Byron's Babbles

Feeling Your Leadership “Vibe”


Sophie and I w/the Pear Tart

I had the honor and incredible pleasure of going out to eat this evening with my fellow National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) board of directors. We went to Seven Lamps in Atlanta, Georgia. Seven Lamps has an awesome selection of craft food and drinks. The restaurant’s unique name comes from a book length essay, The Seven Lamps of Architecture, by English art critic John Ruskin. The “lamps” refer to the seven principles of architecture: sacrifice, truth, power, beauty, life, memory and obedience. That essay alone will turn into a complete other study for me.


Those who know me know that I love it when our server enjoys and wants to pick the meal. Well, let me tell you, Sophie was just that kind of server. When I pushed the menu away, and asked Sophie if she would just do the picking her whole face lit up and I knew we were in for a treat. She said, “Byron (she had already figured out my name and was using it), I am feeling your ‘vibe’.” Lobster roll and shrimp for appetizer, Salmon for the main course, and pear tart for dessert. Yep, she was feeling my “vibe”! It was awesome!

IMG_1206Now, the food was incredible and Chef Drew Van Leuvan is stellar, but bottom line is it was Sophie who made the evening complete with her ability to feel the “vibe”. I know I have blogged about this before, but I believe how a server handles doing what Sophie did tonight – picking everyone’s meals for them – is a sign of great technical skill and leadership. She clearly knew every dish, drink, appetizer, dessert, and whatever else on the menu inside and out. She had clearly tried everything and knew the intimate taste, cooking method, and ingredients of each. Clearly, Seven Lamps creates an environment where the team members get the technical knowledge to truly server their customers. This was the first key to Sophie’s success.

IMG_1207Then, Sophie exhibited great leadership by accepting the responsibility and risk, with enthusiasm I might add, of picking our meals for us. It is amazing to me how many times I have done this and I have never had a choice made for me that I did not like. Sophie explained how each dish was prepared and even brought others in different roles in the restaurant over for us to meet. I’ve heard it said, “If you want to flourish, choose how you show up.” Sophie showed up tonight to flourish, and I can guarantee you she shows up every night to flourish.

Our inner thoughts and attitudes radiate through facial expressions, body language, tone, and language.This would be our “vibe”. Sophie was giving off the “vibe” that told me that she believed these things about herself:

  1. I showed up to serve
  2. I am glad to be here
  3. I am having fun
  4. I am competent and knowledgeable
  5. I am making a difference
  6. I do a good job

She was giving off a pretty good “vibe”, don’t you think? What “vibe” do you give off to those you lead?

IMG_1211I did have to ask Sophie what “vibes” I was giving off. She explained that she was picking up that I was curious, adventuresome, and ready to try and learn about something new. Guilty! She could not have gotten my “vibe” any more correct. And…what better place to practice being curious, adventuresome, and ready to try and learn something new than in a restaurant you’ve never been to in a city 567 miles from home? The key is to align our behaviors with the “vibe” we want to send.

IMG_1208Tonight at Seven Lamps I learned from Sophie that understanding our own “vibe” and the “vibe” of those we serve allows us to be greater, more effective leaders. We need to keep learning more about ourselves and others. We need to keep trying new things. Finally, we need to keep honing and combining our passions with our skills – this will empower and maximize our potential.



How’s Your Attitude?

This post by Mark Nation originally appeared on

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” – Charles R. Swindoll

I’ve noticed that when I say “Hi” to some people I pass by these days, they’re more than likely to use a popular street-speak reply that sounds more like, “Howru” Or, “’Sup.” Note the absence of a question mark. They’re not asking. Feeling not so much acknowledged as texted, it’s easy to feel a bit saddened, or even annoyed, at the lack of any real interaction. It’s phony caring, a leftover from preceding generations that used to go, “How are you?” meaning, I care. 

If caring among strangers is endangered, years ago I devised a fun solution to keep it alive. With many folks I meet, both friends and unknowns such as waitpersons in restaurants or service personnel who work on my house, I play a sort of game. I ask the person, “How’s it going?” Whatever their answer, I assign it a number.

If the person says “Okay,” then I listen for the tone of their voice, and say, “Sounds like about a Six.” Getting right away that I’m putting their attitude on a Zero-to-Ten happiness scale, they either agree thoughtfully, or say, “No-o, I’d say a seven; maybe even an eight.” So, some truly self-upgrade my rating. If, to my query they answer, “Great!” and I know they mean it, then my answer is, “Wow! Is that a Nine, or a full Ten?” And we laugh, sharing our mutual satisfaction in their happiness report.

Why on earth would I take the occasion to “number” people’s moods? 

Several reasons:• People appreciate someone’s actually taking the time to tune in to their feelings.

• Some will choose to open up and share information about circumstances in their lives.

• It gives them instant feedback on what they’re putting out into the world.

• It invites them to upgrade their own feelings on the spot.

So, more than just a game, it’s actually a way to share the power of a famous observation made over a century ago by psychologist William James:

“The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human can alter his life by altering his attitude.”

One theory in psychology research suggests that we all have a happiness “set-point” that largely determines our overall well-being. We oscillate around this set point, becoming happier when something positive happens or the opposite, afterwards returning to an equilibrium point.

But this set-point, to a certain extent, can be reset. Although our general mood levels and well-being are partially determined by factors like genetics and upbringing, roughly 40 percent of our happiness is within our control. In fact, a large body of research in the field of positive psychology has shown that happiness is a choice that anyone can make.

So, how’s your attitude? How are you?


Mark Nation is a globally-recognized management expert, leadership consultant, executive coach, author, and speaker. He is personally driven to discover what makes individuals, teams, and organizations amazing—those elements which power the heart and soul of individuals and businesses worldwide. His new book, Made for Amazing: An Instrumental Journey of Authentic Leadership Transformation, helps people to identify and optimize their unique talents.


Tuning in to Your Life

file1-1Super excited to have this guest post from Mark Nation. I just read his  new book, Made for Amazing: An Instrumental Journey of Authentic Leadership Transformation. It is amazing!

514MGs7krKL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_I met a woman who didn’t sing until she was forty because her kindergarten teacher told her before a performance, “Just move your mouth, dear.” How horribly tragic. The truth is, this woman had a wonderful voice, and it was clear she loved to sing. Who would have known she was silenced for decades, refusing to believe she possessed an incredible gift that was literally dying to be released?

Maybe you are one of those who say, “I have no musical ear,” or, “I can’t carry a tune,” because, like my friend, somewhere along the line you’ve come to mistrust the lyrical, melodic expression of yourself. To you, I would say, Stop! Listen to me! There is something critically important I need you to understand.

Not to believe in the music you came to play is not to believe in yourself.

You are not only musical, you are a musician, a melody-maker. Like all of us, you have a special song to sing; it’s the way you “do yourself,” the way you come across to others, the way you live your existence. Perhaps you have not realized it nor thought about it this way, but you are a vital part of a grand symphony, the harmonious expression of life.

Music is the beat of your life, the unique vibratory algorithm embedded in all you do and all you are. There is music in your voice, music in your face, music in your soul, in your thoughts, and in every throb of your heart. It can be a boisterous dance, a march, a sonata or even a lullaby. It’s not only okay for your music to change over time—it’s necessary, and beautiful. It’s you.

Everything you do expresses the one-of-a-kind melody that you bring to life.

Decide now to believe that you not only love music, but love making it. Explore this song of yourself. Take more pleasure in its expression, and follow the melody to see where it takes you. This is your journey, and your music. Therefore, you owe it yourself to develop your craft and take good care of the sounds you release into the world. We are all waiting for the song you bring, for we are your fans. Please don’t deprive us of those notes which only you can add to the harmony of life. Join in now.


Mark Nation is a globally-recognized management expert, leadership consultant, executive coach, author, and speaker. He is personally driven to discover what makes individuals, teams, and organizations amazing—those elements which power the heart and soul of individuals and businesses worldwide. His new book, Made for Amazing: An Instrumental Journey of Authentic Leadership Transformation, helps people to identify and optimize their unique talents.

No Expiration Date On Success

2-7We hear or say the phrase, “It’s never too late” all the time, but do we really mean it? Or, do we just say it? Additionally, we talk about being life-long learners, but would we really still mean it at age 65? In Lesson #50 entitled “65 Years Young” in 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader by John Parker Stewart tells the story of Harland Sanders. We know him best as Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

“I’m still learning.” ~ Michelangelo at age 87

Let’s get to know the man behind the phrase “Finger Lickin’ Good” a little better. Colonel Harland Sanders was born on a farm outside the town of Henryville right here in my own great state of Indiana on September 9, 1890. The Colonel first prepared meals for truck drivers at an old family dining room table wheeled into the front of his Corbin, Kentucky, service station in 1930, fried chicken was not on the menu. After Duncan Hines put his restaurant that Sanders later open across the street from the service station, in his 1935 road-food guide, the colonel began to perfect his fried chicken secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices. This was in 1939 – he was age 49.

Then, in 1952 Pete Harman, who was a friend of Colonel Sanders who operated one of the largest restaurants in Salt Lake City, Utah, became the colonel’s first franchisee. Harman came up with the “Kentucky Fried Chicken” moniker and pioneered the restaurant’s famous bucket container. It wasn’t until Sanders was age 65 that he incorporated Kentucky Fried Chicken and began signing up new franchisees. He used is  $105-a-month Social Security check to begin his franchise businesses. In 1964 at the age of 74 he sold Kentucky Fried Chicken and in 1968 at the age of 78 started another restaurant in Shelbyville, Kentucky. Wow, it really isn’t ever too late.

“There is no expiration date on our ability to succeed.” ~John Parker Stewart

Remember this: however old you are, there is an abundance of wonderful things waiting to happen for you. If you have the right attitude, you will not let them pass. Go out there and keep learning and succeeding!

Leading Like Mission Command

FullSizeRenderThe ability to influence a group of people to accomplish a common goal takes
great leadership. At our first Harvard LILA virtual meeting of the year, last month we discussed many principles and one that stuck out to me was the idea of the US Army’s Mission Command. The principles of mission command are a guide to build and influence an organization to achieve common goals over time. The principles of mission command are: build cohesive teams through mutual trust; create shared understanding; provide a clear commander’s intent; exercise disciplined initiative; use mission orders; and accept prudent risk. Leaders cannot just execute these principles at that crucial time when the need is greatest, they need to already have a solid foundation built within the organization.

The core of a credible leader is competence, which in turn builds confidence in and from the team. People do not follow incompetent leaders, at least not knowingly. Needless to say that trust is the most important thing a leader can have, along with the team trusting each other but, without competence all of the trust is for not. Competence begins with personal and professional development. This includes the honing of skills for the profession or mission. Great leaders also develop the competence of those they serve. This in turn should result in a competent organization which is creating results.

Another important component of Mission Command is the presence of the leader on the ground next to the troops. In order to set the example, we must be shoulder to shoulder with those we serve. This will give us the first hand knowledge of the welfare of our team. Additionally, it enables us to share in the hardships and dangers of the team members we serve. It would be very tough to be competent without having a first hand view of what is going on. This first hand knowledge is also crucial for trust to exist. Many times it is the unremarkable actions of a leader that can build trust. These events might be things like a leader’s unexpected visit, an unspoken gesture of appreciation or concern, or the leader filling in for a missing team member.

“Some commanders used a helicopter as their personal mount. I never believed in that. You had to get on the ground with your troops to see and hear what was happening. You have to soak up first-hand information for your instincts to operate accurately. Besides, it’s too easy to be crisp, cool and detached at 1,500 feet; too easy to demand the impossible of your troops; too easy to make mistakes that are fatal only to those souls far below in the mud, the blood, and the confusion.” ~ Retired Lieutenant General Hal Moore in his book We Were Soldiers Once…and Young

Leaders must strive to collect the necessary knowledge from many different sources in order to make the right decision. This is why shared understanding is so important. This shared understanding can be as basic as leadership cultivating effective teamwork, which requires that team members share key understandings of their roles, of what a team is, and how to work together. Leaders must strive to collect the necessary knowledge from many different sources in order to make the right decision. This means that we must have our teams is a state of shared understanding.

This really becomes a centralized to decentralized system of leadership. Centralized leadership concentrates the power to one place. Decentralization, as a type of organizational structure, allows daily operations and decision-making responsibilities to be handled by middle and lower-level team members out and within the organization, allowing top management to focus more on major decisions. In other words, allow those closest to where the data is being produced, or what I call street level, make the decisions. Team members can be empowered by having more autonomy to make their own decisions, giving them a sense of importance and making them feel as if they have more input in the direction of the organization. It also allows them to make better use of the knowledge and experience they have gained and implement some of their own ideas. This distributed leadership is very important and should be intentionally used in organizations share the responsibility and not have everything fall on one leader. As was stated in our LILA session, “This allows leaders to solve the way they see fit.”

Flaw-Tolerant Leadership

This morning while feeding in one of our pastures I came across the most beautiful spider web. There was a dew on, which accentuated the detail and geometry of the web. It was so cool I took a picture and have included it in this post. I tweeted that the spider web either had a geometry or leadership lesson in it. Here is the leadership lesson. 

In researching spider webs just now I came across the research of Markus Buehler, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering (CEE) at MIT. Buehler has analyzed the complex, hierarchical structure of spider silk and its amazing strength. His research shows that on a pound-for-pound basis, it’s stronger than steel. 

Working with CEE graduate students Steven Cranford and Anna Tarakanova, and Nicola Pugno of the Politecnico di Torino in Italy Buehler found that a key component of spider silk that helps make webs robust is something previously considered a weakness: the way it can stretch and soften at first when pulled, and then stiffen again as the force of the pulling increases.
Additionally, these researchers found that spider webs typically only fail or get damaged in small areas. This makes it easy for the spiders to make repairs. If you’ve ever looked closely at a spider web, it still functions even with damage. This what Buehler described in this way: “It’s a very flaw-tolerant system.”

This made me think about leading in a flaw-tolerant way and creating a flaw-tolerant organization. We talk about encouraging taking risks and encouraging failing quickly, but have we made our organizations flaw-tolerant? We need to make sure we are set up like the spider web to have localized failure/damage without it being catastrophic. 

We are beginning to accept the value of failure in the abstract. In other words we have learned, at least that corporate policies, processes, and practices. Conversely, it’s an entirely different matter at the personal level. Everyone hates to fail.

In order to create a flaw-tolerant system, more effective and interdependent upon the decisions made by each departmental leader. We need to be like the spider web and weave our teams together so we can sustain failure or small damage and be able to quickly make local repairs without missing a beat.

Is your organization flaw-tolerant?

Leadership Like A Sequoia 

Today when I read Lesson #48 entitled “The Roots of a Giant” in 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader by John Parker Stewart. In this story Stewart tells about the root system of a giant Sequoia tree. He explained that the roots of sequoias only go 6 to 20 feet into the ground, but the roots will spread out over 200-300 feet. This allows the tree survive floods and conserve soil nutrients. 

“Take care of your ‘roots’ . No one can do it all alone, not even a Giant.” ~ John Parker Stewart

I have been blessed to walk among the giant Sequoias in King’s Canyon National Park in California. In fact I have been blessed to take many groups of Agriculture Science/FFA members to see these wonders of nature. I’m disappointed that I didn’t think then to discuss this amazing root system with my students. What an amazing metaphor for developing the right foundation.We and our organizations are stronger when we are rooted in a strong foundation.
In my research on this topic I found that Sequoias help each other. Giant Sequoias do not compete with each other for resources, rather their huge root systems fuse together and they share resources. So, what is the key to a strong foundation? The root system. We are intertwined and interconnected, supportive, dependent, yet interdependent as team mates. Interlocking with each other and holding each other up. In other words we must create powerful interlocking systems to make a powerful difference.

As leaders our roots are hidden out of sight but the condition of those roots is clearly evident in our lives as a leader. Weak roots make a weak leader, just like weak roots make a weak organization. Just like the root system of the Sequoia, our roots extend in different directions. Our roots anchor us against life’s storms. They feed us and sustain us. We must also not forget to grow our leadership root system and that of our organizations.

Take a look below the surface at your organizations foundational root system. What do you see? Then take a look down deep at your own root system. Is it worthy of being compared to a Sequoia?

3 Self Leadership Strategies to Reduce Stress at Work

Guest post from Susan Fowler. Originally Published 5/25/17:

The fast-paced nature of today’s work environment can create stress and anxiety for workers at all levels in an organization—but especially those responsible for getting things out the door on a daily basis. Even the most organized and efficient among us can feel the strain.

Looking for some relief? Recent research confirms that a little proactive self leadership results in significantly less strain (and more energy) at the end of your workday.

See for yourself by giving one—or all three—of these strategies a try.

Ask for FeedbackTomorrow morning, try a bold start to your day. Ask for feedback from your manager, colleagues, or staff members: “Would you be willing to share one piece of feedback, based on your experience or observation, that you think would help me do my job better today?”

Neuroscience provides evidence that asking for feedback sets up a more responsive brain condition. Requesting feedback delivers the information you need when you need it, but also results in less defensiveness—meaning you are more likely to hear what you need to hear and act on it.

So, when you learn something of value, act on it! Put what you’ve learned to use. Asking for feedback and then acting on it will demonstrate the willingness to learn and grow and the courage to be honest. What’s more, others will see it as a valuable example of proactive behavior.

Identify Solutions to Problems

Ask people what is getting in the way of their being more productive and many will half-jokingly point to their manager, an irritating coworker, or an unreasonable client. Instead of bemoaning your manager who “doesn’t get it,” why not be proactive and sell your solution? Follow these four steps:

1. State the problem or issue in one clear sentence, including the implications for you and others if the situation isn’t improved.

2. Generate three solutions with the pros and cons of each solution. One of the solutions should be the one that you believe will solve the problem based on your experience and insight. But as good as your idea may be, you need to generate two more. Three is the magic number.

3. Identify the decision makers and present to them your three solutions and the pros and cons for each—not revealing which one you think is best.

4. After presenting all three solutions, provide your recommendation for the solution you think is best, along with the rationale for why. Then, seek agreement.

This technique has been proven to create either the change you desire or a valuable learning moment. Either way, you experience less stress and more energy.

Be Proactive
Stop waiting to be given authority. Be proactive.

It’s been said authority is 20 percent given and 80 percent taken. If you have a solution to a nagging problem or an idea for improving efficiency on a particular task or project, don’t let yourself get frustrated by the permission process or the hoops you need to jump through to get things done. Instead, take action. Build a business case for giving you the authority to act.

In taking action you will experience a sense of competence and autonomy—two psychological needs required to thrive at work. And those who give you the authority will also benefit by empowering you to do more so that they can focus on other things that need their attention.
Practice a little self leadership each day to reduce your stress and fatigue. Ask for feedback, identify solutions, and be proactive starting tomorrow morning. You might find yourself able to devote more time to your health, family and friends, and all those dreams you’d pursue if you only had the energy!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Fowler implores leaders to stop trying to motivate people. In her latest bestselling book, she explains Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work … And What Does: The New Science of Leading, Engaging, and Energizing. She is the author of by-lined articles, peer-reviewed research, and six books, including the newly revised bestselling Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager with Ken Blanchard. Tens of thousands of people worldwide have learned from her ideas through training programs, such as the Situational Self Leadership and Optimal Motivation product lines. For more information, visit