Byron's Babbles

Going Platinum

Last week I had the opportunity to lead a session at our Principal’s Academy. My topic was “Professional Capacity of School Personnel.” Building the capacity of others is a passion area of mine. As a believer in intent-based leadership I love telling the story of creating a leader-leader instead of leader-follower community. I learned this from former United States Navy Captain David Marquet, who also taught me that we should build relationships such to understand how others want to be treated and understand their needs.

In Leadership Is Language Marquet taught us that we need to change the way we communicate. We need to drop the prehistoric language of command and control and learning the language of creativity, collaboration, and commitment. When building the capacity of our teams, how we communicate matters.

This session I brought in some other content that I was introduced to by my friend Maya Hu-Chan, author of Saving Face. She introduced me to the “Platinum Rule.” The “Platinum Rule” is the brain-child of Dr. Tony Alessandra and goes like this: “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” Brilliant! Ever since being introduced to this I have been sharing with as many as I can.

What a difference. The Platinum Rule accommodates the feelings of others. The focus of relationships shifts from “this is what I want, so I’ll give everyone the same thing” to “let me first understand what they want and then I’ll give it to them.” This brings empathy and compassion to a new level.

This really resonated with the group and they spent time discussing how to implement this into their daily work as a principal and leader of learning. I was so thrilled to get this message in a thank you email today: “Some even shouted out your presentation in their follow-up feedback. When asked “What is the most important thing you will take away from today?” One wrote “Strategies to get into the classroom – a great perspective from one of the presenters, ‘treat teachers the way they want to be treated.'” You never know what will resonate with participants, but I am thrilled that others are now treating others the way they want to be treated. Let’s all go platinum!

The Leadership Tornado

Posted in Communication, Compassion, Empathy, Empowerment, Global Leadership, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 26, 2020

This week I got to witness one of nature’s fascinating events – a “Canada Goose tornado.” Yes. That’s what it is called! I first heard the noise of hundreds of Canada Geese honking a mile overhead, then I saw it – what looked like a large tornado in the sky, ever changing and in constant motion, but hovering in one place. Then every few moments a group of 20-25 would break off and head south in their famous “v” pattern. This went on for probably 10-15 minutes until every goose became a part of a group. The sheer noise of the event was incredible. Geese are definitely communicators. The honking noises are called “contact calls” which help them stay together. It was quite an event and I tried to get a good picture, and have shared what I got as the featured picture of this post.

It’s always been interesting to me how successful geese are with no hierarchy. They mate for life and usually keep the family unit together returning to the same breeding ground each year. There’s no ‘leader’ for the entire migratory flock, they take it in turns, when one goose gets tired, it falls back and another moves in front. Are you catching this? Everyone is a leader. Everyone provides leadership at the right moment, when it is needed. When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position. They fly in “v”s as this creates the best uplift draft for each goose by being placed at the wingtip of the bird in front which minimises wind drag and thus saves energy. By flying in a “v” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone. The reduced drag produced by the wing tip vortex of the bird in front can bring about a 50% energy savings.

It is also interesting to note that if a goose falls out of formation for any reason (gets sick or wounded) two geese drop out of formation and accompany it to help and protect. These two stay with it until it is able to fly again. When that day arrives the three will group up with another formation or catch up and join their original gaggle. It is amazing the example geese give us for empathy and compassion. They truly take care of each other. It would serve us well on this Thanksgiving Day to reflect on this.

Additionally, with our son home from college for Thanksgiving, it is good to have the migrating family unit back together – I’m thankful for that, today. I’m also thankful that I saw the “goose tornado” this week to remind me that leaders rotate, empower, delegate, and even step down when it’s in the best interest of the team. How often do we see this taking place among organizational leaders? The best teams are well trained and developed in order to achieve true empowerment. Is your “v” formation flying with energy saving efficiency?

Leading Like A Murmuration

Posted in Adaptive Leadership, Communication, Consensus, Global Leadership, Leadership, murmuration by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 12, 2020

There is nothing better than seeing, hearing, smelling, and feeling the farm wake up in the morning. This morning was awesome as a foggy mist gave way to a very cloudy dawn. There was first an owl letting everyone know she was awake. Then came the first sounds of other birds. A calf moo-d, letting me know I needed to tend to the breakfast needs of her and the others instead of enjoying the morning come to life. There are so many sights, sounds, smells, and things to feel. It’s almost overwhelming!

Well, I got all of the animals fed and cared for and went back to observing the cloud darkened misty morning. I was drinking some coffee from my Hong Kong coffee mug (you all know I collect coffee mugs from places I have gone and love to use them) and looking out over a field of Berseem Clover I mowed for hay a couple of days ago. Then the show began! A murmuration of birds was feeding in the field. Hundreds of them flying together in what looked like controlled chaos; or maybe it looked more like synchronized swimming. A murmuration, or bird dance, is basically an aerial ballet with hundreds or even thousands of black birds, starlings, grackles, cowbirds, or red-winged blackbirds flying together as if they had one mind or a choreographer conducting their every move. This eye-catching display reminded me of a computer generated effect from the movies. It was spectacular! I was spellbound by the murmuration’s twisting, swirling, morphing, shape-shifting animation.

While it is not known for sure why the murmuration happens, it is thought by ornithologists that the birds do the choreographed dance to avoid and confuse predators, like the owl I had heard earlier. Some also believe the murmurations are done as a cooperative effort for finding food. George F. Young studied starling murmurations and he described this synchronized aerobatic show as, “…remarkable ability to maintain cohesion as a group in highly uncertain environments and with limited, noisy information” (Young, Scardovi, Cavagna, Giardina, & Leonard, 2013). Basically, the research team found that the birds have the ability to manage uncertainty while maintaining consensus. To do this, each bird attends to seven others. By only attending and working with seven other birds, there are many dynamic parts that make up the entire group that then performs the murmuration.

So, what can leaders learn from these dazzling and beautiful illustrations of complex adaptive systems? In the context of this mixed flock of birds, the leadership is distributed, it is inclusive, and there must be effective, ongoing, and multi-directional communication. In other words, every bird needs to be a leader and follower. Because the birds, as the research found, are only tending to seven others, leadership is distributed for all. The prompt for a new direction (flight pattern) can come from anywhere. Just like in our organizations, leadership should be able to come from anywhere. This allows for quick real-time change in a complex adaptive system.

Think if our organizations were set up like a murmuration; anyone could discover and share good information. Then, seven others would be paying attention, so needed shifts could happen efficiently and effectively. Now, this culture is not without risk; distrust, the rumor mill, gossip, and false information could turn the murmuration into a crash site. Think about the trust that Blue Angel and Thunderbird pilots put in each other.

There is so much to learn from the striking murmuration display:

  1. We need to lead and follow at the same time
  2. There is no single leader
  3. There must be shared leadership
  4. There must be trust built so that every individual trusts each other implicitly, and are prepared to move in response to each other
  5. Sharing information must become a pervasive instinct

Watching a murmuration as the birds swoop, dive, and wheel through the sky is one of the greatest performances to watch in nature’s theater. While we not ever be able to reach the perfect synchrony of the birds, if we will but follow the principles that make the aerobatics possible we can become effective complex adaptive systems. Remember, everyone is a leader and everyone is a follower.

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.

View all my reviews

Change Is A Coming!

IMG_8098There is one thing for sure as I sit and write this post on this Sunday morning; change is a coming. My son is coming home from college till at least April 6th, and learning remotely and online (since I miss him being at home every day, I am excited for him to be home). The students at the schools I serve will be learning remotely. The teachers and school leaders I serve will be learning and creating best practices for remote and online student learning. Also, we must develop best practices for caring for the non-academic needs of our students (eg. food, social emotional, et cetera). I need to consider what limiting social contact means for mean personally. Additionally, I am positive that there will be things on the policy side of my life, as an Indiana State Board of Education member, that will have to be decided. So, as I said, times are changing. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is bringing change to all the world and all our lives.

As I contemplate all the constant and fluid change going on around me, I continue to remind myself that change is a never-ending process. Change is not a journey or a one-time event. Additionally, as a person who doesn’t like the term expert, or am not even sure there is such a thing, we need to remember that, right now, there are no experts – we’ve never been through this before. So, we have a bunch of people doing the best we can. The changes we are experiencing due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic need to be continuous and participatory. We must communicate and collaborate. This can’t become about who can tweet what they are doing the fastest to feed their own ambition. Or, who can blast someone else for what they haven’t done.

The problem with thinking of change as a journey is that travel is sequential. We move from one leg of the journey to the next. Change, in contrast, isn’t a series of steps; it is not a map you can follow. There is no Maps App for change, particularly not for coronavirus. As a lover of metaphors, let’s imagine pouring cream (I prefer coconut flavored) into a mug of coffee. Almost immediately as the liquids merge, there is a color change from black to brown to a light tan depending on how much cream we add. Change needs to look more like that. Instead of someone trying to come up with a well-executed plan on their own, it becomes what I call triageformational. Yes, triageformational is a term I coined. I first blogged about it in Triageformational Leadership: New Hybrid Definition of Triage and Transformational Leadership. I believe it applies more now, with our coronavirus situation, than ever before. Here is what I said in that blog post:

“Those that I believe that would make great triageformational leaders place a high value on fostering an environment or community of collaboration. This community is balanced, diverse, and equitable. These leaders build community and culture by truly living out their own core values and the organization’s core values. Just like doing triage in an emergency situation, these leaders are prioritizing what gets done next by matching core values to the situation. This in turn brings about transformation and service oriented leadership.”

We must change the way we change. We cannot have all change initiatives coming from on high. CEOs and other bureaucratic leaders who decree the values they created alone have already failed. Those values must be collaboratively developed. So, how should we change? Well, change must be continuous and participatory, and we must look for those who know more than ourselves.

 

How Do You Play Leader?

IMG_7855

This past weekend at our Indiana 3D Leadership Gathering, we did a toy activity that involved Lite Brites®. Participants made a picture that represented how the Lite Brite® could be used for great leadership. The activity was called “How Do You Play Leader?” The groups did a great job with their pictures. While they were sharing out I wrote down a few notes. Check out what I wrote down here:IMG_7860

I was particularly struck by the statement that “Great leaders really don’t have to try!” I asked the person to dig a little deeper into that comment. She said that a leader who is authentic and is himself or herself instead of trying to be someone else or copy someone else is much more effective. Great leaders find a system that works for her or him, rather than trying to force oneself into a prescribed notion of a what a leader has to be. If we know ourselves well enough, we can take steps to go about leading effectively. Situations change what we need to do, but should never change who we are. We need to make sure we’re treating all team members as we would want to be treated. We need to be genuinely interested in learning something new every day from our team, and they will follow you. It’s all about relationship building. I blogged about this in Let’s Have Lunch Together!

There was also a deep discussion about how teams are most times brought together by a certain amount of randomness and disorganized connections. Great leadership connects the randomness. Leaders should be the key connectors of team members. Support them them to understand their value in the organization. Leaders need to respect all team members. Respect comes in different forms: respecting time, respecting opinions, respecting diversity, respecting the culture, and more. When we trust and respect our team members and connect with them, they will respond with dedication and enthusiasm. Because of this, our connected team members will see clarity, levels of engagement across the organization, a positive culture and community, and most of all, improvement in communication. Remember, trust builds through connections with people and forms the bedrock of a team. Teams are built on human cooperation. Without relationships, we’ve got no team.

Living Is Having A Past Full Of Mistakes

The other day as I was having dinner with a good friend I was talking about some mistakes I had made. He said, “Byron, part of living is having a past full of mistakes.” Wow, how true this is! And, how impactful it was to hear from this. As a person who never worries about failure and tries to learn from every mistake, it was huge to talk this out.

The thing to remember and tell ourselves, however, is that the mistake was not on purpose. We didn’t misunderstand circumstances or miscalculate a situation on purpose. Would we forgive someone else? Sure! So we need to remember to forgive ourselves too, and fail forward. This all doesn’t qualify if the mistake or failure was while taking a risk. That is the nature of risk taking and is necessary.

Then, we just need to do everything we can to fix the mistake. That may mean talking to someone, coming up with a better solution, or letting someone else help out. I always say to others, “There’s nothing you can screw up bad enough that the sun won’t come out tomorrow. And, if it doesn’t, it won’t matter anyway.” Remember, we are human and not infallible.

Finally, we need to take the position that we will be smarter next time. We need to learn from mistakes. Just as others have had amnesia about our past mistakes, we need to have amnesia about others. This is truly having compassion.

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

Tending Our Friendships

Posted in Best Friends, Boston Legal, Communication, Forgiveness, Friendship, Happiness, Leadership, Listening, Metaphors by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 31, 2019

I was touched last night to have my son ask if I wanted to watch a couple more episodes of Boston Legal with him. Hey, it was 10:30pm; what else could be better? Plus, love spending time with the boy. We laughed and discussed the political issues of the time of the show. Then there was a cool seen during Season 4, Episode 20 when my son said, “That was a great metaphor.” As you know, I live by metaphor. Having my son recognize a quality metaphor – PRICELESS!

Here’s the scene: Alan Shore said to Jerry Espenson, “I feel as if I haven’t seen much of you over the past year.” Jerry replied, “Well, you’ve been really busy, Alan. So have I. With work. Work has…Hey! That’s the beauty of being friends, isn’t it? Relationships with long shelf lives. You can just stick them on the shelf. I tell you! Alan rebutted, “What?” Then Alan continued, “I have never ever considered myself someone who puts work before friendships. Seems I do.” Jerry then gave us the metaphor saying, “We all do, Alan. Friendships are a little like back yard gardens. We plan to tend to them. We just always seem to put it off till next week.” Friendships are the cornerstones of our lives. Our garden of friends requires careful tending.

We also need to recognize that people change and grow at very different speeds and different ways. Metaphorically, we need to plant, cultivate, prune, water, and fertilize our friendships. To have a relationship, you must plan, cultivate, and tend to it. Relationships left unattended eventually die.

We need to be grateful for our friends and the people who make us happy. For all the faults in the character of Alan Shore in the show, we do see him always trying to be a good friend. He offers advice, checks in on them, maybe shows up in court just to watch and show support, always seeks to reconcile a squabble with a friend quickly, and always goes and apologizes when he says something to a friend that offended him or her. One of the ongoing plots of the show is about friendships and romances of the characters. I blogged about this in Are We Best Friends?

Let’s not forget to tend to our gardens of friendship as we move into a new decade. In fact, I think I’ll make my New Year’s Resolution be: to appreciate my friends every day and catch more fish.

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.