Byron's Babbles

Journey of Significance: What’s Your Unique Contribution?

Posted in Uncategorized by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 27, 2015

thAs was discussed in last week’s lesson from Drucker (Maciariello, 2014), knowledge workers have two lives lives. Some only use and develop one, but others strive to develop both. I am certainly doing my best to begin to plan for and develop the second – the journey of significance. In the first we make a living and perhaps achieve success, and in the second we seek significance after fulfilling the obligations and responsibilities to our families. It is at this point where we hope to be in a position to make the future happen. Our unique contributions will be found at the point where our strengths and our values meet. We will know it by the enthusiasm we feel for our work and for our life (Maciariello, 2014). It may take us a while before we identify what our unique contribution may be and it becomes a reality.

“Then there is the reality of the game itself: The clock is running. What once looked like an eternity ahead of you is now within reach. And while you do not fear the end of the game, you do want to make sure that you finish well, that you leave something behind that no one can take away from you. If the first half was a quest for success, the second half is a journey to significance.” ~ Bob Buford

Significance is really a diffusion of innovation and best practices to others. The imposing on the yet unborn future a new idea that will give direction and shape the future yet to come. For me that significance involves preparing others for that future. A very important project for me right now is our Focused Leader Academy. IMG_0640I really believe that one of the keys to the future of great schools is having great leaders ready to both lead from where they are, but also be pushed into areas where they are uncomfortable for growth and development. This is not an area that a lot of schools spend a lot of time, effort, or resources on and I hope we can develop a model that is both replicable and scalable.

“This is the true joy of life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no “brief candle” to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

Wow, it is breathtaking to imagine my life belonging to the community and as a torch I need to burn as brightly as possible before handing off to future generations. The clock is running! We all need to think about what we want to be remembered for. Are you making progress?


Maciariello, J. A. (2014). A year with Peter Drucker: 52 weeks of coaching for leadership effectiveness. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.


Lazy Leaders


Hoosier Academies Focused Leader Academy Graphic by Mike Fleisch

 As seems to be normal for me, I have coined another phrase that seems to be sticking. Actually, I guess it is two phrases: “Lazy Leaders” & “Lazy Leadership.” I began using these terms to describe leaders and leadership practices describing leaders who choose to blame their superiors or the organization they serve for decisions, processes, procedures, initiatives, or anything else. These terms could also be applied to a leader who assumes what the answer is without investigating, does not delegate (particularly to young developing leaders), gives up after the first try, does not develop future leaders or the leadership bench, does not explain why, or avoids conflict or discourse. Let me give you an example: imagine with me that you are the leader of a team of widget makers. Your team would really like to change one part of the way your organization makes widgets. A lazy leader would say things like: “that’s not the Widgets USA, Inc. way of doing this,” or ” my supervisor will never let us change that,” or “this doesn’t fit the Widget USA model.” Are you catching my drift here? This lazy leader does not want to do the work of championing her team member’s idea to see if it might actually be something that would improve the widget itself or Widget USA, Inc. as an organization.

I have seen this so many times in many organizations and in my own industry as a school leader. As a person who has come in to help school teams turn schools around, I have heard so many teacher leaders say, “we were always told this idea does not fit the model.” Then when I ask the question of who said that, we find that no one did except the lazy leader who did not want to go to the trouble of making the change or explaining (selling) the change throughout the organization. 

Lazy leadership really goes beyond the example of the widget itself. Probably the worst effect of lazy leaders and lazy leadership is on the organization’s culture. Imagine a culture where you are always told, “no, we can’t do this or change that because…” At some point you would just decide that your knowledge was irrelevant. We know that this would then translate to the most important component of employee satisfaction – engagement. Research tells us that the happiest employees and the ones that stay with organizations the longest are the ones that truly believe they are valued and making a difference. These same employees have been empowered and have a clearly defined role in carrying out the vision and mission of the organization. Research tells us that this level of enagagement is much more important than even salaries.

 Lazy leaders may just be one of the biggest crushers of culture there is. So, how do we keep ourselves from falling into the lazy leadership trap? You are caught in the quick sand of lazy leadership if you catch yourself telling one of your team members that your superior will never agree to a change suggested by someone on your team without trying to lobby for the change. Furthermore, let’s do a Jeff Foxworthy parody. 

“You might be a lazy leader if…

  1. You move on with a decision without finding out the real answers.
  2. You don’t delegate because you don’t want to have to help others hone and develop their skills.
  3. You delegate by “dumping and running.” What I call “relegating.” You have to help people know the vision, understand a win, and stay close enough in case they need you again. New leaders are developed, loyalty is gained, and teams are made more effective through delegation.
  4. You give up after the first try. No one likes to fail. Sometimes it’s easier to scrap a dream and start over rather than fight through the messiness and even embarrassment of picking up the pieces of a broken dream, but if the dream was valid the first time, it probably has some validity today.
  5. You don’t invest in the young and up-and-coming leaders. There’s the whole generational gap — differences in values, communication styles, expectations, etc. It would be easier to surround ourselves with all like-minded people, but who wins with that approach — especially long-term?
  6. You settle for mediocre performance. It’s more difficult to push for excellence. Average results come with average efforts. It’s the hard work and the final efforts that produce the best results. 
  7. You don’t explain “why. “Just do what I say” leadership saves a lot of the leader’s time. If you don’t explain what’s in your head — just tell people what to do — You maybe get to do more of what you want to do. The problem is, however, you will have a bunch of pawns on the team and one disrespected, ineffective and unprotected king (lazy leader). (And, being “king” is not a good leadership style by the way.) Continually casting the vision and connecting the dots is often the harder work, but necessary for the best results in leadership.
  8. You avoid any kind of discourse. If there was only answer, solution, or innovation who needs a leader? 

So, let’s get out there and excercise our leadership muscles and not be lazy!

Significance: Impacting Outside Yourself

Posted in Education, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Inspirational, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 20, 2015


“In the course of life, there are the great majority of successful people who have to change their direction at about age sixty. There is a very small minority of purpose-driven people who have to concentrate and not change and I can’t tell you which you are going to be. The decision is going to come up. Decision is perhaps the wrong word – as you grow older, are you focusing more on doing the things that give you achievement and satisfaction and growth or more on the things that have an impact outside of yourself? Those are decisions one has to make. And nobody can help you make them. But the one thing to avoid is splintering yourself, trying to do everything.” ~ Peter Drucker – Rick Warren Dialogue, May 27, 2004

This week’s entry in A Year With Peter Drucker really resonated with me and is something that actually presents a bit of a thought challenge for me. I have always been one who takes my own professional growth very seriously and have owned that. But, at the same time I really have never worried about or tried to position myself for what is next. At least not any more than to the extent of living by what I have always preached: “We must be ready for what we don’t know we need to be ready for.” Drucker used 60 years old as the benchmark where the decisions of a successful person needs to be made. At age 52 I still have some time, but I really do want to make sure I am making a significant impact outside of myself. Drucker believed a person could continue to do what he knows how to do extremely well or attempt to make another significant and innovative contribution to society (Maciariello, 2014). The prospect of making some new and innovative contribution to society is very attractive to me.


People who use and manage the second half of their life for impacting others are seen to be the minority. I want to be a part of this minority and would encourage you to be too. We need to be the people who see the long work expectancy we now enjoy as an opportunity both for ourselves and for society. We need to be the leaders and the models. Leaders must systematically work on making the future. The purpose of the work on making the future is not to decide what should be done tomorrow, but what should be done today to have tomorrow. Drucker also posited that leaders needed to anticipate the future that has already happened and make the future that has already happened (Maciariello, 2014). IMG_0690

The importance of this was really driven home to me yesterday when we had the first session of our newly developed Focused Leader Academy. I was so inspired as I spent the day with 15 of our best and brightest teacher leaders. The passion that was displayed and the desire to learn and affect the future of our school was exciting. CPS05h6U8AAC80_When I reflect on all the learning that went on yesterday it is exciting to think we are building our future leaders and anticipating the future that has already happened and positioning our leaders to be ready for it. We learned about a focused leader and a disciplined leader. Additionally, we discussed being focused on ourselves, our team, and our organization. The Focused Leader Academy is so exciting to me because it truly gives me a chance serve our future leaders and make an impact outside of myself. It was awesome to hear their ideas for Focused Leader Projects and I have spent a great deal of time today thinking about resources and ways I can help them to carry out the projects they have chosen. It has been exciting to put this program together and I am so thrilled to be in a position of being a servant leader to the individuals who are taking this leadership journey and will be the leaders of our school.

As I reflect on the lessons of Drucker this week I aspire to impose on the as yet unborn future, new ideas to give direction and shape to what is yet to come. I also want to be a true servant leader and help model for and mold those who will be leading those new ideas in our future. I will close with one of my favorite Peter Drucker quotes:

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” ~ Peter Drucker


Maciariello, J. A. (2014). A year with Peter Drucker: 52 weeks of coaching for leadership effectiveness. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Social Ecology: Creating Voracious Learners


“The starting point for management can no longer be its own product or service, and not even its own market and its known end-users for its products and services. The starting point has to be what customers consider value. The starting point has to be the assumption – an assumption amply proven by all our experience.” ~ Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker fancied himself a social ecologist. This was a person who attempts to spot major future trends in society that are discernible but not widely understood (Maciariello, 2014). I would posit that these persons are also pioneers, but that pioneers many times don’t do the social ecologist part. Drucker had a methodology the social ecologist should follow for the creation of emerging institutions that included four parts:

  1. Understanding their function
  2. Understanding the disruptions they create for existing institutions
  3. Thinking through how they could be made to function effectively
  4. Thinking how the new institution will have a constructive impact on society

As a pioneer who tries to practice artful leadership this really hit home for me. We need to make sure that in education we take the time as begin new, innovative, and disruptive innovations to really think through and strategically think about Drucker’s methodology. We must also diffuse innovation throughout the entire education system to those affected by emerging trends and help them to capitalize on those trends. We must become a “teaching education system,” one devoted to the diffusion of innovation. IMG_0690

This week’s lesson in A Year With Peter Drucker prompted me to put Everett Roger’s seminal book, Diffusion of Innovations (2003) on my book reading list. Roger’s book is the standard reference on how innovations spread throughout a social system. I cannot wait to read this book! In order for our innovations which will create disequilibrium to become viable and do all the good possible we must become “voracious learners” (Jim Mellado in Maciariello, 2014, p. 301). This is key to spreading new ideas and innovations to the majority that need them the most.

thThe adoption of an innovation usually follows a normal, bell-shaped curve when plotted over time on a frequency basis.” ~ Everett Rogers in Diffusion of Innovations, p. 272

We must consider abandoning unjustifiable products and activities; set goals to improve productivity, manage growth, and developing our people. This will create resources to explore and undertake new innovations. We must not forget, however, to employ Drucker’s methodology as social ecologists and become voracious learners.

Maciariello (2014) had three great practicum prompts for this: “What are the risks of being an early adopter of innovations?” What are the risks of being a laggard?” “Where is the optimal place for you and your organization to be on the innovation diffusion curve?” Make plans to get there. diffusion+of+innovation


Maciariello, J. A. (2014). A year with Peter Drucker: 52 weeks of coaching for leadership effectiveness. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Everett, Roger, M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th Edition). New York, NY: Free Press.

Finding & Implementing Best Practices

Posted in Education, Education Reform, Educational Leadership, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 12, 2015


“So I began this concept of Just For Kids, an effort that, to me, raises the essence of the {education} problem: too often no one is focused on the needs of the education establishment, whether it is the teachers union, or administrators, or this group or that group; or it’s this group that wants school prayer, or this group that wants something else. Very seldom are things really looked at from the viewpoint of the child.” ~ Tom Luce, Founder of Just For Kids, speaking to Peter Drucker

One of the problems with public education is that sometimes people do not approach the issue from a systems-wide approach. Additionally there must be an easier, more efficient way of diffusing knowledge and innovation. In the entry this week in A Year With Peter Drucker it is discussed how educators and educational leaders do not learn everything they need to know in the schools of education (Maciariello, 2014). I don’t believe this is new to any of us in education, but I’m not sure we’ve done everything we can about it.

It is also worth noting again, as I did in my post Multidimensional Missions: Don’t Create A Flea Circus, it is necessary to meet the needs of a number of separate stakeholder groups, and meeting these needs very often requires leaders to make trade-offs. You have to affect the delivery system but you also have to affect the political environment, you have to also deal with public opinion. Sometimes, if we are honest, we also become smug and self-satisfied inward looking school systems (Maciariello, 2014). This is why having an accountability system that is appropriate and student-centered is so very important. 

 Education in the knowledge society is much too important to be left for schools to do alone. All institutions of society should be involved in continuous learning and teaching. Technology should be used as a tool to increase the effectiveness of education. The technology will be significant, but primarily because it should force us to do new things rather than do the same old things better (Maciariello, 2014). Technological advances in education should allow more time for our teachers to individualize instruction for our students by identifying strengths and weaknesses. We should also use technology to make professional growth opportunities more available and find better ways to share innovation.

Innovations in the form of best practice dos and don’ts must be diffused through the educational system.


Maciariello, J. A. (2014). A year with Peter Drucker: 52 weeks of coaching for leadership effectiveness. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers

Teacher of the Year Learning Continues in 2015!

Posted in Education, Education Reform, Educational Leadership, Global Education, Inspirational, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 10, 2015

thToday was one of my favorite days of the year. As an Indiana Teacher of the Year, I was part of the selection committee for the 2015 Indiana Teacher of the Year. Today we held the interviews for the top 10 finalists. As always, I was inspired! Click here to see the listing of this year’s top 10. I am so inspired each year by how great these teachers are and come away refreshed and rejuvenated as a school leader. During the interview I take copious notes to inform our decision making at the end of the day, but also take personal notes that I use for my own professional growth. Last year I wrote a post entitled Teacher of the Year Learning and this year I thought I would do the same. For this year’s post I am going to provide you a bullet point list of all the comments, phrases, and learning that I jotted down today.

Here is the list:

  • We must match teacher goals to individualized professional development
    • What steps should be taken to reach the goals?
    • Implementation plan
    • Feedback needs to be provided regarding progress toward goals
  • Purposefully select books for libraries that give a window to the world
  • “One of the things that makes me, me is…”
  • “I’m either going to fail forward, or being totally successful!”
  • “I’m just as much a learner as they [students] are.”
  • “I [teacher] lead sometimes, and they [students] lead sometimes.”
  • We should be blogging our thoughts instead of just journal-ling
  • Use formative assessments before even approaching summative assessments – this needs to be balanced
  • Diversity is not always visible
  • Teacher effectiveness starts at the local school – the school must have a process that supports growing highly effective teachers and teacher leaders
  • The community drives instruction
  • Share the gifts that you have
  • Read the book: 7 Habits of Happy Kids
  • Read the book: Mindsets in the Classroom
  • “Clustering” – bringing in students who aren’t quite ready for the High Ability program, but are close and need extra attention to get them there
  • We need to make students feel welcome and loved
  • We need to be writing from different points of view and exposing students to writing from different points of view
  • Twice Exceptional Students – high ability students who also have learning disabilities
  • “Teachers are effective if inspired” (my favorite quote of the day – I tweeted it)IMG_2997
  • “Let me make a theme out of all of this”
  • Blogging our journey
  • If you cannot adapt to changes you will not be successful
  • “Subject matter is important, but one to one contact and relationships are most important. Remember, what you are teaching today may not be the most important thing happening in a particular student’s life today”
  • Ask your students: “What am I doing that is irrelevant?”
  • You can’t put everyone in a box, you must individualize the instruction
  • Find the students’ strengths and weaknesses
  • “I evaluate myself every day”
  • “Shine On”
  • “Make kids first and everything else second”
  • “Immediate feedback should be innate in everything we do”
  • We need to love all the different experiences students bring to our classrooms
  • Teacher effectiveness measures – ask the kids
  • We need our students to do “authentic reading”
  • We must be immersed in what matters
  • We must create an environment where we have an investment in each other – this will build a true TEAM
  • As a coach/mentor – the goal should be to work yourself out of a job
  • We should have less required collaboration and more spontaneous/unstructured collaboration
  • Poverty is the biggest issue facing education today
  • Choice based classrooms –

    Give students the opportunity to explore what they are interested in. Help them ask powerful questions. Give them time to explore. Students should be able to share what they have learned in a compelling way.” ~ George Couros

  • We need to bookend creative lessons

Need I say more? Again, congratulations to this year’s Indiana Teacher of the Year finalists and thanks for inspiring me today!

I think my tweet at the end of the interviews says it all:IMG_2998