Byron's Babbles


I just finished an awesome book to finish out my 2017 reading challenge. In fact I read 90 books with a goal of 87 for 2017. The great book I just finished was, Leading Like Madiba: Leadership Lessons From Nelson Mandela by Martin Kalungu Banda. Kalungu-Banda taught us in this book that great leaders create trails that we can follow to find our own greatness. This does not mean we become their clones –that would be impossible, and anyway it would mean losing the rich variety of our personalities. But these great people inspire us as role models and their example helps us see what to aim for as we nurture our own style.

At the end of the book Kalungu-Banda gave us ten guidelines for leadership growth that he called: “Madiba path to leadership.” Here they are:

  1. Cultivate a deep sense of awe for human beings. Leadership is about people, and every single person matters. Mr Mandela, like Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa, did not have a business plan to begin his mission. He just had a deep-seated respect for people.
  2. Allow yourself to be inspired by the giftedness of other people. In a practical way, show that you recognise that every person has special gifts to use for their own wellbeing as well as for their community or organization.
  3. Grow your courage. Great leaders have courage. This does not mean absence of fear but learning how to recognise your fears, face the harsh realities of your situation, and nevertheless choose to follow what you consider the right course of action. At first this is not easy to do. Repeated practice will help you build courage as one of your virtues.
  4. ‘Go and preach the Gospel. Where necessary, use words.’ Lead by example. You should not ask of others what you are not ready to do yourself. Leading by action, you will inspire people more than by simply telling them what needs doing. Your active role will leave a deep and lasting impression on those you are privileged to lead.
  5. Create your own brand of leadership. A leader’s name and image must be consistently related to a set of values. This is what makes you really effective. When people think of you as a leader, they must immediately think of your principles. These are essential to guide your organisation or community through the various ethical conundrums they will inevitably have to face.
  6. Practice humility. Great leaders acknowledge their failings. Instead of making people lose faith in you, admitting your mistakes and limitations will draw people to help and work with you. By being able to apologise for your wrongs, you send the message that the search for right thought and action is a common enterprise. It is not owned or controlled by you or any other leader.
  7. Learn to live with the Madiba paradox. Life is a mix of hope and hopelessness, joy and pain, success and failure, vision and disillusionment. You as a leader have the task of helping others to live successfully with these apparent contradictions.
  8. Surprise your opponents by believing in them. There will always be people who disagree with your leadership style and what you do. Do not seek to silence, humiliate or vanquish them. Try to understand their point of view and deliberately work at identifying the positive elements there.
  9. Celebrate life. Activity and achievement of any kind are signs of life that affect life in turn. We work in order to enhance our life. We seek to excel for the same reason, not just to look good. In this spirit, we should celebrate not only individual performance and giftedness but life itself. You as a leader must participate in practices and ceremonies that honour the life of the people you are privileged to serve.
  10. Know when and how to make yourself replaceable. Great leaders know how to move themselves from centre stage. They know also when it is time to go. They prepare for it and make sure they have a successor who will build on what they have achieved. They enable other people to emerge as potential candidates. This is what sustains the leader’s legacy while guaranteeing a smooth transition.

As you can see, this is an incredible book and should be a part of every leader’s bookshelf. As Kalungu-Banda said, “Inspirational leadership makes all of us dig deep into the innermost parts of our being to find the very best that lies there and make it available to ourselves and others. This, in my view, is what great leadership is all about.” Are you practicing inspirational leadership at the highest level?


Leading Like Yeast

During my personal growth time this morning I was reading more in the great book, Leading Like Madiba: Leadership Lessons From Nelson Mandela by Martin Kalungu Banda. In the passages I was reading this morning Kalungu-Banda used the metaphor of leaders being like yeast saying, “Inspirational leaders are like yeast that permeates ordinary flour and water, making them rise into a good dough. This is a lot of what leadership is about: imperceptibly raising others to realise their own greatness and the esteem they deserve. A lot of the effect is gained simply by listening to people with respect.” Is that not awesome and so true!

“Inspirational leaders are like yeast that permeates ordinary flour and water, making them rise into a good dough. This is a lot of what leadership is about: imperceptibly raising others to realise their own greatness and the esteem they deserve. A lot of the effect is gained simply by listening to people with respect.” ~ Martin Kalungu Banda

This got me to thinking about the yeast we feed in our dairy herd. Yeast is a simple single-cell fungus. That is why I love Kalungu-Banda’s metaphor. As leaders, we are all pretty simple human beings but by creating the right environment we can do great things. The yeast that we usually mean in the context of food and livestock feed is the species named Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Saccharomyces cerevisiae has been used by man for millennia to produce alcoholic beverages, including beer and most spirits, and to enable bread to rise during the baking process.

During the early 1980’s when I went to Purdue University and was getting my Animal Science Degree, we were just beginning to research the use of yeast in ruminant (cattle are a ruminant – meaning four compartment stomach) feeds. The research being done was on the effect of yeast culture on ruminant production and rumen microbial metabolism. Effects on production were always small, which led to many questioning their statistical validity. The reported effects on rumen metabolism often seemed unrelated: Stabling pH, improved fibre digestion, lower lactate concentrations, altered fermentation product proportions in favour of propionic acid, lower methane emission, increased concentrations of cellulolytic bacteria, increased concentrations of cellulolytic bacteria, lower soluble sugar concentrations, decreased ammonia concentrations, all by the supplementation of a few grams of yeast to a cow with a rumen volume of 100-150 liters. Thus, if yeast could maintain a more stable, neutral pH, ruminal micro-organisms would be healthier: healthier ruminal micro-organisms lead to a more productive animal. Remember, this is all with only a few grams of yeast.

Therefore, I would add to Kalungu-Banda’s use of yeast as a metaphor and say that by just doing the right small things can create an environment where people can grow and flourish. When studying the effectiveness of yeast culture we needed to understand yeast’s mode of action at the molecular and cellular level. Sound like leadership?

Leaders develop their team members. They serve as the yeast by helping the team members gain new skills to help the team increase its ability to reach the organization’s goals. One important skill the leader teaches the team is leadership. Just like yeast, we need to be doing the little things that might seem like much, but will have big effects on those we serve and our organization. Are you leading yeast?

Applying A Little Heat

This morning, I walked to the barn to do the morning feeding and the thermometer 🌡 read 4 degrees Fahrenheit. I don’t mind the cold, but I always have to be cognizant that many things don’t work right, or at least need a little help to work right in this kind of weather. One of those things are frost free water hydrants.

For those who don’t know what that is, it is a water hydrant (pictured here) that is buried below the frost line and is designed so the on/off valve is at the bottom below the freezing point. Then when the water is turned off the water in the pipe drains down and out, and amazingly, no frozen water line. These are a great farm invention. They do, however, get a little moisture built up around the mechanism at the top for turning the water on and off.

Actually they are designed to withstand pulling the handle and turning them on, but I am always nervous in this kind of weather doing that. As we all know, things just have a way of going wrong in sub-freezing temperatures. Our way of mitigating this is to take a small hair dryer and running it for about 30-60 seconds on the valve. This small amount of heat makes it work perfectly – like it was 80 degrees out.

This morning, as I was doing this, I was reminded how a little heat being applied is good for all of us. I have always said that the best way to learn and grow is to be doing/trying something that causes a little fear. In fact I have blogged about it several times in: Leadership Lessons Of Mt. St. Helens, Telling Your Leadership Story, and Finding Your Leadership Voice just to mention a few.

As leaders we need to make sure we are enabling our team members to experience growth through real time projects and responsibilities that will, at times, cause a little “heat” and “pressure” to grow. The most effective leaders create unique experiences for themselves and others by taking calculated risks that put them and team members into situations that challenge their thinking, expand their perspective, make them feel vulnerable, and enable them to mature throughout the process.

Now, I am not saying throw yourself or your colleagues to the wolves. I am saying to act as the “hair dryer” I have used as the metaphor for this post and apply a little heat for growth to occur. This will allow us and those we serve to take key learnings from each of these experiences and apply them to similar circumstances we may be faced with. One of the ways I have learned to do this effectively is with task forces. Task forces gives teams of individuals a chance to form a community and create something for the organization.

The heat has been applied in my own personal life from being involved in turning schools around. Turnaround work can be one of the most thrilling and challenging adventures you can experience. Let me tell you, the “hair dryer” is pretty powerful and on high at all times. Turning around a struggling or failing situation teaches us to maximize the full potential of opportunities present in any situation and stretch the individual capabilities of ourself and other people.   We learn that there is always a way out and forward when there is an effective use of tools, resources, people, and money.

So, instead of letting a little heat, pressure, or fear intimidate us; let’s welcome and embrace it. Remember, sometimes a little heat from the “hair dryer” can be good for us all.

Leading From The Tractor Seat

I like to tweet out pictures from when I am sitting in my favorite chair – the tractor seat. As a leader I sit in a lot of seats, but I have to say, as the eternal farm kid, the tractor seat is my favorite. On this beautiful Christmas morning, I tweeting a sunrise picture from the tractor cab and some pictures spreading manure. Yep, even on Christmas morning there was work to be done and I loved every minute of it.

It got me to thinking about the leadership lessons available in a tractor cab. So, as a New Holland tractor guy I am going to use the New Holland cab for the metaphor. Here is what New Holland says about my tractor cab: “Ultimate comfort with the VisionViewTM cab designed around the operator’s needs” (from ). Think about that statement to start with. Aren’t we as leaders supposed to provide those we serve comfort and provide for their needs?

So, the description on the web went on to say the following (I am going to add in my leadership thoughts): The spacious VisionView cab provides outstanding all-round visibility, – as leaders we need to see everything from 30,000 foot, 10,000 foot and from the balcony – which has been further improved by the new single wiper blade with 200-degree movement – we need obstructions removed and those we lead to tell everything, whether good or bad – and extra wide-angle mirrors. – it is important to take a look at what has been done (lagging indicators) and know we are getting the job done right. While we should all leverage our strengths and seek out others whose strengths complement ours, we also need to practice new behaviors where we have identified blind spots. – For loader operation, a roof hatch can be specified to provide unrestricted view on the raised arms. – all leaders need not assume that position equals influence but instead to enter a meeting with a clean slate and make your observations from an unobstructed view. Remember that nearly every great leader was once a typical employee sitting in meetings with bosses and coworkers.

All the controls in the cab are ergonomically laid out, while many elements are adjustable to create a comfortable work station tailored to the operator. – Leaders who get to know their employees are better able to tailor recognition efforts and personalize the experience to the individual.Leaders who get to know their employees personally can tailor the ways for personal professional growth. The instrument cluster moves in conjunction with the fully tiltable steering column, ensuring a permanently unobstructed view. – in terms of vision, it’s being able to sense what’s going on in the world, see the unexploited opportunities and lurking dangers, and use that to figure out what to focus on and what not to focus on. – The IntelliViewTM IV touch screen monitor puts the operator in control of all the main parametres. I always say that the most important decision I make as a leader is “what to have my hands on” or “what to have my hands in.”

A choice of seats is available, offering varying degrees of comfort all the way up to the deluxe air-suspension version, as well as a full-sized instructor seat. it is great to have someone sitting alongside us learning. My son learned to bale hay, use the monitor, and wrap bales while sitting in the cab next to me. We must be shoulder to shoulder with those we lead. – The efficient air conditioning system can deal with the hottest conditions as well as the coldest days. – as leaders we must learn to adjust our lives to not only survive but be fruitful.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed a view through my cab window into why I love spending time in the tractor seat.

Learning To Appreciate All Who Contribute To The Success

“Quite often it takes more than just ourselves to achieve the success we claim to have made. Our success is a result of many people’s contributions: those of our parents and other family members, fellow workers, peers, teachers, and advisers.” ~ Martin Kalungu Banda

We’ve all seen it in a TV show. The character goes to her boss or parents with a bright idea, the idea is ridiculed, and then (sometimes in the same breath), the idea is repeated right back, word for word.  And, get this, it then becomes a great idea and he is glad he thought of it, too!

Unfortunately, these people do exist. In every company, in every organization, in every community, in every political party.  Some might not have as bad a case of it as others, but at some point, we will run into one of these people, or an entire organization of these vane people.

Furthermore, I have even experienced not being able to reach compromise or consensus because certain individuals ideas weren’t being used or he had not come up with the idea. This level of ego and vanity is amazing to me.

It Is Amazing What You Can Accomplish If You Do Not Care Who Gets the Credit.” ~ President Harry S. Truman

When faced with these type of situations I always remind myself and the group I am working with of the great thought of our 33rd President, Harry S. Truman, “It Is Amazing What You Can Accomplish If You Do Not Care Who Gets the Credit.” My choice has always been to favor the accomplishment of the idea, rather than worrying about getting credit for it. Really, very few accomplishments can be credited to any single person anyway.

This very topic was the subject of the chapter I was reading this morning in the awesome book I am currently reading, Leading Like Madiba: Leadership Lessons From Nelson Mandela by Martin Kalungu Banda. In this chapter, Kalungu Banda teaches us that sharing the credit is a mark of great leadership. An interview of Nelson Mandela is the subject here where he shows that success is often the result of concerted effort by many people. In the interview Mandela says, “…the reality of our struggle is that no individual among us can claim to have played a greater role than the rest.” To me, this says it all – it took (or will take) everyone, not just one!

“Being praised for what we have done is such a sweet feeling. Then we know that our efforts are being recognised and appreciated by others. We all need that kind of feedback from those around us. But I suspect we are sometimes too eager to receive praise for ourselves. Then we end up forgetting those we worked with to achieve the very things we are being praised for. Selfishly we make ourselves the centre of a reality that is much larger and greater than us alone. We exaggerate our contribution out of all proportion. Without meaning to, we start radiating negative energies that repel others from wanting to cooperate with us.” ~ Martin Kalungu Banda

We have all seen people who have become so caught up in what they think they have accomplished that they forget there are/were a lot of of others working on that same issue with them.

“The paradox is that the more we acknowledge and celebrate the capacities and contributions of those around us, the more we deepen the strength and prowess of our own character. We become poised to do greater things because others feel confident enough to win with us.” ~ Martin Kalungu Banda

The fact is, great leaders recognize and honor the contributions of others. In fact, the greatest of leaders deflect credit from themselves to others. We need to learn from Mandela and create the space for others to be acknowledged. Here are a couple of questions to consider:

  • Even if it is your idea, would you rather be right, or get the idea implemented?
  • How much do you value your vanity, your pride?

What Inspires You?

Yesterday I had a person ask me, “Byron, how do I deal with the person who does not want to learn or go through any professional growth experiences?” She went on to explain this was an experienced leader who believes she has seen it all. I explained that was a tough one. I have experienced these type of individuals. The type who say, “When you’ve been around as long as I have you’ve seen it all and know how to deal with…” Really, seen it all? I think not! Amazing!

In all honesty, I’m not sure there is a lot you can do with a person with that disposition. I say disposition because while I do believe leaders can be developed and don’t have to be born automatically a leader, I do believe that there are certain dispositions you must possess to be a great leader. One of those is a propensity to be a lifelong learner. I actually just blogged about lifelong learning this week in Lifelong Learning: The Farm Way.

So what was my advice? To have the tough conversation about the fact that all leaders need to continue to learn and find inspiration. I am a huge believer that those we serve as leaders need to see us learning and taking part in self development. Even better if they can experience this alongside us. If that doesn’t happen, I’m not sure how that person can be effective and I’m not sure how long they could continue in an organization that believes in growing its team members and being a learning organization.

During my own personal growth time this morning I had this thinking affirmed in the great book I am currently reading, Leading Like Madiba: Leadership Lessons From Nelson Mandela by Martin Kalungu Banda. I was inspired to study Nelson Mandela by Richard Branson. Madiba is one of Branson’s leadership heroes. Just as Richard Branson is one of mine. Talk about a guy (Branson) who continues to learn, grow, try new things, and start new thing. Pretty sure he has never said, “I’ve seen it all and know it all.”

In Kalungu Banda’s book he tells the story of Mandela going into the locker room before a soccer match and asking his favorite professional soccer player, Mark Fish, to switch jerseys with him. Mandela was wearing a jersey with Fish’s number on it. Fish agreed and Mandela went on to explain how much he was inspired by him and learned from him. Fish was very touched and inspired by this and said that any time he wore or even looked at the jersey he had gotten from Mandela it inspired him to get better. What the story about Mark Fish in this great book shows is that great leaders also need to be inspired. Mark might think that it was Mandela who inspired him and not the other way round, but it is clear from the story that Mandela had long been inspired by Fish.

Martin Kalungu Banda gives some great, what he calls in the book, Food For Thought on this story:

“We often do not imagine great leaders to be in the process of learning. Indeed, most leaders do not look as if they want to learn or have the time for it. They are either giving advice or opening a workshop for other people. We are surprised when we hear that a leader spent a day at a conference as a participant.”

As I said earlier, we need to be seen by those we serve, learning. Even better to be learning right next to them.

“Imagine what becomes of leaders who do not find anything to inspire them. My guess is that they soon dry up. They cease to inspire others because they have no replenishment themselves. We can only give what we have. So, to be leaders who inspire our organisations and communities, I am convinced we need clear sources of inspiration ourselves. Inspirational leaders continue to be moved by the surprises and wonders of life –people and nature, and the interaction between the two. Such leaders position themselves so that they continue to experience the awesome character of the world that surrounds them and the profundity of human life.”

What inspires you? You cannot inspire other people unless you get inspired and continue learning yourself.

“They [leaders] are always learning. Learning is about lending oneself, through practice, to the ‘how’ question: How can I hear other people better? How can I do this better? How can I understand this situation better? This style could explain why in spite of his age Madiba beams with the joy and vitality of a 21-year-old. It could be his ability to be inspired by other people. The readiness to be inspired by a footballer.”

When we feel so knowledgeable that all we want to do is impart what we know on others, it is a sign that we have stopped learning. There is no such thing as standing still in learning, however. You are either learning or you are regressing. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to regress!

Learning By Serving & Making The World A Better Place

If we want our young scholars to be more successful in the classroom and ultimately in life, then we need to be deliberate in giving them civic experience and experience with community service. Let’s not just tell them to hit the books and study more. Don’t get me wrong; that’s important, too. Instead, let’s help them to head out into the community to help others. Let’s help them come up with projects and work along side them as coaches and mentors.

We need to facilitate our students volunteering their time to make the community and world a better place. I was reminded of this tonight when out shopping for four families in need for a project I am working on. At the completion of shopping I was beginning to stress over wrapping and organizing all the gifts in a presentable way for the school I am working with. Anyone who has ever seen my wrapping knows why I was stressed. Wrapping gifts is one of the many skills and talents I do not have!

Anyway, on my way out of the last store I was approached at the door by some enterprising Cub Scouts. The boys said, “Sir, we would like to wrap any gifts you have.” Well, my prayers were answered. I proceeded to their table and said, “Can you wrap all this, plus what’s in my truck?” The boys and their moms said, “Sure!” I was sold! Of course, as they got started, I went out and got all the other gifts.

They organized all the gifts by the initials of the students I was buying for and even wrapped each child’s gifts in different paper. They obviously could tell that being organized is something I need help with. I had so much fun visiting and working with them as the wrapping was being done. I even had the opportunity to discuss our project for helping families in need and the fact that there are children that do not have all the advantages that these young men have. The young men were very attentive and we had a great conversation about helping others.

As the job was being completed I asked J.P., the Scout who seemed to be leading the charge, “We have wrapped 11 boxes; what do you think that is worth for a donation?” He talked to the other boys and then thought for a minute and said, “$6.00 per box.” J.P.’s mom exclaimed, “Oh J.P.! That is way to much!” Well, I started them down this road so I said, “J.P., if that is where you value it at, that’s what I’ll do.” I Then gave him the $66.00. J.P. and the other Scouts proceeded to tell me all the projects they were doing and how the money would be used.

I have to tell you I was impressed with these young men. Here’s the deal. While completing community service projects, students develop real world 🌎 skills that will help them succeed in elementary school, middle school, high school and beyond. This gives our young scholars relevant practice in:

• Leadership

• Problem-solving

• Collaboration with others

• Time management

• Communication

Most importantly, students develop a richer perspective of the world they live in. Additionally, this experience helps young people develop a richer perspective of the world they live in. This is why I am so proud that the Graduation Pathways our Indiana State Board Of Education just passed has a community service component for students. We cannot just leave this to chance. All young scholars need the opportunity to learn the lessons these Cub Scouts were learning tonight.

Lifelong Learning: The Farm Way

IMG_1470Many times leaders wonder what they can do to become well-rounded and competitive while increasing both their success and significance. An often overlooked yet simple way to improve is to increase our knowledge by being a lifelong learner. Structured education and professional growth opportunities are very important, but much success is derived from highly motivated individuals that have dedicated their lives to the concept of lifelong learning. Many times this learning is unstructured and just involves us paying attention and recognizing opportunities to learn. We all need look for these opportunities and prioritize the creation of time in our busy lives each day to educate ourselves on new concepts and ideas.

IMG_1471Last week I had an opportunity to learn just by observing the technique of someone else. We had two of our show heifers dehorned and we always get pain medicine (comparable to Tylenol® or Ibuprofen) in the form of boluses (big pills) to give for seven days. These are given orally with a bolus gun (pictured here). Growing up as a farm kid I have done this hundreds of times. It always seems, however, I end up fighting with the animal before I get the pill given. This time, though, I watched as the veterinary technician gave the first round while still at the vet’s office. She had an interesting technique and I took note of the way she held the calf’s mouth open. The calf did not fight and the pill went right down. The next day I used her technique and voila′ it worked perfectly. Let me tell you, I gave the seventh and last bolus tonight and all went perfectly with no fights every night. I am very excited to have learned a new technique.

This experience reminded me just how important it is to take advantage of every opportunity to learn. I try to learn something in everything I do. In fact there is a direct correlation between individuals who strive for growth in their personal lives and those who thrive in their professional lives. I really believe that the learning I do in my farm life does help me grow as a leader in my professional life. In an ever-changing world, it is more important than ever to stay current, competitive, and up to date – both in our personal and professional lives. We must rid ourselves of assumptions and convictions so that we can be open and receptive to new information and learning. The uncomfortable part is that at times the things we are observing or learning may contradict what we believe to be true. If we truly open our minds to lifelong learning we will come across information that challenges your worldview. We need to strive to jump out of our comfort zone, use this time to stop, reflect and shed light on these ideas in a way that can develop and expand our knowledge and vision. Just like my learning a new way to give calf boluses by watching someone who does it many times per day.

Now, I realize that my story from the vet’s office is a simple one, but the concept is important. We need to always be on the lookout for ways to improve and learn. Again, these do not need to be structured, and I would argue many times the best learning comes from paying attention and observing. Think about it, I could have just said, “That’s not the way I do that.” All that would have got me is the same old inefficient way of giving boluses and continuing to wrestle with calves every time I do it. Amazing what an open mind can bring us.

Hopefully this reflection will give us all a renewed commitment to learn new ways to expand and to sharpen our personal and professional skills. Reading great books, consuming excellent electronic media, and participating in engaging continuing education programs, from varied sources, will keep us informed, in touch with, and energized by new ideas – but only if we commit to our own learning. And, pay attention to lessons happening around us. Will you commit with me to being a dedicated lifelong learner?

Leading Like A Glue Stick

As an educator and leader I understand the value of a good glue stick. Glue sticks are very convenient for class and leadership retreat activities, but don’t last as long. The time they save in the classroom and the ability to create quickly is worth it. I can’t even imagine having to go back to bottles of messy glue that takes forever (it seems) to hold things in place. All of that being said, however, I would like this morning to look at the glue stick as a leadership metaphor.

This past week I had the opportunity to be a part of a convening of business/industry leaders, local/state government officials, school leaders, and community stakeholders in Goshen, Indiana – Elkhart County Indiana. The group was convened by Horizon Education Alliance (HEA). Dr. Jason Harrison, Director Of Facilitation for HEA, did an outstanding job of facilitating our convening. It is awesome how HEA has become the glue stick for Elkhart County to come together to improve all aspects of the community. Specifically, how to make sure our young scholars are prepared for any post secondary endeavor they choose. The idea is for all stakeholders to understand the needs and obstacles of each other. Then remove the obstacles and create great things for everyone in the community. Now that’s leading like a glue stick!

Here is an article in The Elkhart Truth I was interviewed for at the conclusion:

Additionally, I had a former team member text me this morning and I texted back to keep being the glue of the organization. She texted back and said that sometimes we need to be Super Glue. True. Then I got to thinking, what does it take to be the glue stick of an organization? I have heard it said that the indicators of a great team are its level of grit and the strength of its glue.

To me the glue of an organization measures how a team sticks together and how its members meld into an effective team, especially in tough times. Abraham Lincoln is famous for a quote he used when describing the division during the Civil War in the United States 🇺🇸: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” He actually borrowed that phrase from the New Testament of the Bible. Probably why it is such a powerful quote no matter what divisions are being struggled with. The “house” can apply to our state or federal governments, our organizations, our teams, our local communities, or our families.

Relationships matter. Really, we need to know each other, trust each other, and hold a healthy respect for each other to achieve excellent results. Mutual respect and understanding of each other’s beliefs and values is key. These relationships are the glue that holds us together. Leaders need to create the space for team members to work together and encourage them to take the time to really see and learn from each other. This also means giving all team members the ability to lead from where they are. Everyone is a leader, and if treated as such, this can be Super Glue.

Furthermore, these relationships serve as glue sticks because teammates who build each other up, show appreciation for one another, and connect with each other are key parts of any great team. When we all work to be the leadership glue sticks of an organization it becomes a community working toward a common vision. This allows big and bold things to happen.

Are you a glue stick in your organization? How can you better distribute and develop all the glue sticks in your organization?

Graphic Recording: Good Quirky Or Too Off The Wall?

Recently I have been both criticized and lauded for using graphic/visual representations in my meetings. So, in reflecting on the negative reactions, I have thought deeply about the value. My first reaction was that “Wow, these people are very antiquated in their thinking and have had no experience with this great way of facilitating and thinking.” In all fairness, however, I wanted to dig a little deeper. In convenings I have facilitated the results have been positive and far-reaching. Engagement is improved and graphics give the group a way to quickly review thoughts and work that has been completed. In other words, a birds eye view into the work. What we have experienced makes sense given that 65% of the population are visual learners and there is evidence that we retain information as much as six times more effectively when it’s presented through a mixture of speech and visuals rather than speech alone.

There is so much work being done right now using graphics and visualizations to help convening groups understand the work they are doing. It is one of the key practices recommended in a book I am reading right now, Creating Great Choices: A Leader’s Guide to Integrative Thinking by Jennifer Riel and Roger Martin. This great book blends storytelling, theory, and hands-on advice to help any leader or manager facing a tough choice. In the book the authors recommend drawing pictures of the choices and visualizing the possible solutions. I have found this to be such a powerful way to work through creating the best choices. Every person’s thoughts and ideas become very real when they are put on the board.

There is such power in seeing your own words be put up on the board. This was powerful as a classroom teacher and also powerful when facilitating the convening of meetings. Top facilitators make sure all participants’ words are recorded instead of their own.  They write what was said, regardless of theperception of value by anyone collaborating at the time. When working with groups long term, I really like to get them to begin to do their own graphic recording. This is very powerful when the group takes ownership and owns this. Once written, follow-up questions can be used to get the participant to clean up the words and flesh out other thoughts.

Furthermore, the use of graphics make an outstanding way to do a review at the end of a meeting or any time further clarification is necessary. I have made it a custom in any convening I facilitate to do a review at the end. This has proven to be a very powerful way to end meetings and make sure everyone is on the same page. This review can be very quick or very detailed depending on the work that is being done. It is also great to have the visuals available when reporting out from small group or breakout group work. It allows fellow collaborators to actually see the work that is being done and literally watch it develop. Really, this all works on the principle known as the picture superiority effect. Basically, using effective visuals will improve learning. The principle states that people generally have a better memory for pictures than for corresponding words.

Finally, the use of the graphic story boards from previous meetings serve as an awesome gallery walk prior to the next meeting. In fact it was awesome in a project I recently chaired to watch individuals get to the meeting early to review all the graphics from prior meetings. I have to give credit where credit is do and say that I learned the best practice of the gallery work review to my experience with the Harvard Learning Innovation Lab (LILA). Graphic recordings can help learners comprehend abstract concepts using visual language to depict meaning. In other words, the idea is to concretize abstract information with a corresponding visual when possible.

I also believe graphic recordings enrich the meeting space. Displaying the graphic recordings in the meeting space itself is one of the most effective ways to ensure the visuals are part of the ongoing discussion. People will naturally refer back to what was said — the graphic recordings serve as a tangible record in full view of everyone. Again, as I stated earlier by displaying the graphic recordings, you’re showing participants that their words and thoughts are valued and you’re encouraging people to review and discuss the content. This creates a safe environment to share ideas and conflicting opinions.

Bottom-line: Why do companies like Google, the Gap, Lego and Johnson & Johnson use graphic facilitation? Because they know how valuable their meetings are, and they know how graphic recording helps them get the most from their investment of time, money and talent to get their best people in one room. Therefore, I believe making a graphic recording makes the discussion visual. This enables those convened to have snapshot of the ground that has been covered so far. Almost immediately, you can see which points need to be built out and which have yet to be explored. We can “read” images much faster that written word, so the feedback loop is much quicker.

While some may think is quirky, I am a major believer in the use of graphic facilitation. I believe that when the meeting, leadership training, retreat, or any other type of convening really matters, graphic recording and facilitation will make that meeting more effective and productive.

Pictures in this post are of graphic recordings done by Mike Fleisch. I have learned a great deal from Mike and value the experience of having him facilitate many convenings with me.