Byron's Babbles

Adaptive Leadership – Great Blue Heron Style

It’s a great morning when I can enjoy wildlife on the way to the barn. There was a Great Blue Heron out in one of our freshly mowed hay fields this morning. The background for this tall, majestic, and shaggy feathered bird this morning was a corn field (see the photo I took, featured in this post). At first I thought, “Wow that corn is really tall for the 3rd of July.” The old saying “knee high by the Fourth of July” is very outdated. As you can see from the picture, we are way past that. Think about it; if Blue Herons are 53-55 inches tall, the corn in the background is well past that. Ok, back to the point; it’s just hard for the farm kid not to talk corn.

Anyway, I have always been fascinated with these great creatures. They are amazing to watch, particularly when they are hunting rodents in a hay field. These great birds with long yellow legs can stand like statues for what seems like forever while stalking prey by site. And, when prey comes by, they don’t miss. I have blogged about these beautiful birds that have wing spans of over seven feet. Click here to read “Blue Heron Leadership.”

Now, as we begin day 115 of the the COVID-19 Pandemic, I think about how we have had to really practice adaptive leadership. Great Blue Herons can occupy a variety of habitats in freshwater and marine coastal ecosystems: lakes, ponds, rivers, flooded farmlands and meadows, irrigation ditches, and wetlands. Think about all these different habitats and the adapting that must be done. These birds are able to forage successfully on a variety of aquatic and dry land environments. They also have a very diverse and extensive menu of prey. Actually, an adaptation of the sixth cervical vertebrae allows the bird to draw it’s neck into the characteristic “S” shape and then strike with lightning speed and killing force.

Each day presents new or recurring leadership challenges. Therefore, we must learn from and draw on the wisdom of prior experiences while learning, in real time, lessons from today. In order to adaptive with the agility necessary, we must be situationally aware and asking the right questions, not just devising answers. During times like these the process of sound adaptive leadership can get lost. A preoccupation with events may lead to a short-term focus and a reactive posture. To truly adapt, we must take the long-view and adopt a broader perspective incorporating data, information, and knowledge. This will allow for the cultivation of wisdom.

Wisdom can only be gained though experience. Wisdom is about understanding and being able to adapt. Understanding is fluid. Wisdom is knowledge that is not seen as being applied rigidly to one thing. By adapting, we understand knowledge’s essence and can see how it relates to everything else, with nuances and contradictions included. Wisdom inspires adaptable versatility and provides textured lenses for dealing with reality.

Day 💯 – Getting To Know People In A Different Way

Well, here we are; day 💯 of the Covid-19 Global Pandemic. During this time of discovering a new normal, I feel more connected than ever before. I have met the children, spouses, pets, and even a grandmother of people I never would have thought possible. I’ve even introduced some of our Jersey dairy cows to others while connecting virtually. Additionally, I’ve witnessed parents attending school events virtually, while at work, that never would have been able to attend before. My point? There are things that we need to consider becoming normal. I’m not saying replace necessarily, but supplement.

Having said that, I now begin to think about what else do we need to be thinking about? How do we leverage technology? How do we stay human? How do we get the right tools in the hands of everyone? How do we decide what the right tools are?

It’s interesting to me that before the WHO (I thought that was a rock band) named this a Global Pandemic we were talking about sustainability and the environment, health care, education, and many other things. While in the education realm we have been focused on connectivity and providing meaningful virtual education, and in healthcare our actions have been around caring for Coronavirus patients and stopping the spread of the disease, we will get back to talking about the major issues in the way we were before the pandemic took over. For example, we will, no doubt, be rethinking health care and how it is delivered. In education, I continue to argue that our conversation needs to shift to the idea that school is no longer a place.

Even though I served as moderator for an awesome global event last month that was virtual with 47 countries represented, I also wonder if our assumptions about globalization have been challenged. We had been talking about distance no longer being a factor, but in some ways I’ve seen us become more isolationist and seeing us care more about the locality we operate in and what we can touch and feel. But, we’ve also seen that we can hire the best talent from anywhere and bring them onto teams. The only remaining question related to that is how to do remote working well.

I don’t think I am alone with all of this thinking and pondering. We are now entering a time of needing to decide which practices still make sense and which need to change. We need to come together as families, businesses, schools, communities, cities, states, and nations to answer the question, “What can we create together?”

“Life Isn’t Fair, But You Can Be”

We need to develop dexterity when dealing with others and leading. One uniform way of doing things will not work in all contexts. We all have micro-behaviors we can use to be agile according to situation at hand. We have seen this first hand from many leaders during the COVID-19 Pandemic. During this time we have become, in some ways, more atomized and insular.

The is a great line by Frank Reagan, played by Tom Selleck, to his granddaughter, Nicky Reagan-Boyle (played by Sami Gayle), in the television series Blue Bloods where he says, “Life isn’t fair, but you can be.” It’s true, life is not fair. Life happens in the context of others. Our actions affect others and their actions affect us. However, the actions of others are not some cosmic judgement on your being. They’re just a byproduct of being alive.

As I stated earlier, there just isn’t a uniform style of leading or dealing with others that works for everyone, every situation, or every relationship all the time. When dealing with people, we must remember that most are just trying to do their best, under different circumstances than your own.

Therefore, we, ourselves, can be fair. But, the idea of life being fair isn’t obtainable. Nor would we want it to be. Life would be insane if it actually was fair to everyone. There would be no choosing of anything. There would be no failure to understand success. It’s actually mind-boggling to think about. Many times we get too hung up on our view of how the world should work that we can’t understand how it actually does work. Embrace that life is not fair, but that you absolutely can be.

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?

Whether It’s Spinning Plates or Juggling Balls, We Can’t Afford To Drop Either For Our Kids!

IMG_8488Remember, This Is a Marathon: We Want You To Still Be In The Race At The End Accept, Acknowledge, Ask, Adjunct Teaching, Advice

We need to take time to reflect on what it means to truly form a partnership between schools, teachers, and parents and consider how we can shift our practices in ways that will extend well beyond this crisis. I had the tremendous opportunity and honor to be a part of an event hosted by Kevin Eikenberry of The Kevin Eikenberry Group this past week. It was titled ‘Juggling Balls You Can’t Drop: How To Be Successful Parent, Employee, Teacher (And Spouse) Without Going Crazy. Kevin had asked me if this was an important and timely topic, and I very quickly responded with, “Absolutely!” Then it became important to pick a great teacher to be a part of the project that was doing an awesome job of supporting parents and students. Kevin left that job to me and I could not be prouder of who I picked. I had worked with Katty Pacheco, 2nd grade teacher at Renaissance Charter School at Boggy Creek in Florida, before on webinars for teachers and knew enough about the support she is providing parents right now in this time of remote learning to know she would be a great choice. And…she certainly proved me right. The parents on the Live With Kevin event really appreciated her comments and advice. It was such a great event. If you missed it, here is the link to watch the event and see materials provided from the event: Juggling Balls You Can’t Drop: How to be Successful Parent, Employee, Teacher (and Spouse) Without Going Crazy.

Juggling Balls You Cant Drop Sq-01I decided to do this post to share not only the link about, but to share out the thoughts I have developed prepping for the event. I’m coming up on a month of working from home and as long for many of the schools I work with being transitioned to remote learning. During these unprecedented times we all are doing the very best we can. I had the opportunity to present to the SMART Factory League global event last week too, and I will be posting my thoughts on things we need to be thinking about moving forward. One thing we need to keep in mind is what my friend and great author, Nora Bateson, said in Small Arcs of Larger Circles: Framing Through Other Patterns: “No one is qualified to talk about uncertainty. You cannot get a degree in it yet, to the best of my knowledge” (location 437/3376, Kindle Ed.). While learning virtually has incredible potential, the very piecemeal efforts are not a very good substitute for real classrooms, in most cases. The school closures across the country have real consequences for our students academically.

Schools are the cornerstones of most communities and play a role that goes far beyond academics. Our schools support the nutritional, social and emotional well-being, and other health considerations of our children. This situation has many parents overburdened trying to support their child’s education the best they can. There will be gaps in education and students behind as a result of this COVID-19 Pandemic, but we must work to learn from this experience and be ready when the call comes to re-enter our schools. All of our focus cannot just be on making sure every student has internet access, even though that is an important consideration.

Accept that you are our students’ most consistent teachers, and right now you are their only in-person teachers.

  • Remember to differentiate, just like your child’s teacher would. Students who tend to be independent self-starters will thrive in a more unstructured environment. Without “wasting” time on commuting to school and having recess or dead time between class periods, they will likely become increasingly productive. Other children may require more guidance and outside motivators to continue to thrive academically.

Don’t change everything that you are doing (bring old routines to your new normal)

  • Acknowledge that being a working parent from home is the most challenging
  • Do not reinvent your schedule (at least to the extent you don’t have to)
  • Create a daily and weekly calendar (include daily routines)
  • Set boundaries and even assign roles for everyone
    • This can include assigning childcare and “adjunct teaching” time for family members
  • Schedule breaks in and some time for unstructured fun
  • Virtual play-dates for kids and adults
    • As an adult have something to look forward to at the end of the day (eg. Virtual happy hour, cooking the evening meal, family movie night, go for a drive or walk)
  • Zoom (or whatever platform is being used) lunch for the kids. Suggest to your child’s teacher that students have a set lunch time and all the students sit down and eat with their cameras and mics open.

Don’t be afraid to ask

  • We need to lean on our village now, more that ever (eg. Parents, kids, teachers, community members)
  • Ask your teachers for resources, ask your teachers for a weekly schedule, ask your teachers for help
  • Ask your teachers for a weekly “office hours” for parents to explain what will be happening that week or the next week and anything parents need to know to be successful adjunct teachers.

 Your kids will give you good advice

  • This is a chance to give kids a chance to be leaders of their own learning
  • Ask what resources they like best
  • Let your children be a part of developing the daily and weekly schedule
  • Give your students agency and choice

Accept that things are not going to run 100% smoothly and we are not all going to be our 100% productive selves.

unnamedByron’s Book Recommendation:

The Power of Showing Up: How Parental Presence Shapes Who Our Kids Become and How Their Brains Get Wired by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

 

Resources:

Noble Education Initiative Learning Hub:https://www.nobleeducationinitiative.com/services/learning-hub

The Smithsonian Institution: https://www.si.edu/collections & https://www.si.edu/openaccess &

https://airandspace.si.edu/anywhere

Time For Kids: https://time.com/tfk-free/

Khan Academies Kids:https://learn.khanacademy.org/khan-academy-kids/

Easter Isn’t Canceled

Baseball was not canceled during the Pandemic of 1918-1920

Today, I chronicle thoughts, here in my blog, on a new page in the book that is the story of my life. I have been doing some personal growth studying, with the help of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum, on the pandemic of 1918-1920. My motivation this morning is that I am always moved by the personal stories written by people experiencing an event first hand. The most interesting and compelling speak of what was happening, the mood of the country and those around them, and what he or she was feeling at the time. I’m going to attempt a little of that this morning. I also believe if we are not using this as an opportunity for our children and students to write an account of something that will be undoubtedly written about in textbooks, or whatever our kids’ grandchildren will be using, we have missed a chance to process and save the realness of our experiences real-time.

Queen Elizabeth II shared a video message yesterday that was quite moving. Click here to watch it. The genius of her message was how different parts of the message have and will inspire different people in different ways. For me it was when she said, “But Easter isn’t canceled; indeed, we need Easter as much as ever.” No doubt things will be different today for most of us. But, Easter isn’t canceled, and different doesn’t have to mean bad.

One of my fondest memories growing up was of our Easter morning Easter egg hunt. We’d get up and go find the eggs hidden all over our very large yard that included barn lots. Interestingly, the one thing that I remember most vividly is the blue egg, and it was always a blue egg, put on top of an electric box on the back side of the house. I need to point out that these were real boiled eggs, usually a few duck eggs mixed in because we raised ducks, and my mom and sister colored them – I wasn’t much into coloring Easter eggs (that involved being inside and standing still – some things don’t change with age). My dad was so proud of that hiding spot on the electric box (not sure why). That became a special spot, however, because the first Easter we lived in that house my dad, after I spotted and claimed the egg, had to lift me up to get the egg. The next year I could reach it and every year after that that egg was mine, and my dad would always laugh and say, “You need me to help you get that one?” I’d say, “No!” We’d make eye contact and now having a son of my own I think I know what was going through his mind.

Easter isn’t canceled because of the COVID-19 Pandemic and my son will have an Easter basket (yes even at age 19) this morning. We will go to church via Zoom and then have the traditional Easter brunch of “One Eyed Connelly’s (that is the family name for a piece of toasted bread with a hole cut in the center and an egg cooked in that hole), sausage links, and cinnamon rolls. I’m sure there will be Easter egg hunts with the nieces and nephews to be joined virtually on some electronic platform or another. And, how cool is it we have those platforms? We are connecting more, socially, than ever before. Physical distancing (as I am calling it because I hate the term social distancing) is not keeping us from socializing.

I went to my first virtual Happy Hour last week – very fun. Also, I popped into a teacher’s lunch bunch. She has all her students get their lunch and they all log into Zoom and eat together. Students get social time with their fellow students and teacher. Everyone turned their mic on and it sounded just like a traditional school lunchroom. I hope we use our pandemic experiences to get education in our country to a place where we could say, “School isn’t canceled.” I realize that is a tall order, but we need to contemplate what that would mean. We need to think about the fact school is no longer a place. We need to think about the why behind professional working parents being so frustrated with being adjunct teachers now. Continuing to educate, which I believe we need to be doing, cannot be about providing busy work and crappy worksheets. It needs to be about great content, accessible by all, and delivered in a way the student can easily access. Now becomes the time to decide what education will look like during the next pandemic, other crises, or just moving us into the next decade.

Today, however, Easter isn’t canceled. During the pandemic we are distanced, clouded by the threat of disease, but stubbornly persistent. Realizing this is usually a pastel colored and celebratory day, this might just be a season of clarity about what it means to be a person of faith.

March Flowers 🌼

Sometimes we need to look no further than our children for inspiration in times of crisis. This was true this past weekend for me. As I read all of the different statements being put out this week by businesses and organizations, I couldn’t help but think that the simple things we are taught as children should guide every decision: the Golden Rule and what is best for others. Maybe just some good ole empathy and compassion.

We went down to help move my son home from Murray State University this past weekend. It was tough on him to be leaving a place he has grown to love and all his friends. He was visibly upset. There was definitely mental impact at play in him having to move home because of the coronavirus. Even during this trying time, he took time to pick a clump of March flowers (daffodils) for his mother (pictured here). We’d never heard them called March Flowers. Heath told us it was a Kentucky thing. He explained, “Spring is here, new life is blooming in spite of the coronavirus.” That’s my boy, finding some beauty and positivity during a time of crisis. That was a moment I will savor forever.

As I watch groups and businesses contemplate how to get the most out of their employees at this time of global crises I can’t help but think these so called leaders have missed the point. Right now we should be thinking about how best to care for those we serve, period. And, as someone who doesn’t sit around and pontificate about a virus I know nothing about, the best thing to do is have everyone staying at home. I’m surprised how many people have become experts overnight.

In the case of k-12 education we do need to be concerned for the learning of our children. We also need to provide parents with resources to help their students along with our teachers. We need to be cognizant of the mental impact that the crisis we are living through can have. Schools need to make sure resources for parents are available so they can reinforce social-emotional skills at home and know who to contact if they are concerned about an issue impacting learning online or just in day to day life.

Staying positive is the core ingredient in the recipe of successfully coping in a time of crisis. Now is the time to be proactive in creating small moments of happiness in our days. Positive emotions help us to undo the negative effects of stress.

Does Life Imitate Art, Or Art Imitate Life?

I have been spending some time contemplating Oscar Wilde‘s thoughts on art. I love all kinds of art and consider myself an artist in terms of being creative and imaginative. I am definitely more of an artist than technocrat. I always say there is no bad art. You can refute that if you like, but Wilde and I would have been in agreement that artists should not be interested in seeking approval or creating art for demand. The instant artists, or we artistic leaders, begin to seek others approval we lose our creative juices. Think about what it is like when you are working on something and have to keep getting approval. The idiot needing the approval command and control gratification is stifling your creativity and ability to innovate. I recently wrote about this is in Empowerment Triggers The Approach System.

“…the new work of art is beautiful by being what Art has never been.” ~ Oscar Wilde

If you think about it art really means new. To truly be artistic in whatever we do whether it is leading, teaching, building, et cetera, we must be creative and innovating; we need to practice some individualism. Wilde argued “Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.” I believe if we approach everything we do as art, we would probably reach our highest potential.

“Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” ~ Oscar Wilde

James Ensor (Belgian, 1860 – 1949) Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1889, 1888, Oil on canvas 252.7 × 430.5 cm (99 1/2 × 169 1/2 in.), 87.PA.96 The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

If you think about it, leadership and art both bring social encounters to life life. One of my favorite artworks that I believe intersects with leadership is James Ensor‘s painting Christ’s Entry Into Brussels in 1889. The painting, which began expressionism, has Jesus in the middle of a chaotic crowd of very real and very unreal characters. I was first introduced to this painting back in 2012 and then blogged about the inspiration in Rushmorean Servant Leadership. For me it was about Jesus leading from the middle, or amongst us. I do try to lead in that way while being creative. Which still begs the question of whether Wilde was right, does life imitate art or art imitate life?

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.

Obstacles ARE The Path

Posted in Adaptive Leadership, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Shape-Shifter by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 26, 2020

IMG_7804I heard a great quote from the late Jane Lotter that really got me thinking this morning: “And may you always remember that obstacles in the path are not obstacles, they ARE the path.” I have blogged about obstacles and barriers before and most recently in Obstacles Vs. Barriers and Overcoming Obstacles. I really liked and was inspired by the Lotter quote because I had not ever really thought of the obstacles as being the path, or even a part of the path. When we begin to look at these obstacles as just part of the path it gives us an entirely new perspective. Leaders who live with a fearless approach and embrace the adventures in daily pursuits, are able to shape-shift and mold ourselves into the leaders we truly desire to be. I actually blogged about shapeshifting in Teacher Leader Shape-Shifter, last summer.

As I was thinking about this, I remembered watching Star Trek Deep Space Nine and there being shapeshifting species, called Changlings, who could adapt their shape to whatever was necessary to the situation. Odo, a shapeshifter, was so cool; he could change from solid to liquid, male to female, or living being to inanimate object. How cool is that? Better yet, how useful could that be? Particularly when thinking about obstacles. So, can we shape-shift to let obstacles just be part of the path? Probably not, but there are things we can do to be a shapeshifting leader.

We can:

  1. Create an environment where everyone is empowered at the right time.
  2. We can have empathy, show our emotions, and have compassion. This will let our teams know we are vulnerable and care.
  3. Develop an atmosphere where everything is a joint effort. Everyone has value in this environment and the project will be looked at from every vantage point.
  4. Be observant. When we can see and plan for obstacles in advance, they can be viewed more as parts of the path.
  5. Become more taciturn. Odo, in Star Trek, was considered taciturn. In this sense I believe the character was not snobby, but a very reflective and active listener.

We must develop our capacity to embrace ambiguity and achieve results in unfamiliar environments. As I always say, “I am uncomfortable with being uncomfortable.” As we become a more and more global society, we must continue to develop our personal abilities to understand and appreciate the different values of our global counterparts. When we become adaptive leaders, we are able to select behaviors that are best suited help those we serve on the path of success. We must be able to adapt to the nature and demands of a particular situation.

Are you ready for the path ahead?