Byron's Babbles

King For A Day!

IMG_2544Those that know me well, know that something I love to do during meetings or interacting with others is to declare a participant(s) “King For A Day.” I love to do this because by saying, “If you were king for a day, what would you do?” I have fully empowered that person to tell me what she or he is thinking. Furthermore, I am going to get to hear one person’s creative ideas given in a way that also involves implementation. Some people kid me and say I am wanting to change our democracy to a monarchy; not at all. What I am really doing is giving a voice to those who have knowledge and skills in the area being discussed. Many times I will make multiple people “King For A Day.” Let me tell you, it is fun to do ad provides a very safe place to lay out plans and ideas.

Sometimes, when I have have ideas I will say, “If I could be king for a day…” People laugh, and it has become a trademark of mine during meetings, but it is a great chance and way to throw out an idea(s) for critical review. I truly want the criticism and critical review. I honestly want to understand why my idea might or might not work, or better yet, what might make it a great idea. I have some that even kid me and call me the “Emperor,” when I walk in the room,

Really, by making individuals “King For A Day” I am creating a very democratic environment. My reformist idol, Martin Luther, would be proud of me because I am actually giving others and all a voice. And…I am letting whoever is designated as “king” to fully develop and lay out an idea/plan. More importantly, this gives individuals the opportunity to oppose ideas that have been proposed. We need to give those in our gathered communities the opportunity to emphasize contrary and less popular opinions.

img_1749-4In Lesson #24, entitled “Assign Someone To Play The Fool” of the book, 52 Leadership Gems: Practical and Quick Insights For Leading Others by John Parker Stewart, I learned that it is also valuable to assign someone the role of being “the fool.” In the European middle ages the only person that could criticize the king was the “Court Jester,” or also called “The Fool.” In the King’s court, the Jester/Fool played the important role of providing the king with valuable insight. Opposing ideas are essential for innovation and wise decisions. We need to make sure we are creating environments where voices are openly heard from all sides. In other words allowing some “foolish” behavior.

I am going to start allowing someone to be the “Fool,” or maybe I better position it as “Court Jester,” for a day as well as assigning “Kings For A Day.” How about you? Do you rely on others for input? Do you express your views? Are you willing to let someone. be “King” or “Jester/Fool” for a day?

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Leading Without Surprises

In Gem #18 entitled, “No One Likes Surprises” in 52 Leadership Gems: Practical and Quick Insights For Leading Others by John Parker Stewart I was reminded that there are three types of news:

  1. Good news
  2. Bad news
  3. No news

Stewart told us that people love good news the most and hate no news. With this I was reminded that no one likes to be surprised unless it is a party, an award, or a call/visit from someone special we haven’t seen for a while.

We need to be reminded of this every so often (probably often). I just had a situation where I did this. It wasn’t really good or bad news (it was a good thing that I was going to be doing) but it was something I needed to discuss with those above me. I had just got busy and had not had the conversation. I was in the wrong here, make no mistake. Let me tell you, I took responsibility and apologized. By the way, it worked out ok because I work with great leaders who understand when you take responsibility for your own actions. It is best to report news at at the first point at which we know it.

“Diplomacy and timing are important; but whenever possible, avoid delaying the sharing of news (however bad) with your boss, your team, or your customers.” ~ John Parker Stewart

Now I know some of you are saying, “yes but sometimes news needs to be timed right.” I get that, but not providing news gives others the opportunity to write the narrative. My experience has been, when we allow someone else to tell and set the narrative of our news it usually is not reported correctly. Can you remember a time when this happened to you?

So, let’s all remember, we really don’t like surprises and report information and news we have whether it’s good or bad.

Improving To Great

In Gem #17 entitled, “Good IsThe Enemy Of Great” in 52 Leadership Gems: Practical and Quick Insights For Leading Others by John Parker Stewart we are reminded that we need to adopt a culture where every aspect of the organization can be improved. “Good is the enemy of great” are the opening words of “Good to Great,” the best-selling iconic book by preeminent leadership and management thought leader Jim Collins.

In order to do this we must surround ourselves with the right people. Collins taught us to have the right people in the right seats on the bus.

Additionally, we need to remember that the journey to great is just that, a journey. This journey should not end. Once you think you are great, you have nowhere to go but down. Very few organizations ever achieve greatness, even though at times leaders and those who they lead may use that term to describe their organizations.

Many times we are blinded by the facts. We get lulled into thinking everything is going great. We must be open to looking at all the brutal facts about our organizations. Let’s take a moment and think about our leadership style and the culture of our organizations. Should any changes be made?

We Try Harder!

In 1963 Avis came out with an add that rocked the advertising world. The CEO at the time, Robert Townsend, was running a struggling brand. Hertz was number one in the rental car space and Avis was way behind in number two. To help, Townsend brought in the hottest advertising agency of the time – DDB. The agency took the job on one condition: Townsend agreed to run whatever campaign they suggested no questions asked. With this creative freedom, copywriter Paula Green created the new tagline, the brand ran it and it helped turn the brand around – “We’re #2, and we try harder.”

There are several lessons in this story from Avis I was reminded of in Gem #16 entitled, “Beware The #1 Syndrome” in 52 Leadership Gems: Practical and Quick Insights For Leading Others by John Parker Stewart . Stewart reminded us it is hard to stay on top as number one in both business and athletics. It’s not only hard to become number one, but even tougher to stay there. Everyone is gunning for you, and the tendency to get complacent is overwhelming. Therefore, Stewart contends we need to take the Avis approach and consider ourselves or organizations number two and always keep trying harder. If we always work like we are number two, we will probably remain number one. Do you try harder?

Owning It

One of the most important responsibilities of great leaders is to continually grow team members into owners, and at the same time convert “renters to owners by engaging and developing them to realize their potential and purpose. Gallup (2017) research tells us one of the most important things employees want is to have the opportunity to make a difference and grow professionally where they work. Taking ownership is an important part of this engagement.

By ownership I don’t necessarily mean monetarily owning. The owner mentality is one of commitment, individually and collectively, to a shared purpose. The metaphor of “renter” vs. “owner” was used in Gem #15 entitled, “Ownership Or Rentership” in 52 Leadership Gems: Practical and Quick Insights For Leading Others by John Parker Stewart . Stewart talked about the difference in the way we care for a rented house versus one we own. I think of the metaphor of a rental car versus the one I own. What’s the saying? “Nothing parties like a rental!”

We will know we have developed owners if they are always looking for ways to make the workplace increase in value. Owners are also always looking for others who can help increase the value of the workplace. Are you developing owners or renters?

The Anatomy Of An Idea

Leaders speak last. I really believe in this and try to practice it. When you’re the last to speak, you empower those you lead to voice their opinions and ideas without you butting in. You also become smarter as a leader, since you get to hear all your employees’ thoughts and suggestions. I was reminded of how much I believe in this while reading Gem #14 entitled, “In The Decision Making Process, Voice Your Opinion Last” in 52 Leadership Gems: Practical and Quick Insights For Leading Others by John Parker Stewart . If we are always giving the answer first, sooner or later, your discouraged team members will stop sharing any ideas, and that kills communication in your organization.

Also, watch how you ask questions and make comments. Again, speak last. Watch comments like the following:

• “Here’s the problem, here’s what I think… What do you think?”

• “Before you go into that, let me just say one thing first…”

• “I understand where you’re coming from, but I think…”

Furthermore, pay attention to your nonverbal clues. Avoid giving away any verbal or non-verbal cues, like shaking or nodding your head, or gesturing with your hands. Make no mistake, I am not saying I’m good this, but I work really hard at speaking last.

So, next time you have decisions to make, speak last. I guarantee you will see how the quality and creativity of the discussion will improve exponentially.

Leaders Never Fully Ripen

IMG_2177Gem #11 entitled, “When You’re Green You Grow. When You’re Ripe You Rot” in 52 Leadership Gems: Practical and Quick Insights For Leading Others by John Parker Stewart reminded us that when we quit learning and growing we become like an over-ripe apple and rot. This is an interesting topic because we do not want to just continue to be a green apple that has not ripened in certain areas and is not good for anything, but we do not want to ever take the attitude we have arrived – or ripened, so to speak – and we have nothing else to learn. I believe we need to look at this in terms of having “green apple” traits and “ripe apple” traits. We will always have those things, “green apple traits,” that we need to work on, grow and mature in, and develop. In other words we need to be participating in our own personal and professional growth to ripen. What we do not want to do is just be content to fully ripen where we are. Personally, I do not ever want to quit learning, or arrive.

“Look for ways to improve any aspect of  your capabilities and skills. Stay fresh and green. Like good fresh apples, you will be in high demand.”  ~ John Parker Stewart

img_1749How sad is it that I have literally heard people say, “I have many years experience and am old enough that I don’t need to participate in professional development activities”? I guess these people think time is standing still, but really they are becoming over-ripe rotten apples. Being a leader means being willing to continually grow and develop. If we don’t want to become over-ripe we must develop our insights about ourselves and our areas for growth.

Empowering To Pull Together

This past week during our 3D Leadership gatherings a theme kept coming out about empowerment and having everyone pulling together. We talked about this and that empowerment does not just mean making sure everyone is doing something. So many times we, as leaders, fall into the trap of getting wrapped up in our own things and we forget that true empowerment means making sure everyone understands the vision, is pulling in the same direction, and have had the skills developed to do the right things and do things right. There must be a common language and a common approach, which helps to communicate the goals and objectives and create a winning culture, with increased teamwork and ensures that we are all pulling in the same direction.

I believe in a more distributed leadership model. This model secures team members’ full participation in the organization’s or school’s decision-making processes, promotes meaningful collaboration and harmonious work relations, generates passion for accomplishing goals, and boosts student and teacher productivity. I was reminded of how powerful this is in Gem #8 entitled “People Tend To Support What They Create” in 52 Leadership Gems: Practical and Quick Insights For Leading Others by John Parker Stewart. In this lesson Stewart reminded us that creation is a pervasive instinct for we humans. So, we naturally become much more engaged when we have a part in creation of programs, processes, procedures, and policies. I really believe this is why I loved teaching so much. This is what it is like in an effective classroom with students. It should be that way in a well run school or organization too.

Done properly, team members take leading roles, assume responsibility, and act independently as individuals or groups. The thing I really like about a more distributed model is that it promotes the staff’s full participation in key decision-making and implementation processes and also makes them accountable. But, it does require us, as the leader to serve as both chief coordinator and evaluator of processes and results. In other words, we need to be in the boat rowing 🚣‍♀️ too.

How can you help your team become involved in decision making and creation?

What Do You Think?

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Governor Eric Holcomb

I had the opportunity to meet with an impressive group of community leaders this past Friday. As we continue to work through the guidance and implementation of our new Indiana Graduation Pathways, of which I chaired the panel that created this policy, we are working very hard to learn from the groups in the state that have been doing this work already and successfully. The Community Education Coalition and Economic Opportunities through Education (EcO) Network in southeast Indiana is one such group that brings educators, manufacturing leaders, workforce, and community-based organizations together to coordinate and align educational program offerings for students to successfully connect with well-paying manufacturing occupations.

Last year, the Indiana State Board of Education was charged with establishing graduation pathways per HEA 1003. The goal was to create an educated and talented workforce able not just to meet the needs of business and higher education, but also have students able to succeed in all post-secondary endeavors. To account for the rapidly changing, global economy, every K-12 student needs to be given the tools to succeed in some form of quality post-secondary education and training, including an industry recognized certificate program, an associate’s degree program, or a bachelor’s degree program. Every student should graduate from high school with 1) a broad awareness of and engagement with individual career interests and associated career options, 2) a strong foundation of academic and technical skills, and 3) demonstrable employability skills that lead directly to meaningful opportunities for post-secondary education, training, and gainful employment. During the process of our panel convenings we did a lot of asking, “What do you think?” Now, thanks to the Community Education Coalition we are able to continue to ask “what do you think?” as we work through making sure schools are able to put the pathways in place for students. We are so grateful that they put the event together last week that included Governor Eric Holcomb, State Legislators and Policy Makers, business and industry leaders, higher education leaders, K-12 school leaders, and most importantly students. There was a lot of question asking and learning going on.

IMG_2035The partners and facilitators of the Community Education Coalition and EcO initiatives have learned to make inquiry a habit of mind, thereby initiating a long-term commitment to continual improvement and growth. This coalition has developed an outstanding process that uses the questions of “who?, why?, what?, and how?” in order to identify key community issues. You can bet the four words of, “What do you think? are asked in this process. Essential to the success of this process was collaboration with colleagues across different disciplines for clarifying their questions and for understanding and analyzing the data they collected. For example, data like: high school graduation rate, education attainment growth, STEM enrollment growth rate, GDP per capita, employment growth, and average annual wages are used as outcomes to measure success.

IMG_2005This data is then able to be used by stakeholders to answer the questions of “who?, why?, what?, and how?” and the question of: What do you think? We are reminded of how important these four words are in Gem #7 entitled “Four Magic Words: ‘What do you think’” in 52 Leadership Gems: Practical and Quick Insights For Leading Others by John Parker Stewart. In this lesson Stewart reminds us that leaders often fall into the trap of assuming they have the right answer. I am also reminded of the teaching of one of my heroes in community work, Peter Block, who believes that effective leaders are not problem solvers, but conveners of communities of people to solve issues.

“Using these four inclusive words [What do you think?] is evidence of an effective and healthy leader who actively listens to the input of the members of the team.” ~ John Parker Stewart

All research is messy and recursive; and it has been my experience that collaborative inquiry is more so because no one knows the end. You are not starting with answers, but with questions. Throughout the process, partners reflect on what is being observed and found out. The stakeholders may change direction, ask new questions, challenge the inconsistencies they discover, seek new perspectives, and fill gaps in their information. During our gathering on Friday we were reminded over and over that the process of connecting the stakeholders is more important than looking at programs. It would be very hard to replicate programs in all parts of the state, but it would not be hard to replicate the process of deciding what programs are needed and developing programs specific to each area. It is all about bringing collaboration to scale.

To do this we must remember to ask the pertinent questions, listen, and ask “what do you think?”

Got Experience?

Here’s a question for you: Are skills directly proportional to years of experience?

While I agree that experience will give you more expertise in subject matter, people skills, and well-roundedness—I believe that all these are not necessarily causal of years of experience. Nor do I believe years of experience always correlate with exceptional performance. So what’s my idea of proper experience? It’s having had enough time in the field to see the results caused by your own decisions and workflow. Actually, that can be done in a short amount of time. Conversely, I have known individuals with a great many years experience who really hadn’t grown or improved much. In my field of education, I have known new teachers with little experience in terms of years that were much more effective facilitators of learning than some teachers with many years experience.

This was the topic of Gem #6 entitled “27 Years Of Genuine Growth Or 1 Year Repeated 27 Time” in 52 Leadership Gems: Practical and Quick Insights For Leading Others by John Parker Stewart. In this lesson Stewart taught us that strong leaders seek new opportunities to continually develop and hone their skills. Weak leaders just keep doing the same things and embrace the status quo.

“Make each additional year in your work one of genuine learning and growth.” ~ John Parker Stewart

I view experience as the sum of a few factors: time working, experiences survived, the nature of the role and responsibilities, and potential lessons learned. Really, there is no magic number of years to this. It is about learning from your experience and the idea of continuing to practice and improve. It is not about the difference between experience and not enough experience, but about has it been the right experience. Then it really boils down to what have we been learning from the things we have been doing.

So, do you have x number of years experience, or x number of years doing the same thing over and over?