Byron's Babbles

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.

Building The Cocoon

Being the rock and roll band groupie that I am, it will come as no surprise that I am reading Peter Frampton’s book Do You Feel Like I Do? A Memoir. I’m only on page 59, but I can already tell there will be multiple blog posts prompted by this book. For one thing, Peter has written this book with a very conversational voice. As I’m reading it is like he is with me telling the story. Such a talented person. Another thing that has already jumped out at me is the fact that his dad was a teacher – and a great one. I already tweeted this quote from from the book where Peter was telling about his dad teaching David Bowie and him knowing Dave (as he called him) as a schoolmate: “My father’s passion was teaching art. He could see those students who had the eye and the excitement to learn when they walked into his classroom” (p. 24). As an educator I appreciate this compliment of his father and wish for every student to encounter teachers like Peter Frampton’s dad.

Then came this statement in the book: “Wherever I looked, I was in this cocoon of famous people, people who I admired” (p. 31). As I always say, “Language matters.” The word “cocoon” jumped out at me. Here, Frampton was using a powerful metaphor for describing being with and learning from members of The Rolling Stones, great producers, great engineers, and other music industry influencers. I loved the metaphor because I can actually see them insulating and protecting just as a cocoon does for the larvae.

As a student of rock bands, and wannabe with zero talent, I’m always amazed at how those in the music business can spot talent and then, to use Peter’s metaphor, build a cocoon around them and help them. It’s like group mentoring or a team apprenticeship. This is really the way we should be doing this. Because there were so many great and talented people providing multiple parts of Peter Frampton’s mentorship, blind spots were minimized and the biases of any single mentor were eliminated. A genius model we should be using for our students and ourselves.

Peter Frampton truly had systemic use of diverse mentors and session formats provided for him without there being a formal plan. His mentors saw the talent and then set out to build the cocoon that allowed the development to happen.

I can’t leave this post without one more quote that drives home Frampton’s point about how good the stars of the moment were to him: “I’m asking about touring and what they do and everything, so I’m learning how a successful band works. But just seeing this person who’s a Rolling Stone, who’s now my friend, and he’s friends with my parents and was this regular guy—so okay, I don’t have to be something other than who I am. It was kind of like an apprenticeship. I was learning as I went, and I’m getting these amazing opportunities along the way” (p. 33). You might want to read that quote again; there’s a lot there. I can just imagine him, wide eyed, asking relevant questions, and taking it all in as he forged his path to stardom. Who has been a part of your cocoon? Thank them! Who are you mentoring and building a cocoon around?

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.

Coaching To Examine Meaning

Posted in Clarity First, Coaching, Educational Leadership, Global Education, Leadership, Psychological Safety by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on June 11, 2020

Coach the Person, Not the Problem: A Guide to Using Reflective InquiryCoach the Person, Not the Problem: A Guide to Using Reflective Inquiry by Marcia Reynolds

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book truly was written as a coach’s guide to reflective inquiry. As a person who coached, mentored, and worked alongside a new school principal this year, I found myself wanting to tell stories and use reflective inquiry as I read, highlighted, and dog-eared the pages of this great book. Of course, I love the fact that Dr. Reynolds used case studies instead of acronyms for bringing clarity to her teaching. This book provides information that is immediately actionable.

Dr. Reynolds put five tools in our reflective inquiry toolbox in this book:

1. Focus: coaching the person, not the problem
2. Active replay: playing back the pivotal pieces for review.
3. Brain hacking: finding the treasures in the box
4. Goaltending: staying the course
5. New and next: coaxing insights and commitments

She also gave us three mental tips to provide psychological safety. I am so appreciative that Dr. Reynolds spent time in the book discussing how our brains work and why psychological safety is so important. I believe this might be one of the biggest issues in organizational culture today. I even tweeted the following while reading the book: “I’m always appalled when someone tells me they are nervous & fearful of talking to their leaders. This is aweful! ❤️ Love that @MarciaReynolds addresses the brain science of this in her new book #CoachThePerson. 🧠” I also tweeted: “…Additionally, @MarciaReynolds drove home the point in her great new book, #CoachThePerson, that we must create cultures that foster the psychological safety to fully express ourselves in conversations.” Here are her three mental habits:

1. Align your brain
2. Receive (don’t just listen)
3. Catch and release judgement

Toward the end of the book, Dr. Reynolds reminded us that we need to say it out loud to make it real and that our brains are meaning-making machines. In every scene of our personal and professional lives we pull from our past experiences, beliefs, values, fears, and present assumptions to make sense of the situation we are living at the moment. In this book, Dr. Reynolds taught us that, “Coaching is intended to examine the meaning people give to situations to determine what else could be going on that would change their approach going forward.” Everyone who works with people should read this great ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ book!

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Advanced Consulting

Posted in Advanced Consulting, Coaching, Collaboration, Communication, Community, Educational Leadership, Leadership, Power by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on April 15, 2020

Advanced Consulting: Earning Trust at the Highest LevelAdvanced Consulting: Earning Trust at the Highest Level by William A. Pasmore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When it comes time to write my end of the year blog post about the top books I’ve read in the last year, this book will be in the top tier of that list. As a person who does leadership training and coaching/mentoring of leaders, I learned a great deal from spending time studying every page of the this insightful book. My copy of the book looks like what my mom always told me a Bible should look – used. I have the pages dog-eared, highlighted, notes in the margin, and the spine is all broken back, and this book will continued to get used in a reference capacity.

Advanced Consulting starts the reader off with a great story, as great leaders do. Then the reader is reminded that we should not always be looking for the most glaringly obvious things to fix, but the opportunities unaddressed that would slip up. This book drove home the fact that, “Every change is an experiment” (p. 111) and that “More pressure won’t produce progress, less pressure and more understanding may” (p. 109). This kind of candid and authentic information from Bill Pasmore helps us to understand why he argued there is no perfect knowledge in the real world. That is why this book is so timely right now in these uncertain times with the COVID-19 Pandemic. There are things, like this, that cannot be predicted, and this book gives us incite in how to help leaders to find ways to work interdependently to find solutions.

Lastly, as a curious person and leader, I loved the part of the book where Pasmore admitted, “I learn something I should have already known” (p.143) when accepting a new assignment with a new organization. He reminded us to be genuinely curious and humble. Whether you consult leaders or are a leader (remember, I believe everyone is a leader) you need to read and study the insights of this book.

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Empowerment Triggers The Approach System

IMG_7712There has been a great deal written about student agency, student choice, and empowerment. In fact, just yesterday I was working with teachers on how to empower student in such a way to get to a self (student) managed classroom. Student agency and choice refer to learning by doing activities that are meaningful and relevant to learners, driven by their interests, chosen by the student, and often student (self) initiated. As a teacher, I loved giving students a stake in choosing from opportunities provided for them; or many times letting them come up with options. These opportunities might include giving the choice between doing a project, making a presentation, writing a paper, creating a product, or other activities. This ability to choose, or have agency, empowers the students, which leads to greater investment of interest and/or motivation.

25066556._SY475_Like I said, I used student agency for years as a teacher and promote it as a major tenant of project based learning. It seems that this is really brain-based. Yesterday, I finished reading the great book Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self To Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy. While this was not an education book, the principles of empowerment and powerlessness triggers that apply to our presence as a leader, also apply to the way we engage students.

In the book, Cuddy explained the approach and inhibition systems of the brain. This explanation came from the 2003 study of psychologist Dacher Keltner. The approach system is made up of regions in the brain that promote curiosity, being adventurous, and trying new things. The inhibition system, promotes cautious behavior. Too much of this causes us to see threats where others recognize opportunities. In other words, it stifles us. Think about these two systems both from a leadership standpoint and a student engagement perspective.

Keltner argued that empowerment triggers the approach system. In other words, if we believe we are empowered we are able to be more curious, adventurous, and willing to try new things. Doesn’t this sound like how we would like our students to be every moment of every day? Conversely, Keltner posited that powerlessness triggers the inhibition system. As was explained earlier, this causes cautiousness. Think about this from a leadership or educational perspective. When we empower others and give them autonomy this triggers our approach system, and contrarily when we take power and agency away and add constraints we trigger inhibition. Remember, power is the ability to change something. Do we not want our students and team members to be in a position to do this?

Bottom-line: the approach system will respond to rewards and opportunities and the inhibition system responds to constraints, threats, and punishments. Really if you think about this it is pretty simple. These two systems in our brain exert powerful influence over our actions, motivations, and emotions. How are you empowering? How are causing powerlessness? It could be as simple as giving student agency removing constraints, or not have having team members go through a bunch of compliance hoops of approval. Let’s keep these triggers in mind as we navigate 2020.

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.

Known Knowns, Known Unknowns, & Unknown Unknowns

Today during the last day of our Teacher Academy I realized that our first year teachers and those teachers who were with us for the first time still had a few gaps of things they needed and wanted to know for the first day of school. It is very tough to give beginning teachers everything they need to know, and many times in doing so it is like making them drink from the proverbial water hose. So, I pulled an audible and planned a “lunch and learn” and framed it as giving them a chance to learn about what they knew they didn’t know. It was awesome and a huge success. We had pizza and salad and had four of our great teacher leaders and school leaders sit and have a conversation just answering their questions (they did a great job, by the way). This group of new teachers had great questions and were much more at ease going into the weekend before the start of school. They were so appreciative of having the opportunity to have a discussion in a non-threatening environment and be able to ask anything. I was quickly reminded of how many times we awesome people know things that in reality they would have no way of knowing.

Many times we don’t know what we don’t know; we know more than we quite know we know; or know what we don’t know. Sometimes we need to pose the question: “What don’t you know and how will you learn it?” What I learned today was that we need to take time to listen to those we serve and find out what they know they don’t know. This seems like such a novel idea, but I’m not sure we do a very good job of this at times.

“As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” ~ Donald Rumsfeld – February 12, 2002, Department Of Defense news briefing

Maybe another great question we should ask as leaders is, “What do you feel unknowledgeable about?” You can’t know what you don’t know. You can’t know about things you have yet to discover. You can’t know what the future holds, though you might conjecture on it. But, many times we do know what we don’t know. This is simple ignorance: just not knowing and knowing you don’t know.

Contrast simple ignorance with compound ignorance: thinking you know but knowing so little you can’t recognize your own ignorance. Today really made me think about the fact that we need to embrace simple ignorance and allow those we serve to express what they know they don’t know. Simple ignorance is the most honest and least harmful. It can be beneficial in avoiding stupid mistakes as well as prompting one to learn more.

Are you encouraging others to explore the things they know they don’t know? Are you helping them learn the things they know they don’t know?

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?