Byron's Babbles

The Majestic Leader

I had the opportunity to spend this week in Palm Springs, California for Aurora Institute’s annual symposium. The theme of this year’s symposium was Shining A Light On The Future Of Learning. Palm Springs is such a beautiful place located in the Coachella Valley. Palm Springs is completely surrounded by mountains; the San Bernardino Mountains to the north, the Santa Rosa Mountains to the south, by the San Jacinto Mountains to the west, and by the Little San Bernardino Mountains to the east.

These mountains are the cause for this post. I was visiting with a friend from the state of Washington about how the mountains were different than other mountains. She described them as being “majestic”. That seemed like an appropriate adjective, but I needed to think a little about just what majestic meant. It is an adjective meaning, having or showing impressive beauty or display great dignity. Also, majestic befits a great ruler and being simply far superior to everyday stuff. I was now fully on board with the mountains surrounding Palm Springs being described as majestic.

Then I got to thinking about majestic people I know. There are those with majestic beauty and those who are majestic leaders – those that display great dignity. I then reflected on what gave them that beauty. For me it is their referent power. Referent power is one of the most potent and majestic sources of power for a leader there is. It is a form of reverence gained from having tremendous interpersonal relationship skills. Referent power has become much more important as we move from command and control organizational environments to more collaborative and flattened hierarchical environments of influence.

Leaders with high referent power influence because of the follower’s admiration, respect, and identification with her or him. Think about this description when looking at the picture I took of the San Jacinto Mountains while I was in Palm Springs shown here: These majestic mountains are a pretty appropriate metaphor for a majestic leader, don’t you think? I couldn’t let the metaphor end there, however. I then got to thinking about how if we, as leaders, get this influence right, the view is beautiful. This made me think of the awesome picture I got from the top of Mount San Jacinto at 8,516 feet shown here: Getting leadership right is such a beautiful and majestic thing for both the influenced and influencer.

Infectious Leadership

In the past week I have been with four groups of school and teacher leaders from three different states doing leadership development facilitation as part of our 3D Leadership Program. As part of this months focus we did a good leader/bad leader activity where each group developed a top 5 good leader trait and top 5 bad leader trait list. Two things that did not hit the lists were charisma and celebrity. It is clear that all want present and technically competent leaders who have a growth mindset and are contagious. This then trickles down to the team.

So what does having a growth mindset mean? To me it means having a transformative and innovative approach with the team. It means letting the team be curious and creative; finding ways to get better. Great leaders let go of certainty and open the door to other points of view. Great leaders also trust their team members and give them more latitude. These same leaders provide appreciation for all new ideas and achievements of employees. They are comfortable trying new things knowing that all will not work. It’s about being curious themselves.

To set the stage and paint the picture for modeling this growth mindset the leader needs to talk in ideals; ideal work, ideal team, ideal outcome. The question I always like to answer as an innovative and curious leader with a growth mindset is: “what does success look like?” One thing is clear from listening to all these leaders: we need to be present, communicate (including effective listening), and have a mindset for growth. Are you infectious?

Preaching From The Office

Last night we had a great 3D Leadership gatherings in Indianapolis. One of the cool things we did was have a good leader/bad leader discussion. With this we discussed good leadership traits and bad leadership traits. Then by writing good leader traits on the right wing of gliders and bad leader traits on the left wing and throwing them to each other, we developed a top 5 good leader traits and top 5 bad leader traits.

One of the top 5 bad leader traits was “Preaching From The Office”. Bottom-line: the pull to stay in the office can be great. It takes a love of the people and the work to throw oneself into the work, for leaders to leave their offices. The best leaders, according to the teacher leaders I was working with last night, get out of their offices. Here’s why:

  1. When we get out of our offices we give encouragement to those we serve.
  2. When we get out of our offices we discover the amazing people in our organizations. This enables us to get to know those we serve.
  3. When we get out of our offices we collaborate. This allows us to see the organization from all vantage points. Thus we would avoid making decisions in isolation.
  4. When we get out of our offices we see where the vision has leaked, excellence has slipped, and communication has faltered.
  5. When we get out of our offices we are able to tweak and make changes with knowledge, clarity, and credibility.

As you can see this bad leader trait has serious implications. The good news is, it is easily fixed. Get out of your office. You will gain insight and those you serve will love having you in the trenches.

Teacher Leader Shape-Shifter

This morning I did a session for our Teacher Academy where I had the teachers pick a toy from a bag of lots of different cool toys. I gave them two minutes to play with the toy and then they had to report out how the toy related to their classroom, serving students, and them personally. This is a great reflective activity that really makes participants think. Then, of course, these reflections really get me thinking and I end up writing blog posts like this one.

One of the teachers chose a Slinky® and while reporting out she described herself as a shape-shifter. She stated that she needed to adjust and adapt according to student needs. This was genius. I have always tried to inspire team members to be continually comfortable shape-shifters. I am such a big fan of fluid change; whether that is organizationally, personally, or in the classroom. We need to be comfortable with the one thing that is constant – change.

Here’s the deal: as leaders, teacher leaders, and organizations, we must be comfortable with an ever-changing skin; no matter what we call it. Whether we call it change, changeover, conversion, metamorphosis, mutation, shift, transfiguration, transformation, translation, transmutation, transubstantiation we must have the resilience that shape-shifting brings to be successful. I would suggest that leaders and teachers must become adept at negotiating multiple, sometimes divergent, identities. We must be adaptive because everything we do during the day as teachers is situational – it shifts from context to context.

In other words we all need to use our portfolio of attributes, skills, and experiences to arrange, re-arrange, and adapt to meet the needs of our current situation. The concept of shape-shifting implies a sense of individuality and free agency in making choices, removed from constraints. By creating her own meanings for curriculum and leading of learning, the teacher who inspired this post, will be able to apply it within the context she is teaching. We then need to be able to demonstrate the resourcefulness and ability to change as contexts change.

Shape-shifters can be seen as innovators, rebels, or even a compromiser, but I see this as an important adaptive leadership trait. I do believe that shape-shifting also allows us to push away from the status-quo way of doing things and adapt to changing needs.

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?

Scaling Partnerships In Education & Telling Our Story

D-BSkhhXsAIXDRGI’m so sad to be sitting at the airport because I hate leaving Harvard University. I always learn so much from my friends at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. As always, my thinking as stretched, what I thought I knew challenged, and new creative and innovative ideas developed. As Dr. Mandy Savitz-Romer said last Sunday, “You may not leave here with complete closure, but with new questions.” That is learning at its best! My description for my learning this week is that I have been “coached up!”

Screen Shot 2019-06-26 at 7.48.22 PMToday’s learning was just as great as the rest of the week. I loved doing a case study on a partnership with the Nike Innovation Fund for improving Oregon student success. Dr. Monica Higgins did a great job of facilitating the case study and I learned a great deal about scaling the impact of public private partnerships. This learning was followed up by a great session by Dr. Irvin Scott on story telling and its importance to teaching and leadership.

As I have done all week in Thriving Students, Developing & Supporting Our Students: Future Identity Versus No Future Identity, and Changing The Narrative For Our Students, I compiled a top 20 list of the things I learned today. Here is my list:

  1. It’s not just if we do partnerships, it’s how we do partnerships.
  2. Partnerships should match the core values or mission of the partners.
  3. Partnerships are great ways for industry to understand education and for education to understand industry.
  4. It is very important to analyze both sides of all partnerships.
  5. Partnerships are a psychological contract.
    1. Everything’s not always explicit (context, risks, et cetera).
    2. In partnerships everything is not always spelled out.
  6. Move partnerships from individual to individual to organization to organization. This plays to sustainability.
  7. Open communication is key to partnerships, even when things go wrong.
  8. Agenda items versus surface level just for show.
  9. Eliminate hidden targets in partnerships
  10. Partnerships need an exit strategy so the innovation can be sustained without the partner.
  11. Partnerships should be mutually beneficial, with beneficial up for debate.
  12. In partnerships:
    1. Make implicit explicit
    2. Have clarity of roles and limitations
    3. Have flexibility built in
    4. Have mutual goals, timelines, and milestones
  13. Is the voice of the student heard in the partnership?
  14. You never want to scale until you know you have something that works.
  15. Need to decide to scale deep or scale out.
  16. Everyone has a story of how they got where they are. What is your trajectory?
  17. We need to be warm demanders for our students.
  18. We need to give an academic press to our students.
  19. You can’t lead if you don’t read.
  20. Why story/narrative in leadership?
    1. Stories are fundamentally human…
    2. Stories build connection…critical for leaders…
    3. Stories bring data alive…
    4. Stories capture what is possible…

Developing & Supporting Our Students: Future Identity Versus No Future Identity

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On Monday I had the opportunity to dig deep into adolescent development and how this plays into future aspirations, beliefs, and behaviors of our students. I was introduced to identity development by Dr. Mandy Savitz-Romer of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She advocates that articulating aspirations and expectations, forming and maintaining strong peer and adult relationships, motivation, and goal setting should become a part of our DNA in education.

Mandy has so much knowledge in adolescent development and how to advance student success. In fact, she has quite literally written the book on it. We were given her new book this week, Fulfilling The Promise: Reimagining School Counseling to Advance Student Success. I am almost done with it and have to say it is awesome. I am sure you will be seeing blog post from me about the book in the near future.

9780520287266There was also the opportunity on Monday for learning from Roberto Gonzales who is the preeminent academic expert on undocumented immigrant youth and the struggles they face. It was great to spend time with him because he has spent time with these youth getting, as he called it, “a worm’s eye view.” He understands how these issues play out in real-life. Most powerful for me was the idea of our undocumented immigrant youth straddling two worlds: neither from here or there. No one should have to live like that. Additionally, it was so powerful to gain an understanding, and I still have a huge amount to learn and understand, of the undocumented youth’s transition to “illegality.” As Roberto taught, illegality is not a noun but a verb as undocumented students move from protected to unprotected. I really needed this learning and can’t wait to read his book, Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America (University of California Press).

9780674976894-lgThen, if that was not already a lot of learning in one day, there was Dr. Anthony Abraham Jack. He wrote the book, The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Poor Students. Our interactions with students matter. I was struck thinking about how some of our engagement strategies favor a selected few – the students we like, that impress us, and we know. What about making sure we have the chance to know all students, not just the ones that are inherently comfortable interacting with teachers. We need to help all understand how to do that. One way he advocates for is office hours. But not like we have always done office hours. Office hours need to be collaboratively with students understanding exactly how they work. Students also need to be comfortable in asking questions and bringing anything to office hours.

As I did for Sunday’s learning this week in Thriving Students, here is my top 30 list of takeaways from the day of learning:

  1. Information ≠ Action
  2. A college going future identity
  3. Dimensions of identity: groups, roles, self concept.
  4. Marshaling: how do we use our resources.
  5. Throwing forward: seeing oneself in the future.
  6. Self-efficacy is the belief in the ability to accomplish a specific task.
  7. Self-efficacy is domain specific.
  8. We all have the ability to build self-efficacy.
  9. What shapes self-efficacy?
    1. Mastery of experience
    2. Vicarious learning
    3. Social persuasion
    4. Affect
  10. The “why” students go to college is very important.
  11. There is a big difference between wanting to go to college and someone telling you they want you to go to college.
  12. Motivation = Goals + Beliefs
  13. Students need to be better planners for obstacles. We need to be their GPS and give them three different routes.
  14. Control of Thoughts + Control of Emotions + Control of Behaviors = Self Regulation To Attain Goals
  15. Many students straddle two worlds; they are neither from here or there.
  16. We need to pay attention to how issues play out in real life.
  17. We forget how powerful having an I.D. card is to a person.
  18. Access is not inclusion.
  19. Beware of unwritten curriculum – the unwritten rules of getting along in an institution.
  20. We need to teach students how to interact with teachers and faculty.
  21. Doubly disadvantaged = Lower Income + Attended Public School
  22. Privileged Poor = Lower Income + Attended Private School
  23. Secondary school and college officials disproportionately reward proactive engagement strategies. Instead of who deserves reward, it becomes who we like, who we know, and who impresses us most – not necessarily the deserving students.
  24. Impress upon students it is more than normal to ask for help.
    1. It is smart
    2. It is expected
    3. It is rewarded
  25. We must inspire students to build an inter-generational support network.
  26. There is a difference between building a network and networking.
  27. Language matters.
  28. We need to make explicit what is now hidden to our students.
  29. We need to make basic things accessible and digestible for our students.
  30. We need to partner with families and promote our parents as super heroes.

Think about how great our country’s education system would be if we were able to make all 30 items above values that were in the DNA of our system and not just desired practices or boxes to check?

Buy In From All Vantage Points

Screen Shot 2019-06-12 at 8.48.42 PMThis week I had the opportunity to present a leadership academy workshop session entitled “Buy In From All Vantage Points.” The gist of the session was how to get an entire school staff to “buy in” to a continuous education model and other important school initiative. When I was first given the title I balked a little, but then decided to leave it so I could refer to not liking the title. I don’t like the title because “buy in” to me implies that there needs to be a “sales job” done after decisions are made. In my view, decisions should be made by including a wide range of individuals so the initiative, challenge, or opportunity can be looked at from all Vantage Points©. I refer to and use this model often when discussing leading change, which is what I would have titled the session. Here is the Vantage Point© model developed by MG Taylor Corporation:

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When I want people to understand how powerful using The Vantage Points© is to leading change, I like to compare it to board games. If you think about it board games have a philosophy, culture, policy, strategy, tactics, logistics, and tasks. So, I had the groups pick a board game to use as an example. The group picked Candy Land™. Then they had to discuss board game from the seven Vantage Points©.

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One of the groups of the two sessions I did on this did some research on the Candy Land™ board game and we learned some history. We were reminded that in the 1940s the dreaded disease of Polio struck thousands of Americans. In response to this, Eleanor Abbott, who was a victim of the disease herself, set out to develop games that would help recovering children pass the time. Milton Bradley, which is now Hasbro® began marketing the game in 1949 and is still being marketed today. Additionally, it is now available in electronic forms.

As the group made the comparison to leading change, they found that the philosophy was to be attainable and challenging to all – what we want in all education initiatives. Just like a board game, we need to give everyone a chance to play and have the opportunity to be a part of the decision making. It’s important to acknowledge that you will never convince everyone to get on board. An unfortunate truth is often that a better future for your school or organization doesn’t always mean a better situation for every individual in the end. It should, however, mean a better situation for the students we serve.

We need to always remember, when leading change, that change is always personal. Think about it; any time there is a change we all question how the change will affect us personally. As leaders, we need to be cognizant of this, and address this. By involving individuals from all vantage points we are able to help everyone, including ourselves, understand how the change will affect everyone. Leading change and new initiatives is a process, we need to use all our tools and techniques to manage the people side of change to achieve the required school or organization outcome. Effectively leading change incorporates the organizational tools that can be utilized to help individuals make successful personal transitions resulting in the adoption and realization of change.

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?

It’s Not My Story To Tell

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Hailey showing off her temporary Emoji tattoo

I am writing this post as I sit in the airport waiting to fly home after a few days in central Florida facilitating our last 3D Leadership sessions for the spring semester. I am going to miss doing these in June and July, not just because I love doing them and working with all the great leaders that I have the opportunity to serve, but also because of all the learning and reflecting I am able to do as well. We have had so many great discussion and I have a whole list of topics I want to reflect deeper on and study.

This post is about communication, but not the normal topics related to communication like the leader that talks in espoused cliche´infused declarations like “Students first,” or “Customers first,” “All hands on deck,” or “We need to move with urgency.” Over and over again, they present grand, overarching and fuzzy statements of who really knows what. Too often we assume that everyone shares the same definitions for terms that go on and on like vision, value, move with urgency (does that mean I’m supposed to run everywhere?), teamwork, focus, strategy, and on and on. While it is important for great leaders to get a handle on this communication issue, this is not the focus of tonight’s post.

Tonight, I remembered a statement by one of our North Carolina members, Hailey Odum, made in her first session while reflecting on what she wanted to be as a leader. Hailey said it bothered her when people talk about things they either shouldn’t be talking about, or really don’t know all the details about. She said she does not tell the story if: “It’s not my story to tell.” This really hit me because this is a pet peeve of mine as well.

You know the individuals Hailey and I are talking about here:

  • need to know everything and probably don’t.
  • want you to know they know something.
  • usually don’t have all the details.
  • flaunt that someone called them and let them know something before you, or even say, “I’ll bet they haven’t told you yet.”
  • start with: “I’m not supposed to know this, but so and so told me.”
  • you hear in a meeting an announcement and are told it is not public yet, but you heard a group talking about it the week before with all the details you just heard.

When I look at these items in bullet list form it almost reminds me of being in the third grade again. I am sure you could probably add another six bullet points to this list, but you get the point. Now this is not to say that I do not know things at times in advance of others or that others don’t confide in me at times, but I really do try to use Hailey’s sniff test of asking myself “Is it my story to tell?” If it is not then I shouldn’t. Notice I did not say I don’t because I am not perfect, but I have to say I am much better at applying the sniff test since Hailey pointed this out as a leadership trait that needed to be followed.

This then goes to thinking about how communication is handled. For example if you work in a team, it is probably not healthy for certain team members to find out things ahead of others. If we have to say things like “Oh, I thought you knew.” or “You didn’t hear this yet.” or the worst one “So and so probably didn’t tell you, but she let me know (you’ve just been told you are not worthy of knowing at the same time as everyone else).” Now in reality what we may have just experienced is simply terrible communication skills, but even so, this is a little bit like leadership by the game of telephone. And, because it is probably not the person who is telling you story to tell, things maybe are not represented correctly.

I really appreciate Hailey bringing this up as a topic of discussion because it has now been something that I consciously think about. So next time you know something, or think you know something, ask yourself, “Is that my story to tell?” Nine times out of ten I’ll bet you answer, “It’s not my story to tell.”