Byron's Babbles

Restoring Hope

Posted in Global Leadership, Indianapolis 500, Indy 500, Leadership, Leadership Development, Memorial Day by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on May 31, 2021

As kid that grew up in central Indiana and lived here all my life, it has not been until recent years that I’ve been able to watch the Indianapolis 500 live on television. As soon as the race started coverage went off. We could watch it replayed in the evening on the day of the race, but I never understood the thrill of that because I already knew who had won. But, for me, the Indy 500 has always marked the celebration of Memorial Day. The 500 has always done an incredible job of honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the ceremonies prior to the race – these we have always been able to watch. Yesterday’s ceremonies were incredible and extended the honoring to our first responders, health care workers, and others who have worked so hard to keep us safe during the global pandemic. Yesterday, as I watched, I reflected on how we talk a lot about how the earth is shrinking and we are becoming a global society, and this is true, I believe, if you study history, we’ve always been very global minded. Communication has made it possible for easier global collaboration. Much of our sacrifice has been for not only protecting our own freedoms, but the freedoms of others around the world.

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

James A. Garfield (1831–81), May 30, 1868 Arlington National Cemetery

While honoring those who made the supreme sacrifice for our country, we need to remember they made this supreme act in order for our country and the world to be a better place. Decoration Day, as it was called in the beginning, honored those who sacrificed and died in service to our country. Then, the day became widely observed on May 30, 1868 honoring the service of those who did in the American Civil War. General John A. Logan proclaimed the day to commemorate our fallen. James A. Garfield, who was a former Union General, Ohio Congressman, and future (20th) President of the United States addressed 5,000 people at Arlington National Cemetery. In 1873, New York became the first state to designate Memorial Day as a legal holiday. Then, in 1971, when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, Memorial Day was set on the last Monday of May.

We memorialize in order to preserve memories, events or people, and this allows us to remember and honor loved ones. This weekend and today on Memorial Day, we memorialize in many forms—ranging from ceremonies to gatherings to physical pieces of remembrance. On this Memorial day we need to be thinking about recovery and new life, especially in support of the service members who survived the atrocities of war but suffered from physical and psychological injuries long after it ended. It is my hope and prayer that we use this Memorial Day to re-center our thoughts to focus on all the freedoms “to” and “of” that the sacrifices we honor today were for. While some peace comes only with time, and the years blur and obliterate some the animosities that led to the horrific violence of our past, we must never forget. Additionally, we need to study our past and learn from what happened, the shortcomings and mistakes of former leaders, and continue to grow as a people who understand that our actions affect every other person in the world. Let us also use this Memorial Day as a call to restore hope in the midst of some of our most dire circumstances.


Developing Leadership

Yesterday, on Day 443 of the Global Pandemic, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to do a live-stream discussion with Joseph Michelli, Ph.D. of The Michelli Experience. You can watch the video here in this post. I have literally read every one of Joseph’s books. His work has had a huge impact on me as a leader and an educator. I think back to how much The Zappos Experience, Leading The Starbucks Experience, The Starbucks Experience, and When Fish Fly impacted how I led while principal of a state takeover academy. The experience that we provided for our students, families, and teachers was directly impacted by that learning. This is actually what I call intersectional learning. The learning that takes place between different contexts, industries, cultures, or experiences. Neither Zappos, Starbucks, nor the Pikes Place Fish Market are in the business of K-12 education, but there is much to be learned from how they do business and the customer experience they provide. After the books I had be be in Seattle, Washington and I made sure I spent a day of the trip experiencing the original Starbucks and the Pikes Place Fish Market. My son, Heath, even had the experience of catching one of the flying fish (on the second try – and I have the video to prove it).

It was great to reflect on this today during my conversation with Joseph. He is truly living out his Legacy Statement: “I want to be remembered as someone who captured what was right in the world and shared it for the betterment of others.” All that he has so eloquently shared in well researched and documented ways over the years has made me a better person and enabled me to serve others in a much more effective and authentic way. Joseph has suggested that we should all create legacy statements. Here is mine: “Hopefully I’ll be remembered as a thoughtful leader who showed love for those I served by providing growth and development.” If you want to know more about this, read Where Were You Era.

In the couple of days leading up to this live-stream discussion I pulled blogs that I had done about Joseph and his work (there were many) and took some notes of things I wanted to have brought out in the discussion. Amazingly, many of these were things he asked about or wanted to discuss as well. That was pretty cool and felt very organic and authentic given that we had not talked or prepped anything together prior to the event. I loved what he pulled from my book, The Hand In The Back Of The Room: Connecting School Work To Real Life, “Education exists in the larger context of society. When society changes – so too must education if it is to remain viable.” This was from Part I: Why A Relevant and Real World Context Matters. In one of Joseph’s “Resilience ReCaps” in his latest book Stronger Through Adversity, he says, “Leadership action, in and out of a crisis, can be viewed as operating on three levels – generalized, customized, or personalized.” I believe you could switch out “education” for “leadership” and this statement remains very true. To be effective for our students we must be spending a great deal of time in customized and personalized. That’s where the learning becomes exciting and engaging for both the student and the teacher.

Joseph also taught us in Stronger Through Adversity that, “Love is a passionate approach to work and heartfelt care for the growth and development of those you serve” (p. 265). He said this after quoting Joe Duran, CEO and Founder of Personal Financial Management at Goldman Sachs, who said, “I hope people will say love was the driving force for everything we did. Ideally, they would feel we loved our people and our clients. They would sense that we loved waking up each morning to serve them” (p. 265) Love is something very powerful that we should be exercising with those we serve. Love makes it personal, and when something becomes personal it becomes important.

Let Them Go Through Their Paces

Posted in Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, MASH by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on May 28, 2021

I had a lot of great things going on and a very busy day yesterday. I’ve already started blog posts about a couple of things that happened so stay tuned for those. But, after getting in from the barn late last evening I sat down and flipped on the television to an episode of MASH. It was the 148th episode and was the premiere episode of season 7. Named Commander Pierce, this episode had Hawkeye Pierce temporarily put in charge by Colonel Potter, who had to leave the 4077th for a meeting in Seoul for a few days. The weight of the responsibility took its toll on Pierce. He changed, like many leaders unfortunately do; becoming up-tight and authoritarian. Hawkeye became controlling and didn’t want anyone doing anything without asking his permission first. A recipe for disaster.

When Colonel Potter returned he sensed the tension with his keen situational awareness, grabbed a bottle of whiskey, and headed to the Swamp. Once there, he proceeded to pour drinks for Hawkeye and B.J., who immediately started arguing. Potter watched all this, and then stepped in and scolded Hawkeye for overreacting to all the things going on. Colonel Potter explained, “Pull the reins too tight and the horse’ll buck. You had good people under you. You should’ve let ’em go through their paces.” Pretty good leadership advice. After saying this he took another drink and said, “This is pretty good. Someone should be writing this down. To my golden tongue!” Great team members want to guide their own actions. Colonel Potter was pointing this out.

The 4077th MASH had the framework that was needed for everyone to guide their own actions. This enabled them to do their part in accomplishing the stated shared objectives. Colonel Potter knew he needed leaders who could take the vision of caring for wounded and translating it into the day-to-day work for the organization. What tension do you have on the reigns?

Fear Is A Villain

Posted in DTK, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Mindset Mondays by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on May 25, 2021

Fear is such an interesting thing. We all experience it. It is one of our most basic emotions. The job of fear is to keep us safe and out of danger. But, fear can get in our way. Sometimes fear tells us that it is not safe to proceed when in fact, it might be wise to proceed. Therefore, fear can become an obstacle to living the life we want to live. Fear as an obstacle was the main focus of Chapter 39, “Now Hear This” in Mindset Mondays with DTK by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK). As I read the chapter I reflected on how, culturally, we hate fear. We have made fear into the enemy. Because fear is such a villain in our minds, we then have to slay the villain to get past the fear to do what scares us.

“Listen to what you know instead of what you fear.”

Richard Bach

DTK reminded us, in the face of fear, to make sure and consider what we know – what are the facts. By doing so we are able to truly listen to our inner self and create change. DTK also taught us we can find a great deal of energy and momentum available when we stick with what we know. Paying attention to fear only sucks that energy and momentum away. So, here’s my takeaway. We need to stop empowering fear to change or occupy our minds. We must control the writing of the narrative that is our story.

Go! Learn Things!

Dwayne Cassius “King” Pride (Scott Bakula) knows how to keep the town safe on NCIS:_New_Orleans. Last night I watched the series finale of the great show and it ended with Pride telling his team “Go! Learn Things!” after they got the call to a new case while all at his wedding. This was such a great character tag line that he always told the team throughout the series. I always loved it when he said it, and loved the way he said it – with such conviction. And, the team always reacted with, “You got it!” What a great leadership mantra. Pursuing new knowledge always generates excitement and new possibilities. When solving a case, Pride encouraged team members to provide their insights. When the team feels like they can openly bring new ideas to the table, true innovation, engagement and success can prevail.

Most leaders spend a great deal of time “telling“ others what they know or think. It’s refreshing to imagine a leader who wants the team learning things – and tells them so. The trick to good leadership is making time for the hard work that continual learning requires. By telling the team to go and learn things, he was encouraging freedom and creativity. Great leaders are open to new ideas and alternative ways of thinking. Everyone brings a unique perspective to the table, and that is something to take advantage of, not discourage. How about you? Are you creating an environment for learning things?

Collaborate Instead of Coercing

The face of a man, David Marquet, who believes we need to get rid of the old definition of leadership.

During my morning study time today I finished reading the great book Into The Raging Sea: Thirty Three Mariners, One Megastorm, And The Sinking of El Faro by Rachel Slade. Because of my belief that everyone is a leader, everyone needs to read this book. Slade did an amazing job of chronicling the October 1, 2015 loss of the 790 ft U.S. Flagged container ship El Faro in Hurricane Joaquin. The 33 on board all lost their lives and the loss sent shock-waves through the marine industry. I don’t want to spoil the inspiration of reading the book, but Slade explains in detail what happened plus a great many other details and history of the merchant marine industry. Her research included the many conversations on the bridge from the last 26 hours prior to the sinking of the El Faro from the NTSB Voice Data Recorder (VDR) transcripts. Those conversations on the bridge illuminate what went on in the last hours. Slade described in detail how the recovery of the VDR from the 15,000′ ocean floor of water was a major accomplishment.

So why should every leader read this book? The ship’s master, Captain Davidson, had a lot of experience but was known for not listening to the officers and crew. Never forget, it is important for leaders to listen more than they talk. In the transcripts of conversations on the ship’s bridge the officers seemed afraid or, at the very least, reluctant to challenge the route of the captain and a glaring lack of a culture for obtaining important feedback from the officers and crew. The captain had clearly not cultivated a culture that the officers felt safe to give feedback on any items they were concerned about. The transcripts showed that the officers had opinions on safer routes to take, but were never able or comfortable enough to communicate these in a way to make them so. Thus, the ship sailed right into the eye of the hurricane and its ultimate fate. Please note that I have way over simplified this story, but you need to read the book.

As I read Slade’s great book I was reminded of my friend and mentor David Marquet’s great leadership acumen and his incredible book, Leadership Is Language. In his book, Marquet uses the sinking of the El Faro as an example of leadership gone bad. David taught us that outdated top-down language from the Industrial Age playbook of leadership probably played into the terrible tragedy of the El Faro. This is another book every leader must read. Without spoiling all the content let me just say that Marquet argued that once we commit to a small step, we humans can’t help ourselves but to continue to commit in that decision. It’s just the way our brain works. We become stubborn and stick to it, even in the face of evidence that the course of action is failing. He taught us to build in pause and reflect stops. Think about it. If the crew had felt safe in a culture designed as a safe place to speak up, the alternative safer routes would have probably been chosen. Leaders must collaborate instead of coercing.

Finally, when we, as leaders, can admit we don’t know, we allow the team to admit that they don’t know. It also allows a team member to admit they DO know. Leaders must be looking for and encouraging divergent thinking. Remember, trust must be a verb before it can be a noun. I just blogged about this in Trust Is A Verb. Are you trusting your team and encouraging curiosity from everyone? To use one of David’s questions, “How can we make it better?” I had the opportunity this past week to be with David on a webinar with teachers from Canada and was reminded how important it is to move from the old definition of leadership that involves directing the thoughts, plans, and actions of others (see featured picture) to what he describes as “embedding the capacity for greatness in the people and practices of an organization, and decoupling it from the personality of the leader.” Lets get to decoupling.

Recipes For Success

Obviously, no matter what you do, there is never a guarantee for success. We just use recipes and practices to increase our chances of success. Basically, we follow “recipes for success.” In other words, a number of good practices that we have either discovered for ourselves through trial and error, or others. All this popped into my mind as I read Chapter 38, “Own Your Mistakes,” in Mindset Mondays with DTK by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK). DTK taught us in the book the we need to own up to our mistakes or our credibility is undermined. By owning up to and hopefully learning from our mistakes, we become trustworthy and human.

As a believer in having a growth mindset, I began to think about the difference between a mistake and failure. In doing some research I found that the difference is in the learning, which to me is a big part of the “owning up to it” advice of DTK. Then I turned to Seth Godin who said, “A mistake is either a failure repeated, doing something for the second time when you should have known better, or a misguided attempt (because of carelessness, selfishness or hubris) that hindsight reminds you is worth avoiding” in The Difference Between A Failure and A Mistake. He went on to say, “A failure is a project that doesn’t work, an initiative that teaches you something at the same time the outcome doesn’t move you directly closer to your goal.” Guilty as charged. Using Godin’s definition, I’ve made lots of mistakes and failures.

We all make mistakes. Do not forget that mistakes are behaviors, just like experiments. We must clean up after them and own them. Failures are outcomes and all about the learning. Don’t make the mistake (pun intended) of not learning from our actions.

It Is All About Infuence

Yesterday, at a leadership gathering I facilitated in North Carolina, a participant asked a very astute question following an activity using examples of great leaders who had greatly impacted/influenced them. She asked, “Does having influence automatically make someone a leader?” She went on to ask, “Is having an influence on someone automatically make you a leader?” I loved these questions and literally stepped back and let the group take over. The discussion made me so proud, because they were using language we have been discussing together for five months now.

Since everyone is a leader, leadership is everybody’s business and you don’t need a title to be a leader. Everyone has the potential to lead and influence. Influence is the most important part of leadership. If someone has influence it means they can get things done. Organizations that value everyone as leaders and believe every person plays a vital role in moving processes forward, have individuals who influence the behavior of others at every level of the organization due to their leadership behaviors. It may be that someone who volunteers to lead projects or that everyone goes to when they have questions. In many cases these were the people some had brought forward as the great leaders who had influenced them. But, the group did conclude that just because you have influence doesn’t mean you’re a good leader.

“Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”

~ John C. Maxwell

Great leaders move themselves and others from a language of prove and perform to improve and learn. To influence others is what being a leaders is all about, but a leader also has to let herself be influenced by others if she is to become a great one. This can be done, for instance, by listening and becoming a student of organizational design and everyone in an organization. The best leaders I know are very good at knowing how to shut up so others can speak up.

Because I shut up and literally sat down and let the group discuss, they discussed things like influence being a person’s ability to shape people and mold outcomes. They also pointed out that influence is morally neutral (can be used for good or evil), but it always involves both relationships and results. So is influence just a fancy term for leadership? I believe the group decided, no. We often put the two together, but they are two separate entities.

Because everyone is a leader, you can lead without influencing. This does not put us at odds with John Maxwell, who said, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less,” however, because the group affirmed you can’t be a great leader without influencing.

Integrity Is A Catalyst

Posted in Global Education, Global Leadership, Integrity, Leadership, Leadership Development, Walk The Talk by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on May 15, 2021

If culture and community are a shared group phenomenon, then our behaviors are the catalyst for the formation of a healthy and highly functioning community. Topping the list of these behaviors has to be integrity. I like looking at integrity as a behavior, not just as a word. I’ve been frustrated lately with leaders who “talk the walk” instead of “walking the talk.” Don’t tell me about your integrity, show me. I guess I’m not alone in believing this is an issue because Mike Horne wrote a great book on the subject that I just finished, Intregrity By Design: Working and Living Authentically.

In the book, Mike told us, “The effect of our behavior in groups and teams is cumulative—it all adds up in our working effectiveness” (p. 37). Thus, the shared group phenomenon I spoke of earlier. People are looking for men and women of integrity who would be able to influence their lives positively. With integrity, we are able to interact with all echelons of society and our own communities we are a part of, including our organizations and teams. This becomes a catalyst because people would undoubtedly prefer to deliberate or associate with trustworthy individuals.

Mike so aptly reminded us that, “In the course of organizational life, leaders emerge in teams and groups. Organizations and groups offer daily opportunities for lead- ers to stand up for integrity-full behavior” (p. 37). It is important to remember that a leader’s behavior reflects on not only their own reputation, but also on the reputation of the organization. It is difficult to have faith in a leader who says one thing but does another: a leader’s words and actions should match.

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”

~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

It has been a while and a lot has changed since President Eisenhower led during war and then in the White House. But this gap in time has not diminished the importance of integrity as a leadership trait. Eisenhower was great at modeling integrity. “Leaders look for teachable moments and moments of truth to develop individual and group integrity” (Horne, p. 38). How about you? Are you making a strong impression?

You Be You & I’ll Be Me

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on May 13, 2021

“The best thing you can be is you and the best thing I can be is me.” I loved this statement by Hank Voight (Jason Beghe) in an episode of Chicago PD. to Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda). A great reminder. We live in a constantly developing society so it’s important for us to always be ourselves from the inside out. Let’s face it, there can be a lot of pressure from the outside world to try and influence who we are.

Therefore, we must be who we are. That allows us to live in alignment with our values and beliefs. When we know our values and why we do what we do, we will live according to our own values and beliefs. It takes a lot of courage, strength, and awareness to become the person you were meant to be.