjustment to the ebb and flow of our daily happenings.

Additionally, Pelicans fly in a “V” pattern. Flying this way reduces drag and saves energy (actually up to 20%). Don’t you think collaborating saves 20% of our energy as well? Even more interesting is the fact that the lead bird in the “V” has to work the hardest by breaking through the air where there is the most resistance. Sound familiar? But wait, the Pelicans have figured out this leadership challenge as well. The lead bird does not stay at the point of the “V” for very long. It drops back to let another bird lead so it can rest and have leadership renewal.

This is a very smooth transition that happens in flight. In other words, biological stress necessitates this constant transition. More importantly, every Pelican in the “V” can lead. Can you say that about everyone in your organization? Does everyone have the opportunity or feel the need to lead?

Think about it. For us, biological stress also dictates we need to rest and be renewed. Also, collaborative organizations are healthier when the hierarchies are flattened and leadership is distributed.

I am particularly excited that in Indiana, part of our new teacher evaluation system involves the teachers’ ability to provide school leadership. When effective distributions of leadership occurs all teachers are better able to lead from where they are. Leadership must occur from all levels.

Next time you need a visual reminder of leadership – Look to the Pelican

Loving the scraps we were throwing him!