Byron's Babbles

Expertise Vs. Listening


It seems that every leadership book has a part dedicated to listening. The Disciplined Leader (Manning, 2015) is no exception. It is an appropriate subject to keep at the forefront as we hone our leadership skills. In fact, when I asked our Focused Leader Academy participants to develop a list of expectations of great leaders, “listening” hit the graphic early in the discussion. It really comes down to the fact that we all want to be heard. So, it’s pretty simple: as leaders we need to listen. 


“There’s no doubt leaders like to talk. But great leaders know one of the keys to effective leadership is suppressing the innate desire to hear oneself speak to create that golden opportunity to listen more and talk less.” ~ John M. Manning

One of the points Manning (2015) made this week in lesson #14 was that, “I needed to listen more to others and talk less about myself. As soon as I started making this shift, I became much more aware of what was really going on around me—as if I were seeing work and life in a totally new light. I also learned many new things about people and the organization as a whole.” The key here is just not to listen instead of talking, but when talking making sure it’s saying the right words – not talking about ourselves or how to one-up what was just said. As Manning (2015) puts it, “Rather than give advice, they [disciplined leaders] ask smart questions, knowing that this coaching style is much more powerful for learning, developing, and generating sustainable change.” I so agree with this. In fact, one of my favorite questions after proposing an idea is to say: “Tell me why I am dumb for thinking this?” If you really mean it, and I always do, it will get a discussion flowing and great ideas/solutions fleshed out.

I just finished reading a great book by Kevin Cashman entitled Leadership from the Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life. In this book Cashman walks the reader/leader through seven mastery shifts he believes are necessary to become a leader for life. The sixth one applies to this post. Here it is:

“Change Mastery Shift 6: From Expertise Focus to Listening Focus. Effective leaders stay open and practice authentic listening to stay connected with others and to consider multiple, innovative solutions.” ~ Kevin Cashman

This makes so much sense. Have you ever been in a meeting and thought, “Boy, this person likes to hear themselves talk?” Really, all they are doing is trying to display expertise. But, as my dad used to say, “There is no statistical correlation between the amount of taking someone does and knowledge.” Pretty good thought! The key here is “authentic” listening. Really connecting and using what we are hearing and learning from others. I always try to approach listening like reading – I think about what I would be highlighting. This has helped me to be very reflective when listening to others. Others have always found it interesting that for as boisterous as I normally am, in meetings I am pretty quiet – it’s because I need to listen and take time to process. 

 What will you do in 2016 to become a more authentic listener?


Cashman, K. (2008) Leadership from the inside out: Becoming a leader for life.  San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Manning, J. (2015). The disciplined leader: 52 concise, powerful lessons. Oakland, CA: Barrett – Koehler Publishers, Inc.


“Chance Favors The Prepared Mind”

  “Chance favors the prepared mind” was the statement Louis Pasteur, the 19 century scientist, used to describe his remarkable ability to invent and innovate across a complex set of problems.

  Peter Drucker believed we needed to notice the little things that other people miss (Maciariello, 2014). If we study Louis Pasteur’s research accomplishments – from his studies of crystallization and fermentation that aided industries ranging from dairying to silk-making to his work with germs and microorganisms that opened up whole new fields of scientific inquiry; we find that he was truly ready for chance to “happen” to him. Some people believe Pasteur was just lucky. Pasteur’s greatest gift may have been his ability to notice the little things that other people missed. Some of those little things proved to be the source of his lucky breaks (Maciariello, 2014). 

As leaders and innovators we must immerse ourselves in our work at a level such that we can identify a breakthrough event when we spot it. In order to find significance in life, we need to prepare and dream. This preparation will enable us to spot unexpected opportunities. In 1888, the famous Pasteur Institute was named after him, and upon his death in 1895, he was hailed as a national hero. His last words were, ”One must work; one must work. I have done what I could.” In the last and 52nd entry in “A Year With Peter Drucker,” Maciariello (2014) poses a great question for us as a guide: “What would it take for me to take advantage of this opportunity right now?” 


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


Failing Forward

The whole idea of failing, making mistakes, and losing is an interesting topic. I believe the reason so many talk about it and write about it is that we all fail, make mistakes, and lose. Well, almost everyone. There are those that are so risk averse that they never try anything, do anything, or compete in anything. How sad for them. I’m not sure you can ever fully appreciate the incredible feeling of the win, without first feeling the emptiness of the mistake or loss. 

“It takes a leader who’s got guts to own [the mistake].” ~ Jack Welch

This week’s entry in The Disciplined Leader (Manning, 2015) addressed the issue of viewing mistakes as opportunities. When I was much younger I had a tremendous mentor who never used the words problem, challenge, mistake, or any or like-such word. He always used the word, “opportunity.” He truly believed every wrinkle that came along was an opportunity waiting to be developed. His example has stuck with me and resonated throughout my life. It continues to amaze me how true this is.  


I still believe our 26th President of the United States and reformer, Theodore Roosevelt, summed in up best in “The Man In The Arena.” Here it is, if you’ve not read it:

Are you in the arena? Are you creating a safe place for those you serve to get in the arena?


Manning, J. (2015). The disciplined leader: 52 concise, powerful lessons. Oakland, CA: Barrett – Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Leaving Fingerprints on Others

FingerprintingIn the next to last lesson in A Year With Peter Drucker (Maciariello, 2014) we learn what a great mentor Peter Drucker was to Rick Warren and Bob Buford. Rick Warren said that when you visit Saddleback Church you see “his [Peter Drucker’s] fingerprints all over it (p. 389).” Warren also reflected on what he called “essential Druckers.”

  • Leaders don’t ask, “What do I want?” but “What needs to be done and where does it need to be done?”
  • “The mission comes first.”

“Here lies a man who knew how to put into service more able men than he was himself.” ~ Andrew Carnegie wanted to put this on his gravestone

Then Drucker mentored us to ask, “What is in my life that needs to be IMG_0640done, and where do I need to be doing it?” Drucker believed it was important for us to also know what to stop doing (Maciariello, 2014). If we are to become all we can be, it is simply impossible to keep adding activities to our work and to our lives without dropping other activities. During a mentoring session with Rick Warren, Drucker once asked, “Don’t tell me what your doing, Rick. Tell me what you stopped doing (p. 391).” Drucker was clearly a great mentor. We need to learn from his modeling of how to leave our fingerprints on others.


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

Bah Humbug! Leadership

  Last year I wrote a post about the classic Christmas movies Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Elf (click here to read the post). That post started an annual tradition, right? Well I guess so, because I’m doing it again this year. I missed church this morning because of a cow having a calf and when I came in I got caught up watching Disney’s A Christmas Carol – An animated retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic novel about a Victorian-era miser taken on a journey of self-redemption, courtesy of several mysterious Christmas apparitions. As I watched I was struck by the many leadership lessons.  

 I was first struck by the fact that Scrooge would be considered successful by today’s standards – money, drive, and disciplined. But, remember there is a difference between success and significance. I have reflected on wanting to be more significant than successful a lot now that I have entered the second half of life. I am reminded of what the scripture says in Luke 12:48: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” (King James Version) I like The Message version even better: “Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!” Fortunately, Scrooge learned that he must use his success for significance in his second half. My favorite lines from Dickens sum up Scrooge’s transformation from success to significance quite well:

 “A merry Christmas, Bob,” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year. I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob. Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!”

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him. ~ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Furthermore, Scrooge taught us to be passionate about what we do. Whether Scrooge was busy piling up his riches or becoming a new man after the ghosts visited him, he went after everything to the full extent of his being. As a miser, however, he let the love of his own life supersede his ability to have an impact on others. Remember, what we do for others is the best measure of how we have used our time, treasures, and talent. 

 In the end Scrooge comes through for us and teaches us a very important leadership lesson. He teaches us to learn from history and experience. Additionally he teaches us, as leaders, to put into practice what we have learned. It took four ghosts to break Scrooge of his idolization of money, and they showed him his own historical journey through life, the experiences of many others, and what could be his future journey of significance. Once Scrooge learned the necessary personal growth lessons, he changed his entire life, literally overnight. What a transformational leader. He gave to the poor; he reconnected with the only family he had, his nephew, Bob Cratchett. He grew especially close to Tiny Tim, who was shown dying by the Ghosts of Christmas Present and Christmas Future. As we know, Tiny Tim lives. 

Charles Dickens’ best-loved story is one of personal transformation. Changing leadership behaviors and achieving significance in life requires experience, not just consideration of intellectual concepts. Each of Scrooge’s experiences brings him closer to the major transformation which ultimately determined his future. Nonetheless, all of these experiences were important to his transformation. Scrooge had the opportunity to relive the past, truly experience the present, and anticipate the future.

During this holiday season take some time to reflect on the past, enjoy today’s blessings, and anticipate and plan for living a life of significance.

“God bless us! Every one!” ~ Tiny Tim

Leaders Framing Themselves As Victims


Graphic of GoodLeader/Bad Leader Discusion Drawn by Mike Fleisch

This week’s entry (#12) in John Manning’s (2105) The Disciplined Leader was entitled “Eliminate the Victim Mentality.” Our Focused Leader Academy participants had a huge discussion about this back in November during a Good Leader/Bad Leader discussion. The context of our discussion was how leaders blame their decisions, or lack there of on others or circumstances allegedly out of their control. Instead of being a victim, I call this “excuse-making.” This excuse-making, or blaming and justification are all contained within the excuse-making thought process. In our society today, some leaders have become adept at using all of these strategies to rationalize their actions. Here is where the danger lies in leaders taking a victim approach. The core of victim thinking is the belief that if you’re a victim of something, then the results of your decisions and actions don’t apply to you. Consequently, if you’re not responsible, then you don’t have to change anything: it’s somebody else’s fault. Remember, great leaders take responsibility for things that don’t work and give the credit to others for what goes right.

“Because the workplace culture often has a way of taking on the personality of its strongest leader, be aware that through consistent strength and optimistic, powerful messaging, you won’t just better yourself but will effectively impact others for the better, too. When people around you feel your optimism, they will also be encouraged to ward off thinking or behaving as victims.” ~ John M. Manning

If you want to be a well-respected leader, you can’t afford to act or think like a victim. Leaders are those who see a complex problem and figure out a way either individually or collectively to solve it. Let’s face it, you don’t have to be or feel like a victim. We all have the ability to become the leader we want to be in any area we choose. It is is important to remember we all have the responsibility to lead from where we are; no matter what our position. You are the very person who dictates whether to assume a leader or a victim’s role. The one person with the most influence over you is YOU!

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

Today, everyone can be a leader. The position of leader is not just for those leading top corporations as CEOs. Today’s leaders are everywhere, including teacher leaders choosing to bring out the best in our children, artists creating social change in our cities, youth bringing about social change, and YOU! Great leaders own and are in control of their own leadership actions. They embrace change and welcome the challenges of their context to learn and own their own personal and professional growth. As leaders, we must embrace our circumstances and understand that today we are stronger and wiser because of the context we find ourselves leading in. As aspiring leaders we must take control of our thoughts and create the inspiring stories of creating the change we want to see in the world.

Are you a leader or a victim?


Manning, J. (2015). The disciplined leader: 52 concise, powerful lessons. Oakland, CA: Barrett – Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Driven Crazy By Data

Posted in Disciplined Leadership, Education, Education Reform, Educational Leadership, Leadership, Strategic Planning by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 19, 2015

Yesterday I was involved in some pretty deep discussions on education. During one part of the discussion I made the comment that many times instead of being “driven by data” we are “driven crazy by data.” As usual, I got some weird looks, but it’s only because I was stating what many aren’t willing to discuss. I am calling this Part One because today I am going to use a personal example from our farm to make my point and will come back later in another post and prove an educational example. I believe those of you outside education in other industries and organizations will be able to use this example as well.

Today, my son and I needed to install a continuous 65′ run of matting for tie stalls in our dairy show barn. Pretty great Saturday Dad and Lad activity for a Saturday, I might add. Now here were the data points: Mat roll was 65′ long

Mat is 75″ wide

Mat weighs 2,000 pounds – 1 ton

Need to leave two inches on each end for the mat to expand

Needs to be 22″ from the wall at the top of the mat 

The Mat as Shipped

 Now, the company kept reiterating the mat was 2,000 pounds. Nice to know, but really I don’t care. The weight, however, was driving us crazy because we started the “what if” games. What if it’s not square? How will we move or change it? What if? What if? Well, we live on a farm and have the equipment to easily deal with one ton of material. We were truly letting one piece of data drive us crazy. I finally told my son. “We don’t care what it weighs.”  

Location of Mat Istallation

 We marked our 2″ starting point 22″ from the wall and squared the mat and began unrolling. The point: we only needed two data points to begin. We squared off the 2″ starting point and then checked the data point of 22″ from the wall (which meant we were keeping it square) as we unrolled. By checking every 4′ as we unrolled, we were able to make adjustments as we went. Bottom line – SUCCESS! The mat was perfectly square at the other end. 


 The point is we could have tracked barometric pressure, took temperature readings, timed the unrolling, measured fuel use of the tractor, video recorded the install, taken pictures (I did take three for this post), or who knows what else. All of those data could be valuable in other situations, but to us it would have been “noise.” In other words, it would have distracted us from the task at hand. In reality, if we would have done all that, we would have screwed up the install.
I am guessing that no matter what field you are in you can relate to this. Those in education could make a list of all the data points able to be tracked. But… we need to make sure we focus on data that really matters. Data that informs instruction and highly effective facilitation of learning is what matters most. If we are to be successfully driven by data, we must not let data that does not matter drive us crazy!
What data in your organization drives you crazy? What are the data points that will drive you to success?

Knowing Yourself

Posted in Coaching, Disciplined Leadership, Leadership, The Disciplined Leader by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 19, 2015

  You’ve probably noticed it’s very hard to know ourselves; it’s easy to be distracted by the way we wish we were, or think we ought to be, or what others think we should be, until we lose sight of what is actually true. When you don’t know yourself it then becomes easy to become defensive. As John Manning (2015) pointed out in lesson 11 in The Disciplined Leader,  “Habitually defensive behavior creates an atmosphere in which people walk on eggshells and struggle to communicate—primarily with you. That’s dangerous for your business’s well-being because it can stifle transparency, ideas, and productivity.” I would argue we need to spend more time interrogating ourselves and getting to know ourselves to break down the walls of defensiveness. It is always good news when people interrogate themselves about their beliefs, values, and actions. It’s important to be a self-aware person. Too many people lack self-awareness, for too many reasons. Engaging in self-reflection isn’t a luxury; it is a necessity. 

 Most of us choose to focus our attention on the behavior of others. Some people get mesmerized by looking at themselves in mirrors. Neither extreme has a propensity for healthy introspection or taking balanced personal inventory. The sooner we are open to consciously examining and acknowledging who we are the sooner the traits that are unique to us can become strengths, or at least stop hindering our growth. As Manning (2015) pointed out, the problem is that we’re all defensive some of the time. We would have to admit we are better able to observe defensiveness in other people than in ourselves. Once we’re in defensive or reactive mode we can’t take in new information or see two sides of an issue—or better yet, seven or eight sides. 

 One thing I try to do when I find myself getting defensive is to ask for specifics. This will help clarify the other person’s point and show that you care about what they are expressing. Remember, however, asking for specifics is not the same thing as nitpicking. The key is to be curious, not to cross-examine. Don’t act like a lawyer even if you are one. Also, do not counter-criticize. This is huge because because this is one of the quickest ways to ruin a learning organization culture of openness and collaboration. Even if you don’t like what the person is saying you can thank her for initiating a difficult conversation. Then reflect and glean what you can for improvement. I always try to look at every conversation as a chance to grow, both personally and professionally. These touch points all become a chance to get to know yourself better.


Manning, J. (2015). The disciplined leader: 52 concise, powerful lessons. Oakland, CA: Barrett – Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Project Fascination

  Well, my friend Sally Hogshead has done it again. What has she done? Found a way to take FASCINATING off the chart. I am amazed and in awe of her! “Who is Sally Hogshead?”, you ask. Sally Hogshead is a Hall of Fame speaker and the New York Times best- selling author of How the World Sees You: Discover Your Highest Value Through the Science of Fascination. For the first half of her career, Sally was one of the most award-winning copywriters in the world, creating campaigns for brands such as Nike, Godiva, and MINI Cooper. She learned that when a brand knows how to fascinate customers, it becomes more profitable, admired, and loved. Since then, Sally has measured the communication traits of more than 700,000 people. Oh, and about the other question your likely to ask. A “hogshead” is a wooden barrel that holds 62 gallons. In Sally’s case, the barrel holds 62 gallons of fascination. 

Sally Hogshead

 I have read all of Sally’s books and have been inspired and grown as a leader through her content. Interestingly, I just recently gave a copy of her book, How The World Sees You to a staff member and a whole chain of fascinating things began to happen. The best description is in this email I sent to our entire staff yesterday (you will want to read the posts hyperlinked in the post, too):

Good morning!

First of all I want you to know how incredible it has been to be on our climb up Mount Everest in 2015. While we are not at the summit yet, we are certainly making progress to the higher elevations of a culture of excellence at Hoosier Academies. I am both honored and comforted to be securely safety harnessed to all of you as we make the climb together. I wish you all a happy holiday season and an incredible start to 2016.
During our November Focused Leader Academy session, we did a session called Good Leader/Bad Leader. I have attached Mike’s graphic of the session to this email. Also, please check out this blog post to get a description of how I used what I learned from our teacher leaders and the activity:
Here is Dana’s first blog post:
From reading the blog post you now know the book I chose for Dana’s professional growth. After she took the Fascination Rapid Report, she told me she wished our entire staff could take it. Well, you know me – I said make it so! Well, actually my friend Sally Hogshead made it so! A day later, Dana and I received emails giving us each $1,000 worth of Fascination Rapid Reporting to give away however we chose. So, we would like to share our gift with you all as our holiday gift to you. You can read the description of how to use our gift below and learn more about my friend Sally.

In order to have enough codes, if your last name ends in A-M use Dana’s code and if your last name ends in N-Z use my code. I guarantee you will be fascinated.
Use this code to discover what Dana & I love about you:

1. Go to 

2. Enter the code + your information 

3. Click START NOW!

Who is Sally Hogshead? (And is that her real last name?) Sally Hogshead is a Hall of Fame speaker and the New York Times best- selling author of How the World Sees You: Discover Your Highest Value Through the Science of Fascination. For the first half of her career, Sally was one of the most award-winning copywriters in the world, creating campaigns for brands such as Nike, Godiva, and MINI Cooper. She learned that when a brand knows how to fascinate customers, it becomes more profitable, admired, and loved. Since then, Sally has measured the communication traits of more than 700,000 people. Oh, and about your other question. A “hogshead” is a wooden barrel that holds 62 gallons. In Sally’s case, the barrel holds 62 gallons of fascination.
In closing, I want you to know how fascinating I believe you all are, and look forward to climbing even higher in 2016!
Positively Fascinated,

Immediately after sending this, I started getting email responses. Here are are the responses to date and I will keep this updated for a few days: 

  • I love this stuff!!
  • Honestly, this is the best staff gift and holiday email ever.
  • Thank you so much for this!!! It was pretty right on for me!
  • This is very cool!
  • Thank you for including me! J
  • This was very meaningful. Thank you! I can’t wait to discuss with my colleagues.
  • I don’t know how you find all the great stuff you expose us to, but I’m glad you found us and that you share who and what you know with us.
  • Thank you to you both. I loved this and got chills when I received my report. It’s so MEEEE and I can’t wait to dive a little deeper to figure out how to use my “Passion” to fascinate.
  • Only you would send this as our holiday wishes email. You fascinate me.

I’m not gonna lie…I liked that last one…a lot! Like I said, I will keep the list updated. As you can see, Sally’s gift has fascinated. This gift also gives us a concrete example of what paying it forward is all about. I’d love to hear what you are doing to start the fascinating conversations of personal professional growth in your organization. As Sally says, “To become more successful, you do not have to change who you are–you have to become more of who you are.” How are you helping both yourself and those you lead become more of who they are?

“What On Earth Am I Here For?”


Thomas Jefferson’s tombstone mentions several of his accomplishments but not that he was president.

It is important, especially as one ages, to think about the purpose of one’s life. The title of this post was a quote from Rick Warren during a keynote address at the Drucker School Alumni Alumni and Friends (Maciariello, 2014). Drucker (2014) believed it was important to ask yourself, “What do you want to be remembered for?” Honestly, in my view the thing that has the most worth of being remembered for is the difference one makes in the lives of people. Drucker believed that organizations should develop people and that the most durable ones do (Maciariello, 2014). Thus, why I am such a believer, as a leader, that we must strategically spend resources and time on developing our staff. I have personally committed a portion of my time to this with our new Focused Leader Academy.

IMG_0640-0As we age and mature we focus away from ourselves toward the contribution we would like to make in the lives of others. I have heard others ask it this way: “What would you want your tombstone to read?” When I think of this I am always struck by Thomas Jefferson’s tombstone. You would think he would have had President of the United States on it. But he did not want that because it was a personal accomplishment. Authoring the Declaration of Independence and founding the University of Virginia were accomplishments that contributed to countless lives at the times and now millions of lives since, including my own as a proud U.S. citizen.

So, I thought a little about my own tombstone. As of today, I would like for it to read: “14,030.” Leave it to me to have something off the wall like that. Let me explain. In 1963, the year I was born the average milk production per cow in the U.S. was 8,670 pounds per year. Now, 52 years later, the average per cow production is 22,700 pounds. This is a 14,030 pound increase in average per cow milk production in the last 52 years. As an guy who taught agriculture science for 26 years and marvel at the advances in genetics, management, and nutrition, I am in awe of a 14,030 pound increase in average milk production. Therefore, it is my hope that when my life here is over that it can be that I improved, lifted up, and made a difference in the number of lives (former students, staff, teachers, family, and acquaintances) that would be comparable to a 14,030 pound increase in milk production. I would say if others can say that, then my life will have been worth something.

What on earth am I here for? To improve and develop the lives of others.


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