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.


Learning Together Apart

As I walked back to the house from the barn this morning I noticed the unmistakable sound of fresh snow squeaking and crunching under my boots with every step. For anyone who has ever lived in a climate with snow, this sound is immediately recognizable. These sounds reminded me that in the midst of a pandemic, we have watched the transformation from winter, to spring, to summer, to fall, and now, back to winter. But other transformations are upon us everywhere without such clear cut and defined definition. These other transformations are of a global perspective and are personal, health related, economic, political, and economic. When you add all this together it is very complex change.

All those areas listed above are constantly evolving, but as we know a single virus has taken over how the game is played right now. Think about it, change has come in much the same way you draw a card in a board game – “You are now in the middle of a pandemic; go back 10 spaces.” Or something like that. Change is here, and has been here. There are changes in my house, in my body, in my family, in my community, culture, economy, and in the whole wide world of ecological systems. In some ways things are falling apart, but maybe that has to happen to put things back together.

I guess it is only appropriate that one of my last posts of the year, on New Year’s Eve, would be entitled with the hashtag I coined back in March as we began our, now 294 day, journey together dealing with the global pandemic – #LearningTogetherApart. As a person who believes so deeply in the power of community, it is about “showing up.” Just like when Major League Baseball gave us the opportunity to show up, albeit in the form of cutouts. Nevertheless, in our case, my family was in attendance for every Cincinnati Reds game in Great American Ballpark in Section 136, Row P, Seats 6-8.

You might say this is a trivial example in the face of a pandemic, but I would argue it’s the perfect example of being invited to be a part of a community. Being invited is fundamental to showing up and be part of a community. By being invited by the Reds and the Reds Community Fund we were able to, as a family, show up to help the Reds Community Fund continue the creation of programming that connects underserved children with baseball and softball, and connecting baseball with the community.

So, in the case of my field of education where right now via Zoom we are expected to give our students a sense of “home” when some children have never experienced or have any perceived notion of what “home” is, I must continue to show up and support environments for learning together apart. The issue just described is very complex with no one direct solution as some might naïvely think. Education, religion, poverty, economics, technology, generational cultures, and community are all woven together as part of this issue. No single directive will solve this. I hope to take the opportunity each and every day to shift the tone.

Even though things are confusing, terrifying, infuriating, heartbreaking, and completely out of control right now, we all need to keep showing up. We must continue “learning together apart.” We still do not know what all will be required, but whatever it is we must, with all we can offer, be there, learning, in integrity and generosity.

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?