Byron's Babbles

Good Leadership Is Pragmatic

Last week I was doing leadership development facilitation for our participants from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. This session involved developing a top 5 list of Bad Leader traits and a top 5 list of Good Leader traits. While we were voting and tallying to get to their top 5s, I thought about how the traits are really pragmatic. Take a look at their voting tallies and their top 5s:

The opposite of idealistic is pragmatic, a word that describes a philosophy of “doing what works best.” From Greek pragma “deed,” the word has historically described philosophers and politicians who were concerned more with real-world application of ideas than with abstract notions. Did you catch that? Doing what works best. Being concerned with real-world application. Look at the Good Leader traits above and I think you’ll agree they involve doing what works best.

Somebody Did It For Me

Leaders motivate us to go places that we would never otherwise go. They are needed both to change organizations and to produce results. In any organizational climate, good leadership is perhaps the most important competitive advantage an organization can have. Amazingly, followers of leaders are just as powerfully driven to follow as leaders are to lead. Great leaders have a way of supporting others to grow and become more productive. Great leadership means putting people in the right place at the right time and then letting them thrive there.

Mr. Combrinck & Ms. Figueroa’s Potato Heads

Yesterday, during our south Florida gathering of 3D Leadership participants, we did an activity that I love to do called “Who Am I As A Leader Now?” We use Mr. and Mrs. Potato Heads to do this and participants build their Potato Head to represent themselves, at that moment, as a leader. It becomes such a powerful reflective time. Then, we gathered in a big circle and shared out. All of the share-outs were so meaningful, but one phrase really caught my attention that a participant ended with, represented by a Potato Head arm placed backward, “Somebody did it for me.” This really struck me because it is so true. Everyone has a “somebody did it for me” story. And this fit so nicely with the work we were going to do later around John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership. Helping others develop into all they can be are those “People Development” and “Pinnacle” levels of great leadership.

Alexis Prieto’s Potato Head

It’s always inspiring to be in a room of educators because developing young women and men into all they can be is what we do. We get to provide that “somebody did it for me” story for many. But, let’s not forget that as leaders we have an obligation to be finding ways to provide those “somebody did it for me” stories for those in our organizational communities. It really comes down to being a servant leader. As I listened to all the stories and reasons for the Potato Head designs I was in awe of all the collective expertise in the room. This group of leaders truly wanted to be the best at serving others. Now, as I write this post I am reflecting on those in my life that have been that “somebody that did it for me” person. There have been a lot, and I would even say this group of south Florida educators “did it for me” yesterday. All of this reflection made me go back and reflect on a blog post I did back in 2013 where I reflected on those who had been a servant leader to me along the way and, in some cases, throughout my entire life. Check out my post, Matthew 20:26 on Being A Servant Leader to learn more about my journey and those who have “been there” along the way.

As we try to make some sense in this pandemic stricken world, I, and I believe all the other participants, needed to hear the stories of others – how they got where they are and how they are dealing with all things related to the global pandemic. We really developed a bonded sense of we are in this together, and while we all may be separated by only a few miles, or hundreds of miles we can all be kindred spirits and part of something bigger than ourselves to into great leaders providing “somebody did it for me” moments.

How about you? Who has provided those “somebody did it for me” moments in your life? And, who are you providing “somebody did it for me” moments for?

Leading Like Yahtzee

Last week in our first gathering of our newest cohort of Florida 3D Leadership Program participants, we were discussing leadership being like chess or checkers. The participants even played chess and checkers while having the discussion. We had some great discussion related to this considering things like you must know your opponent, players have limited movements, checkers is at a smaller level, checkers and chess have different missions, playing chess is more like be a principal, playing checkers is more like being a teacher leader, and strategic movement/placement. Then, one group discussed that they thought leadership was more like playing Yahtzee. The game of Yahtzee then came up again in another discussion. I finally had to come clean with the group and admit I had never played Yahtzee or even knew how the game was played. Of course after the gathering was over I had to look up the game of Yahtzee and found that the group was right, there are leadership characteristics contained in the game of Yahtzee.

Actually, on the surface Yahtzee appears to be a simple game. Each player gets thirteen turns to complete their score card. The top section of the score card consists of numbers 1 thru 6. You need to roll three ones, three twos, three threes, etc. to get your “minimums.” You could also roll four fives (or four of anything), which comes in handy if you were only able to roll two threes on a previous turn. The idea on the top section is to score at least 63 total points, so you can get the 35-point bonus. If you get a “Yahtzee!” you score 50 points. That’s when you get all five dice to be the same during your turn. Some players focus solely on getting Yahtzee at the expense of everything else. Some people really work hard count on getting the Yahtzee. From my studying, however, a balanced scorecard is more beneficial to winning the game. Balance is important in leadership as well. In education for example there must be balanced effectiveness in governance, financial health, student performance and achievement, or teacher effectiveness. Concentrating on any one of these and forgetting the rest would be disastrous to the school.

Yahtzee seems like a game of chance. It’s much more. It’s a game of decisions and imperfect trade-offs. Wow, doesn’t that sound a little like leadership. So, there is actually some genius in comparing leadership to the game of Yahtzee. We must at some point fully form our approach to decision making. Success, failure, decisions, and sacrifices are in play with every turn while playing Yahtzee. Excellent practice for leading in real time. The game of Yahtzee is completely random. But, as leaders we know that sometimes completely random things happen. Therefore, something completely random and driven by chance can be, as we can learn from playing Yahtzee, be managed within a solid set of priorities and strategies. Do you have other ways you would compare playing Yahtzee to leading effectively?

Make Your Changes Out Loud

Posted in 3D Leadership, change, Educational Leadership, Global Education, Global Leadership, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 11, 2020

We know that a best practice for editing written work is listening out loud. Hearing our written work offers a new perspective to help us catch grammatical errors, poor sentence structure, plot holes, or pacing issues that your eyes skip over when you read. Because our minds will automatically make corrections when looking at something, listening provides another perspective for us to review our written work. In fact, there are apps for this. These apps allow you to edit documents while exercising, taking a run, or in my, case milking cows.

Last night when working with teacher leaders from Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee we were discussing how to adapt boldly and one of the participants said that we need to “make your changes out loud.” This was a ‘click the mic moment’ (the Zoom equivalent of ‘drop the mic’). This comment was genius. If we make our changes or intended changes out loud we can get feedback from others to make the proposed change better and give others a chance to understand the changes before they happen.

Let’s go back to using writing as the analogy here. Whether we are working on a blog, novel, or business document it’s critical that each paragraph is well written and tells the complete story necessary in that block of verse to get our point(s) across. Reading audibly as opposed to only in our head, changes our perspective on the text and provides deeper meaning. By employing making your changes out loud you will inspire others to greater engagement, ownership, and action to create positive change. So, I challenge you to listen to make your changes out loud, make sure others are listening and providing feedback, and listen to yourself as you speak or read your own words of change.

What Are Your Filters?

Posted in 3D Leadership, DTK, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Mindset Mondays by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 16, 2020

I promised another post inspired by the Carolina 3D Leadership participants from the activity where I showed the group the picture of a spider web that I had taken in the barn the morning of their gathering to prompt a discussion. The first post was entitled Out of Kilter. This post is about a comment made that the picture has a filter that blocks everything except the spider web, which if you do not like spiders is a bad thing. The picture used for this activity is shown above on the left. The original picture without any filtering is on the right. This was described as a negative filter. Then it was said that we need to remove the negative filter to see the good. Therefore, we need to change the filter we look through at times. This was such an awesome metaphor the group had created.

This also made me think about all the augmented reality filters there are out there right now to use with our images of ourselves to make our Zooms and other interactions more interesting. Honestly, they just annoy me! But, we really do need to think about what our personal filters are. This is particularly true when we are experiencing what David Taylor-Klaus (DTK) describes as “feeling less” (p.109) in Chapter 12 (Choose a New Perspective) of Mindset Mondays With DTK. This would be like the filter only showing the spider web, or an amygdalla hijack, where our brain is seeing the event as a bad thing – real or perceived. The way to shift out of this hijack, as DTK taught us, is to remove the filter as the event is happening so we can see it for what it really is. That spider web doesn’t look near as threatening in the picture on the right. I love DTK’s questions he proposes we ask ourselves for removing filters:

  1. What am I making up as true?
  2. Is that actually true? If so, when did it become true?
  3. What do you know is true?

Now: choose a new perspective, one that serves you and you can honestly believe is true.

DTK’s last thoughts in the chapter on this are very meaningful. He said, “Once you can get beyond your made up beliefs of who you think you are not,creativity emerges. In that more open, receptive space, that’s where ideas are born and connections grow” (p.112). My final thoughts are if you look for things that are wrong with whatever you are looking at you can usually find plenty. After all you are looking through your filter that defines what wrong and right look like. It is easy to find confirmation for any viewpoint, whether negative, positive or neutral. The unfortunate thing for most of us, much of the time, we are unaware that we are looking through our own filter. Therefore, we need to be aware of what filter we are looking through.

Consider using a positive first filter starting today. Life would look much better if we were able to use our very own positive filter to remove the negative and focus on the positive. What are your filters?

Out of Kilter

We had a gathering of our Carolina’s 3D Leadership Program today and, as is always the case, I was inspired and learned a lot from the group. Last week I blogged about the activity where I showed the group the picture of a spider web that I had taken in the barn that morning to the group to prompt a discussion. You can read about Leaders Weaving The Web here. Today I switched up the prompt just a little. Here it is: On Day 247 of the Global Pandemic, relate the  journey you are on to the picture. The picture was the photo featured in this post minus the target and dart. After having some time to discuss in small breakout groups, they came back with some very insightful points for discussion. This post includes all of their points except one: the picture looks as though we are looking through a filter. I will address that point in a separate post.

Looks Like a Target

It was commented that the web looks like a target. I loved a comment that was made that even though the world has been thrown “out of kilter” (this, from one of our participants, is so much better than saying unprecedented times), we still have much to accomplish for our students. We must still be meeting our educational targets for our students and developing them as a whole person. In other words we need to be very careful about what things we have paused that turn into permanent pauses. Some pauses need to be made permanent, but we really need to match what decisions we make to the targets that need to be achieved for our students.

Looks Like Broken Glass

One group of participants said the web looked like broken glass. This was a reminder that we must keep going. This reminded us that there has been a great deal of positive innovation brought by the pandemic. Also, we discussed that the pandemic cannot be used as an excuse to lower expectations. Our kids deserve effective instruction and like was said earlier we must continue to lead them to their learning targets.

Looks Fragile

The group pointed out that everyone is very fragile right now, but there is strength in the web. We need to make sure we are serving like the silk of the spider web connecting all the small, important pieces together for our students, families, and those we serve. We need to continue connecting ideas, which in-turn creates the beautiful masterpiece. Even though the web looks fragile, we need to remember that much of the strength of the spider web comes from its elasticity.

It turns out that a key property of the silk in the spider web that helps make it so robust is something previously considered a weakness: the way it can stretch and soften at first when pulled, and then stiffen again as the force of the pulling increases. Now that is a great metaphor for during this time of being out of kilter. We are being pulled and we need to soften and allow for being stretched, which will then allow us to stiffen and become strong for those we serve. Markus Buehler, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering (CEE) at MIT, has done extensive research on spider webs says this about the web: “It’s a very flaw-tolerant system.” We need to also assume this “flaw-tolerant” position when dealing with students or those be serve.

Hopefully this being out of kilter is preparing us for a new phase of greatness in education, business, and our lives. With each day of the pandemic my hope is that we are assuming an attitude of preparation. I know I am very different today that I was 247 days ago. I’d like to think that most of those differences land in the positive column. Let’s keep moving forward – onward and upward!

Leaders Weaving The Web

Posted in 3D Leadership, Education, Educational Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 7, 2020

This morning when I went out to do the morning feeding I saw a very beautiful spider web as I went in the barn. It was so awesomely constructed I had to take a picture and then I got the inspiration to use it in a 3D Leadership Gathering I was facilitating for our Florida participants today. I had them relate the spider web to their leadership development during the last 240 days of the Global Pandemic. A great way to describe leadership is to compare the construction and function of a spider web. Just like each strand of web is carefully woven in just the right places for a spider to capture what’s necessary for it to survive, an effective leader also weaves attributes that attract and nurture those the leader serves. Each strand of that web is a specific tactic the leader can use to engage and influence.

We discussed the vibrations that happen when something touches or gets caught in the web. These vibrations go quickly through an organization so communications should be chosen carefully. A leader should have a meaningful feel of what is going on at the ground in the organization, and that he or she should want to be in touch with the whole organization through effective representatives, reports, liaisons, collegiality, and partnerships within the organization. Leaders should constantly work towards enabling their organizations to become intricately woven groups of people in harmonious partnership.

Take Off The Mask & Cut Out Those Frustrations

Posted in 3D Leadership, DTK, Educational Leadership, Leadership, Mindset Mondays, Women Igniting Change by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 13, 2020

Ever trip over yourself? David Taylor-Klaus (DTK) reminded us this week in Chapter 7 of Mindset Mondays with DTK to “Get Out of Your Own Way.” We need to integrate the brain and body by using awareness and intention.

Interestingly, this weekend I did an activity for a leadership training using pumpkins. Participants had to carve their pumpkin using this prompt: “Truths that frustrate you.” This gave participants a chance to ponder where those frustrations come from. Many times those frustrations come from ourselves. We become frustrated when our decisions are not aligned with our core values and purpose.

We need to take time to take an introspective look at ourselves and listen to what both our mind and body are telling us. Then trust what we hear and not sabotage ourselves. Sometimes if we took time to name our frustrations (or carve them into a pumpkin) it gives us the chance to reflect on and even remove the mask that those frustrations form.

As Robbin Jorgensen did in DTK’s story, we can change and cut the frustrations out (pun intended) and remove the mask. Jorgensen’s Women Igniting Change movement is giving women the power to take action around the world. By taking off her own mask she was able to reflect, listen to herself deeply and then trust her own decisions.

What’s keeping you from making the impact you want to make in the world?

Power To Do

Last week while in a very deep discussion during a 3D Leadership session we were talking about leadership and power. We were discussing the five forms of power from French and Raven (1959). Here are those five forms of power:

French & Raven, 1959

First of all, the group talked about how great it is that we continue to move from forms of power to levels of what John Maxwell called 5 Levels of Leadership. The group acknowledged how negative most of the five levels of power are, but that those powers exist, how they can be used for positive, and how we should use them for creating positive environments. One of the positive forms of power is “referent.” I have blogged about this power before in The Majestic Leader. Also, here are Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership:

Then someone made a brilliant statement: “The five forms of power have such a limited scope.” I asked what she meant, and she said, “Those are all about ‘power over’ and we should be thing about ‘power to do’.” Again, another brilliant statement! “Power to do!” Now that’s a power we need to develop – Self empowerment.

Therefore, as leaders it’s important to inspire empowerment in others. After all, when people feel powerful, it boosts their self-confidence, which further enhances their work and performance. Inspiring others is often the mark of a great leader, but how do you do that effectively? Being an inspiring leader was the theme of this gathering. To truly empower others we must empower ourselves to be inspirational leaders. How do we do that? Here’s what our teacher leaders said:

  1. Show up – Inspirational leaders understand the significance of just being there. I actually heard from teachers in this gathering that they wished that the school leaders would just come visit there schools and more importantly, their classrooms. You can’t take care of your peeps if you aren’t with your people and that means going to street level and getting shoulder to shoulder.
  2. Be present – This is different than showing up; we must really be present by having open ears and listening, asking the right questions, and having humility.
  3. Withitness – Great leaders position themselves so they can see everything. This is also about being actively engaged.

As leaders of learning we have a key role to play in delivering quality learning. In order to do this it is important to understand the purpose and impact of our role and the impact we have on others. In the case of education, the task of leadership is to make visible the how, why and where of learning. It achieves this by conversations and demonstrations around pupil learning, professional learning and learnings which transcend the boundaries of the school. The challenge for leadership is to nurture the dialogue, to make transparent ways in learning interconnects and infuses behavior.  It promotes a continuing restless inquiry into what works best, when, where, for whom and with what outcome. Its vision is of the intelligent school and its practice intersects with the wider world of learning.

Never forget, the way we see leadership, learning and the quality of our schools, businesses, or organizations is ultimately a product of how we see and think about ourselves. Remember, we have the “power to do.”

Leading Like Elastigirl-Hulk

So, if you could combine two superheroes into one, which ones would you bring together? During our Georgia 3D Leadership gathering this past weekend I had a participant that did just that. One of our activities had attendees pick or create a superhero that best described themselves. One of our participants blew me away with a combination of She-Hulk and Elastigirl (Mrs Incredible). I have included a picture of her creation with this post.

This sort of thing has already been done. In the late 1990s Marvel and DC tried a big crossover event in which their superheroes met, fought, and came out friends. Thus was born the Amalgam Universe. Put simply, two super-cosmic beings arranged to have the Marvel and DC Universes merge with one another, such that their finest heroes also merged to become amalgams of each other (hence the name). Some were merged because they were similar in powers or purpose, some because their names sounded alike. In like fashion, our participant created “Elastigirl-Hulk.”

Jennifer Walters, an attorney, who is the She-Hulk got her powers after being shot and needing a blood transfusion. Her cousin Bruce Banner (Hulk) gave his blood for the transfusion and the rest is history. Jennifer got a mild version of the radioactive powers. She-Hulk taught us to never accept more than we deserve. Because of her ability to self-transform between Jennifer Walters and She-Hulk, she taught us that work-life balance is achieved by recognizing that work and life are both important. Finally, she taught us to have a sense of humor.

Now let’s take a look at Elastigirl (Mrs. Incredible). Her superpower is elasticity, allowing her stretch, shape-shift, and be flexible. Elastigirl understood the importance of developing teams to be capable of becoming a strong support system for all members to achieve their own goals and the goals of the organization.

Therefore, combine the flexibility and community building abilities of Elastigirl with the strength, intelligence, and the ability to control between being tough and being gentle and we’ve got quite an incredible (pun intended) woman. What superheroes would you combine?