Byron's Babbles

Experiencing, Not Attending For Learning

As I travel home this evening from what was an incredible journey to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, I am reflecting on all that my family and I saw and experienced, all that I learned at the 2019 International Research Conference, and can’t help but reflect on yesterday’s 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. A week ago yesterday we began this excursion and a week ago today attended the Calgary Stampede. What we found is that one does not attend the Stampede, one experiences the Stampede. Through this experience I learned about invented traditions. These Invented traditions are activities that are actually recent but are accepted by the public as having a particularly long and resonant history and as representing something essential about a nation’s character, values, and identity–arose from a widespread effort to justify the nation state, royal dynasties, and national boundaries by linking them, often tenuously and sometimes even falsely, with the past. These invented traditions spring from the need to reconcile constant change in the modern world with the desire for stability and traditional understandings about society.

We found that the Calgary Stampede has evolved over the decades in response to economic and political dynamics and the perceived need to maintain a vibrant balance between nostalgia for the past and celebration of the economic and ideological promise of the future. Successful cities have managed to brand themselves through identification with their annual festivals. We found that the brand lived up to the hype. One of the things I learned from experiencing and studying the Calgary Stampede is Americans cherish individualism and individuality above community. Canadians have exactly the reverse set of political priorities. This is not to say one is right and one is wrong; it is just to say that I learned some cultural differences along the way. We made some great friends while at the Stampede.

I can’t help but also reflect on all the great scenery, nature, and natural beauty we had the opportunity to see and experience as well. The Canadian Rockies are awesome, and we had the opportunity to experience them from as far south as Waterton Lakes National Park and as far north as Lake Louise in Banff National Park. This all reminded us, as a family, of how important sustainable development is to making sure future generations will be able to enjoy and learn from these natural beauties like we did. We must work hard to meet the needs of our present generation without compromising future generations ability to meet their own needs.

This was also discussed during the 2019 International Research Conference. Dr. Gerald Farthing, Former Deputy Minister Of Education Manitoba Department Of Education reminded us to act locally, while knowing what’s going on globally. I was honored to speak at the conference on discovering, developing, and distributing great leadership. It was awesome to visit from individuals from around the world to discuss current education issues and the innovative solutions to opportunities. We must find ways to end our preoccupation with the industrial and factory models of just “doing school”. The gap between what we call education in schools and learning that happens from being a part of society is widening. We must redesign our learning environments if we want to engage our students in the learning process. Learning needs to be 24/7, and not confined to a physical space we call school.

Yesterday, as I reflected throughout the day on the 50th Anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon, and those first steps, I was struck by all the ways we could relive the history. For example, Neil Armstrong’s Spacesuit was at the Smithsonian Castle yesterday and I was in Canada, but I took an in-depth 3D tour of the suit using Smithsonian’s new 3D Digitization site for doing interactive tours. You can also take an up close and in-depth 3D look at the 1903 Wright Flyer. It is such a great thing that the Smithsonian is doing. Every person can learn from and take part in Smithsonian exhibits without physically being on site. Think of the possibilities of this. I can remember saying, “Wow, everyone should experience the great learning that goes on at the Smithsonian’s many museums.” They can! Opportunities like this begin to take away the effects of zip code or socioeconomic status. Every child really can experience the Smithsonian. By leveraging the technology the Smithsonian is able to let their researchers tell their stories to the world and allow students to take a quest of discovery.

For me, I am going home with a renewed commitment that we must quit just having students attend and “doing school”. We must enable them to experience learning and go on a quest of discovery.

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It’s Not How You Talk, It’s HOW You Talk

I stepped in at the end of an interview this week and caught the last part of the conversation and had the chance to briefly meet the candidate. When the candidate left I said, “I know I was only in here for 10 minutes of that, but I’d hire that person.” The persons doing the interview said, “She’s awesome, we intend to.” They proceeded to call her back in and give her an offer and she accepted. After the now new hire left, the comment was made that “it is not how you talk, it’s HOW you talk. Her words meant something.” Bingo! That was a perfect description of what was just witnessed.

This candidate didn’t have things she was saying that we had never heard before, although she did have innovative ideas. So, her “what” wasn’t much different. Additionally, she had not chosen to be a career changer and go into teaching for reasons much different from others. So, her “why” wasn’t much different either. This person, however, had learned how to convey a more strategic voice.

If we want to establish credibility and influence people, it’s important to be concise and let individuals know clearly what role you want to play in the conversation. It is also important to demystify the content of the message and we deliver by eliminating jargon and being a person of few, but effective, words.

This is really about developing your voice, which is less about performance and more about your strategic instincts, understanding the context we are in, and an awareness of the signals we are sending. We all have different ways of communicating, but saying it in the correct context, or how we say it, is crucial. This “how” includes being visionary and developing the ability to convey our aspirations for the future. This then sets the stage for transformation to occur.

So, if you want to show up with a strong strategic voice and effectively connect the dots for those you are speaking to remember that the context matters, be clear, concise and jargon free, and paint the picture that bridges any distance between you and those you are speaking to. Sometimes finding the right words can be the biggest challenge of our day. Remember to make your words mean something because “it’s not how you talk, but HOW you talk.”

Leading Without Kitschy Trinkets

Many times, as you know, my blog posts come from words or phrases that I hear that inspire me to dig deeper and study. This post is no exception. Yesterday, I heard someone say, and I am paraphrasing,not quoting, here, “I don’t need the kitschy trinkets when morale gets low, just treat us with respect all the time.” This was a pretty powerful statement when you think about employee retention, satisfaction, and the climate and culture of an organization.

Also, I was captured by the word “kitschy”. Of course we had to immediately look it up. What we found was that, first, the person used the word correctly; second, we found that the definition was: something to that appeals to popular or lowbrow taste and is often of poor quality. Sound familiar? Now, you will also find the term “kitsch” used in the art world. Since I believe there is no such thing as bad art, art is beyond taste. Therefore, you can leave your prejudices behind and just be uplifted by art. I’ll bet, however, you have been given things that fit the category of being kitschy.

This really got me to thinking, though, about how we really feel about our employees. Does giving trinkets get us to the level of community we desire. I think not. We must remember it is all about trust. Trust is earned; it is not a transaction. If we want those in our organizations to trust us and we want to inspire commitment, we must make the first move. We want employees to be committed to what we are doing and the mission and vision, but employees many times get the message we aren’t really that committed to them. Kitschy gifts probably exacerbate this belief.

According to Gallup, only 32 percent of employees in the United States are engaged. Now engaged to Gallup means involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace. Expand this data analysis worldwide and the number drops to 13 percent. Think about that. 87 percent of employees are unengaged. Pretty sure a kitschy gift won’t change that.

So, what will help us change these numbers? I don’t believe there is a silver bullet here, but I do believe there are some thing central to how leaders can truly become committed to their teams. First, we need to make continuous feedback and coaching central to performance and continuous improvement. This is true whether we are talking a school or manufacturing. I just finished reading a great book on feedback from M. Tamra Chandler entitled Feedback (and other dirty words). It was such an honor to get an advance copy to read. One of my favorite feedback tips in the book is, “Kick Some Ask”. I’ll let you read the book and find out what that is.

Additionally, we need to create and commit to providing development opportunities for both skill and role development. This plays to succession management and employees see you are serious about, and committed to, preparing team members for advancement from within. This also means we need to empower employee connection and collaboration.

I believe if we get these things right and couple this with compensation strategies that are aligned with today’s hyper competitive market, we can begin to chip away at the low employee engagement numbers. So, how about we drop the kitschy trinkets and just treat employees with the respect they deserve and provide the development, space for collaboration, opportunities for advancement, and compensation they deserve?

Soaring Like A Malcontent Eagle

This past Saturday night I got caught up watching the documentary “The History Of The Eagles” on CNN. As a student of rock and roll bands and artists I became engrossed. Particularly when you think about all the artists that were members of the Eagles, like Glenn Frey, Don Henley, and Joe Walsh; or those who influenced and mentored the band, like Bob Seger, Jackson Browne, and Linda Ronstadt. There were so many things that I could blog about after watching this. I took a couple of pages of notes.

One of the things that caught my attention was when the Eagles manager said that Don Henley was a “malcontent.” Henley, however, just wanted the band to keep getting better. A malcontent is someone who is dissatisfied and rebellious. I believe many tines those of us who have a very defined purpose and are very passionate are viewed as, and rightly so, rebellious. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.

Isn’t a malcontent really someone who is not satisfied with the status quo? Couldn’t a malcontent be that person who sees a need and opportunity for change? Finally, couldn’t a malcontent be a catalyst for change? When all three of these questions get answered with “yes,” that constitutes a person being a productive malcontent.

This is the person who challenges what is being done, but always has an alternative to offer. This is healthy. It’s the person who just complains and fights change with no alternatives that is toxic to the organization or community. So let’s embrace the productive malcontent and be vulnerable to positive/constructive criticism/change for the betterment of our organizations, schools, businesses, communities, or even rock bands.

Triageformational Leadership: New Hybrid Definition of Triage and Transformational Leadership

Screen Shot 2019-06-14 at 2.40.45 PMYou all know how I like to make words up, so here is my latest: Triageformational Leadership. Actually, I made up the word and the definition over a year ago while in a meeting, but am just now blogging about. Does that give you any indication of how long my “want to blog ideas” list is? Anyway, here is the definition: The process of leading by core values to determine and prioritize needed changes so limited resources can be rationed efficiently and effectively to support the organization’s realization of vision and mission.

The important thing to note about triageformational leadership is that that the transformation is done by triaging by using core values. So many times this is given lip service, but not really done. By putting our core values at the forefront of our triageformational leadership we:

  1. determine our school or organization’s distinctives.
  2. dictate personal involvement.
  3. communicate what is important.
  4. embrace positive change.
  5. influence behavior.
  6. inspire people to action.
  7. enhance credible leadership.
  8. shape teaching/employee character.
  9. contribute to educational/organization success.

…it is clearly necessary to invent organizational structures appropriate to the multicultural age. But such efforts are doomed to failure if they do not grow out of something deeper; out of generally held values. ~ Vaclav Havel

So much goes into truly embodying what it means to be a triageformational leader beginning with the sense of community we develop within an organization. Those that I believe that would make great triageformational leaders place a high value on fostering an environment or community of collaboration. This community is balanced, diverse, and equitable. These leaders build community and culture by truly living out their own core values and the organization’s core values. Just like doing triage in an emergency situation, these leaders are prioritizing what gets done next by matching core values to the situation. This in turn brings about transformation and service oriented leadership.

Buy In From All Vantage Points

Screen Shot 2019-06-12 at 8.48.42 PMThis week I had the opportunity to present a leadership academy workshop session entitled “Buy In From All Vantage Points.” The gist of the session was how to get an entire school staff to “buy in” to a continuous education model and other important school initiative. When I was first given the title I balked a little, but then decided to leave it so I could refer to not liking the title. I don’t like the title because “buy in” to me implies that there needs to be a “sales job” done after decisions are made. In my view, decisions should be made by including a wide range of individuals so the initiative, challenge, or opportunity can be looked at from all Vantage Points©. I refer to and use this model often when discussing leading change, which is what I would have titled the session. Here is the Vantage Point© model developed by MG Taylor Corporation:

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When I want people to understand how powerful using The Vantage Points© is to leading change, I like to compare it to board games. If you think about it board games have a philosophy, culture, policy, strategy, tactics, logistics, and tasks. So, I had the groups pick a board game to use as an example. The group picked Candy Land™. Then they had to discuss board game from the seven Vantage Points©.

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One of the groups of the two sessions I did on this did some research on the Candy Land™ board game and we learned some history. We were reminded that in the 1940s the dreaded disease of Polio struck thousands of Americans. In response to this, Eleanor Abbott, who was a victim of the disease herself, set out to develop games that would help recovering children pass the time. Milton Bradley, which is now Hasbro® began marketing the game in 1949 and is still being marketed today. Additionally, it is now available in electronic forms.

As the group made the comparison to leading change, they found that the philosophy was to be attainable and challenging to all – what we want in all education initiatives. Just like a board game, we need to give everyone a chance to play and have the opportunity to be a part of the decision making. It’s important to acknowledge that you will never convince everyone to get on board. An unfortunate truth is often that a better future for your school or organization doesn’t always mean a better situation for every individual in the end. It should, however, mean a better situation for the students we serve.

We need to always remember, when leading change, that change is always personal. Think about it; any time there is a change we all question how the change will affect us personally. As leaders, we need to be cognizant of this, and address this. By involving individuals from all vantage points we are able to help everyone, including ourselves, understand how the change will affect everyone. Leading change and new initiatives is a process, we need to use all our tools and techniques to manage the people side of change to achieve the required school or organization outcome. Effectively leading change incorporates the organizational tools that can be utilized to help individuals make successful personal transitions resulting in the adoption and realization of change.

United States Merchant Marine: The Link To American Victory

Each year I try to do a Memorial Day post honoring those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms I love, and do not take for granted. This past week I had the opportunity to visit and tour the nine decks of the SS American Victory Ship in Tampa, Florida. I already blogged some about my visit in Where Is Your Leadership Engine Order Telegraph Set? While on the ship, which one deck serves as the museum, I stood in the wheel house, walked the deck, saw the radio and gyro rooms, sat in the mess hall, looked in crew cabins, experienced the captain’s quarters, walked the engine room deck, and so much more.

Even as eye opening as all this first hand experience was, I really learned a lot from the attendant who took time to have a long conversation with me about the United States Merchant Marine. I have to admit I was very ignorant about this important part of our military support. The Merchant Marine is also crucial to our economy as well.

Merchant Mariners are not part of the military but do support our armed services, particularly the U.S. Navy, with cargo, fuel, personnel, and other cargo. The Merchant Marine fleet is small and includes privately owned and government owned. The SS American Victory was and still owned by the U.S. Navy. The SS American Victory saw service at the end of World War II, the Korean Conflict, and Vietnam.

The United States Maritime Administration, under the Department of Transportation, handles programs that administer and finance the United States Merchant Marine. This includes supporting the United States Maritime Service, which helps to train officers and crew on merchant ships.

Additionally, there is legislation being considered in the 116th Congress, HR 550 and S133, called the Merchant Mariners Of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act Of 2019. This legislation would award a Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the United States Merchant Mariners of World War II, in recognition of their dedicated and vital service during World War II.

After spending time on this ship, learning of the sacrifices, I, certainly on this Memorial Day morning, believe passing this legislation would be appropriate. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was Supreme Commander Of the Allied Forces during World War II, recognized what an important part the Merchant Marines played in winning the war when he said, “through the prompt delivery of supplies and equipment to our armed forces overseas, and of cargoes representing economic and military aid to friendly nations, the American Merchant Marine has effectively helped to strengthen the forces of freedom throughout the world.” Upon reflection, we would not have successful without this crucial link to equipment, fuel, ammunition, and the many other supplies needed.

According to statistics the Merchant Marine suffered the highest rate of casualties during World War II. Another thing my host shared was a story of American ingenuity. Before the Victory Class ship there was the much slower Liberty Class. The Liberty Class could only travel at approximately 8 knots. This was not fast enough to outrun the 12 knots of the German U Boats. We then redesigned and came up with the Victory Class that could run at 17 knots. This would allow for outrunning the U Boats. Even in war we were having to innovate and make improvements. It still amazes me to think that the SS American Victory was built in 55 days. We need to also take a moment and honor the civilians, many of who were women, for making sure everything was being taken care of back home, including getting our ships built quickly.

I am so grateful I had the opportunity to learn about the United States Merchant Marine and their part in securing our freedom. Today, on Memorial Day, we should all pause and give thanks for the ultimate sacrifice paid by so many for our freedom.

Where Is Your Leadership Engine Order Telegraph Set?

I had the opportunity this past week to visit and tour the SS American Victory Ship and Museum in Tampa, Florida. It is an outstanding icon of America during times of war. I particularly learned a lot from the museum and the person there who answered all my questions and took the time to have a lengthy conversation with me. Before that day I really did not know much about Merchant Marine ships, how they were operated, and the relationship to the US Navy. I’m still pretty ignorant, but I am learning.

The SS American Victory was a Merchant Marine cargo ship that supplied our troops at the end of World War II, and then in the Korean Conflict and Vietnam. This ship hauled ammunition, cargo, and troops. The ship was run by the Merchant Marines, but of the crew of 62 part were US Navy personnel who manned the weapons in case of attack. This ship was launched 74 years to the day (May 24) I was there, in 1945. It only took our patriotic citizens 55 days to build the ship.

The exhibits in the museum are awesome and I had the chance to explore the entire ship. I was especially inspired in the wheel house, or bridge, as I looked out the port hole windows and thought about the decisions leaders had to make on this very deck. Then when I went above to the outdoor wheelhouse deck I studied the Engine Order Telegraph (the featured picture of this post). I immediately realized I had found another great metaphor that I believe represents the ways many organizations, leaders, associations, and governments work. Earlier last week I blogged about metaphors in Leading By Metaphor.

The Engine Order Telegraph, also known as an EOT, is a device that transmitted the orders from the pilot to the engine room. It has slow, half, and full for both ahead and astern (reverse). Also, it has stop, stand by, and finished with engine. As I stood there studying the EOT on a beautiful sunny day in beautiful Tampa Ybor Channel and thought about how these are incredible metaphors for leadership.

On these older style ships the captain didn’t physically control the ship like on today’s ships. On this ship the EOT would telegraph what the captain needed and engineer in the engine room made the adjustments – slow down, open up the throttle, et cetera. I thought about how this ship would have been like an orchestra with the captain as the conductor and the deck and engine crew playing the instruments.

As leaders we have the opportunity be a part of telegraphing full speed ahead, reversing the engines, slowing down, or stand by which I believe is analogous to status quo. I chuckled to myself that the EOT was set to stand by because I am such a status quo hater. If I was captain of a ship it would probably be hard to order stand by. I’m kind of a Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut kind of guy – “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” We all have to make decisions using the best intel available at the time from collaboration with our teams to enter the correct decisions into our metaphorical EOTs. We work in such a high speed environment! Therefore, we must figure out ways for professional growth of our leaders and teams on how to achieve organizational goals in the shortest time possible. We must then also find ways to provide maximum professional growth in the shortest time possible.

Therefore, we need to be ready to ring the bells for full speed ahead, just as Rear Admiral Farragut did in Mobile Bay in 1864. Had those ships not been willing to go ahead full, they probably would not be successful. I can tell you that the SS American Victory Ship and Museum team have their EOT set on full speed ahead for telling the story of the important work of Merchant Marine ships. How about you and your organization? Are you stuck in the status quo of stand by? Or will you make the call for full speed ahead?

Leading By Metaphor

IMG_5843I use metaphors all the time. Sometimes I wonder if I use them too much, but this week while reading the very instructive book The Art Of Innovation by Tom Kelley I was reminded that we need to lead and innovate by metaphor. He said, “We should lead by metaphors.” Metaphors are a powerful tool. A metaphor can give us a powerful and clear image of who we want to be, what we want to learn, how we want to learn, and how we want to grow. Our metaphors serve as examples of how we want to contribute to the world.

indexMetaphors also serve as reminders of what we do not want to be. I am reminded of the toy lawnmower on my desk that serves as a constant reminder of how when innovating, reforming, or leading change many let protecting their own, or their organization’s, turf get in the way. I literally say things like, “Time to get the lawnmowers out.” or we are going to need a really big lawnmower for this group.” In fact I blogged about this in The Frustrating Truth of Turf. Another metaphor I use a lot is that of going up a hill with bullets flying and turning around and everyone else is headed down the hill. Then my metaphor of just putting on the Kevlar™ and doing what is right comes into play.

If you haven’t noticed I really do talk in metaphores. So, to me you do not just need to pick one, you can pick multiple metaphors for whatever the situation. As a believer in adaptive leadership, these metaphors serve an important purpose. They, as I stated earlier, serve as powerful reminders and serve as great ways to tell a story. People you are working or collaborating with can relate to the metaphor. It makes the issue or topic relevant, and as you know, I am all about putting all learning into a relevant context. For example, when it comes to policy I use the metaphor of Patrick Henry a lot. As one of our founding fathers he stands as a lasting image of America’s struggle for liberty. He inserted himself as a leader in every protest and move against British tyranny and in the movement for colonial rights. Most of all, though, he believed in states rights, local autonomy, and very limited government.

As a believer in intent based leadership Patrick Henry serves as an important reminder that decisions should be made as close to where the data is created – local control. You can compare this to classroom teachers in a school or governments. How do we remove obstacles and let what needs to be done, done? Which then always brings a metaphor of that people use to describe my desires, “What you want would create the wild west.” Guilty as charged! But think about how much innovation and change was happening in the wild west.

Another metaphor I have used before is that of Abraham Lincoln bringing the nation back together. In fact I use that so much that friends photo-shopped a picture that I have included in this post. It serves as an important reminder to me of how important it is to bring everyone together for a common cause and respect everyone, just as Abraham Lincoln did following the Civil War by showing respect for the confederate south. I need this metaphorical example because this unification is not always easy and I am not always the best at it. We all have a tendency to go tribal.

Kelley told us in The Art Of Innovation we should choose a metaphor for every project or everything we do. Again, they serve as such powerful reminders for us. Just like the airplane wing hanging in one of the office areas of IDEO. What metaphors do you use?

Do Others Like The Vibes You Give Off?

I pride myself in always having a great attitude. In fact if you were to ask those that know me they would tell you that one of my mantras would be my answer to the question of how I am doing: “I don’t know how I could be any better!” And, I really do believe this.

“The ‘secret’ of success is not very hard to figure out. The better you are at connecting with other people, the better the quality of your life.” ~ Nicholas Boothman

Amazingly this fits with my philosophy of having a great attitude all the time. This is affirmed in Nicholas Boothman’s great book that I am reading right now entitled How To Make People Like You In 90 Seconds. He talks about either having a “really useful attitude” or a “really useless attitude”. I have found, as Boothman also points out in the book, it always pays to have the useful attitude. In fact he provides a great table of both useful and useless attitudes.

From How To Make People Like You In 90 Seconds by Nicholas Boothman

Then, yesterday when flying into Orlando, Florida I had this affirmed when I picked up my rental car. When I went to my Preferred area, the agent told me that they were out of the vehicles in the selected size I always get. I said, “Okay, let’s just figure out what you’ve got; it will be okay.” I was in A garage and she said, you know if you want to go over to B garage they’ve got one. It’s a short walk, so said “No problem. Let’s do that.” Now could have got all huffy and holier than though, but really, what would that have gotten me – nothing.

As I was walking away the agent said, “Thanks for having a great attitude. I like your vibes you give off.” This made my day because I do try to always give off good vibes. Boothman would have been proud because I couldn’t help but take a moment and be the teacher I am and tell her about the book and what I had learned about useful and useless attitudes.

Then when I got to the other garage, I found that the first agent had called over and told them to take good care of me and give me an upgrade to a premium vehicle. So what did having a useful attitude get me? A premium ride. To be clear, however, I am not saying to just have the useful attitude to get stuff or be upgraded. I am saying, as my story proves, authentically having a useful attitude will be just that – useful. So, if we want to live a premium and top shelf life we need to always have useful attitude. What kind of vibes are you giving off?