Byron's Babbles

Attracting Successful People

Posted in Collaboration, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 9, 2021

If I had heard the story of H.B. Reese, I had forgotten it. He actually started a rival candy company in Hershey, Pennsylvania while still working in chocolatier Milton Hershey’s factory. Can you imagine what would happen with most leaders? There would be inevitable envious fit, and then there would be the immediate firing. Not with Milton Hershey. He supported Reese in creating that very special candy cup we all so enjoy. Not Sorry!

In fact the Hershey factory supplied the chocolate for the experiments as Reese developed the peanut butter cup. Of course Reese became successful and he and Hershey collaborated forever after till both their deaths. In fact the two companies were merged after their deaths. This is such a strong reminder that we all need to be aiding in the success of others. And, as others see this happening, it will attracted more talented people our way.

Even though they were competing, Hershey and Reese were inspiring each other. Who are you helping to be successful? Don’t be sorry!

What’s The Next Step?

“You don’t need to have all the answers but you do need to have a next step.” Sabrina Horn told us that in her great book Make It, Don’t Fake It: Leading With Authenticity For Real Business Success. I discuss this with teachers a lot. Some in the teacher development arena will tell new teachers they need to have all the answers. This advice includes faking it and not letting students know the teacher doesn’t know the answer. This is very bad advice. Just as this is not true in Sabrina’s world as a CEO, it is not true for teachers. Some of the best labs and lessons I had as a teacher were when something didn’t go as planned. I would say, “I have no idea why this didn’t work, but let’s all dig into this and figure it out together.” The students and I learned so much from this humble act. It was so much fun and I was modeling an important leadership skill for my students. All leaders would do well to learn this.

This humility does not show weakness or confidence. It shows we recognize something pretty obvious – no one knows everything. The great leaders know what they don’t know and understand there are things they don’t know they don’t know. But, learning from and with others, asking questions, and asking for help are hallmarks of an effective and humble leader. This growth mindset modeled curiosity, collaboration, and a plan for discovery with my students. This same mindset also worked for me as a principal and superintendent. Many times the next step might be pausing to learn the answers together as a team.

Great Collaboration or Great Competition

I am reading the great book Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis right now and he spoke of the “odd couple” of the revolution being Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Both were very different in their tactics and personalities, and were unlikely friends. Before Washington’s presidency, they collaborated to solve multiple political issues. Then, as Ellis put it, the “great collaboration” turned into the “great competition” because the two intimate friends soon found themselves running for the presidency against each other. Probably no relationship in this country’s history carries as much baggage as that of John Adams of Massachusetts and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia.

This got me to thinking about the age old topic of how much competition is healthy. Pursuing individual goals alongside others can, at times, lead to counterproductive behaviors that can be harmful to both sides. This sense of competition can shift teammates (let’s consider Jefferson and Adams teammates of our democracy) focus from improving themselves or the vision of the organization to defeating a pseudo-opponent, which can lead to sabotaging behaviors. We saw these sabotaging behaviors in the case of Adams an Jefferson and I’ll bet you have seen this happen to others or yourself.

In a work setting, having read extensively about this topic, I believe in providing individualized performance statistics can help reduce competitiveness as well as its negative consequences. Competition at its best helps us to be better. At its worst, it can create unhealthy self-comparison or judgment. I am not advocating for doing away with competition. I am, however, advocating for us to not let collaborators becoming competitors stifle progress, both for the individual and the organization. Competition can actually change our world view. Never forget, everybody in an organization has something to say and undoubtedly has some value to contribute. Do we see the world as a place to grow and collaborate with others?

Keep Getting Better By Always Striving To Go Somewhere New

Yesterday marked the 18th week of reading Mindset Mondays With DTK by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK). Chapter 18 entitled “Work On Yourself” did not disappoint. Interestingly, I am reading Peter Frampton‘s incredible book Do You Feel Like I Do? A Memoir right now, too, and there are some parallel’s. DTK told us that “When we look at where others are in their life and compare that with where we are, it’s not apples to apples” (DTK, p. 146). One of the things that really stuck out in Frampton’s (I really want to become friends so I can call him Peter) book was how much he valued getting to play, collaborate, and learn from other superstars in the business. Never once do you ever get the hint of him comparing himself to Ringo Starr, George Harrison, David Bowie, Bill Wyman, Jimi Hendrix, Billy Preston, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, B.B. King, Rick Derringer, Robert Cray, Roger McGuinn, David Hidalgo, or Dean DeLeo, just to name a few. Now, regardless of what kind of music you like you better have recognized a couple of names on that list.

Frampton is so humble that he always believed the collaborations were chances for him to learn and get better. This is a huge takeaway for me from the book. Others would have just seen these opportunities through vanity’s eye. He used the metaphor (and you know how I love metaphors) of being in a fishbowl at a very young age of English rockers. Frampton went on to say, “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 [Bill Wyman] 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 getting these amazing opportunities along the way” (Frampton, p. 33). We need to make use of our “apprenticeships” to become the best we can become. That best needs to be authentic. We have to find our own sound, pun intended. Frampton described it like this: “I just wanted my own style. I wanted to be one of those guys who,they play one note, and you know who they are” (Frampton, p. 59). Frampton was, and still is, working to get better each day.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” ~ Peter Frampton

p. 261 in Do You Feel Like I Do? A Memoir

Finally, I love how DTK tied it all together at the end of Chapter 18 by saying, “Comparing how you are being, what you are doing, and what you are accomplishing in any given moment to your best in that moment is the ONLY valid comparison. It’s the only comparison that serves. It’s the only comparison consistently worth making” (DTK, p. 147). Frampton says he is one lucky guy, but I do not think that luck has anything to do with it. What I learned from Peter Frampton was humility, perseverance, passion, purpose before ambition, collaborative learning, working hard, and always reinventing yourself.

“Getting It Right” Before “Being Right”

Screen Shot 2020-07-28 at 8.33.08 PM“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 KJV). A good daily growth exercise to read a chapter of Proverbs every day each month. There is a lot of wisdom to be gained from King Solomon. The difference between “getting it right” and “being right” with this statement, is not to suggest that we are more often than not wrong in our thinking. Despite the religious origin, people use this nowadays without religious overtones. People can say this simply as a warning not to be too arrogant.

To me “getting it right” before “being right” means having humility and an ability to consider all sides of an issue or question. Being humble does not mean that you diminish your value or take a subordinate position in terms of presenting your ideas or perceptions. It does, however, as a leader, mean than we should listen to others’ ideas before always presenting our own. And acknowledging when those ideas are better than our own. True humility is a sign of wisdom, knowledge, confidence, and strength.

“When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

“Getting it right” is a core value I practice to remind myself that making a contribution as part of a bigger team means that you have the humility to accept that others also have something worthwhile to contribute. I truly believe there is no such thing as an “expert.” But, I do talk about the “collective expertise” in the room all the time. We should all strive to be an important part of a “collective vision.” When we give up the need to always be right, we communicate and listen on a deeper level, with more understanding and acceptance, and with less judgment and resistance.

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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Mingling At High Tables

Posted in Collaboration, Community, Convening, Gatherings, High Tables, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on March 8, 2020

Indiana State Fair

This will be a little different type of post for me, but fits with my belief that the physical environment is just as important to a gathering of any type to the formation of a community as the facilitation or the invites. I love high tables. I love to go to events that have tables. I love to host gatherings that have high tables. There are many advantages to to using high top tables that are many times referred to as bar tables, cocktail tables, pub tables, or bistro tables.

If you want to encourage people to mingle, meet and start conversations with others, then high top tables might be the best choice. The big advantage I see is the ability to have an infinite sized group standing around them. With low tables the group size is very fixed. Think about it; if you are at a gathering with low tables and a table only had four chairs and all four are occupied you go to another table. It is awkward, unless you are asked, to pull up a chair. Even more awkward to stand next to the table and talk with everyone else sitting.

Besides allowing more people to huddle around them, the high tables create a more intimate space for attendees to gather close for engaging conversations that encourage involvement of all. I love the encouragement of people to converse with each other and huddle closer together.

I am so obsessed with high tables that for our son’s graduation party, which was held in one of our barns, I made sure we had an area for high tables. We had the barn set up for seating for 100 people, but then had an area for high tables. Amazingly, those tables had a large group around them for the duration of the five hour gathering. It was an interesting dynamic, some around those high tables stayed almost the whole time and others came and went. I couldn’t help but watch those who gravitated to the regular table and chairs would sit, eat, and visit for a while and then gravitate to the high tables. I also noticed my son moving throughout the high tables and enjoying all the conversations. At the time the party ended we still had a large group of guests huddled around those high tables.

Then, we could one of the high table and chairs set to our county fair and Indiana State Fair where we were showing dairy cows. We are know for always having peanuts and snacks out for anyone to share. We were amazed at the amount of friends and new acquaintances the high table brought into our show camp. We had such a great time visiting and became believers in the power of mingling at high tables.

❤️ Kids Having Ownership!

IMG_7814This past week I had the honor of doing a day long professional development for teachers from all schools corporations in Elkhart County, Indiana. I am representing Noble Education Initiative carrying out this customized professional development. This was part of an ongoing Project Based Learning partnership created by Horizon Education Alliance to bring business/industry and education together to best educate students. I love doing professional development workshops, particularly when they are on topics that I am passionate about. Project Based Learning (PBL) is one of those topics. It is also energizing to be with a group of educators who are very engaged. Groups like this always remind me and validate what Gallup® finds teachers value in question 12 of the Gallup Q12 Index©: “In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?” These teachers have been given this opportunity and very much value the opportunity, and are taking advantage of the opportunity to learn and grow.

The group last week was both passionate and engaged. We started the day with what I called “Level Setting.” I had them work in pairs to talk about their PBL experience now that we were half way through the school year. I wanted them to talk about what they had learned, “wow” moments, what they still had questions about, and what they still needed help with. They were to represent this on a tear sheet and put it up on the wall. Here are a few of the tear sheets that were put up:

Did you see the comment “❤️Kids Having Ownership”? That’s what this is all about. The next few paragraphs will dig into that a little deeper.

IMG_7813

Aubri Mosness with her students

We then had everyone individually do a gallery walk and pick one thing that stood out to them. This was an awesome discussion when the group came back together. There were questions like, “who wrote… I would like to know more,” or “I had that same experience because…,” or “I am so glad you wrote that because that same thing happened to us, and we are still trying to figure out…” You get the idea. One comment really stood out to me during this discussion; It was by Goshen High School Teacher, Aubri Mosness. She said, “I have felt the transition from me doing most of the work to the students doing most of the work. At first I was a little uncomfortable because I felt like I was doing much, but then I realized how much the students were getting out of it.” I was so excited by this. This is such a revelation in teaching. Great teaching should have the students doing most of the work. She was truly facilitating with a student managed classroom and the students have student agency and choice.

Then, at lunch Ms. Mosness’ students presented to the whole group and business/industry representatives that had joined us, on their project and I led a little Q&A. The students were incredible. During the presentation Ms. Mosness commented, “When I give my students too much, too much information, too much guidance, I am taking away opportunities for learning.” This was a drop the mic opportunity as far as I was concerned. The students all concurred. I then asked the students to give a thumbs up or thumbs down on the following question: “School work should look more like real work?” All six students gave me a thumbs up. Our students deserve to learn in an environment that is facilitated in a real world and relevant context.

61NlMeJ8eMLThese students were giving first hand testimony affirming the research I did for my book, The Hand In The Back Of The Room: Connecting School Work To Real Life.” In the book I talk about that the hand in the back of the room was mine, and probably yours too, that was raised wanting to know why I needed to learn what I was being taught. In other words school work must be connected to real life. This is why PBL is so great. Using PBL teaching principles will make school work look and feel like real work. In other words, the question from “the hand in the back of the room is answered as to why she needs to learn what she is being taught. When teachers are allowed to make student learning the ultimate test of facilitation of learning, then instruction improves to produce better learning. The results of my research showed improved achievement/performance in science when students are taught in a relevant context. For me that context was agriculture, but there many other real world contexts to be used. This is why the partnerships with business/industry is so important for our students. The challenge to all of us in education is to find ways to make learning visible by connecting school work and real life for the students we serve.

Let’s Have Lunch Together!

Last night we started our third cohort of 3D Leadership in Indiana. Hard to believe we have started our third year. Just seems like yesterday that I began putting the curriculum together for this program. Last night as we were discussing relationship building as a function of leadership, one of our participants, Sarah Medve, shared a story that really touched me and the rest of the group.

Sarah said she realized that she needed to do a better job of building relationships. Sarah also realized that she was missing out on building work friendships and collaboration because instead of taking time to eat lunch with coworkers she was making copies, grading papers, or any of the many other tasks of the day. This great teacher leader explained she has begun making sure all her tasks are done at other times so she can stop and eat lunch with others. Then Sarah told us she had fun eating lunch with others and did not want to miss it. Wow! This is a big deal!

We all do it, though. Work through lunch or sit alone and check emails. Sharing meals together, however, builds relationships. Eating together provides time to get to know each other and encourage cooperation through informal communication. Eating lunch together also increases productivity because it widens our perspectives. Eating together is a powerful act.

Researchers at Cornell University argued that eating lunch together has a much more positive effect on organizational community than the artificial activities that many organizations use like rope courses and things we call team building activities. These things are sometimes offsite and require a lot of energy. The Cornell study showed that employees (in the case of this study – firefighters) make fun of and do not see any value in them (Kniffin, et al., 2015).

This insightful story from our teacher leader reminded us all of the benefits of commensality. Coworkers that eat lunch together feel more like family and build friendships. So, we need to learn from our teacher leader, Sarah Medve, and make time to eat together with fellow teachers and staff. Why? Because, as Sarah so insightfully told us, it is fun and she feels closer to her coworkers. The rest of us leaders need to think more about providing opportunities for employees to eat together and do away with the manufactured and trite team-building exercises.

You might be interested to know that after our gathering we all went to Jockamo’s and had dinner together. It was so much fun and we learned a lot about each other. It was nice to put into practice what we were learning in 3D Leadership. I know I left feeling much closer to the group.

REFERENCE

Kniffin, K.M., Wansink, B., Devine, C. M., & Sobal, J. (2015). Eating Together at the Firehouse: How Workplace Commensality Relates to the Performance of Firefighters, Human Performance, 28:4, 281-306,DOI: 10.1080/08959285.2015.1021049

Assessing Mental Impact

Today during a meeting I made a comment that we needed to assess the mental impact that a decision would make. This term made an impression on the group who said they had never thought about the mental impact a decision would have on others. We then proceeded to discuss the impacts.

I really wasn’t trying to come up with new terminology, but when I reflected on the great discussion I decided to look up mental impact. Guess what I found? Nothing. It seems I’m on to something. Again, it is not anything that is earth shattering; it is just doing the right thing. It is about considering how any decision made will affect those impacted by a decision.

Great leaders understand how to balance emotion with reason and make decisions that positively impact themselves, their employees, their customers and stakeholders, and their organizations. Making good decisions in difficult situations is no small feat because these decisions involve change. We must consider the mental impact these decisions have because change involves uncertainty, anxiety, stress, and sometimes unfavorable reactions of others. To get this right, I believe we must approach decisions as human beings and not humans doing.

Our core values come into play here. Never forget that our actions testify much more powerfully than words. Therefore, taking time to evaluate the mental impact of our decisions on people. Nearly every decision we make will affect different people in one way or another. We need to take time to understand and be fully aware of the influence our decisions will have, and understand what the mental impact will be on all individuals.

Constant connection with people enables us to recognize opportunities and threats, and figure out how to be adaptive to these threats or opportunities. Habitual outreach and taking stock of mental impact prevents insular thinking, opens doors to ideas and collaborative relationships, and expands our ability to problem- solve. By taking mental impact into account leaders can make better decisions.