Byron's Babbles

Bumping A Disciplined Leader

I’m going to admit that I was not planning to write a post to my blog this morning. Then I got an email from Becky Robinson of Weaving Influence. Here is a sentence from the email:

“It was six months ago that we had the honor of helping promote John Manning’s new book, The Disciplined Leader: Keeping the Focus on What Really Matters. It was a successful launch, and it’s time to revisit this book and give it a quick “bump.” Will you help me?” ~ Becky Robinson

As you know Becky has allowed me to be a part of her extended team to review books and help be a part of book launches. This has been an incredible experience and I appreciate being a part very much. When I saw she wanted to do a “Bump” for John Manning’s book The Disciplined Leader, I immediately jumped into action. Reading The Disciplined Leader and having the chance to get to know John through Twitter – yes, it is a great way to build relationships, I felt compelled to blog immediately.  

 “Bump” is such an appropriate term when talking about leadership. Just as Becky wants to bump the exposure for John’s book, we all need a bump every so often to keep us on the right track and hone our leadership skills. Working with John Manning I was able to use The Disciplined Leader to do just that. I put author signed copies of the book in the hands of all the participants of our newly formed Focused Leader Academy. This is an employee development and engagement program. The idea is that great minds and great motives still matter. Teachers with school leadership aspirations have the opportunity to become part of a cohort which will take part in monthly leadership training and be part of supervised leadership projects of the school. Cohort size is at least 10% of teaching leaders per year. The Vision is: Leadership will be born out of those who are affected by it. The Mission is: Leadership will appear anywhere and anytime it is needed. Our Theory of Action is: If we empower our teachers through leadership skill development…Then we will have teacher leaders ready to contribute to the success of Hoosier Academies and be an important part of our talent pipeline.  

In my opinion, what we are trying to do matches perfectly with the book. The book is organized into 52 lessons. So what we are doing with our year-long program is reading a lesson per week. As you know, I am a believer in the power of blogging as a personal professional growth tool, so all Focused Leader Academy participants are expected to write (most had to create a blog site for the first time) a blog post each week on the lesson. You can follow all our learning, including blog posts, on Twitter using the hashtag #HoosierFLA. I am doing the same thing right along with them. Click here to read my latest post. Some were a little uncomfortable at first, but we just had our monthly session this past Saturday and the overwhelming opinion is that this is an incredible experience. The participants were commenting on how applicable the book is to what is happening in their lives as teacher leaders. I must say that is true for me as well. 

This is an incredible book! Therefore, if you are needing a “bump” to help you to be the best leader you can be I recommend getting a copy of The Disciplined Leader today. Better yet; buy copies for everyone in your organization today and blog together.


Living By Core Values

 This week’s A Year with Peter Drucker (Maciariello, 2014) lesson deals with an area, core values, that I have really come to understand more fully in the last few years. I believe me admitting this really explains where most organizations and individuals are on this. We talk core values. We spend time developing core values. We post core values on the wall. We can say we have core values. BUT, do we live our own core values? BUT, does our organization live its core values? BUT, do our personal core values and the organization’s core values match? BUT, is our organizational strategy driven by our core values? In education we say “student’s first” is a core value. The power of core values is living and making decisions by them, not developing them. We must live this and make decisions based on it. I am proud that we have organically begun to build this into our culture at the school I am currently a part of turning around. It brings me great pride when in meetings, our staff will say, “Ok, what is the best thing to do for the student(s).” And, really mean it! The only way for this to truly become embedded is for all to use core values as the “mirror” (Maciariello, 2014) test for all decisions.

“You become a person by knowing what your values are, what you contribute, and it is outside yourself.”         ~ Peter Drucker

Let’s face it, values without the corresponding behaviors are meaningless. Authentic leaders bring organizational core values to life. I told you we were building a culture of using our core values. Here are a few ways we have done this:

  • Using our core values to guide us while we execute strategy, achieve goals, and reward results.
  • Asking what behaviors express our values.
  • Asking what are we doing that undermines or conflicts with our values.
  • Tell stories of how values are expressed in daily decisions.
  • Evaluate daily behaviors with values statements.
  • Define how living by values enables your organization to execute strategy and achieve goals.

Interestingly, as I am writing this I had one of our principals just come in and aske me a question about an end of the semester procedure that affected students who might be coming to us or going to another school next semester. The principal actually said, “We think we should do… Because it meets the test of doing what is best for the students. It is more work for the teachers, but it is best all day long for our students.” My response: “Make it so.” 

 I am excited to be working in an environment where I can exemplify my personal and organizational goals. I don’t think I have ever been anywhere where my own core values and organization’s core values like they match up in my current situation. To work in an organization that has a value system that is incompatible with your own core values forces you to compromise and a loss of self esteem. In my own case I can pass the “mirror test.” What I do fits well within my value system. The contribution I am striving to make is something I want to devote my life to and something I want to be remembered for. Drucker (2014) taught us if we cannot pass the “mirror test” we must do something about it. Do you pass the “mirror test?” Does your organization’s strategy in action match its own core values; and yours?


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

Achieving Your Leadership Potential


Speaker Bosma & I after an Education Kitchen Cabinet Meeting

This week’s lesson from John Manning (2015) in The Disciplined Leader taught us that challenging ourselves in new leadership experiences and learning is very important to our personal growth. Amazingly, I just blogged about some professional growth opportunities I am providing that I hope stretches team members out of their comfort zones to help them in achieving their personal leadership potential. Click here to check out the post.

“From a professional standpoint, tackling something new has the power to build your capacity for success and is a great discipline worth pursuing.” ~ John M. Manning

I try to model this stretching at every opportunity. I remember my doubters telling me I was making a grave career error when I was excited to take on the leadership of a state takeover school that had failed for seven years in a row. Yes, it was an extreme challenge. Yes, it was some of the hardest work I’ve ever done. Yes, there were many days of failing. But, it was the most rewarding and significant thing I have ever done. But, seeing the school come off the “F” was one of the most exciting things ever. But, watching the team of people coming together to change a culture was breathtaking. Here is a case where the buts prevail. I would not go back and change a thing, except all the mistakes I made in the process, of course.

IMG_1643In actuality I followed Manning’s (2015) advice during this experience. I trusted in the power of my learning and viewed that learning as an opportunity to grow confidence. Most importantly, and I love the fact that Manning (2015) pointed this out, we made it fun. We built up what Manning (2015) called the “fun factor” every moment possible.

Another area that has been afforded me to take on responsibility in areas I want to develop is the opportunity to serve on the Indiana State Board of Education. It is an honor to serve as Speaker of the House Brian Bosma’s appointee. Being asked to serve the State of Indiana is certainly a responsibility I take very seriously and I view this commitment as something I want and need to do, not something I have to do. This opportunity gives me the chance to explore new horizons, create new relationships and pushes me out of my comfort zone. I truly want to learn new things.

I’ll close with a couple of questions to you: What do you want to learn that will push you out of your comfort zone? What experience should you take on that will give you the opportunity to explore new horizons?


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

Good Leader/Bad Leader


Presenting Dana Smith With Her Copy of “How The World Sees You” by Sally Hogshead

I have to say I am very excited about writing this post to my blog. It has been three weeks in the making and many great things are developing around the topic of this post. It all started on November 20, 2015 in a session I called “Good Leader/Bad Leader” during our Focused Leader Academy. The session was intended to be a hook to get everyone’s juices flowing and thinking about leadership. Well, you know how sometimes you have to be flexible and let good facilitation be fluid? What was intended as a hook turned into a three and one half our discussion. This was one of the most incredible times of learning I had ever experienced. As a reminder, our Focused Leader Academy is an employee development, professional/personal growth, and engagement program. The idea is that great minds and great motives still matter. Teachers with school leadership aspirations, not necessarily administration, have the opportunity to become part of a cohort which will take part in monthly leadership training and be part of supervised leadership projects of the school. Cohort size is 15-20 (at least 10% of teaching staff) teacher leaders per year. The vision is that leadership should be born out of those who are affected by it. The mission is for leadership to appear anywhere and anytime it is needed. If we empower our teachers through leadership skill development…Then we will have teacher leaders ready to contribute to the success of Hoosier Academies and be an important part of our talent pipeline.


Good Leader/Bad Leader Graphic by Mike Fleisch

The amazing part is, leadership is being born from those affected by it. During the session, our amazing Graphic Facilitator, Mike Fleisch, did a graphic of our Good Leader/Bad Leader discussion. I might add that Mike also always adds a great deal with his insights to the discussion and content as well. At the conclusion of the session the Focused Leader Academy participants asked if I would find some way to share the outcomes of the discussion with our Support Layer. Note what most call a leadership team or administration team I call a Support Layer. I hate the term leadership team –  it connotes that no one else is a leader in the organization. This is a very wrong connotation. As a card carrying believer in the work of Margaret J. Wheatley, I believe leadership should happen anytime and anywhere it is needed by anyone. Anyway I thought the idea of sharing the discussion with the Support Layer was a bang up idea. How to share would be the tricky part. This discussion had not in any way been a “bitch” session, so I did not want it to come off that way. Nor had the session been about “anyone” specifically. However, since we in the Support Layer are providing leadership, it goes without saying we certainly had characteristics showing up on the graphic.

“I know from experience that most people are very intelligent – they have figured out how to make things work when it seemed impossible; they have invented ways to get around roadblocks and dumb policies; they have created their won networks to support them and help them learn. But rarely is this visible to the organization until and unless we invite people in to participate in solution-creation processes.” ~ Margaret J. Wheatley, in Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time (2007)

So, after spending the weekend reflecting on how to best share the awesome thoughts and share the knowledge developed by the Focused Leader Academy participants, I sent the following email to our Support Layer the following Monday morning:

Good morning!

I want to share with you the graphic of our first Focused Leader Academy Session last Friday. What I had meant to be a hook to get us started for the day turned into a three hour session. That was a good thing – it might of just been the most incredible session I had ever facilitated. I had called this hook, turned session, “Good Leadership/Bad Leadership.” The idea was to identify bad leadership and good leadership the participants had experienced. Teams of 4 identified bad leadership and then shared out the bad behaviors and then solutions. Then the teams shared out good leadership. It was, to say the least, an incredible learning experience. The attached is a visual of that discussion.

Leaders today face such rapidly escalating complexity, uncertainty, and volatility that to stay relevant we must accelerate our own development. We need to continue our own personal growth so we can navigate the whitewater of all that is education. Leaders set the agenda for the future. The Focused Leader Academy participants were, no doubt, using us as their context for this activity. I can assure you , no names were mentioned. Let’s face it – we exist, as the support layer, to support our teachers, students, and families – period. I then spent the weekend reflecting on the graphic personally. Then I decided this really needed to be shared with you all. If we are honest we will all find places where we are letting those we serve down. I used myself as an example to the group many times during this session. I was happy to be vulnerable because leadership is both a very public and private journey. It is private because it requires personal transformation. It is public because leaders have to learn out loud. So, I would like for you to use this graphic to prompt some reflection on your part and guide some personal improvement and growth. Don’t let yourself be tied to only what is on the graphic. If you think of other areas for improvement, let your mind and reflection travel there too. To that end I want you all to reflect on the graphic and develop the three most critical areas you believe that you need to work on in your leadership journey. I would then like for you to provide these reflections along with three goals for transformation to me by Friday, December 4th. These reflections and goals will only be seen by me. I would, however, challenge you to let yourself be vulnerable and tell those you serve you have reflected on the graphic and present areas you will be striving to improve on to them. This part is not required, but think about the power in doing that.

It would be very easy for us to resist discovering that we still have a great deal to learn. This activity is not for the faint of heart, but for us to obtain the significant culture and performance shifts necessary to for our school to succeed, we all need to do some reflection and transformation. I hope you will set aside some serious time for true reflection and meditation about the promises we make as leaders that we many times don’t even know we are making. These promises are profound and come with high and often unspoken stakes. Understanding and living up to these promises is what will define us as leaders.


As you can see, I wanted this to become a powerful and very personal reflection on each person’s leadership journey. I then decided to take the process one step further and use this as part of our mid-year reflection and coaching. I am studying each person’s reflection and goals and am picking a book, individually selected for them, to read as part of the personal growth experience. The essential question I am asking is: As you read and study the book, think about your own Good Leader/Bad Leader refection and then answer why would I want you to read the book and what can you gain from reading the book? Along with the book I am also developing action steps for each individual in concert with their goals. You will see an example of this shortly.

I have to tell you, this has turned into a great process. In fact, so great that I have one of the reflections I would like to share with you, with Dana’s permission of course. Dana Smith is our Title I Grant Coordinator and does a terrific job and continues to grow exponentially in her leadership skills. Her reflection, as you will see, shows a great deal of thought and study:

                                         Leadership Reflection
Since I have been involved in the field of education I have had the privilege of working alongside some amazing leaders. I have witnessed firsthand what attributes leaders possess that have a positive impact on the culture of the school and I have seen what attributes can negatively impact a school. In my experiences as an educator, I continue to learn and grow each day and figure out who I want to be as a leader and lead from where I’m at. As I continue to reflect on what kind of leader I want to be, I think about the attributes that one needs to possess in order to create a positive school culture. One characteristic that leaders must possess that I believe is an absolutely necessity is to have a sense of humor! My current role is the most challenging position that I’ve held since I’ve been an educator and continues to challenge me each and every day. This position has pushed me beyond my comfort zone many days and may have resulted in a few curse words (I have apologized to my office mate a couple of times!). There have been days where I have pooped my pants multiple times and had to invest in Depends–okay, this may be an exaggeration, but you get my drift! Being able to laugh on these days has been invaluable. Some days, you just need to take a break, take a breath, and laugh.
Another key attribute that good leaders must possess is the ability to establish relationships with others. I have invested time in establishing relationships with my fellow co-workers because I know that I need to have a support system that will lift my spirits on the days where I feel as if I’ve pooped my pants several times! I also want to be that person to lift others’ spirits. I feel that others associate me with being a person filled with energy and positivity. I want to continue to be that person that others associate with positivity and spread that positivity to others when they need it. I would say that this attribute of establishing relationships with others has become a priority to me throughout my educational career. I think that many times we can get so caught up in the work that we’re doing and we don’t take the time to establish relationships with others. This may sound simplistic, but I have learned that it’s okay to take breaks from what I’m doing to get to know others. What I have learned from others during conversations has been invaluable. We all have our gifts and I feel that one of my gifts is my positive nature. I need to use my gift and spread that positivity to others. The relationships that I have formed with my fellow co-workers, I wouldn’t trade for the world! I am a firm believer in that we have to gel as a leadership team and build relationships with one another in order to form solid relationships with staff and build mutual respect for one another. Positive relationships formed with the leadership team are key in contributing to the culture of the school.
As mentioned above, an extremely important attribute of a good leader is the ability to establish relationships. I have thought a great deal about how to establish relationships. The following includes some of my thoughts:
1. Develop trust with one another. Value opinions of others and listen to what others have to say. Staff should know that there are always going to be differing opinions, but they need to know that their voice has been heard.
2. Laugh with one another! Sometimes you just need to laugh!
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate! I have always prided myself with being a great communicator. In our world, communication is of the utmost importance! Staff need to feel that they can come to you with questions and that you will follow-through. Some questions are easier than others to answer and will take more time. If you are communicating with your staff appropriately, then this will nip many issues before they begin!
4. Work your a$$ off! I feel that I have always been a very dedicated and hard-working individual. When others see you/know that you are working hard, others respect that. I would do anything to support our team and individuals on our team! I think that others know this and respect this! This is key in establishing relationships!
One quality that is essential in good leaders is that a good leader must be passionate about their role, passion is contagious! In my early years as an educator, I had the privilege of attending an awards banquet at the end of the year. At the awards banquet, retirees were honored and gave speeches. It was amazing to me that after being involved in education for 40 + years, these teachers were still passionate. I vowed to myself that I would carry my passion for education with me throughout my career in education. I always remember why began in the field of education and why I want to remain in this field. As I mentioned above, I feel that others associate me with having a positive nature. I feel that I possess my positive nature because I am so passionate about what I do. I have the ability to put things into perspective and realize that things could always be worse. Passion for what you do will carry you through on challenging days!
3 Goal Areas
1. Something I need support with is building my confidence as a leader. I have always struggled with my confidence and I have always been very critical of myself. I think confidence is something that builds over time and that my confidence has grown considerably in my current role, but there is still growth that needs to occur. You always do a great job with providing me with encouragement and letting me know that you trust what I do, so please continue to do that.
2. I feel that I communicate very well in writing because when I write I have time to think, reflect, process, and edit my thoughts. I feel that I need to work on articulating my thoughts better verbally, for example when I present. I have always struggled with speaking in a group setting because I feel this is an area where I am not naturally gifted. This really stems from the first area that I would like to work on, confidence.
(Verbal articulation)
3. I am an individual that doesn’t like conflict and I am definitely a people-pleaser. I need to work on speaking up when I don’t agree with something and understand that conflict doesn’t necessarily need to have negative connotations. Everyone will never agree with every decision that is made, and it’s okay to question why decisions are being made and offer thoughts/constructive criticism.
(Expressing thoughts/opinion)
4. I reflect on a daily basis on my drive home from work. I actually don’t mind my drive to and from school because it provides me with time to reflect on the day. I would like to work on getting my thoughts in writing and possibly starting a blog or utilize some sort of medium as a tool for reflection. I believe that good leaders constantly reflect and I need to be more purposeful and get my thoughts in writing when I reflect.

I feel that one reason I have been successful in my current role is because of your support. I couldn’t ask for a better mentor (I know you don’t like the word “boss”, so I thought mentor might be better!) to help me navigate through difficult situations and show me what it means to not just be a good leader, but to be a great leader. We share many of the same philosophies about education and also share a similar sense of humor. Thank goodness we share a similar sense of humor! I’m not inserting these thoughts because I’m trying to get “brownie points” or be a “brown-noser.” I think you know we well enough to know that is not my intent. I operate with the simple belief that if someone is doing something good, you tell them! I also think it’s important for you to know that you have been an integral part in my journey as a leader and an integral part in creating a positive culture and environment at Hoosier. I am truly thankful to work alongside you!

First of all, thanks Dana for allowing yourself to be vulnerable and letting me include your reflection in my blog. That shows great leadership in and of itself. How can a reflection like that not pump you up as a leader? After studying Dana’s reflection it became very clear what book I believed would be best for her. Because she wants to build confidence and know how to best handle conflict and other leadership situations, I believed Dana would value greatly from reading How The World Sees You: Discover Your Highest Value Through the Science of Fascination by Sally Hogshead. What Dana needs to grow is exactly what Sally teaches us through the reading and the Fascination Advantage® online assessment. I am including a picture of my archetype at-a -glance page of my report from when I went through the assessment and read the book.


Presenting Dana Smith With Her Copy of “How The World Sees You” by Sally Hogshead

Additionally, to improve Dana’s communication skills I had her start a blog and asked her to blog a minimum of three times about the book. I reminded her the goal right now is not to see how many people read her blog, but to use as a writing, reflection, and journal avenue for her own leadership growth. I am proud to say she has already started her blog and wrote a post about getting started with her Fascination Advantage®. Click here to check out her very first post. She’s been tweeting about it too! I am so proud of Dana!

The other piece to the puzzle is that I have asked each of these leaders to share their thoughts about the Good Leader/Bad Leader discussion with the teams they serve. Additionally, I am planning a panel discussion of our Support Layer at our January Focused Leadership Academy session as a followup to all of the books read and action steps. It will be exciting for our teacher leaders to hear about the professional growth journeys of these support layer leaders. This has turned into a great professional development experience.

leadership_0The thing I am most excited about is that this process has given us an activity for mid-year discussions, professional development, coaching, and mentoring that is so much more valuable than the normal old sit down and talk sessions that prove to  be of little value. I can’t wait to blog about our developments in January based on our panel discussion and others completing their books and action steps. Stay tuned, we have leaders under construction!

I would close with these two questions: Can you think of another book that would have been valuable to Dana? Do you have other ideas for making this an even more powerful professional growth experience?

RYOBI’s® Beaming Leadership

Posted in Leadership, Learning Organization, Strategic Planning by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 5, 2015

 When coming back in this morning after the 4 AM trip to the barns for milking, feeding, and checking cows I felt compelled to write a blog post a little different than my normal posts. I am, however, using the best practice of sticking to my themes of leadership or education. This morning I needed to check on a cow that is close to calving. She is out in what we call the east pasture (east side of the house – pretty high tech naming convention here). When the weather is good we would much rather have the animals outside than forced inside. They all have the option to come inside, but generally choose not to if the weather is nice. This morning it was nice, no wind, 38 degrees, but fog as thick as pea soup had settled in. You know the kind – total darkness, mist curling around you like rain.  

 Of course, the cow was in the furthest point she could be. I did not know this at the time, but I would need to set out on the journey to find her. This was going to be one of those eerie times that was both wonderful and a little unnerving at the same time. There was an owl hooting (one of my favorite early morning sounds), a rabbit ran out in front of me, and a possum played, well, possum as I walked passed a hay feeder. I was also thinking about the game my son loved to play of flashlight tag. I guess I was playing flashlight tag with cows. Do I have a great life, or what? 

 Anyway, about this flashlight that I was playing tag with. That’s what this post is really about. The light I was using was my RYOBI® 18V ONE+™ Xenon Hi-Beam Spotlight. I just got this light a couple of weeks ago and I have to tell you, I’m glad I did. This the best light I’ve ever used on a morning like this this morning. It cut through the fog like the lighthouse on Asateague Island (one of my favorite places). 

 The RYOBI® 18V ONE+™ Xenon Hi-Beam Spotlight features a high intensity beam for maximum lighting in dim areas. This 2,800-lumen light features a lock-on button which allows the user to activate the light without continuously holding the trigger switch. It has a runtime of over 90 minuutes per charge using the P108 18V ONE+™ High Capacity Lithium-Ion Battery. The battery is really what I want to talk about from a leadership standpoint because without RYOBI® going to the high capacity lithium batteries I would not still be using RYOBI® tools. 

 Really, RYOBI® showed great insight in how they entered the market. RYOBI® offers all tools in the “One+™” series in both a “kit” form (with batteries and a charger) and in a “bare tool” form for use with your existing RYOBI® 18V batteries/charger. The “One™+” concept is simple: you can start out with one existing 18V RYOBI® tool — or purchase a tool in “kit” form — then add to your collection inexpensively by purchasing “bare tools” to use with your exisitng accessories. Here’s a list of what I have:

  • Drill/driver
  • Driver
  • Impact wrench
  • Right angle “close quarters” drill
  • 5-1/2″ circular saw (w/laser)
  • 10″ chain saw
  • Variable-speed orbital jigsaw
  • Variable-speed reciprocating saw 
  • Rotary cutter 
  • 8-1/4″ miter saw
  • Caulk & adhesive gun
  • Finish sander
  • Nailer/stapler
  • Flashlight
  • Handheld wet/dry vac
  • 4 -1/2″ angle grinder
  • Spotlight

I’ve probably forgot something, but I’m sure you get the idea of what all is available. It should be noted, however, that I almost threw them all away. The original batteries just would not hold a charge. Then came RYOBI® out with the new P108 18V ONE+™ High Capacity Lithium-Ion Battery. This saved the day. RYOBI® even went a step further and reinvented the ONE+™ line going to a green colored new and improved line of tools. The great part is, though, that all the batteries still fit all tools. 

Another great example of brand leadership is the development of hybrid tools. New products have been developed that can run off of a 110 volt electric cord or a RYOBI® 18V battery, making it compatible with all tools, batteries and chargers in the RYOBI® 18V ONE+™ System. The dual power source gives users limitless mobility and power. My son purchased the hybrid Bluetooth radio/stereo. Great for tunes while working in the barn. 

Hopefully you see why I believe RYOBI® leadership is beaming. By the way, no baby calf yet.