Byron's Babbles

Try Calling In

Posted in Civilized Disdain, Discourse, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 28, 2022

I was so happy to see “New” pop up on the television in the description for The Equalizer last night. I love the show. Delilah (Laya DeLeon Hayes), Robin McCall’s (Queen Latifah) daughter, had called out one of her school friends over a question of family heritage. In a discussion with Delilah, Viola “Vi” Marsette (Lorraine Toussaint) told Delilah that instead of calling her friend out, she should try calling her in. We really have become a call-out culture and taken conversations that should be opportunities to inquire and learn and turned them into mud slinging or even worse. Some are even referring to this as the “calling out culture.” It has become so easy to call-out others on social media, television media, YouTube, or other message boards. It is even curious to me how brazen people have gotten at calling others out in public.

To me, “calling in” would be would be the more loving way to have a difficult conversation. And, when we can, how about doing it in private and with respect? Calling in could take us from blame to contribution. As a participant in a leadership development gathering I facilitated this weekend pointed out, we need to listen to hear. Calling in helps us to do just that – hear. In most cases, calling someone out has become trivial, oriented toward turf protection, and despicable. This verbal “trashing” reminds me of what I believe the Ancient Greeks called an “ad hominem” attack. With this attack, the opponent attacks us personally, changes the subject, and uses “virtue signaling”. I blogged about virtue signaling in Leading Without “Virtue Signaling”. So, let’s call others in and make sure we are listening to hear and understand.

Getting Untwisted

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Self Awareness, Twister by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 27, 2022

This past week in a leadership development gathering I was reminded of a game that I had not heard mentioned or thought about for years – Twister. If your not familiar with this game that came out when I was three years old, basically you give a spinner a whirl and then have to put your hands and feet on different colored circles on a mat. Oh, and did I mention, there are multiple players on the same mat. The person who can keep from falling wins. It’s quite a contortionist game. Anyway, during a discussion of whether leading was like chess or checkers, one participant said, “Actually, a lot of days it’s like Twister.” Let the discussion begin!!!

You know I couldn’t leave that alone. I asked the participant to dig a little deeper. She explained how chaotic the game was, just like our lives at times (okay, all the time). Also, the game is a physical illustration of how we encounter twists and turns in life. Every day as leaders we are asked to make moves that are uncomfortable and many times it is hard to keep our balance (there’s a play on words). Because we were talking about focusing on self this really was a great metaphor. Think about all the thoughts that represent the spins: doubts, fears, struggles, insecurities, home vs work, and on and on. Then throw in the moves others are asking you to make. It can be overwhelming.

Much of this Twister deal we bring upon ourselves; or at least let be brought upon us. So, how do we get untwisted? This is where the focusing on self comes in. I’m a big believer in positive self talk. We need to show ourselves the grace and compassion we show others. Sharpening our skills for well-being is something focused leaders do. Also, we must not let others spin the dial. I am reminded of something I wrote in Don’t Join The Circus: “How many leaders have we seen lately that bend over backwards and in odd ways trying to be everything to everyone?” We can’t be effective if we are all twisted up. So let’s work on focusing on taking care of ourselves and making moves that make a difference for others, not just get us all twisted up.

The Best Minutes You Can Invest

I’m very passionate about the fact that we need to love employees, people, students, well…everyone. To do that means really making an investment. I’m not talking about a huge financial investment, but an investment of minutes for each of those we serve. “Sometimes the simplest acts – like paying attention, commenting on what people are doing, or having a friendly chat – can be the most meaningful” (p. 25). This statement in Simple Truth #8, “The Best Minute Servant Leaders Spend Is The One They Invest In People”, in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice by Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley really drove home the point of how best to love those we serve – spend our minutes making people feel special.

“Investing in people is about spending time focusing on them, not yourself.”

Ken Blanchard, Simple Truths of Leadership, p. 25

Beware! Don’t try and fake this, however. Those you serve will always see your fakeness (I know fakeness is not a word, but I like it here). If you ask how someone’s weekend was or what they need, be prepared to listen and provide support if needed. Let’s spend our minutes wisely. Let’s spend time focusing on others.

Exactly What We Aim For

As I write this post I am in a hotel room in Louisville, Kentucky sitting in the comfy chair while my son sits at the desk finishing an animal science class assignment. I’m in Heaven! I get to spend time with my boy. He drove over from Murray State University and I came from home to meet here for the weekend at the National Farm Machinery Show. He’s now a junior, but it’s still rough on me having him six hours from home. Before he left for college we did everything together. Now, when we get a weekend like this it is very special. I’m telling you all this to make the point that everything we do this weekend becomes part of the memory.

So, the experience matters! While in Louisville we are customers. And, as my friend Joseph Michelli would remind me, it is all about the customer experience. I try to find and read everything he writes because his insights help me grow personally and professionally. In a blog post entitled “It’s Not What You Value | Team Member and Customer Value” he wrote:

“…I believe that even greater customer value comes from moving from services to experiences (rather than from products to services).”

I love this idea of moving to experiences. I’ve always tried to make my gatherings (what most call workshops and professional development sessions) like a KISS concert – an experience. Tonight, my son and I had an experience! We went to Churchill Downs and ate at Matt Winn’s Steakhouse. To learn who Colonel Matt Winn was, click here.

Our experience started as soon as we parked at Churchill Downs. Actually, let’s back up. The experience started shortly after I made our reservation when I got an email explaining what gate to go in, where to park, and that someone would meet us to take us to the restaurant. Everything was exactly as outlined. We were picked up in a golf cart and driven through hallowed Churchill Downs to the red carpet. We walked through jockey statues painted in the silks of major race winners. Of course we stopped and took a selfie with the representative of the Kentucky Derby winner. Then it was up to the sixth floor. We were treated to tableside service and incredible food, all while overlooking the historic Churchill Downs Racetrack.

Then before the dessert cart we were asked if we would like to go out on the veranda and enjoy the view. So, we did! We actually stayed out there for an hour and visited with other exhibitors and attendees of the National Farm Machinery Show. After three hours and forty-six minutes we were finishing up our experience, umm, dinner. My son then made a profound comment to our server, “This is so much more than what I anticipated!” And our incredible server replied with the comment that affirms all of Joseph Michelli’s teaching, “That’s exactly what we aim for.” Giving people more than they anticipate. That’s a huge part of the customer experience.

Here’s the deal, the food (product) was incredible. In fact, after the deviled egg appetizer my son said he would never eat another because no deviled egg could ever compare again. The physical atmosphere was awesome. Those to me were the easy things. It was the people that made the experience. We knew our server so well by the end of our experience that we wanted our picture taken with her. She and all the other incredible people made the experience more than what we anticipated. Matt Winn’s will become an annual tradition for us. It’s an experience my son and I will not forget and a memory we will always cherish. This was a perfect reminder of just how important the experience we give others is.

Side By Side Leadership

I’m glad I hadn’t written this post reflecting on Simple Truth #7, “When People Are Off Track, Don’t Reprimand Them – Redirect Them”, in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice by Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley before a leadership development gathering I facilitated last night because a conversation added value to the book content. We discussed how important it is to show grace, have empathy, and practice compassion. One leader asked, “What happens when the person you are showing grace to just isn’t getting the job done?” A great discussion ensued. Many even shared their stories of being on both sides of that question. Long story short, where we landed was that there has to be grace with accountability. If we really love those we serve this is the right thing to do. So, for example, if a person has had some change that causes him to be a little late to work, then there can be the accountability of, “what’s our goal of when we can get back to being on time?” Or, even better, could there be some adjustment made for that person to work later in the day that would help out someone needing to leave earlier? This is what loving those we serve is all about. We say it can’t be one size fits all for students, why does it have to be one size fits all for adults? I don’t think it does.

This all caused me to reflect even more on what Blanchard called “side-by-side leadership.” He stressed that we are almost always in learning mode and “Punishing a learner is never appropriate…” (p. 23). Ever had that boss that liked to reprimand? You know, the one you only heard from when we made a mistake – in today’s world usually in the form of a text or email. Not real helpful, right? Blanchard said, and I believe this goes right along with our grace with accountability discussion last night that, “When people are clear on the goal and still learning but their performance isn’t up to standard, redirection is far more effective than a reprimand. The aim is to BUILD (emphasis added by me) people up so they will continue to move toward improved performance” (p. 23). So, let’s all get side-by-side with those we serve and build, build, build!

Reverse Mentorships Revisited

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Mentor, Reverse Mentoring by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 15, 2022

I’m not sure where I would be without the incredible mentoring I have had over the years from students, yes you heard me right, and those younger and less experienced than me. I was reminded of this during a discussion where a teacher with 20 years experience was thanking a second year teacher for all she had learned from him. This mentoring extended far beyond the typical reverse mentoring of sharing knowledge about technology. The mentoring that was discussed in this conversation was about mentor on various topics of teaching strategies and cultural relevance.

Cara Dune: Take care of this little one.

Greef Karga: Or maybe, it’ll take care of you.

From The Mandalorian – Season 1 Episode 8: ‘Chapter 8: ‘Redemption’ (1×08) | Produced by Lucasfilm

The cool part about this organic mentoring relationship was that is was not a one way street. There were opportunities to exchange ideas, and even inspire one another. The beauty is that we know there are skills gaps on both sides, and that each person can address their weaknesses with the help of the other’s strengths. What’s interesting about these reverse mentorships beyond the incredible exchange of skills, knowledge, and understanding, there are great relationships and friendships created. Check out my very first blog about this in Reverse Mentoring. Bridging generational and hierarchical gaps to improve communication are important things that can happen. So, if you want to foster a more inclusive culture that values the contributions of all employees, and increase engagement and collaboration multiple generations, encourage more reverse mentorships.

Overrated Advice

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Education, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 13, 2022

It’s one thing to give advice to someone else, dispensing thoughtful words of wisdom. But have you ever noticed that when you try applying those same suggestions to your own life and it often falls apart. I was reminded of this when I heard someone yesterday say, “Taking your own advice is highly overrated.” Really it is all about vantage point. It’s much easier to identify the most rational option, on the other hand, when you’ve got an outsider’s vantage point. From your own perspective it is hard to be your own coach because you’re too close to your own problems, and so your emotions are more likely to cloud your judgement.

It’s not easy to step outside of our minds and see ourselves objectively. To see our own abilities and to know that we’re just as strong as anyone else out there. When we don’t take our own advice and encouragement, however, we become a hypocrite. In as much as we look to others to set an example, they also look at us to do the same for them. Let’s also not forget that on some issues we have a tendency to prefer their own opinions, irrespective of their merit, and the fact that careful listening is hard, time-consuming work. Maybe the best example we can set is to always seek sound coaching, counsel, and advice from others.

Teams Gather

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 11, 2022

Lately they’ve been playing episodes of The Closer on television. In the show, Brenda Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) moved to Los Angeles from Atlanta to head up a squad that handled sensitive, high-profile homicides. She had an interesting personality and clashed with some colleagues, but her skills as a CIA-trained interrogator prove invaluable in obtaining confessions. The real key to the squad’s success, however, is the team. Interestingly, I’ve been doing some training on teams this week. Things like team makeup, improving teamwork, building a better team, and leading teams.

Brenda’s team of six is an interesting blend. They all have unique strengths and personalities – the perfect way to make a team. The other thing I think is cool is how when the team is out in the field or in the office and someone speaks up about something they’ve found, everyone gets up and gathers around. At that point everyone is offering ideas and asking questions. It’s a pretty amazing thing to watch that happen on the show. Brenda was fantastic at utilizing the strengths of the team. My only criticism would be that the show never showed there being any development of the team. Utilizing strengths are important but we don’t want to let our teams get stale or stagnant by failing to create opportunities for them to learn new, different things. So, let’s gather around.

Aggressively Doing Nothing

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 9, 2022

There has been a lot written about “doing nothing” in lots of different contexts. There are those times on a Sunday afternoon when you just want to do nothing. There are those times where you can’t decide, so you do nothing (which some would say is doing something). The problem is we usually associate doing nothing with irresponsibility. In the novel Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir I was reminded that doing nothing and reflecting can be important to solving problems. When Dr. Ryland Grace is recovering from amnesia he stops every so often and reflects back on things from the past when something in the present jogs his memory. At one point in the novel he says, “I’m doing something by aggressively doing nothing.” This really got me thinking about what it would be to aggressively do nothing.

Research tells us that when we allow ourselves periods of uninterrupted, freely associated thought then personal growth, insight and creativity are more likely to emerge. This can be critical for us to seek the unfamiliar. Our subconscious kicks in and we become more creative. This can help us to solve problems we are facing. It might feel weird to do nothing, but might just be a way of investing in our own well-being. Hyper-busyness seems to be equated to success, but do we give up our ability to be significant (the difference we make), or really make a difference? Now I am not suggesting we all start aggressively doing nothing all the time or quit making decisions, but am suggesting we can use it as a tool to recharge or take a step back to get another perspective.

The Beginning

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 8, 2022

My dad used to always tell me, “Nothing ever ends, it’s always the beginning of something else.” I’m not sure what has caused me to think about this, but as with most everything he said, he was right. The end of one thing leads to the beginning of another. Think about it: the beginning of a new thing comes from the completion of the prior thing. In fact, many find it hard to start something new until they have finished with something else first.

I believe my dad wanted me to look at life from a little different point of view. Maybe a little more circular instead of the linear perspective we normally take. His point was that life changes, things begin, then eventually end. So, we can celebrate an ending, continue to dwell on it, agonize over it, or we can ask ourself what new beginning awaits us?