Byron's Babbles

Focused Perspective

Posted in core values, Global Leadership, Leadership, Pandemic, Teacher Leader, Teacher Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 30, 2020

Have you ever noticed a cat’s ability to focus like a laser on something that interests them? There is never a challenge to get them to focus, but they become oblivious to what others around them are focused on. This is one of the things I love about cats; they do not need constant attention. But, when they do, you better be prepared to give it to them because that will be their sole focus. If you’ve ever been around cats you know that when they want some affection, they will not notice that you may be focused on something else. I was watching one of our barn cats this morning sitting on a feed pan I had just moved and flipped upside down after a show heifer was done eating. He was hyper-focused on something and I could not take his attention away (see picture).

When working with developing leaders I always talk about the effective leader is focused on self, others, and the wider world. The art of being self-aware and self-managing is about being centered. This enables us to notice our thoughts and feelings, label them, reappraise things that do not serve the situation and lead forward. This centered perspective is important so that understand our own values and how those values fit in the big picture. This also determines what lens we are looking through to bring context to situations. Perspective enables a leader to clearly assess the reality of today while also envisioning what is possible for tomorrow.

We also need an empathetic perspective that has the heart to understand others and identify those who might be struggling and provided compassion. Remember, empathy plus action equals compassion. We need to give people space and permission to take care of themselves. Particularly right now, everyone is in just a little different place dealing with the pandemic. We must remember that their reality is just that, their reality. Asking those we serve what they need and then truly being prepared to help them is crucial. Just thinking through priorities and plans for action can many times do the trick. We don’t have to tell people how to do their job, but syncing frequently on priorities and plans of actions can be very supportive.

How about you? Are you so focused, like a cat, that you may be missing opportunities to focus on those around you and the wider world?


Something To Build On

Posted in 9/11, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 28, 2020

“A record is never something to stand on, it’s something to build on…” ~ Richard Nixon in his first debate with John F. Kennedy on September 26, 1960. The two met in Chicago to discuss domestic issues in the first televised debate in history. American History TV did a great job of providing a look back at the first televised presidential debate. Interestingly there were no more debates until 1976. Dr. Barbara Perry, professor at University of Virginia’s Miller Center, did a great job discussing the highlights and answering questions.

Nixon’s statement that our records are something to build on really struck me. For each leader, the records are always a bit different. We must remember, however, that trust is an important piece of our record. People have unique strengths to leverage and vulnerabilities to address. We must not forget that our mistakes are a part of our records. We need to take responsibility for our mistakes. When we admit we’ve made a mistake, you don’t erode trust in your leadership, you strengthen it. When the people we lead see us stepping up and owning our mistakes, they know they can trust us to do the right thing in tough situations.

Nixon’s point was that we should never sit back and become comfortable with past successes; we must continue to build on those successes. It’s always beneficial to review our accomplishments to build on prior successes. The key is to recognize current successes and chart a course for future advancement.

Explicitly Rethinking Your Leadership

Posted in DTK, Global Education, Global Leadership, Leadership, Mindset Mondays by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 28, 2020

There are so many great pieces of information in today’s chapter in Mindset Mondays by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK). The lesson (#5) was entitled “Rethink Your Thinking.” I have a school leader I am mentoring for a client right now who I just had a conversation about this very topic with. In fact, I actually said, “You need to rethink how you are doing this to get it streamlined.” He was involving himself in every single thing that happened. Every single thing that is happening in the school has his fingerprints on it. Result: the rest of the team is not using their expertise to the fullest, and he is so bogged down, he can’t get it all done. As DTK pointed out, “Delegating the activities and tasks that drain energy frees you up for activities that fuel your growth, serve your clients [in this case the teachers and students], and deepen your impact.” We need to think about and recognize how the highest and best use of our time can be most powerfully spent.

This will be easy to solve for my men-tee. He already believes in distributed leadership and a flattened hierarchy, so all he needs to do is “declare explicitly” empowerment to others. Notice my terminology here: “declare explicitly.” I have found this to be a step that gets left out. Sometimes as leaders we need to make sure and make the implicit, explicit. In order to rethink his thinking and go down the much more improved and streamlined path, my men-tee must make sure the teachers know explicitly what needs to have his fingerprints on and what the teachers can just do. The teachers are at street-level working with our students and are in the best position to make many decisions and solve issues because this is where the data is created.

“What Might Have Beens” Are Risky

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, History, Leadership, Leadership Development, Robert M. Gates by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 28, 2020

A comment made by Robert Gates in his great book Exercise of Power: American Failures, and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War World really made me think. He said, “Addressing ‘what might have beens’ in history is risky.” I wrote it in my notes so I could think about it and blog about it. I believe we need to study history in a way that doesn’t force us into being judgmental outside of the context the history was made in.

Everyone needs to study history. The past is filled with warning signs. We must be able to reflect on the events that built up to them, learn from mistakes made and resist and question if we see similar patterns emerging. By studying history we can identify when society is going down perilous and contribute toward getting back on the right track. This should not include continuing to place blame on individuals who are, in many cases, not even alive any more. We need to think of how to learn from the past not think in terms of “what might have been.”

Additionally, history cannot be studied by learning isolated events without understanding the events, personalities, and events that molded the personalities involved leading up to historical events. One point I believe Gates was making was that there had been no perfect leader, and never will be. Therefore, we need to study the positives and negatives, uplifting and inspiring, and chaotic and immoral. There are lessons, both good and bad, to be learned from the way our ancestors have interacted with other people who have different ways of living. Understanding how our leaders, communities, and past societies have acted, reacted, and integrated is key to humanity improving in the future.

What Do You Expect?

Posted in #OwnYourOwnExpectations, Expectations, Global Leadership, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 27, 2020

Akio Morita, co-founder of Sony, expected that Sony would grow into the company it is today. Notice that I used the word “expected.” This thought of expecting something really jumped at me when reading Bargaining For Advantage: Negotiation Strategies For Reasonable People by G. Richard Shell. Morita’s childhood story is interesting and after being drafted into the Imperial Japanese Navy he would meet the man who would help him change the world of electronics, Masura Ibuka. Of his childhood, Morita said, When I was in high school my father bought me an electronic phonograph. The sound was fantastic. I was so impressed, I started to wonder how and why such sound came out. That’s when my interest in electronics began.” He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in physics from Osaka Imperial University.

Long story short, Morita and Ibuka invented a small transistor radio for Americans who loved taking music with them, but only had big bulky units to take to parks and beaches. Their first big breakthrough was an offer from Bulova to buy 10,000 of the transistor radios and sell under the Bulova brand. Morita had an expectation to sell under the Sony name and in a surprise move, turned the offer down. This same insight and empathy of customer needs led to the later development of the hugely successful Sony Walkman. Morita’s story shows us that it’s best to enter into negotiations with an optimistic expectation rather than a goal. The difference? A goal is a more abstract ambition, while an expectation is something that we think we can reasonably accomplish.

Morita had done his homework and showing great insight, realized that to sell effectively to the American market he needed to ‘get into the mind’ of the American people. He had to learn how they lived and more about how they ticked. Akio’s research and preparation made his expectations justifiable and legitimate. As I said at the beginning of this post, Akio Morita expected that Sony would grow into the company it is today.

In his book, Shell taught us that expectations give conviction to our statements. Believing that what we’re asking for is reasonable, given the facts at hand, is a powerful motivating force that makes us much more likely to succeed. Actually, I did a post back in 2012 entitled “Own Your Own Expectations.” In fact if you go to twitter and search the hashtag #OwnYourOwnExpectations you can check out some blasts from the past. And yes, I had #OwnYourOwnExpectations bracelets made. How about you? What do you expect?

Don’t Overlook The Brilliance Of Our Students

I’m still getting caught up on my reflection of the lessons from Kevin Eikenberry’s Virtual LeaderCon last week. This post is about Chip Bell’s response to my question about where education and the students we serve fall into the realm of the work he has put together in his latest book, Inside Your Customer’s Imagination: 5 Secrets For Creating Breakthrough Products, Services, and Solutions. The first thing he said was, “We must treat students like customers, not consumers.” There is brilliance in our students that so many times gets overlooked.

I asked Chip to go into a little more detail about treating students like customers and not consumers. To this he stated that we have board meetings and where are the students (I’m excited that many states have put students on their state boards of education – I’m still working on Indiana)? But, local school boards should think about student members in some capacity, too. He also asked us to think about where the student was when we were having planning meetings. Chip explained that everything we do should “have our customer’s fingerprints all over it.” He used the example of when we coach little league baseball we tell the kids to “be the ball.” We need to be telling our students to “be the customer.” And, then letting them be the customer. Chip believes our students should be partners along with our students’ families. He promotes student-staff partnership initiatives.

Chip Bell reminds us that customers can give us our best next idea. We should be asking the question, “What is something no-one else has ever thought of?” This discussion reminded me that the words “customer” and “consumers” are often interchangeably used and are easily confused with one another. While students are consumers and the ultimate user of the product, we need to treat them like customers – the person buying the product. We need to think of our students as a final customer– these are the customers who buy the product for their own need or desire. This kind of thinking will help us to better individualize education for every student.

We must innovate. Listening to our students will help us to do this. We can’t keep offering the same thing over and over and over again. We owe it to our students to be authentic. As Chip told us during Virtual LeaderCon, “Authenticity wins every time.”

Precisely What Students Need

Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend the morning at Heartland Career Center with the Mark Hobbs, Director; Lori Dubois, Precision Agriculture Specialist; and, most importantly, students of the new Precision Agriculture Program at Heartland Career Center. I say I was at Heartland Career Center, but actually the bulk of our time was spent 15 minutes from the school in the field.

We were out on McKillip AgVenture land learning about seed genetics and the start to finish process of their seed corn operation. Last week the students had sorted seed corn as it was being harvested. This is just one of many partnerships that has been formed so that students can get real world and relevant content for learning.

This all took me back to my days as an Agriculture Science Teacher and our partnerships with AgReliant Genetics and our students doing real research for the company in our school greenhouse alongside geneticists. As I always say, “School work must look like real work.” I talk about that a lot in my book, The Hand In The Back Of The Room.

I am passionate about this program and have had the opportunity to be part of many of the planning meetings, served as a champion, have helped remove obstacles along the way, and helped make connections where I could. One of the many things I love most about this program is that it was developed shoulder to shoulder with business and industry. The very businesses that will be hiring students from this program, helped design the program. Novel idea I know, but you’d be surprised how often this does not happen. Students are able to leave this two year program with an Unmanned Part 107 Drone Certification, Chemical Applicator License, and a Class A Commercial Drivers License (CDL).

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to experience drone flying first hand. In fact this was the very first time I had ever flown a drone. We’re not talking some toy drone, but a commercial drone like would be used in precision agriculture businesses. I was shocked at how quickly I was able to learn to fly the drone. The students did an incredible job of teaching me. Here are two videos of me piloting the drone:

This two year program of study prepares students for careers that bridge the gaps between agronomy, agriculture, machinery management, and data analytic sciences caused by the rapid evolution of high-speed sensor agricultural technology. This is all stuff that fascinated me. We even got into a discussion about artificial intelligence, which is an area I have been exploring with some of the work I have been doing with SMART Factory League, globally.

This program is truly making school work look like real work! Well done!

Salient Issues From The Field Of Personalized, Competency-Based Education

I had the opportunity to be a part of what I would call a silver lining of the COVID-19 Pandemic situation. Aurora Institute had to pivot to their annual symposium being virtual so took that opportunity to develop a virtual pre-symposium webinar series of over 20 webinars leading up to the Aurora Institute Virtual Symposium being held October 26-28, 2020. Click here to see past webinars and click here to see webinars yet to happen. The webinar series has been incredible and I had the opportunity to present with Lauren Bailey from the Middlebury School Corporation and Sarah Koontz of Horizon Education Alliance. I have had the opportunity to work a great deal with both of these great individuals when providing professional development on project-based learning for the school corporations in Elkhart County, Indiana and then when we (Noble Education Initiative) partnered with them on our free webinars last spring. Click here to read about this.

Yesterday, Lauren, Sarah, and I presented on Integrating Project-Based Learning in Online and Blended Courses in Indiana for the Aurora Institute Pre-Symposium Webinar Series. This was such an awesome experience and I have had so many participants reach out afterward wanting further information and wanting to stay in touch. I also love the fact that the Aurora Institute has made the recordings of these webinars open access. Its great that that these webinars are available for educators, education leaders, and policymakers for high quality learning.

For this post I am going to let our webinar recording and the quote banners that the Aurora Institute did do the talking. Here is our webinar:

Here are some quotes from the webinar:

Impossibility To Possibility Thinking

Posted in DTK, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Mindset Mondays by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 22, 2020

This week’s lesson in Mindset Mondays With DTK was entitled “Challenge What’s Impossible.” I loved David Taylor-Klaus‘ story of early in life deciding he would not become a father because he had come to believe in his high school Human Physiology and Anatomy class (with his favorite teacher, Mrs. Southworth, by the way) that there were just too many things that could go wrong in human development – it was just too high a risk. Bottom-line, he got past this “impossibility thinking” and has three healthy children who completely changed his life. David told us this is proof that the impossible is possible.

As I read this my mind went to how everyone, 192 days ago when the World Health Organization declared us in a Global Pandemic, went “owe my gosh, there is no way we will be able to read facial expressions, body language, or build relationships using virtual options for connecting. In the book The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives, author Shankar Vedantam taught us that when people lose the ability to read facial expressions, they also lose the ability to make quick, unconscious judgements about people and scenarios. Vedantam also discussed research from Rick van Baaran done in an Applebee’s in the Dutch town of Heerlen that showed a statistical significance in size of tip if the server repeated the order back exes actly as ordered. This research showed how people respond positively when they feel in sync with each other.

Well, let me tell you, believe we have made the impossible possible using virtual technology to connect. I’m not so sure I am not better and reading faces on Zoom than I was in person. In fact, I stopped a professional development I was doing to ask two participants if they were texting each other. They said “yes” and wanted to know how I knew that (it freaked them out a little). I explained that I was watching there expressions and could tell when one got the text from the other and smiled/laughed and then the other reacted to that reaction. It was not a problem that they were texting because actually they were talking about the content of the webinar, but I needed to see if my skills on reading people had improved that much. Additionally, I believe I am able to uses names (because they are attached to the video of the person on most all virtual connection platforms. So, while being in-person is still my preferred way to connect, at least for now, I, for one, and I know others who would agree, we can make the impossibility of building relationships, reading people, and getting in sync with each other using virtual technology to connect possible.

The lesson here: Way too often we quickly decide something is impossible and then live as if it is absolutely true. David Taylor-Klaus taught us in this fourth chapter that “Labeling something as ‘impossible’ is a close cousin to giving up all together” (p. 60). By believing we can make the seemingly impossible possible, we can create a completely different future for ourselves and those we serve.

Leading With Global Reach

Posted in Abundance, Co-Elevation, Global Leadership, Global Reach, Leadership, Movement Leader, Turf by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 20, 2020

This post continues my reflection on this past week’s Virtual LeaderCon put on by Kevin Eikenberry. We had the opportunity to learn from bestselling author and authority on leadership methodologies, Keith Ferrazzi. His great book Leading Without Authority is a must read. Right out of the gate Keith taught us that to reach abundance we must do three things as leaders and that by doing so we will achieve these three things in our organizational communities. Here they are:

  1. Serve
  2. Share
  3. Care

Leadership, according to Keith, is about the management of relationships. It’s about being committed to “going higher together.” It’s the proven methodology he calls Co-Elevation®️. It’s about getting rid of something I talk about a lot: turf. He described it as holding space for the team to cross the finish line and share the win together.

Keith certainly believes, as do I, that everyone is a leader, Recognizing we have made progress in education in the advancement of developing teacher leaders, I asked him how we could get this non-hierarchical thinking even more universally embedded in education. He told us we need to become movement leaders. Get small groups to discuss and work on issues like this. Then get others involved. This would allow us to become exponential leaders by co-creating together. I loved the idea of making our impact exponential.

This would allow for global reach. Think about what changes we could make in the world if we all committed to going higher together by being leaders who served, shared, and cared.