Byron's Babbles

There Can Be No Compromise!

Great leaders know that leading change sometimes means they will have to fight for their vision and values. They can sometimes face strong resistance and criticism. At these moments they are fully aware that it is about being able to connect, and to convince others why this change is important. This means they invest energy and time in communication, in increasing mutual understanding, and in strengthening alignment. But they will not compromise their values and vision.

Two songs by Alter Bridge constantly cause me to think about compromise. In “Show Me A Leader” songwriters: ‎Myles Kennedy‎, Brian Marshall‎, ‎Mark Tremonti‎, Scott Phillips‎ want a leader that won’t compromise. Additionally, in the song “Last of Our Kind” we hear the words: “There can be no compromise when you know it’s wrong ’cause in the end the sacrifice was worthless all along.” When compromising you give something up on both sides, you don’t create something together! A compromise is by definition leading to a suboptimal solution. Great leaders understand this, and are therefore reluctant to compromise.

I believe that compromise can easily blur our vision and core values, can create confusion, and therefore undermines the motivation of people. I realize, however, as leaders there are times when compromise is necessary. It is important to understand that no one knows everything. Great leaders listen to all sides, think about their own experience and then make decisions. Those decisions must based on a balance of knowledge and not compromise the leader’s core values. Sometimes the decisions don’t sound or look exactly like what the leader wanted. but they are the best for the organization as long as no core values have been compromised. So, when I hear, “Show me a leader that won’t compromise” I am reminded to never compromise my values. 

I Count You Twice!

Today is Thanksgiving – a joyous and festive kickoff to the holiday season. Many of us have a lot to be thankful for, including family and friends, and I’m especially thankful that I’m able to serve as a leader making significant strides in education. I also very thankful for all those I work with, serve, or have associations with. I am particularly thankful for all teachers who put in on the line every day for our sons and daughters. Please know that when I count my blessings I count you twice!

During this holiday season, take time to reflect on what you are thankful for. While we have many improvements to make in our educational community, and always will, we have many things to be thankful for. 

Education options are more flexible than ever. Not too many years ago, proximity and zip code was a crucial part of education. If you didn’t live near a school, you were unlikely to have any access to it. The ability to have choices had made all the difference for huge numbers of our children and adults. 

Today, we are more connected to k-12 and postsecondary education than ever before. There are evening classes, online options for both secondary and traditional college programs, and certificate programs for people who want to learn a specific set of skills or continue their professional growth. 

As I reflect this morning on my education, both past and present, I am thankful that I was taught to think critically, solve problems creatively, analyze and be open to the world around us, and most importantly how to learn. I believe it is important for us to remember that it is during our education we learn our sense of community.  Within a school setting, a child quickly learns the importance of teamwork and cooperation. A school requires a joint effort to be safe and clean. That’s when our children learn first-hand that everyone can make a difference and everyone’s efforts are important. 

I am also thankful schools don’t just teach our children academic curriculum. Schools are also helping our children develop into respectful global citizens. It is at school that our children are presented with life lessons they may not have learned at home.providing our children with lessons in acceptance. Our children are learning that not everyone speaks the same language, wears the same types of clothes, or eats the same types of foods at lunches. And that’s all okay. Our children are learning to take time to truly understand others and embrace who they are. 

While our education system certainly has room for improvement across multiple factors, I believe we need to be thankful for all the great things happening in education. 

Errors In Leadership Coordinates

windows_bug6-100581894-primary-idgeLesson #21 entitled “It’s Only Two Degrees” in 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader by John Parker Stewart really drove home the fact that small errors can have big consequences. On the 28th of November 1979, Air New Zealand flight 901, crashed into Mt Erebus on Ross Island, Antarctica, instantly killing all 257 people on board. Antarctic overflights were a new and exciting breakthrough in airborne tourism. Interest in the Antarctic had been particularly strong in the scientific community since the late 1950s, but only a small number of privileged people had experienced the wonders of the icy south. At the heart of much of the eventual controversy surrounding the causes of the accident were changes made to the flight plan of TE901. The plan loaded into the aircraft’s flight management computer was not that on which the flight crew had been briefed 19 days earlier, but no one had told them. The flight plan was only two degrees different, but this two degrees made all the difference between crashing and not crashing. Because of the white snow covering all of the area, the 12,000 foot rise of the volcano was not noticed because of what is now called “sector whiteout.”img_2265

I believe in the importance of an organizational culture that supports effective and productive handling of errors. Let’s make sure and distinguish between error handling and failures. I do not want to confuse a culture that deals with errors with one that encourages failures – there is a difference. Unless your school, business, or organization is different than mine, every organization is confronted with errors. Let’s define errors as “[…] all those occasions in which a planned sequence of mental or physical activities fails to achieve its intended outcome, and when these failures cannot be attributed to the intervention of some change agency” (Reason, 1990, p. 9). Errors have a couple of possible implications. On the one hand, there is no doubt that errors can contribute to grave consequences — accidents like Air New Zealand flight 901. The other implication, most people readily agree, is that we can learn from errors.

As leaders, we should foster environments adopting a strategy that is able to take on the challenge of avoiding negative error consequences and learning by fostering positive error consequences simultaneously or in alignment. Error prevention aims at avoiding negative error consequences by avoiding the error altogether, the error management approach focuses on error consequences directly. It aims at avoidance of negative error consequences and the promotion of positive error consequences by means of early error detection, quick and effective correction, error analysis, and long term learning from errors.

Edmondson (1996) posited that the open climate characterized by a willingness to report and discuss errors, allows learning from errors, and thereby can affect team performance positively. Edmondson (1996) further asserted that these teams had a better error climate, which allowed them to talk about errors, which in turn increased detection and correction. Generally, errors are discussed only when the consequences are high or even disastrous, I believe that errors with small consequences should also be taken as chances to learn. We must create an environment where our teams are encouraged to take responsibility for their errors. What kind of culture for dealing with errors are you developing in your organization?

Edmondson, A. (1996). Learning from mistakes is easier said than done: Group and organizational influences on the detection and correction of human error. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 32, 1, 5-28.
Reason, J. (1990). Human error. Cambridge: University Press.

Iterate, Don’t Change!

Mark Twain once said that the secret of getting ahead is getting started. But it’s often hard to get started. Why? Because we know we could fail, and many times that fear hinders us from even starting. We don’t have to get things right the first time, however. We can allow ourself multiple iterations to succeed. It could take many iterations to succeed, so the sooner we start the better. Don’t wait until everything is perfect before you start. Iteration works because it gives you the permission to fail. You don’t have to succeed right away, so you won’t be afraid to start.

Iteration is also different than change. To me, change means a reset and starting over. Iteration means you are changing and creating in real-time as we go. Iteration gives an organization agility. This agility is valuable and an agile organization will not only suffer less when hit by unpredictable external shocks, but will also be able to exploit unforeseen opportunities. True iteration should also include teams working together to channel their creative genius.

In education we are immersed in a world that is constantly trying to create and recreate. I am such a believer in the power of iteration. It adds layers of meaning to what it really means to be an educational leader. It is becoming clear to me that the power of iteration transcends the concrete and physical: The power of iteration is a driving force of creating a culture of excellence. 

Iteration is really somewhat of a repetition with tweeks as we create and recreate. Computers are often used to automate repetitive tasks. Repeating identical or similar tasks without making errors is something that computers do well and people do poorly. Repeated execution of a set of statements is called iteration.  iteration, useful in slightly different circumstances. After an iteration, we should  always ask: how can we make improvements next time? Find the lessons and apply them to your next iteration.

I strive to create an environment where innovation is welcome, mistakes are appreciated, and all are accepted and actively included. The power of iteration allows us to make something out of nothing, it allows us to make greatness out of challenge, and it allows us to build something we never thought we could build.

It means that instead of trying to be perfect the first time you do something, you simply aim to get better over time. You want your second try to be better than your first one, your third try to be better than your second one, and so on. We need to iterate quickly. The faster you iterate, the better. If it takes too much time between iterations, your progress will be too slow. So, do your next iteration as soon as possible.

The power of iteration can help you and your organization achieve your goals. Keep learning. Keep improving through iteration. You will eventually succeed.