Byron's Babbles

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?

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Leading With Extreme Axe Throwing Finesse

 

IMG_5674There are so many formulas that have been written about as best pathways toward great leadership. I have tried to write a few of those myself. Yesterday, our professional development team went on a team building excursion to Extreme Axe Throwing in Hollywood, Florida. Needless to say, it was a great time, but there were moments when I was struggling just to get the axe to stick. I kept getting told, “Finesse, Byron, finesse!” I had to think about what the heck “finesse” even was. So, off to Merriam Webster dictionary:

  1. refinement or delicacy of workmanship, structure, or texture
  2. skillful handling of a situation: adroit maneuvering
  3. the withholding of one’s highest card or trump in hope that a lower card will take the trick because the only opposing higher card is in the hand of an opponent who has already played

IMG_5676As I familiarized myself with what “finesse” really meant, I began to think about how this related to my current situation at the time of throwing an axe at a target. I believe last night’s situation relates to #2. I needed to be skillful and use the techniques our axe throwing coach instructed us with. Then, as I began throwing I needed to get clever and maneuver to make it all work for me. Sometimes I threw too hard, others I was releasing early, others I kept getting told I was flicking my wrists. We can certainly relate this to leadership, don’t you think?

Check out my axe throwing prowess in this video:

Leadership, then, is an art of finesse. It’s being able to adjust and communicate in different ways, specific to each person. I don’t mean being “everything to everyone.” I just mean having enough self-awareness to know what is going to yield the best response from each person–and then having the patience to execute with that behavior in mind. What makes this mentality so difficult is that, in every capacity, it asks that you, as a leader, put yourself in a serving others mode. We must finesse away ego. We can’t just rage out of impatience, or get upset because other people aren’t working the way we want them to work. We can’t show your frustration–even if everyone else is. We can’t sit back and complain when times get tough. We must be the positive force that leads change. This art of finesse is learned through diligent self-inquiry, and constantly practicing the art of finesse and being flexible in the way you communicate and lead others.

IMG_5675Leadership finesse requires that we, as leaders, constantly identify barriers and causes of struggles. Then, with relentless determination, make the best of the current reality we are in. Using my axe throwing metaphor, one barrier we have is fear of failure. Fear of failure holds us back from our dreams more than anything. The thing I was reminded from axe throwing is that we are going to fail over and over and over. During one round of throwing (10 throws) last night I did not get the axe to stick in the wood once. That’s right; my score was 0 at the end of the round. To handle this with finesse, I was reminded that if you’re, you’ll be rejected too. The key is to fail forward, where the pain of the failure is reduced by the benefit of the lessons it brings.

Remember Who You Are And Be Okay With It

IMG_3778One of my favorite compliments to give someone is: “Thanks for being YOU!” I believe it is a powerful compliment because it implies that what makes that person such a unique human being comes from deep within. What I am trying to do is give unconditional gratitude. I want the person to remember who they are and be okay with it. When I say, “Thanks for being YOU!” I am not just saying thank you for what the person has done – I am saying thank you for who he or she is. I am telling him or her that I value them as a person.

“Thanks for being YOU!” Even for all the mistakes the person made and the flaws he or she found that they want to change. For the times he or she did and the times he or she could not, for one day they will all add up. Any of us at our best is what serves us all best. We need each of us to be who we are in order to shape the future. We grow into being who we are one day at a time. We need everyone’s contribution. We need your contribution as much as mine. It’s something we build as much as we find, to do either takes a present mind.

Remember, you are not a robot or a Barbie™. Therefore, let’s be who we are and be okay with it. This does not mean that we should not work to improve or learn new things. It means we need to be okay with who we are as we continue to improve and evolve as the person we are. I believe every person is a work of art. Research indicates that our capacity for self-evolution and growth of our personality, mental capacities, relationships and actions are all based on conscious intent. Shaping our being is like making art; the same way an artist develops, evolves and creates a painting; or a composer creates music. We can all make our conscious being and all that emanates from it a work of art. As I always say, “There is no bad art.” So let’s go out there and remember who we are and be okay with it.

Welcome To Your New Addiction

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What’s At Your Core (Value)?

Where to begin? There is so much I want to say! Yesterday we had a great gathering of our Florida 3D Leadership group outside Orlando at Renaissance Charter School at Boggy Creek. I love going there and spending time with this group. Yesterday’s topic was core values. We spent the morning setting the stage with some cool activities (Emoji tattoos, making graphic mantras) and discussions around core values and what they wanted to do with their lives and what they wanted their legacy to be.

Then, the coolest thing happened – Lunch!

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Our lunch was delivered and catered from Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. First of all, as the truck, bright yellow, pulled up, it caught my eye out the window I had immediately seen the shiny object and was off topic. Check out the picture of the truck and you will understand what I am talking about. So, as they were setting up at one end of the room we were in, I asked one of the workers, Mariah Miller, whether she liked working at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and if she did, why? Well, let me tell you, she jumped right into our core values discussion and said that she liked it because her boss did not act like a boss and did not want to be called a boss. He wanted to be considered a coworker.

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Graphic Recording by Amy Reynolds

Then her coworker (boss), or leader, as he likes to be called came in, not having heard me ask the question. I called him over and asked him what his workers would say his mantra was (this was a core values discussion from the morning). He then basically reinforced everything Mariah had told us. We were amazed by the message that David Morales had for us in what became an outstanding extemporaneous luncheon keynote, literally.

IMG_8404David explained he had ended up in Florida, via Texas, because he quit his job, and I quote, “because my core values did not match those of the company I was working for at the time.” Of course I am beaming at this point and everyone was looking at me like I had set this up, which I had not. We had discussed how individual and organization core values needed to match. I had said earlier in the day that is was just a fact that if at any point your own core values become much different from the organization you work for, that it was time to quit. He was affirming everything we had talked about earlier in the day, but with the flare of personal experience and a lot of passion.

IMG_5535He then told us about looking for a job and finding Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. He told us how he cut the deal for Fuzzy’s Taco Shop to cater for the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers. He told us about how he has opened 29 businesses. Finally, he explained how core values build communities of commitment. We had been discussing how core values communicate what is important, influence behavior, and inspire people to action. We had also talked about how core values enhance credible leadership. David Morales from Fuzzy’s Taco Shop had become our exemplar. We did not need to spend very much time with his employees to know he was credible.

…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

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Graphic Recording by Amy Reynolds

Core values are what support the vision, shape the culture and reflect what an organization values. They are the essence of the organization’s identity – the principles, beliefs or philosophy of values. Many organizations focus mostly on the technical competencies but often forget what are the underlying competencies that make their organizations run smoothly — core values. Establishing strong core values provides both internal and external advantages to the organization. Clearly, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and David Morales have mastered this.

Needless to say, we were amazed at this outstanding example of a company and it’s employees living out shared core values. Would you, your organization, or school have been able to extemporaneously keynoted our lunch today with the same level of authenticity related to core values as David Morales, Mariah Miller, and Fuzzy’s Taco Shop were able to?

Angry Teachers

AngryTeachersIf you follow my blog you know that I am a fan of Angry Birds; both the game and the movies. I have blogged about Angry Birds on four different occasions: Teaching Like Angry Birds, Angry Birds University, The Angry Birds Effect, and “I’m Not A Leader!” ~ Red. Now I am adding a fifth post about this Rovio Entertainment created phenomenon that I love to use as a guide to great teaching and leadership.

This week I did a professional development for Mevers School of Excellence on student engagement. I have been working with this school’s teachers on professional development by customizing a series of professional development units using teacher walk through data and student data. These teachers are phenomenal and deserved a great finale to the year long work we have been doing. So, this professional development unit was titled “Angry Teachers.” Catchy, don’t you think? We certainly don’t want our teachers to be angry, but we do want them teaching using the principles employed by Rovio that have made this game such a phenomenon. The only homework prior to the evening’s professional development was to have the Angry Birds Classic game downloaded on one of their devices.

I led off with the statement, “Everything you need to know about teaching you can learn from Angry Birds.” I think some were skeptical, but I really do believe this statement. Then, of course, I had them play the game with the volume turned up and take notes about what they learned. Needless to say, they had so much fun. I had them take notes on what they were learning that could be applied to great facilitation of learning. Here is what we talked about:

  1. Make it easy to start the task.
  2. Show, don’t tell.
  3. Give useful and immediate feedback.
  4. Make it easy to recover from failure.
  5. Complicate the task gradually.

Think about it; if a teacher is getting just those five things done he or she is on the way to providing great facilitation of learning. Then after playing a little more I broke them into groups and had them develop the learning even further. Here are the graphic representations of their learning the 10 groups came up with:

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Pretty amazing work! Now, consider the following:
1. Angry Birds involves practice without penalty.
2. Angry Birds offers the opportunity to constant feedback.
3. Angry Birds inherently teaches that different tools have different purposes.
4. Angry Birds has a built in mechanism for knowledge transfer.
5. Angry Birds rewards perseverance.
6. Angry Birds gives no time limit.

No wonder we are all addicted to this game! Now if only we could ensure that our
classrooms are always safe spaces to practice new strategies, offer students a range of possibilities for how to succeed in their learning, give our students constant feedback, and support knowledge transfer within and among our courses. So, do you agree? “Everything you need to know about teaching you can learn from Angry Birds.” Our students deserve us to be “Angry Teachers!”

You’re Not a Fraud!

IMG_5200Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. This definition came from Wikipedia (retrieved 4/6/2019). To start this post I needed a definition to frame the discussion. The context for this post came from a discussion during one of our Indiana 3D Leadership sessions last year and I am just getting to it on the list of topics I want to blog about. We were discussing how sometimes individuals move quickly to different positions in schools for doing good work. These aspiring leaders were concerned, however, that sometimes they have some imposter syndrome symptoms and believe they might not be as good as others think they are. At first I wasn’t sure I was catching what they were pitching, but then in studying this I have found this really is real.

For example, a perfectionist sometimes falls into this trap. Think about it. The perfectionist sets lofty goals for themselves, tend to be micromanagers, or won’t delegate at all. Then, when things aren’t perfect, he is super hard on himself. This is also the person who had to have straight A’s and the highest scores in the class. I never needed to worry about this and am certainly not a perfectionist. My dad, conversely, was a perfectionist and actually it would keep him from getting things accomplished at times. I remember when he passed away back in 1988 I found several projects not completed around the farm because he was constantly working to make whatever it was perfect. I always said it was like the old adage “measure twice, cut once.” The problem was he kept measuring to try to get it perfect and never got the board cut. Make no mistake, I loved my dad and I respect him more than anyone, but we were very different on the trait of being a perfectionist. I’m not sure I have ever worried about being perfect a minute in my life and have certainly never worried if someone didn’t think I was perfect.

Sometimes people with this syndrome want to know it all. She never believes she will know enough. Remember, to lead a highly effective group or organization you do not want to be the smartest person in the room. Learning has to be agile. There are things we will need to know tomorrow that we don’t know today. Don’t worry about trying to second guess, just be ready to learn when the need arises (which will be always).

If you’ve ever experienced imposter syndrome you need to realize that you have gotten where you are for a reason. It may have been because of your ability to produce, chance, connections, or some other factor, and that is great. Go ahead and embrace your abilities, embrace what makes you different from everyone else, and play off of your own strengths and capabilities. You are not a fraud.

 

 

If You Cannot Lose, You Cannot Win

IMG_5157I always have a long list of topics that I want to blog about. With this post I get to one that hit the list on Christmas Day, 2018. My father-in-law had a page of quotes from a magazine and he did a little devotional reading before we sang Happy Birthday to Jesus (a family tradition on my wife’s side). He handed me the copy when he was done and I got to reading the other quotes. One quote really jumped out at me. Better yet, it hit me like a ton of bricks. It is one of those that I needed to read two or three times to really comprehend what it was saying. Here it is:

“If you want to do something where we can’t lose, then we must accept the proposition that we cannot win.” ~ Gene Hill, A Hunter’s Fireside Book, 1972

Read it one more time. This quote really caused me to take pause. It is very true. I we want to do things that we cannot lose at, then we have to accept that we will never win. At the time I was reading this I was really thinking about lots of things in a winning and losing context. Whether it be in the public policy arena, football bowl games, or many other things. It is very frustrating to me that many times people do not want to get behind, support, or associate themselves with new and innovative things until they know they are going to be successful (a win). That to me is playing not to lose, not playing to win. In athletics, one of the worst things you can do is play not to lose. Very rarely will that strategy get the person or team the win. I believe this is true in all other areas as well.

Not being able to take a loss or having fear of losing will keep us from ever making progress. Trying not to lose is not the same thing as trying to win. Trying not to lose is reactionary. It’s prevention. Most of the time it prevents us from winning. Worst of all, it starts with the belief that we should focus on “not losing,” which gives the idea of losing too much power. “Playing to win” begins with the belief that we can and will win. It’s empowering. The belief that we can win and the desire to do so allows us to take initiative, be creative and innovative, to be resourceful, and to take the necessary actions that will better the chances of winning—even if taking those actions comes with a particular risk. We cannot live risk free and have guarantees that everything we do will be a winner.

We’ve all seen athletes, athletic teams, businesses, and political leaders try to play it safe and approach games, life, and administrations from a safe and play not to lose vantage point. What usually happens? At best, nothing! At worst, the loss. If you’re like me you have probably been in the situation where you were really working hard for a win with very little support of others who were afraid you might lose. Then all of the sudden when the win came, lo and behold, everyone was there to take credit. Amazing!

When we are playing not to lose our focus is not on what we could gain, but on protecting what we already have. When playing not to lose energies are channeled into shoring up the status quo, and guarding against what we do not want to happen. So play to win, not to not lose. In the larger game of leadership, playing it safe is the most dangerous game plan of all. Playing to win might just be the greatest of all leadership traits. It requires putting what you already have at risk for the sake of something bigger, something better. Additionally, it requires throwing caution to the wind and having the courage to creative something new and be innovative. This takes a great deal of courage and a trait that I am so glad I have been blessed with: “being comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

So, lets get out there and play to win. Remember, without failure there can be no real progress. I leave you with the great wisdom of Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

 

 

Durability of Expectations

IMG_5030In a meeting I was a part of this week we developed a phrase that has caused me to do a lot of thinking: “Durability of expectations.” Our work was in the context of thinking about student success, outcomes, and what the profile of an Indiana high school graduate should look like. I like to combine all of this and talk about student success outcomes. Success looks different for all students and some students have not really had an opportunity to have success modeled for them or even know what success can look like. I have often said that it is ludicrous, in some cases, to ask our students what they want to be or do in life because they have not had the opportunity learn what all is out there. That is why I believe it is so important to make sure we are doing a great job of career exposure, career exploration, and career navigation for all students. We need to career coach our kids.

Success: “Knowing what one wants in the world and knowing how to get it.” ~ Dr. Felice Kaufman

We must make sure we are giving our students the opportunity to innovate, be creative, and take risks. This will help them to persevere, adapt, and develop a growth mindset and begin to understand lifelong learning. We need to help our kids understand what is out there and that getting where they want to go will be a non-linear process in many cases. Most of the career paths those of us in the baby boomer age are characterized of having relative stability. The career paths for today’s students are now times of discovery, restlessness, and exploration. The last I read, boomers will switch jobs 11 times during our lifetime, but millenials and younger will not only switch careers but change entire career trajectories. Therefore, the modern career trajectory isn’t necessarily a climb to a destination, but rather a continuum.

illustration-playground-climber_superdomeWe will need to offer solutions to our students that help them understand and give them the opportunity to skill, re-skill, and up-skill as they embark on their non-linear career paths. This is why I am such a believer that we must begin to identify the transferable skills our students. These skills, according to employers, hold much more weight than the traditional way of looking at academic records or even work history. Life is not linear, it is more like a Jungle Jim, so we need to make sure we are facilitating learning for our students that gives them the transferable skills to have durable expectations of what they can do. In other words, our students can have a lasting expectation that they have the skills to start and understand how to stay skilled to make the desired career moves that become available. Even if our students take a non-linear path in life, if they have credentials and transferable skills they will have what is needed to provide the on and off ramps to whatever career moves come available. This will give durability to the expectations our students have as they move through life and professional careers.

The old adage that you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards is true, but we need to give our students the ability to zigzag. By preparing students through career coaching, exploration, work based learning, and transferable skills and credentials we will add durability to the expectations of our students and their parents. We have an obligation to make sure our students are prepared to see and be prepared to seize the opportunities no matter how unconventional or surprising.

 

Displaying Leadery

Screen Shot 2019-02-23 at 6.10.31 PMSo, those that know me know I love coming up with new words. I am OK with making new words that end up getting the dreaded red hash-marked line under them (meaning it is misspelled or doesn’t exist). Today at our February Carolinas 3D Leadership gathering in South Carolina, the group came up with a new word: “Leadery”. I was all over it immediately because of my love for creating new words. Why can’t we create new words, anyway? Who is the new word police? What is the process for creating a new word? Well, I did a little studying.

It turns out any of us can create new words. In fact the term for someone who coins a new word is a neologist. If you say you knew this you are lying! Shakespeare is often held up as a master neologist, because at least 500 words (including critic, swagger, lonely and hint) first appear in his works. Experts, however, are not sure whether he personally invented them or was just transcribing things he’d picked up elsewhere. I’m guessing with his creative mind he invented them. From what I could find there are about 1,000 new words added to our language each year.

Back to “leadery”. In this case adding the ery to the end of the noun, leader, makes it an adjective. This is pretty cool because I would compare it to bravery. How many times have you heard that someone displayed great bravery? Or, she conducted herself with bravery? Or, the General led his troops with bravery? Probably a lot, right?

Well now we have a term for the act of practicing great leadership: “leadery”. Think about these potential sentences:

  • She showed leadery when taking on the principalship of the failing school.
  • It took tremendous leadery to do what was right.
  • It took a great deal of leadery to change the culture of the organization.
  • If we stay focused on self, others, and the wider world we can lead with leadery.
  • She instilled leadery in the team.

There’s a good chance that “leadery” won’t become one of the 1,000 new words for 2019, but it has sure been fun to learn about the development of new words. Why not have a word that compliments “lead” or “leading” the way that “bravery” compliments “brave”?

Final question: Can it be said you are displaying leadery?

“Innovation Happens Between The Ears”

I heard a great phrase from a retired U.S. Air Force General today. He said, “Innovation happens between the ears.” This quote was in reference to the story of the young Lieutenant George S. Patton developing a plan for making newly invented tanks into an effective tools for war in World War I in 1917. Tanks had not been effective yet because no one had taken the time, nor had the creative genius to figure out how to use the big, slow, machines that got stuck easily. Thus, innovation is not about the gizmo (in this case a tank); innovation is about how the gizmo is used to change the world.

I believe that the tanks mentioned above were just inventions, or worthless gizmos, until Patton got ahold of them and used them to innovate. In doing a little studying I came across the work of Canadian historian Benoit Godin. Godin attributes the differentiation between inventions/creations and innovation to a 1939 definition offered by Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter. He defined invention as an act of intellectual creativity undertaken without any thought given to its possible economic import, while innovation happens when individuals figure out how to craft inventions into constructive changes in their organizations, personal lives, or to change the world. This is why some believe, while use of the word innovation is at an all time high, actual innovation is on the decline.

It has taken innovation to take many creations, inventions, and failures into complete successes. There is a very thin line between brilliant innovation and absolute failure, and there are many famous examples. Examples that include: penicillin, slinky, Wheaties, plastic, pacemakers, and my favorite, Post-It Notes. The creation of a weak glue when Spencer Silver of 3M was trying create a super strong glue in 1968 was revolutionary. It took till 1980, however for the first Post-Its to be distributed. It took a little while and another 3M employee, Art Fry, for Spencer’s mistake creation to become an innovation that has certainly changed our world. Let’s face it, Post-It notes are everywhere.

In the context of change, innovation does not happen for innovation’s sake, but to find more effective ways of doing things. How about you? Are you creating gizmos and procedures, or innovating to create social change and break the status quo?