Byron's Babbles

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?

Leaders Crashing & Flying Higher

IMG_9434So what traits do great leaders have? That’s such a loaded question – different great leaders demonstrate different traits. If you ask a group of teacher leaders to select the top traits they think are important in a leader, you’ll find as many answers as you have teacher leaders. No one has ever been able to come up with a definitive list of leadership traits that everyone – or even a majority of people contemplating leadership – agrees on. This doesn’t stop me from trying however. During our August 3D Leadership gatherings I always do a discussion/activity called “Good Leader/Bad Leader: Crashing & Flying Higher.” This involves an activity where participants fly paper airplanes to each other with good leadership traits on the left wing and bad leadership traits on the right wing. They then keep adding to the lists as we fly the planes. This is really fun virtually on Zoom. Yes, you can fly paper airplanes virtually! Ultimately, their task is to develop a top five good leadership trait list and a top five bad leadership trait list,

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 9.29.10 AMThe exercise enables a great discussion and thought provoking debate. What we find is that each person’s list of good and bad traits is heavily dependent on her or his experience with different leaders. I get to do this activity 9 or 10 groups per year and every group’s lists are always at least a little different, but many times are very different. Things like who is leading the school, turnover of leaders, style of leadership of leaders, culture of the school, et cetera. This activity somewhat reinforces the idea that the trait theory of leadership is not the end all be all. “The trait theory of leadership focuses on identifying different personality traits and characteristics that are linked to successful leadership across a variety of situations. This line of research emerged as one of the earliest types of investigations into the nature of effective leadership and is tied to the “great man” theory of leadership first proposed by Thomas Carlyle in the mid-1800s. The idea with trait theory is that if you can identify the personality traits or characteristics a great leader has, you can look for those same traits in other leaders, or even develop those traits in people who want to be leaders.

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 9.29.48 AMThe differences that I see when doing the “Good Leader/Bad Leader: Crashing & Flying Higher” activity suggest that this may due to situational variables in which different leadership skills emerge when opportunities for leadership arise. These situations might include turnaround work, poor leaders in place, war, a political crisis, or in the absence of leadership. As a believer that everyone in an organization is leader, I believe that there must be adaptive leadership for many situations.

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 7.20.28 PMI just finished reading Robert Gates’ great new book, Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War World. Having served for eight Presidents of the United States, he certainly saw different leadership styles and traits. He explained that most want to put Presidents into ascribing to idealism, realism, or transactional. As he stated, great leaders must be all three. He gives examples of Presidents being all three. In other words, to be effective, leaders must be able to adapt. When I reflect on the top five “good leader” traits that our 3D Leadership group from Tennessee came up with this past Saturday, I believe they are traits that would serve all leaders well. Here is there top five list:

  1. Listening to understand
  2. Authentic
  3. Being consistent
  4. Straight forward
  5. Relationship builder

Here of the top five “bad leader” traits causing leaders to crash, from our Tennessee teacher leaders if you are interested:

  1. Insecure
  2. Belittling
  3. Negative
  4. Leads by intimidation
  5. Doesn’t walk the talk

 

Codifier Of Compassion

I am reading the final pages of what is right now the fourth in the great series, The Years of Lyndon Johnson, by Robert Caro. Caro is working the fifth and final and I sure hope he finishes it. These books that are really about power – how power is obtained, how power is used, and how power is abused. The fourth book, The Passage of Power, begins right before President Kennedy’s assassination and takes us through the first few months of Johnson’s Presidency. This includes passing a civil rights bill, getting budget approval, and a tax cut bill passed.

Robert Caro is an incredibly talented writer and I was moved by a statement in the book about Johnson. Here it is:

“He was to become the lawmaker for the poor and the downtrodden and the oppressed. He was to be the bearer of at least a measure of social justice to those whom social justice had so long been denied. The restorer of at least a measure of dignity to those who so desperately needed to be given some dignity. The redeemer of the promises made by them to America. “It is time to write it in the books of law.” By the time Lyndon Johnson left office he had done a lot of writing in those books, had become, above all presidents save Lincoln, the codifier of compassion, the president who wrote mercy and justice in the statute books by which America was governed.” ~ Robert A. Caro in The Passage of Power

He was comparing Johnson to Lincoln as a “codifier of compassion.” To codify means to make something a part of an organized system. In other words it becomes more than talk.

Because of the childhood poverty, his relationship with his father, and his teaching position, was able to have all three types of empathy I teach about in leadership professional growth gatherings. He was first able to show Cognitive Empathy; the ability to understand another person’s perspective. Because Johnson grew up in poverty, he was able to feel what another person feels, or what is called Emotional Empathy.

Thirdly, because of his experience as a teacher at Welhausen School in Cotulla, Texas, a small town on the border of Texas and Mexico, he practiced Empathic Concern: the ability to sense what another person needs from you. Johnson’s classes were made up of the children of Mexican-American farmers. Johnson didn’t speak Spanish and many of his students didn’t speak English. Despite this limitation, Johnson quickly and enthusiastically began teaching and encouraging the children to speak English by holding speech and debate tournaments.

Johnson was very strict with his students and left a lasting impression on them. In addition, Johnson organized a literary society, an athletic club, and organized field trips to neighboring towns so his students could compete in sporting events, speech, and spelling contests. With his first paycheck, Johnson bought playground equipment. In a letter home to his mother, Johnson wrote about his work with the students and asked her for help in sending toothpaste for the children and borrowing materials for his debate team.

Clearly Johnson’s upbringing gave him tremendous ability for empathy, but notice he added action to this. Thus, becoming compassion. Empathy is just a profound feeling, but add to that merciful and helpful action and you get compassion and supportive companionship. Compassion is empathy put into action, or as is the point of this post, codified.

Johnson’s past experiences had set him up perfectly to be a “codifier of compassion.” He knew what had to be done and did it. So many leaders talk empathy very well, but that is all it is – talk. We must walk the talk and codify that empathy with the actions of compassion.

“Easy To Say, Harder To Live By”

“What have I become during the pandemic?”

I had another Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) Blue Bloods quote that made me do some reflecting. He said, “Easy to say, harder to live by.” We all have heard people say, or said things ourselves that are very easy to say, but much tougher to actually do. I wrote about another quote from Frank Reagan in “Life Isn’t Fair, But You Can Be.” It’s easy to set set ambitious goals or say you will do the right thing, but it is a much harder thing to do the work to achieve them.

We talked about this last night during 3D Leadership. The participants made Flat Stanley’s and Flat Sarah’s representing what they have become during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Almost everyone talked about new and exciting things they are doing or have started to do again. Many talked about how at first was easy to get down, but then once they started learning and doing it became exciting to be doing great new things.

Remember, it’s easy to say. Much harder to do. But, it’s the hard stuff that separates the ordinary from the extraordinary.

66 Days To A New Habit

First of all it is important to note that as I write this post we are in Day 66 of the COVID-19 global pandemic. I blogged about the day, March 11th, that I am considering our first day of these uncharted times in The Day We Started Down The Path With No Footprints. The other night in one of our 3D Leadership gatherings I had the participants make their own Flat Stanley or Flat Sarah that represented who they had become since March 11th when the WHO (I thought that was a rock band) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. O.k., the WHO is the World Health Organization.

Participants could either make the their Flat Stanley or Sarah using materials in their homes or using an online resource we gave them. The group did a great job with these and they were very creative. I found it interesting that many of the participants discussed how they had picked up, developed new, or restarted old habits. One participant said, “It takes a month to build a new habit.” She was referring to now doing a better job of exercising. Of course, I had to check and see if there was any research that backed this claim of taking a month to develop a new habit up.

Here’s what I found: Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, did a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Lally and her research team decided to figure out just how long it actually takes to form a habit. So, what was concluded from the study? On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit. But, as was stated, 66 days was the average. Thus, why I chose today to write this post. We are exactly 66 days into this pandemic.

So, why is the length of time it takes to form a habit important? During these challenging times, everyone in the world has been forced to change their routines, be creative, try new ideas, learn new ways of doing things, slow down focus on some of the most important things (in education-the most important content), and connect with people and in the case of education, students, in effective ways we never thought possible. The abrupt shift to remote instruction changed many aspects of our lives. In my case I continue to say I have grown in great and unimaginable ways during this time. In education, I continue to say that we have grown in the aspect of school no longer being a place.

Let me be clear; I realize there are those, and maybe even me still, that the crisis will be catastrophic. This post is not intended to minimize the seriousness of the consequences many people face, or may be facing. I believe that many of us have grown in our ability to be o.k. with feeling bad or being comfortable with uncertainty. Personally, I continue to see this crisis as a challenge to overcome and a conduit for personal growth. The 3D Leadership participant who talked about it having been a good time to use the month to develop new and better habits, I believe, had in mind that we can see the loss of our, pre-pandemic and regular life as a chance to focus on other aspects of your life that have been neglected because we’ve been too busy to address them. We have also identified areas we want to work on or improve in our lives and focus on developing those areas. We need to all use this break from “normal life” to seek balance in our life and pursue aspects of our lives that we did not have time for before the crisis.

We need to use our responses to the crisis as an opportunity to learn and grown and become more positive, adaptable, and resilient which will, no doubt, serve us well when the current crisis passes. We can all create new structures and routines in our lives around school, work, daily activities, and social life. Finally, and most importantly, we can take action. Keep in mind, we’ve already had the 66 average days it takes to make a new habit become automatic. Are you happy with your new habits?