Byron's Babbles

Nuanced Complexity

The word Nuance means very subtle or little difference between the two things. So, when someone asks you to give or make a nuanced report of something, it means to make a detailed, verified, acknowledged, and characteristic report. Opening day for Major League Baseball (MLB) ⚾️ is this week, so my eyes and attention have been turned to America’s Pastime. That means my attention has also turned to my beloved Cincinnati Reds and Reds Beat. Mark Sheldon made a comment in his Reds Beat Newsletter that jumped out at me. I have always loved his work and wish I could go to a Reds game with him sometime. The first paragraph welcomed us back to the newsletter and then in the second paragraph he wrote:

“One great change from the past two years is reporters are allowed back inside the clubhouse. Hopefully this translates to better reporting from me and more enjoyable reading for you. Talking to players, the manager and coaches means more candid answers to questions and more depth to information. It should also bring something that is difficult to achieve on Zoom and impossible to get on social media — nuance.”

Mark Sheldon

Did you catch that? More candid answers and more depth – those allow for nuance. Sheldon is so right, nuance is difficult, not impossible, in a virtual platform and I continue to hone that skill daily. Nuance is not easy to notice, but as Sheldon points out very important to telling the whole story. In learning, real depth comes from individuals exploring their own views first and then placing them within the context of their organization. The depth of learning comes from the heuristic nature of nuance.

One of the leadership strategies I teach about is the need to move away from the old industrial model which uses binary questions that are yes/no or one right, one wrong answer. Sheldon’s point of nuance in an in person locker room interview is well taken. We imagine when he asks a question and the player pauses. Right then we know the answer is not a simple question with a binary answer. The in person interaction allows for both in the conversation to have that psychologically safety where to explore their own views first and then place them within the context of their team or organization. This is not to say it can’t be done on Zoom and we should continue to work at being able to provide the ethos for nuance, but it is much more effective in person.

My point here is how important a more nuanced approach can be. Getting rid of the binary approach allows us to put everything into context. And…context matters. Always! Ask any of us a question and there will be nuanced complexity. The nuances are not always easily seen, which is Sheldon’s point, but if we want to know the whole story we must seek to uncover the complexity of emotions, relationships, history, patterns, values, politics, and power dynamics.


Keep Pitching!

Posted in Baseball, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on June 9, 2021

I’ve been in southwest Florida doing some professional development for teachers this week, so it’s appropriate that I am watching the Tampa Bay Rays hosting the Washington Nationals to unwind this evening. I love watching baseball and all the details of the game. Just now, in the third inning, I was reminded how important it is to stay focused and keep battling even when things aren’t going exactly as planned.

Shane McClanahan is pitching for the Rays in the third inning and just gave up a home run to Ryan Zimmerman for the Nationals. He then ended up with runners on second and third with two outs in that same inning. I thought to myself, “just keep pitching!” He did and struck out the next man up to get the third out and strand the runners. It is so tough to pitch out of a situation like that. It takes concentration and the ability to just keep pitching and finding command of location.

No matter what the rest of us do for a living, we must, at times, pitch ourselves out of a situation. In other words, keep pitching! Pitchers rely on their teammates, thinking through the fundamentals and the mechanics to keep them maximizing performance. We all can learn from this. Again, lets keep pitching!

Hank Aaron: A Pillar Of Baseball

Posted in Baseball, Equity, Hank Aaron, Henry Aaron, Henry “Hank” Aaron, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 23, 2021

Yesterday we lost one of my childhood heroes, Henry “Hank” Aaron. I will never forget getting to watch him play, in person, as a kid. And, I can still recreate the room, in my mind, sitting with my dad on April 8, 1974 watching the baseball game that everyone anticipated to be “the one.” The one where Hank Aaron hit number 715 and broke Babe Ruth’s record. He did not disappoint that night. That was probably the most famous home run ever.

The part of the story that still has an impact on me was all the hate that surrounded Aaron as he approached the 715 milestone. All of the racial hatred that surrounded that moment, the hate mail, the death threats, and fear of his teammates at that time were just unbelievable. At age 11, I was having trouble processing these stories and, in reality, most of those stories didn’t come out till later, but here was this great man that would not be defined by fear or hate. We have come so far and made great strides in terms of equity, but there is still so much to be done. As we reflect on and honor the life of Hank Aaron we need to pledge our continued resolve on the promising path toward equity.

After his retirement, Aaron joined the Braves’ front office working in a variety of jobs, including player development and community relations. He would always remain a blunt and unflinching advocate for civil rights in this country.

“Each time Henry Aaron rounded the bases, he wasn’t just chasing a record, he was helping us chase a better version of ourselves — melting away the ice of bigotry to show that we can be better as a nation. He was an American hero. God bless, Henry “Hank” Aaron.”

President Joe Biden on Twitter

I’ll end this tribute to Hank Aaron with his 755th and final home run that came on July 20, 1976, when he was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers, off Angels right-hander Dick Drago. His home-run mark stood until Barry Bonds hit his 756th on Aug. 7, 2007. The ever gracious Hank Aaron recorded this message to Bonds that was played on the jumbotron that evening, “I move over now and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historical achievement. My hope today, as it was on that April evening in 1974, is that the achievement of this record will inspire others to chase their own dream.” That was him, always encouraging others to work hard toward their dreams regardless of any circumstance. How about you, are you chasing your dream? Let us not remember this great man for what he did on the baseball field, but for the way he lived his life and the example he set for us. Thanks, Hammerin’ Hank!

Remembering Tommy Lasorda Leadership

Posted in Baseball, Coaching, Global Leadership, Humanocracy, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 9, 2021

The world of baseball lost a great one this past Thursday with the passing of Tommy Lasorda at his home at the age of 93. He won his first World Series as a major league manager the year I graduated from high school. I remember his antics on the field and off the field. He was such an enthusiastic and animated person. His players loved and respected him. Under Lasorda’s leadership his teams won 1,630 games in the major leagues. This figure includes his postseason wins as well. He was at the helm of the Dodgers for seven division titles, four World Series appearances and two world championships, in 1981 and 1988. After he retired, he managed the United States baseball team to gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Lasorda had said in interviews that the Olympics gold medal was won of his proudest moment.

The point I want to make in this post comes from Lasorda’s great biography, I Live For This: Baseball’s Last True Believer. Lasorda told of his experience playing for the Triple-A Denver Bears and learning from manager Ralph Houk, who became his role model. Lasorda reflected, “Ralph taught me that if you treat players like human beings, they will play like Superman.” He went on to write, “He [Ralph Houk] taught me how a pat on a shoulder can be just as important as a kick in the butt.″ Tommy Lasorda had a gift of knowing what his players needed. Lasorda was a human-centric leader. Some leaders treat their people as resources, to be used. These same leaders see their team members as mere handles to be cranked to complete tasks. The leaders I have most respected, on the other hand, treat others like human beings, form relationships that are about the whole person, going beyond just treating people as a supply. It’s about being people oriented and people centered.

The loss of Tommy Lasorda leaves a big void in the world. Let’s remember him by honoring his legacy of treating his players like human beings and make sure we are doing that as leaders as well.

Executing The Micros

Posted in Baseball, Cincinnati Reds, Leadership, Leadership Development, Reds by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 2, 2020

If you’ve not heard Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) do the play-by-play of a Major League Baseball (MLB) baseball game on ESPN, you need to. He is awesome. And, you’re in luck because the MLB Playoffs are still going on. During game one of the NL Wildcard Series between the Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds, A-Rod made the comment, “It’s about executing the micros, not the macros.” This was in references to a couple of things:

  1. We need to execute the fundamentals
  2. We cannot focus on the big outcome and forget the process

The case in point was that in game one there seemed to be a focus on trying to knock the ball out of the park instead of just putting the ball in play. In game one an RBI (run batted in) would have been much more valuable than a home run. Proof in point was the game winning RBI by the Brave’s Freddie Freeman. A-Rod also pointed out that bunting in a couple of scenarios would have moved players into scoring position.

Baseball, just like most of our every day work, is about making progress. Enormous success happens when progress becomes the biggest goal. It’s about improving and executing the micros. Ordinary teams, organizations, and focus on the macro outcome, geniuses and champions focus on the process. In other words, throw out the phrase, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” It’s time to sweat the small stuff.

Baseball is such a great way of teaching this. Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman ended the longest scoreless duel in postseason history with an RBI single in the 13th inning to beat Cincinnati 1-0 in the opener of their NL Wild Card Series. An RBI single is a micro compared to a home run; it’s just putting the ball in play. It also took having a player in scoring position. A-Rod’s point, I believe, was we need to be doing all the things necessary for progress. Someone needed to get on base, get moved to second or third base, then a ball put in play.

How about you, are you executing the micros?

Belief Is The Price Of Admission

Posted in Baseball, Coaching, DTK, Global Leadership, Leadership, Mindset Mondays, Uncategorized by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 15, 2020

I love baseball. Something exciting happens every day and this past week was a great week for the game of baseball. Albert Pujols hit is 660th career home run this past Sunday, September 13th. This tied him with Willie Mays. That same day, Alec Mills threw a no-hitter for the Chicago Cubs. That was the first of his career. Monday, in Lesson 3 of the great book Mindset Mondays With DTK, by David Taylor-Klaus, which contains 52 weekly chapters designed to be done on Mondays, the lesson was entitled “Believe in the Impossible.” The lesson was about Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile in 1954. Everyone told him the four-minute mark could not be broken, but this did not stop him. He believed it could be done and that he was the person to do it. Bannister even broke the traditional way of training (how it’s always been done) and came up with his own, unconventional, way of training.

“Just because they say it’s impossible doesn’t mean you can’t do it.” ~ Roger Bannister

This made me think about professional baseball players and how impossible being good enough to break records or pitch no-hitters must feel at times. After hitting his 660th home run Pujols said, “To be able to have my name in the sentence with Willie Mays is unbelievable,” Pujols said. “I’m really humbled.” But really, Albert Pujols does believe he can do it. He tells us, “There is no time to fool around when you practice. Every drill must have a purpose. I try to never get away from that, habits are important.” This tells us, just as David Taylor-Klaus pointed out, that our belief in our ability to do something matters greatly. If we don’t believe something is possible, nothing else really matters.

I’m a really smart player. If you tell me something, I get it quickly. If there is something wrong with my hitting, tell me what’s wrong and I’ll pick it up right away. That’s the best thing I have going for me, my ability to listen to a coach and fix what I’m doing wrong. ~ Albert Pujols

Baseball, perhaps more than any other sport, is about heroes. Albert Pujols certainly has a hero’s story. That hero’s story starts like every other baseball hero story; with the player believing in himself – really believing in himself. This is why all of us imagine ourselves as pro baseball players, but only a few actually make it happen. It is important for us to recognize our ability to achieve goals. How we view ourselves, how we measure our value, how we assess our potential, and how we determine our worth all combine to create the life we will live. Are you paying the price for admission? Belief.

Lou Brock: Universally Admired

Posted in Baseball, Coaching, Leadership, Lou Brock, Mentor by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 7, 2020

So many things have directed my thoughts toward baseball ⚾️ this weekend. Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of Cal Ripken Jr.’s becoming Iron Man by playing in his 2,131st consecutive game (I blogged about it in Leading By Availability). Additionally, I’ve been sharing how I love having our family’s cutouts at Great American Ballpark supporting the Cincinnati Reds and the Reds Community Fund.

Then came the sad news today that Hall of Famer Lou Brock had passed away. He was dubbed the “Steals King” and I always admired his ability to steal bases. Stealing bases is a great metaphor for leadership because to steal bases you can’t be afraid to fail, and you have to take your foot off base and go. Lou Brock was a stolen base specialist.

You can’t be afraid to make errors! You can’t be afraid to be naked before the crowd, because no one can ever master the game of baseball, or conquer it. You can only challenge it. ~ Lou Brock

In her great piece, HOFer Brock, Former Steals King, Dies at 81, Anne Rogers has quotes from many who described him as a mentor, great ambassador, driven, and universally admired. It was said he could light up a room when he entered.

Enough said! He taught us leadership when stealing bases and was universally admired. Thank you Lou, for the example you set. You will be missed.