Byron's Babbles

Relevant & Engaging Learning

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Doing An Engaging Lesson With Ms. Russell’s Kindergarten Class

This past week I had the opportunity to work closely with Mevers School of Excellence by focusing on student engagement and teaching using a relevant context. Most of you know this is a real purpose and passion area for me. I believe these are the two most critical components to student learning. It is just common sense that the more students are engaged, the more they will see the relevance of their experiences, feel connected to their school experiences and develop more positive attitudes and attributes, both inside and outside of the school walls. Student engagement must be part of a comprehensive strategy to have students fully develop their academic, social-emotional, civic and career knowledge and skills.

Learning in a relevant context is also a critical part to student engagement. True engagement happens when students discover that learning is a personal endeavor. Learning can only become personal when it is in a context that connects the learning to the students real life. In other words, as I always say, school work must be like real work. Mevers School of Excellence is a K-7 school and we discussed that school work can even be made relevant for kindergartners. I had the opportunity to work with Ms. Russell’s kindergarten class. Using pumpkins right now, at this time of year, for learning numbers, number sense, and counting is a real thing to these students. It doesn’t have to be elaborate; it just needs to be personal and real to the student.

When students make the connection from true engagement, they begin to understand that lessons and tasks are worthwhile because they help them meet personal goals they have begun to set for themselves, not just the teacher’s goals for them. Engagement and relevancy enable students to own their own learning. One of the activities that I had the Mevers School of Excellence teachers do during a professional development I conducted was to develop their own definition for student engagement and relevancy. To culminate their work, they developed a graphic recording of their definitions. Here’s the deal: If we want students engaged we must have students working in teams to experience and explore relevant, real-world problems, questions issues, and challenges; then have them create presentations and products to share what they have learned. Student motivation comes from lessons facilitated utilizing and encouraging student creativity, innovation, and problem solving. I have attached pictures here of their awesome work:

Schools need to have a systemic focus for all teachers to be facilitating learning in an engaging and relevant way. Student engagement needs to be intricately tied to how the school functions, supported in the context of a positive, safe, caring and equitable school climate.

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Tear Down This Wall!

DoYouReallyWantIt

“Mr. Gorbachev, Tear down this wall!” ~ Ronald Reagan

This past week during our South Carolina 3D Leadership gathering I was reminded of those immortal words of the first President I ever voted for, and my favorite President, Ronald Reagan. This past spring I had the opportunity to visit the very spot where he showed audacious leadership and spoke those audacious words. We were discussing change, our willingness to make changes in ourselves, and how change happens within an organization. As always, I had our participants make a graphic representation of their thoughts. As always, they all blew me away, but one really intrigued me. Ms. Linda Russell of Mevers School of Excellence drew a brick wall with a split in it with the word “change” (pictured here). As she explained her drawing and how we need to break down the walls, I was reminded of how this was what President Reagan was doing. As with all change, this involved risk and audacity, but he was clearly communicating to Soviet leadership what he [Reagan] desired.

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Ms. Russell’s Great Graphic Representation

We later got into a discussion of good and bad leadership traits. I blogged about these in Leader Traits From The Palmetto State. Click here to read that post. One of the traits discussed was communication. I was so glad that we are able to have open discussions that actually lead to results and professional growth of participants. Two of our participants were discussing how a lack of communication was causing a wall to be built brick by brick. This barrier be, and was in this case, an unintended wall. Lack of good communication can send mixed messages or aloofness, complacency, and unwillingness that others will become alienated and not bother to interact with those parties. They may even avoid them altogether. It was discovered that the issue was just so much going on that time was not being taken to do easy and quick communiques. Right then and there the bricks began to come down from the wall.

Great leaders know how to overcome these obstacles. They cross the aisle, bridge the gaps that separate factions, and find ways to communicate in effective ways. They know that any walls are drag factors that will slow down progress and possibly sabotage the mission. So the walls must be struck down in order to move forward. How about you? Do you have any walls that you need to tear down?

Why You Should Read “What Are Your Blinds Spots?”

What Are Your Blind Spots? Conquering the 5 Misconceptions That Hold Leaders BackWhat Are Your Blind Spots? Conquering the 5 Misconceptions That Hold Leaders Back by Jim Haudan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book dives deeply into five areas that are written and talked about often in the realm of leadership, but does it in a way that is different from all the rest. The areas of purpose, story, engagement, trust, and truth are all leadership dispositions that most would think are very straightforward. Because they are dispositions, however, we become blind to our organizations and our own approach to these, we miss opportunities for improvement or even gross inadequacies. This book is not just all talk; practical applications are given along with activities to identify and inform our blind spots. We all have a leadership style and mantra, and this book gives the reader a chance to take an introspective look at whether that mantra is what we want those on our team to be sharing about us. As a leader, student of leadership development, and leadership development professional, I found the lessons in this book engaging, able to be used immediately, and transferable. I grew professionally from reading this book.

View all my reviews

Leader Traits From The Palmetto State

I was reading some research on leadership development this week and one of pieces that jumped out at me was the statement, “what leaders really want is a personalized experience and the opportunity to learn from…their fellow-leaders.” I was reminded of this last night during the September 3D Leadership gathering of our South Carolina members. One of the things discussed during our plus/delta time at the end was the fact they were able to discuss freely and transparently which made it possible for them to get to know each other and learn from each other. In fact one participant said, “I’m so glad you brought up the issue of communication and that we discussed that. Now we can work on making it better.” Effective leadership development involves time for reflection and learning from those around us.

We did one such learning activity last night where the South Carolina group developed their own top list of good and bad leadership traits. It was a great discussion with being supportive coming out as their number one trait every good leader should have. Here are the rest of their results:

Here’s what we know: Success in today’s world depends on how leaders perform as a team. The unpredictable and rapidly changing landscape, whether it is in government, education, or business, means you need to have people with a variety of skillsets and mindsets who can quickly step in to show leadership in response to a variety of challenges. This is why organizations need to look at all employees as leaders, with “leadership potential,” and start developing leadership potential earlier in careers. That is why we do 3D Leadership – to help our leaders Discover, Develop, and Distribute leadership wherever and whenever it is needed.

Why Everyone Should Read Dopesick

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted AmericaDopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As soon as I finished this book I tweeted, “Anyone who is a public policy maker, educator, or citizen (in other words everyone) needs to read Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors… by Beth Macy. This book tells the history of the #opioidcrisis back to the Civil War until today like none other!” I learned so much history that I did not know. By the time the Civil War ended, addiction had already touched middle-class housewives, immigrants, veterans and even physicians hoping to soothe their own aches and pains. This is when the opioid epidemic began. Between the 1870s and 1880s, America’s per capita consumption of opiates had tripled. On March 1, 1915 a law passed by Congress and signed by one of my favorite Presidents, Woodrow Wilson, would become the first law to criminalize drug use, the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act. I also learned that opioids such as morphine and codeine are naturally derived from opium poppy plants more commonly grown in Asia, Central America and South America. Heroin is an illegal drug synthesized from morphine.
Hydrocodone and oxycodone are semi-synthetic opioids, manufactured in labs with natural and synthetic ingredients.

I really like fact that Macy also spent a great deal of time discussing and educating her readers on the public policy component of the opioid crisis. Macy argues that a big obstacle to solving the crisis is that many local, state, and federal agencies and governments are more concerned about protecting turf and budgets than solving the problem and helping people. This book pushed and stretched me to understand this very complex issue.

View all my reviews

North Carolina Leader Traits

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North Carolina 3D Leadership Cohort #1

Last night at our North Carolina cohort of 3D Leadership developed their top five list of good leadership traits and bad leadership traits. To do this we used one of my go to facilitation props (no pun intended), the toy prop gliders. Here is what participants did:

The groups then got back together and listed their top five list. Then the whole cohort voted on the top five good leadership traits and top five bad leadership traits. Here are the results:

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It is always interesting to me that as I do this in many different states and with individuals of different experiences, how different the lists can be. Successful organizations need leaders, someone (or as I believe everyone) who can inspire employees and lead them and the organization toward success. Leaders encourage others to work to their full potential, inspire creativity and aid motivation. During turbulent times, the need for good leaders intensifies. As I always say, “Leading is easy when things are going great, but really hard when it is chaos and earthquakes.” Someone who presents a clear vision for recovery, leads by example and instills confidence in those around them. A good leader has many traits, if you can recognize these within yourself and capitalize on them, then you can become a successful leader in your work environment and on your team.

By consciously making an effort to exhibit the traits highlighted by my North Carolina friends, people will be more likely to follow us. If we exhibit these traits on a regular basis, we will be able to grow our influence to its full potential as a leader. What’s on your top five list of good and bad leadership traits?

Horse Power – What is the Equivalent for Companies? HumanPower

This guest post originally appeared on the Alex Vorobieff Blog

Horse Power – What is the Equivalent for Companies? HumanPower

By Alex Vorobieff

Today, there is a lot of talk about Artificial Intelligence, AI, and computers taking over more jobs but as I write this, human beings still provide the essential power to build thriving companies. What is this power we provide? The term “Human Resources” is inadequate. The term “Human Capital” is static. A company’s power comes from its people’s ability to coordinate their efforts. HumanPower is what propels companies. We quantify car engine horse power but what is the equivalent for companies? HumanPower.

What determines whether a company thrives or slowly dies? How well its people use their experience and expertise to coordinate their decisions and actions.

Recent scientific insight has shed light on how our species of humans, homo sapiens, evolved and thrived while other species died out even though we were not the fastest or strongest.  We survived because of our unique competitive advantage; our ability to coordinate our efforts.

Coordinating efforts generates the HumanPower that propels the few companies past the many that struggle, but misaligned HumanPower can also tear companies apart. For example in an Olympic rowing competition, team members rowing at slightly different paces are working against each other and diminishing their HumanPower. Understanding how to harness HumanPower is critical for growing a business successfully.

Okay Vorobieff, how do we coordinate the efforts of our people? By answering key questions that provide guidance for people within the company to make big and small decisions such as:

Why does the company exist?

• What are we really selling? (What problem are we solving for our customer?)

• Who is our core customer?

• What is essential for the company to survive and thrive?

• What are the core values essential for keeping our unique culture?

• Who is responsible for what?

• When things don’t go according to plan, how do we get back on track?

• What is the number one priority for the company?

These questions do not answer themselves. If answered, the answers are easily forgotten, or often not communicated to new team members.  Most companies do not have clear answers to these questions. Over time, differing and conflicting answers evolve generating conflicting decisions and efforts or worse DeadPayroll.

How can you measure HumanPower? There is no Dynamometer to hook people up to measure a company’s horsepower. It’s easier to measure the drag than the force. Start with measuring your DeadPayroll.

You can also measure HumanPower by using the most powerful tool humans’ possess, questions. Start asking the key questions listed above to your leadership team. Let them answer separately and see if your people are headed in the same direction or are pulling the company in different directions.

Coordinating decisions and actions was the competitive advantage our ancestors used to survive and thrive in a harsh environment where survival was not guaranteed, and the same coordination will determine whether your company thrives in a competitive environment where long-term survival is not guaranteed.

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About Alex Vorobieff

Founder and CEO of The Vorobieff Company, Alex Vorobieff is a business turnaround specialist, working to implement Business Alignment Tools for their specific needs. Alex has served as clean-up CFO and president of companies in telecommunications, aviation, aerospace, and real estate development, leading successful turnarounds in as little as three months. He shares his how-tos and techniques through Confident ROi magazine and his latest book, Transform Your Company: Escape Frustration, Align Your Business, and Get Your Life Back.

Shaking Our American Demons

This past week I started a session of our Noble Education Initiative 3D Leadership Program by playing the song “Do You Really Want It?” by Nothing More. The participants were to listen and graphically reflect on what the song meant to them as leaders. Click here to read another post, “What Do You Really Want?”, I wrote about this song and see a music video of the song. One of the things we discussed during this pat Thursday’s session was a phrase in the song (Do You Really Want It?) that says, “We say ‘give me a sign that proves what I believe in’ So I can shake these American demons.”

This was actually a phrase I discussed with Johnny Hawkins when on the tour bus hanging out with Nothing More a week ago. Our 3D Leadership participants discussed it in much the same way as Johnny did. They talked about how, as Americans, we are so prosperous, but we do not set our future generations up for success.

As I reflect on this great discussion I think about how we, United States Of America, are so different from other countries of the world. For one thing, we were an experiment. Plus, American independence, of course, involved more than humility. It was an act of defiance rooted in an arm-long list of grievances. While pondering all this I went back and studied the Declaration Of Independence. The Declaration was the genius of our founders. I believe it was Abraham Lincoln that posited that the founders did not need much of what is in the Declaration just to declare our independence from Great Britain.

Our Founders, however, had the forethought, according to Lincoln, to add in these words to our Declaration Of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” As I continue to read these words I believe this is our battle cry to shake our “American Demons.”

I believe it was incredibly visionary that our Founders included these concepts, knowing it would not be until later, when we actually got our government and society created that we would actually be able to begin to govern accordingly, and by these core values and beliefs. I also believe we have gotten away from walking the walk of our values we declared our independence with. What if we checked all our decisions against the fact we should secure our rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

To me, the Declaration of Independence proclaims we are all created equal. This means that all human beings, regardless of religion, sex, or skin color, possess the same natural rights. The Founders had to know that different people are unequal in physical and mental capacities. I believe we can shake our “American Demons” by always remembering that however noticeable the differences between people may be, they are never so great as to deprive them of their rights.

Who We Are

After my post yesterday, I really got to thinking about this question of being bigger than something other than ourselves. You can click here to check out All The World’s A Stage. It’s actually pretty simple, however, we are all part of something bigger than ourselves, namely the universe. We often forget this, however, and we stop looking beyond our own body, opinion, experience, well-being, and other self interests. I constantly need to be reminded that, though I am tiny and only temporarily on this earth, I can take action toward outcomes that go beyond my own life, needs, comforts, desires, gains and losses — often through shared work with others, influencing decisions, or helping, coaching, or mentoring others.

Because it was my conversation with Johnny Hawkins, Mark Vollelunga, Daniel Oliver, and Ben Anderson, the band members of Nothing More, that really got me thinking about all this, I am going to point to one of their songs for inspiration. Honestly, I not paid very close attention to the words of their song, Who We Are, until they autographed the poster pictured here in this post, and gave it to me. It has the words to the song in the background. There’s a pretty powerful message in this song that who we are should keep us believing. Click here to watch the video of Who We Are by Nothing More.

“It’s who we are that keeps me believing

There’s something here bigger than ourselves

If I’m wrong then why am I still feeling?

Who we are, keeps me believing

Keeps me believing”

~ Chorus From Who We Are by Nothing More

This is actually very profound. Who we are is much more important than what we do. We need to focus on being bigger on the inside, our character, than we are on the outside, our influence. Think about it, if our character waivers, our influence becomes discounted. We must line our lives up with our values or we will live a life that is out of balance and devoid of the creative energy we need to achieve our true potential.

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? ” ~ Jesus in Mark 8:36

We also need to think about the chorus phrase, “It’s who we are that keeps me believing.” Think about that; it doesn’t say, “who I am” it says, “who we are.” This is profound when we think about leading or being part of our businesses and organizations, our communities, our schools, our country, or the larger aggregate of the world 🌎. Who we are and what we believe in aggregate matters. We need to create organizations, communities, countries, and a world 🌍 where we all matter.

“What we know matters but who we are matters more.” ~ Brené Brown

As it says in Who We Are, I want the “you, that’s in me, [to be] in everything.” Let’s work to create a world where we can “stand together” because of Who We Are!

All The World’s A Stage

Nothing More

My blog post yesterday was inspired by the incredible experience I had of having the honor to spend some time visiting with the members of Nothing More on their tour bus prior to the show at Ruoff Music Center this past Friday. Click here to read Leading Without “Virtue Signaling.” As I stated in that post, Johnny Hawkins, Mark Vollelunga, Daniel Oliver, and Ben Anderson, the band members of Nothing More, are four of the greatest guys you will ever meet. Today’s post was inspired by a chance conversation as we were getting off the tour bus. Standing in the doorway of the bus, I had a side conversation with Johnny Hawkins and Mark Vollelunga about how much their music made me reflect and think. I thanked them for using their talents and taking the risk to be who they are in the music business. They knew I was using their songs to introduce leadership concepts and spur thought and discussions in the leadership development work I do. I wanted them to know, however, how much the words they were creatively arranging into music were more that just that – words or music. For example, if you want to be moved, take a moment and click here and watch Fade In / Fade Out. This song really moves me because of losing my dad early in my adult life and now having a son.

Ruoff Music Center

I believe my comments caused them to reflect for a moment. Both Johnny and Mark became very reflective and appreciative of being reminded what they do is much bigger than them. They commented on sometimes forgetting and needing to be reminded that the music they make and the shows they put on make a difference in people’s lives. Mark said, “we need to remember that and take that seriously.” Johnny said, “we get caught up in doing the next show, looking for inspiration for the next song, writing the next song, or putting the next album together, but everything we do touches others.” Think about what they both were saying – they are doing something bigger than themselves. It isn’t about them, it is about connecting with their fans and influence. And…since leadership is influence, my friends in Nothing More are leaders. They just have a different, and I would argue, more exciting platform to lead from. Always remember, we all have a platform, everyone! It is our responsibility to use it to the fullest. I also believe it is our responsibility to help those whose stage might not reach the masses of Nothing More, reach his or her potential as well.

We’ve almost made the thought of being part of something bigger than ourselves cliche’. But, we all need to think about what stage we have chosen, or what stage we have available. What platform do we have to lead and influence, because we all have one. As William Shakespeare so wisely put it: “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts.” That really says it all. Think about all the lives we enter and exit. Think about all the parts we play in one day. Everyone is a leader from where she or he is, so we need to get up on stage and perform. Are you taking advantage of the platform you have right now to lead and make a difference from where you are?