Byron's Babbles

Leading Like Yoda

Last night we created personal Mount Rushmores in our 3D Leadership gathering. I was surprised to have a new leader added to the list – Yoda. Of all the years I’ve been doing this, this is the first time a participant has put Yoda on their personal Mount Rushmore. Moreover, last night there were two people out of the group of 48 that picked Yoda to be on their personal Mount Rushmore.

So of course I had to dig into Yoda as a leader. In the Star Wars universe, Yoda might be the single most important hero. Yoda is wise and insightful and brings many leadership lessons to the forefront to help us all become better at serving those we lead. Of course, several Yoda quotes were thrown out in the course of the gathering, like:

  • “Do or do not. There is no try.”
  • “[Luke]: I can’t believe it. [Yoda]: That is why you fail.”
  • “You must unlearn what you’ve learned.”
  • “Much to learn you still have.”
  • “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

One of the things I took away from some really great discussions was that we need to remember that thinking about the future is really important for finding direction, but don’t do it at the expense of what we are currently doing. We need to focus on the task at hand. Spend time in the moment. Be present. It will make us more efficient, and we’ll notice more.

Yoda often taught his pupils through action. We decided last night that leaders are built by learning from their imperfections. Yoda gives us an example of what one participant said she would like to be: “Fair, compassionate, and motivational.” Challenges will push and motivate us. In this time of uncertainty we must focus on continuing to learn so we can help the world triumph. As the group taught me last night, the only thing to do is the next right thing.

Influencer, Inspiring, & Impactful

At yesterday’s Indiana 3D Leadership gathering I was inspired to do some deeper studying, which is usually the case, because of discussion that took place. I usually say the discussion inspired me, but for this post I’m contemplating what to call it. More on why I say that, later in the post. Last night we did an activity that I call Rushmorean Leadership which was then followed up by an activity called extending the influence. The activity calls for teacher leaders to bring pictures to identify four great leaders to put on their own personal Mount Rushmore. Then they bring six additional pictures to extend the influence.

As with everything this Indiana group does, I was blown away. What struck me last night, however, was that one participant talked about the persons on their board as influencers. Then the next referred to the leaders as inspiring and yet another referred to the her chosen leaders as impactful. For some reason I just had to ask the question of the group: What’s the difference, if any, in these descriptors? A great discussion ensued, which then led to me studying deeper this morning.

We all know that leadership is not about a title or a designation. We also know, and I’m glad we discussed this in depth last night that ambition is not a favorable characteristic of great leaders. For ambition will take over purpose. Influencers, we decided, spread passion for work, causes, innovation, or change. Those that inspire evoke a sense of energy. Finally, impact involves getting results. Impact is ultimately the measuring stick of the influence or inspiration.

Influencers cause us to think about things differently. They help us to shape our purpose, passion, and core values. Interestingly several participants had parents on their boards and referred to how they had influenced their lives.

In contrast, those that inspire help us gain motivation. This inspiration may be in the form of receptivity, positivity, or motivation. There is research that links inspiration to motivation. This inspiration causes us to actively engage in environments that lead toward self growth and fulfillment of needs.

The more I studied and reflected on all this I formed the opinion that most, if not all, of the leaders chosen by the group were influencers who were creating an impact. These individuals were all helping to create constructive cultures, whether in organizations, nations, or globally. In their five star book, Creating Constructive Cultures: Leading People and Organizations to Effectively Solve Problems and Achieve Goals, Janet Szumal and Robert Cooke of Human Synergistics International ask the question: “As a leader, how can you both directly and indirectly influence your organization to ensure that members can independently and interactively solve problems and achieve the organization’s goals more readily and effectively?” I love the question because it has both directly and indirectly. Of the ten leaders each participant brought pictures of, some influenced directly, eg. parents. Others influenced indirectly, eg. Michelle Obama.

One thing is for sure; in all cases the individuals chosen embodied the necessary styles to create constructive cultures. All strove to create the cultural norms necessary for creating constructive cultural styles. See the constructive styles below:

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that influencing, being inspiring, and being impactful are not mutually exclusive. They go hand in hand when being a model of personal growth for us and creating constructive cultures.

Play Time For Leaders

I so enjoyed my extra day that we all had today because of this being a Leap Year. I spent the day with aspiring teacher leaders at Knowledge Academies in Nashville, Tennessee facilitating a 3D Leadership gathering. Because I am always so inspired at each of these gatherings I tend to have something to blog about after most of them. Today was no exception, and because I so wanted to have a February 29th (Leap Year) entry – here it is. Today’s through line of the program titled The Focused Leader was “Your Leadership Toy Box.”

“To infinity and beyond!” —Buzz Lightyear

The first activity involved the participants picking a toy, playing with the toy, and then answering the following questions. If this toy was in your Leadership Toy Box:

  1. How does this toy represent great leadership traits?
  2. How could you use this toy to be a great leader?

We then shared these out after some quality play time. I was so blown away by the responses that I asked for volunteer guest posts to put into this blog post. Here are three of those responses:

IMG_8003

Lori Tharp

Toys and Leadership?

Today in the NEI 3D Leadership Cohort session, we were asked to select a toy and explain ways it could be a leadership tool.  I selected two – a kaleidoscope and a Chinese finger trap.  I was excited to answer this question since I have always been a kid at heart!  After all, toys have always been a part of my life:  My kids played with toys.  I used to work in Children’s Ministry, then I worked as a preschool teacher.  My husband sells vintage and current toys and one of my favorite movies is Toy Story!  – so, this was “right up my alley!”

When I looked into the kaleidoscope at an object, I could see that the one image turned into many objects – showing a whole new perspective of the image with many facets.  When I turned the kaleidoscope around and looked through it at the opposite end, I could only see one image.  As I apply this to leadership I realized, as leaders, we should learn to see the things from a wider perspective – or different angles.  We can all have the same goal or the same focus, but we need to be able to view ideas, opinions and suggestions from the perspectives of others, and ultimately, work together as a team…which leads me to the other toy I selected – the Chinese finger trap.

Looking at the Chinese finger trap – a simple little toy that traps the victim’s fingers in both ends of a small cylinder woven from bamboo. If you place your fingers in each end and pull outward, this only tightens the grip of the trap.  Push your fingers together, it loosens up. The pieces of bamboo seem to be very fragile, and if it was only one piece, it would probably break.  This little device is actually many pieces of bamboo woven together, which makes it very strong as one small unit.  This reminds me of leadership. Working together as a team, makes us a stronger, tighter unit.  We can accomplish more together than we can alone.  Good leaders are aware of this, and they value the input of the other team members. Sometimes, though, we need to tighten up as a team, and sometimes we are so rigid we need to loosen up!  Either way, leaders work as a team!

The possibilities are endless if I were to use these items in the classroom as a leadership tool.  I could just imagine the kids in the class exploring these toys and finding fun and creative ways to use them.  I could learn just as much from them!

Lori Tharp
Special Education Teacher at Knowledge Academies
“I realized, as leaders, we should learn to see the things from a wider perspective – or different angles.” ~ Lori Tharp
IMG_8001

Jane Rogers

Chinese Yo Yo….. A leadership tool???

I was asked today to explain how a Chinese Yo-Yo as a leadership tool.  At first, I thought “Why did I pick this toy?”  Then after studying it, I thought as you throw the paper out it could be really fun to just bug people with it and see how long it would take to get them to ask me to stop.   As I studied it I saw that there were different colored dots and different sizes.  The larger one made me think that a leader needs to be “big” and strong and take charge.  The medium dot represented that a leader needs to know when to step back and mix in and work collaboratively with everyone.  The smaller dot reminded me that a leader must allow the team to be forefront and allow them to grow and shine.  A good leader should know when to take charge and when to step back.  As I played with the toy, throwing it out and in, it showed me that a leader needs to be flexible, adjustable, fun and maybe slightly annoying.  I can see myself using it in my classroom, as a pointer to get my kids to stay engaged and would want me to call on them by slinging the toy towards them.   So yes, a Chinese Yo-Yo can be leadership if you allow your self to look at it in a way you might never have thought of.

Jane Rogers
Special Education Teacher
Department Lead
“A good leader should know when to take charge and when to step back.” ~ Jane Rogers
IMG_8002

Quintarius Grigsby

Up Up & Away

Hello my name is Mr. Quintarius Grigsby. I am a Science Instructor at Knowledge Academies, basketball coach, and Christian minister. I teach Biology, Physical Science, Chemistry and I have a a background in Agricultural Sciences. At the 3D Leadership meeting the toy I chose was the World War ll Hell Cat Fighter Jet replica. Its symbolic warlike features resonated with me in such a way that I had to choose it as an identifiable leadership tool. Due to its frame and features it helps me to to remember how disciplined I am, and that I am free enough to believe that the sky is the limit. Bombs and missiles represent potential power that is destructive upon release. I believe just like the Hell Cat Fighter Jet, I have the power and influence to destroy the negatives which represent the enemy that limits us from being successful. The wings on the jet also represent freedom. This toy replica can be utilized to inspire others who desire to ascend beyond where they are now. (Leadership is a process, not a position.)

“Due to its frame and features it helps me to to remember how disciplined I am, and that I am free enough to believe that the sky is the limit.” ~ Mr. Quintarius Grigsby

We really can, as you just read, learn a lot from playing with toys. Toys can inspire new ways of thinking about leadership, teamwork and accomplishing our goals. Whether it’s motivation, wisdom or practical advice, there are some great lessons we can all take away.

Arguing The Value Of Our Experiences Is Futile!

Posted in 3D Leadership, Humble Leadership, Leadership, Ontological Humility, ontology, Radical Candor by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 27, 2020

I just finished reading one of my favorite books for the third time. If you’ve ever had one of those books that you learn something new from or discover something you missed the first times you read it, you understand where I’m coming from. The great book I’m referring to is Radical Candor: Be A Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humility by Kim Scott. I’m not sure a person shouldn’t read this book once a month, but more importantly one should put in place the lessons learned from this great book.

Something I believe separates her writing from other books in the leadership genre is how Scott shares her mistakes and missteps right along with the successes. In other words, she practiced what she preached in the writing of this book. Scott truly takes her commitment to herself as seriously as any other professional responsibility. Ironically, as I was writing this post I got a text from a school leader I am mentoring asking me to share my top five leadership books. This book will, no doubt, be on the list I suggest to her.

I have always been impressed with the ontological approach to leadership and with ontology. Much of what Scott taught us was how to form the work community necessary for each of us to “be” when answering the question of “what can we create together?”

In the book, Scott refers to “ontological humility.” The source she referenced is Fred Kofman’s book Conscious Business: How To Build Values Through Values. Ontological humility is the idea that none of us has sole claim on reality or truth. We must recognize that others have equally valid perspectives that deserve our consideration and respect. You don’t have to read very many tweets, be a part of an organizational team, or be involved in very many meetings to know ontological humility is not practiced very well in many settings. Make no mistake, it is tough to live this as a value. But, it is an important leadership trait to hone.

In fact, I try to bring ontological approaches into all leadership development gatherings I do. Additionally, it is an important part of the coaching and mentoring I do. I blogged about it in Leading With Natural Self Expression. This intuitive and natural expression that forms our leadership comes from our recognizing our experiences and the experiences of others. In education it is these experiences that enable teachers to bring real world relevance into lessons for students. Bottom line is we must understand the experiences that form our colleagues’ reality. Scott posited in the book we need to understand the past experiences of our colleagues all the way back to kindergarten.

One of my favorite quotes that I wish I knew who to credit it to is:

“To argue with someone else’s experience of reality is futile…To add their experience to yours is possibly useful.”

Read that one more time and let it sink in. Pretty deep, right? This is why the teaching of Scott in Radical Candor is so important. We must better understand ourselves, our thoughts, and our actions. Then, and only then, by understanding those on our team can we understand how to coach, mentor, provide praise, criticism, or other guidance effectively. Notice, Scott promoted guidance versus feedback. Just the term “feedback” alone, she taught us, makes us bristle. We need to care personally and challenge directly. These are the ingredients necessary for Radical Candor™️ to flourish. How well are you practicing ontological humility?

How Do You Play Leader?

IMG_7855

This past weekend at our Indiana 3D Leadership Gathering, we did a toy activity that involved Lite Brites®. Participants made a picture that represented how the Lite Brite® could be used for great leadership. The activity was called “How Do You Play Leader?” The groups did a great job with their pictures. While they were sharing out I wrote down a few notes. Check out what I wrote down here:IMG_7860

I was particularly struck by the statement that “Great leaders really don’t have to try!” I asked the person to dig a little deeper into that comment. She said that a leader who is authentic and is himself or herself instead of trying to be someone else or copy someone else is much more effective. Great leaders find a system that works for her or him, rather than trying to force oneself into a prescribed notion of a what a leader has to be. If we know ourselves well enough, we can take steps to go about leading effectively. Situations change what we need to do, but should never change who we are. We need to make sure we’re treating all team members as we would want to be treated. We need to be genuinely interested in learning something new every day from our team, and they will follow you. It’s all about relationship building. I blogged about this in Let’s Have Lunch Together!

There was also a deep discussion about how teams are most times brought together by a certain amount of randomness and disorganized connections. Great leadership connects the randomness. Leaders should be the key connectors of team members. Support them them to understand their value in the organization. Leaders need to respect all team members. Respect comes in different forms: respecting time, respecting opinions, respecting diversity, respecting the culture, and more. When we trust and respect our team members and connect with them, they will respond with dedication and enthusiasm. Because of this, our connected team members will see clarity, levels of engagement across the organization, a positive culture and community, and most of all, improvement in communication. Remember, trust builds through connections with people and forms the bedrock of a team. Teams are built on human cooperation. Without relationships, we’ve got no team.

If I Were In A Snow Globe

Posted in 3D Leadership, Aspirational, change, Education, Educational Leadership, Leadership, Leading Change, Snow Globe by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 21, 2020

So today as I was visiting with teachers and students at our host school for 3D Leadership, Coweta Charter Academy, in Senoia, Georgia I came across a really cool writing prompt: If I Were In A Snow Globe. It was very interesting to read the student responses. Then I got to thinking, how about I write to the prompt? Here is my essay:

If I Were In A Snow Globe

Here I am in this very beautiful, pristine, and tranquil globe. Everything is perfectly in its place. Of course, my snow globe is a beautiful farm scene with a modest white farm house and three barns. There are snow covered fields and pastures with Jersey dairy cows. When you look inside the barns you see perfectly stacked round bales in a pyramid. You will also see a blue New Holland tractor backed into the barn awaiting its next task.

As much as I am loving being in this snow globe there just is no magic. No excitement. I need someone to shake my snow globe. Won’t you please shake my snow globe? Only then can there be a shift in the experience – some excitement. Snow flying landing on the roofs and on the backs of the cows making an exciting, beautiful, and ever changing experience. I just can’t imagine having to be in this snow globe with out someone shaking it up. For the magic to happen I need shook up. I wish I could get out of this snow globe and shake it. How beautiful it would be!

Lesson Of Shaking It Up

I hope you enjoyed my essay. Here’s the deal: the magic only really happens when we either get shook up, or we shake things up. The shake allows for new possibilities and new beauty. By shaking the snow globe we can create change instead of being a victim of it. So, next time you are getting shook up, take some time to recognize the magic of the shake. Or better yet, give yourself or your organization a transformative shake. How about you share your “If I Were In A Snow Globe” essay?

Naked Leadership

This past Thursday night, we had an incredible 3D Leadership gathering in Mooresville, North Carolina. This was the first gathering of the third cohort of our North and South Carolina leadership development program. This first time together involves an activity called, “Who Am I As A Leader Today?” The participants are all given their very own Mr. or Mrs. Potato Heads and must creatively put them together to represent who they are that day as a leader. We then circle up and everyone shares. This is always so meaningful and is such a great way to begin building a community. You can find out a lot about someone and yourself when you’ve channeled the inner Mr/Mrs Potato Head.

I am always inspired by the wild representations that participants come up with and the deep and meaningful descriptions they give. Always lots for me to blog about after these. One of the member’s presentations really jumped out at me, however, when she said she considered leaving her Mrs. Potato Head blank without putting anything on it. She shared she wanted it to represent the nakedness she felt as a new leader and her desire to learn and become clothed with knowledge. She even brought in some Bible teaching, reminding us that Jesus had come into the world a naked and humble leader of all – and, we all come into the world naked and without anything. She had gone ahead and decorated he Mrs. Potato Head because, as she told us, she needed to recognize that she does have leadership skills today, but wants to continue learning.

The entire group, including me, was blown away by this insightful reflection. Of course, I was so moved that I said I thought there was a book to be written – Naked Leadership. Everyone laughed (thank goodness), but the more I have reflected on it the more I like the title, and the metaphor it represents. For one thing, it’s a catchy title. I’ll bet some of you are reading this post just because the word naked is in the title and you needed to know who was naked. When I began to reflect and study the idea of Naked Leadership, however, I found so many important leadership lessons.

They Realized They Were Naked

In Genesis 2, the Bible says of Adam and Eve, “The eyes of both of them were opened…and they realized they were naked.” As leaders we must have our eyes opened and realize we do not know everything. We need an attitude of personal professional growth and a desire to actively listen to others.

The Emperor Has No Clothes

I love the children’s fairytale The Emperor’s New Clothes. This might have application as a leadership fable for learning more today than at any point in history. You know the story… the emperor was very vain and loved new clothes, so some swindlers took advantage of this. They told the emperor they could fashion the most beautiful cloth ever made that could only be seen by someone who was stupid. So, emperor gave them gold, expensive silk and other items to make the cloth. Of course, these were swindlers who did not make anything but steal the items. Let’s skip to the end of the story…the emperor goes out with his new clothes which were allegedly invisible, and, of course, is naked. No one has the courage to tell the emperor he is naked until he comes to a little boy who says, “But he doesn’t have anything on!” It took the innocence of a child to make the emperor realize he had no clothes.

Wouldn’t we be more effective leaders if we were able to recognize our own nakedness without even needing to be told, as our 3D Leadership participant suggested? This would, I believe, open us up to being advised by others to our nakedness as well. The other part of the story that most never go on to talk about is that once the empower realizes he really is naked, he continues on, naked, because of his desire to not admit being wrong and his extreme vanity.

I don’t know if the Naked Leadership book will ever get written. I hope it does, but in the meantime we all need to recognize our metaphorical nakedness and be open to finding ways for clothing ourselves with the skills of great leadership. How about you; Do you have any ideas for chapters in the Naked Leadership book?

Let’s Have Lunch Together!

Last night we started our third cohort of 3D Leadership in Indiana. Hard to believe we have started our third year. Just seems like yesterday that I began putting the curriculum together for this program. Last night as we were discussing relationship building as a function of leadership, one of our participants, Sarah Medve, shared a story that really touched me and the rest of the group.

Sarah said she realized that she needed to do a better job of building relationships. Sarah also realized that she was missing out on building work friendships and collaboration because instead of taking time to eat lunch with coworkers she was making copies, grading papers, or any of the many other tasks of the day. This great teacher leader explained she has begun making sure all her tasks are done at other times so she can stop and eat lunch with others. Then Sarah told us she had fun eating lunch with others and did not want to miss it. Wow! This is a big deal!

We all do it, though. Work through lunch or sit alone and check emails. Sharing meals together, however, builds relationships. Eating together provides time to get to know each other and encourage cooperation through informal communication. Eating lunch together also increases productivity because it widens our perspectives. Eating together is a powerful act.

Researchers at Cornell University argued that eating lunch together has a much more positive effect on organizational community than the artificial activities that many organizations use like rope courses and things we call team building activities. These things are sometimes offsite and require a lot of energy. The Cornell study showed that employees (in the case of this study – firefighters) make fun of and do not see any value in them (Kniffin, et al., 2015).

This insightful story from our teacher leader reminded us all of the benefits of commensality. Coworkers that eat lunch together feel more like family and build friendships. So, we need to learn from our teacher leader, Sarah Medve, and make time to eat together with fellow teachers and staff. Why? Because, as Sarah so insightfully told us, it is fun and she feels closer to her coworkers. The rest of us leaders need to think more about providing opportunities for employees to eat together and do away with the manufactured and trite team-building exercises.

You might be interested to know that after our gathering we all went to Jockamo’s and had dinner together. It was so much fun and we learned a lot about each other. It was nice to put into practice what we were learning in 3D Leadership. I know I left feeling much closer to the group.

REFERENCE

Kniffin, K.M., Wansink, B., Devine, C. M., & Sobal, J. (2015). Eating Together at the Firehouse: How Workplace Commensality Relates to the Performance of Firefighters, Human Performance, 28:4, 281-306,DOI: 10.1080/08959285.2015.1021049

Leading With Compassionate Solutions

One of the driving forces of exceptional leadership is compassion. I am working through a situation right now that prompted the much appreciated text pictured above from a staff member and thought partner I am working on the situation with. Usually I pride myself on being very creative and innovative, but to be credited for finding a compassionate solution made me feel good and made me reflect on whether I was consistently a compassionate leader.

To be great, leaders must have the necessary empathy to inspire understanding and knowledge in team members. I teach about this in the leadership trainings I do. Empathy begins with taking an understanding from the experience and perception of another. Empathy, however, is just about understanding. Empathy is about opening doors and removing confusion. Compassion is the action step; compassion is about actually doing something.

The compassionate leader can then be creative in solving situations, problems, and opportunities. Looking for compassionate solutions allows the leader to look past “the easy way out” referenced in the text pictured above. This allows the team to look at challenges as opportunities to be dealt with as obstacles, not barriers. Barriers stop completely and obstacles can be removed, gone around, over, or under. I blogged about this in Obstacles Vs. Barriers. Actually, I said to the author of the above text, “Let’s make sure we look at any challenges as obstacles and not barriers. We are not allowing any barriers.” The compassionate leader seeks to understand people, families, and communities; knowing that understanding is the gateway to having the greatest influence as a leader.

Manatee Leadership Lessons

 

Yesterday, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to learn leadership lessons from the West Indian Manatee. Our Central Florida/Tampa 3D Leadership Program participants decided that we would start our gathering at the Tampa Electric Company Manatee Viewing Center. The Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach delivers reliable electricity to the community. When the Tampa Bay water temperature reaches 68ºF or colder, the Manatees gather in large numbers in the power station’s discharge canal, where saltwater – taken from Tampa Bay to cool Unit 4 flows, clean and warm, back to the bay. The discharge canal is a state and federally designated Manatee sanctuary that provides critical protection from the cold for these unique, gentle animals. It has also been developed into an incredible education center dedicated to the Manatee, Sting Ray, birds, butterflies, and other wildlife and plant life indigenous to the area. I even got to smell the breath of a Manatee. For the farm kid from Indiana this was an incredible experience.

Prior to arriving for the experience I did a a little studying and learned how the Manatee handle thermoregulation by doing central-place grazing. In other words, they go out into the cold bay water to graze on plant life (they are herbivores) and then come back to the warm water near the power plant to get warmed up. I was also able to study the migratory maps of these amazing mammals.

The objective of participants was to come up with the leadership lessons learned from our Manatee experience. Here is what we came up:

  1. Must be caring
  2. Adaptive to change
  3. Lead by example
  4. Able to function alone
  5. Still move forward through the unknown

As you can see there are so many great leadership lessons to be learned from studying and observing these wonderful animals. I have done other blog posts with lessons from animals, such as Pelican Leadership Lessons, Living and Leading Like A Lobster, and Leading Like A Platypus. Using animals as metaphors for great leadership is a great way to learn and teach leadership. Do you have any examples? Share them by replying to my post.