Byron's Babbles

Anything & Everything

Scratch Art By Laura Goynes

David Allen once said, “You can do anything, but you cannot do everything.” I was reminded of this quote while reading The Bookshop At Water’s End by Patti Callahan Henry. The line in the book that inspired this post was, “There was no ‘either’ ‘or.’ There was ‘anything’ and ‘everything’.” This was in the context of the way two young girls were spending their summer vacation (you really need to read the book!). I loved this because it was not about choosing, it was about doing it all. I totally get where David Allen comes from in saying we cannot do it all, but for young people, especially, shouldn’t it be about experiencing it all. We actually spent time diving in on this in recent leadership development workshops I have been doing on core values by contemplating that a core value of “Every path matters” is much more livable than just saying “students first” as many do. As I teach, for core values to mean anything they must be livable. We must help students understand what possibilities are out there. And, give them a chance to realize those possibilities.

This line, “There was no ‘either’ ‘or.’ There was ‘anything’ and ‘everything'” in this novel reminded me we must be exposing our students to as many paths as possible. Nor, should we be excluding paths, but making sure our students understand where each path can or cannot take them. It must ultimately be their decision. We need to help them determine their interests and talents. We must also help and encourage our students to fall in love with learning. We need to be the people their lives that challenge them and hold them accountable. We need to be the ones who will offer questions and share their experiences. Let’s try to create the environments where our young people like Bonny and Lainey, who in the novel read, swam, and made wishes about their dream lives, don’t have to worry about doing “either” “or,” but can to “anything” and “everything.” Every path matters!

Good Done Right

Posted in core values, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 5, 2021

Most of you know the story of Wendy’s. For those that don’t, click here. I’ve been doing quite a bit of facilitation of learning around core values lately and it has caused me to keep an even closer eye out for those that are walking the talk. I already blogged about DryBar in Core Values Are The Heart & Soul. Then, last night I pulled into the local Wendy’s drive through and was reminded how important it is to have shared core values and have our personal core values match the organizations we are a part of. I’ve always been impressed with this particular Wendy’s location. Everyone always seems so happy and they always get your order right; even down to getting the extra sauce you ordered in the bag. At this Wendy’s you don’t have to check it. For those from Wendy’s reading this, click here for the actual store and location.

Here’s the deal: when I was paying last night, the young man said, “How’s your day?” I said, “Couldn’t be any better. Thanks for asking. How’s your day?” He said, “Mine couldn’t be any better, I love being here!” I was a little blown away, because typically you get the answer, “Well, in one hour 31 minutes and 17 seconds when I get off work it will be a lot better.” But, no, not in this case. The young man liked being there. So I said, “Please tell me why you like being here so much?” I explained that I teach about this stuff and really wanted to know. He explained, “I really enjoy being here. My team is made up of really cool people and we help each other. I’m learning a lot and get to meet great people.” Need I say more about why this Wendy’s always seems to get things right with friendly and helpful team members?

Could it be they are living the Wendy’s core values of “Do the right thing, treat people with respect and give something back.” So many places have core values posted on the wall, but that’s where they live. No one in the organization lives them, especially not the top leadership, in many cases. Let’s take this as a reminder to live out what we value.

What Are You Prepared To Do?

Back on day 170 of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic, August 31, 2020, I committed to a 52 week journey in a new book. Click here to read that first of 52 posts. I had received an advanced copy of Mindset Mondays With DTK: 52 Ways to REWIRE Your Thinking and Transform Your Life. The author, David Taylor-Klaus (DTK), told us that the book was to be savored over time and used every week for a year. As most of you know, I love books that are organized in 52 lessons to use over a years time. That gives me a chance to also do weekly reflection blog posts. This post is the 52nd and final post. Today, on day 538 of the continuing global pandemic, one day shy of a full year later, I complete the 52 week journey of learning. But really it’s not a completion, but a beginning because of being able to live an even better and REWIRED (see photo) life from having read this book and encountered DTK.

Ironically, Chapter 52, entitled Venture Ahead, is very related to some leadership development lessons I have been teaching in the past week. I’ve been using the driving question of “What Are You Prepared To Do?” After discussions of core values, shape shifting, leadership mantras, and legacies, I always show this video clip from The Unstoppables:

I also chuckle at the fact that I have used quotes Václav Havel while facilitating in the last week and DTK has quoted him in this chapter. Here is the quote I’ve been using:

“…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.”

~ Václav Havel

Here’s the quote from Havel in Chapter 52 used by DTK:

“Vision is not enough. It must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps; we must also step up the stairs.”

~ Václav Havel

The 52 lessons of this book have given me structured time to think about the things I believe in and want to leave as a legacy. It has also given me an opportunity to take stock of where I am and next steps. DTK called this “Tak[ing] stock of who you’ve become through the work you’ve done” (p. 354). Now I need to up the metaphorical staircase by taking the first step.

“Who you are is who you choose to be. It’s what you think, and what you do with what you think, and what you give, and what you ask for, and ultimately what you stand for” (p. 355). What are you prepared to do?

Core Values Are The Heart & Soul

Posted in #NEI3DLeadership, 3D Leadership, core values, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 21, 2021
Laura Goynes

Right now I am sitting in the Orlando International Airport with my flight delayed due to weather, but reflecting on an incredible day of facilitating leadership development for north Florida participants of our 3D Leadership Program. One of the topics of discussion today was core values. During a part of the discussion where we were discussing organizational versus personal and shared versus unshared values, one of our participants, Laura Goynes, interjected that the whole time of the discussion she had been reflecting on her experience working for DryBar while in college. She posited that their core values were easy to share and easy to live. Then she shared them with us and we were all speechless. They were probably the most authentic core values I had ever heard. I was actually pretty excited because Drybar’s core values were in the same vain as the core values I am living for my newly founded company and listed on my website. Here are DryBar’s core values:

The Heart & Soul Of Drybar: Our 10 Core Values & Beliefs

  1. It’s the experience! The single most important part of the Drybar experience is the way we make people feel. We are committed to making our clients feel like a million bucks.
  2. It’s not just blowouts! It’s confidence. And happiness. It’s artistry and quality.
  3. Be yourself! Tattoos, piercings, quirky laugh and all! It’s what makes you special and interesting. As Gaga says, “I’m on the right track baby, I was born this way.”
  4. Embrace the power of random acts of kindness! Selfless acts of kindness make someone’s moment/day/week. This defines you, you define us.
  5. Have fun! Laugh, smile, dance! Look beautiful! Life is too short to be someplace lame.
  6. Always be growing! There is tremendous opportunity ahead for all of us. You commit to helping us grow and we’ll do the same for you.
  7. Nothing is sexier than honesty and humility! Arrogance and cockiness are gross. Actions speak louder than words. Be sexy.
  8. Make a difference! Have an opinion, a point of view. Have the courage to stand up and make a difference.
  9. Pretty is as pretty does! Be a good person. Care about people. You’re only as pretty on the outside as you are on the inside.
  10. We are family! Drybar was started by family. You are part of our family.

Pretty amazing, right? I was so glad that Laura shared these with us and was so inspired. Laura went on to explain to us the people she worked with loved their jobs, DryBar retained employees, employees always felt heard, and that, as an employee, these were easy values to share. So, really it was a “drop the mic” 🎤 moment and Laura had given us the prompt for a great discussion about the authenticity of core values and not needing to be a bunch of buzz words, hooplah, and corporate gibberish. Think about if we all lived personally to the DryBar core values. The world might just be a better place. This whole discussion made me feel better about my own core values which are:

Core Values

  • Integrity above all
  • Everyone is a leader
  • Listen, Hear, Learn, & strive to be better
  • Not just better – Different
  • Never cookie cutter
  • The glass is half full and we want a bigger glass

We will generally be most comfortable working in a company that has a corporate culture that reflects our own personal values. Core values are the guiding principles that help to define how we should behave personally, in business, and perhaps beyond. What gives your life meaning or what do you want to achieve? If you can articulate those answers, you’ll likely see a pattern that you can boil down into a single concept or list of concepts.

You Wanted The Best, You Got The Best!

In Chapter 44, “Trust Yourself to Create” of Mindset Mondays with DTKby David Taylor-Klaus (DTK), DTK told us, “Personally, I’d rather be judged by the world for what I do than judged by myself for what I don’t do” (p. 307). Many times we let the thought of failure or being judged keep us from getting started. We live in a world where we judge ourselves, judge others, and get judged by others. As I was watching A & E’s great Biography: KISStory Volume I last night it was said that KISS was not a critic’s band, but a band of the people. What that meant was that KISS didn’t care how the critics judged them. They cared that the fans believed they were getting the best show in the world!

Some measure life through money and accolades. Others measure it through beauty and popularity. Others measure it through family and relationships. Others measure it through service and good deeds. Chances are you measure it through some combination of all of these things, but one in particular matters most to you. This is where our values and our own identity come into play. As Gene Simmons said, “Figure out for yourself what makes you special and then create it.” “We [KiSS] were authentically us.” No one else can tell you what that is. Paul Stanley weighed in on this when he said, “No matter who you aspire to be, and how hard to try to be them, you will never be better than they are at it, so you must be the best at being who you are.” In other words we must know who we are, what we stand for, and what our competitive advantage is.

The more we are able to measure ourselves by our own internal metrics the better off we will be. The more external (the critics) our metrics for our own value and self-worth, the more we screw everything up for ourselves. An important part of our own personal growth is to recognize our own fixation, to recognize how we measure ourselves and consciously choose our internal metrics for ourselves. We must also recognize that everyone else in the world have their own metrics for judging that might, or might not, match our own. Paul Stanley shared, “We were the ones that weren’t supposed to succeed. We followed our own instincts.” Had KISS listened to the critics we might not be celebrating nearly 50 years of the greatest rock and roll band ever. Be best according to the metrics you determine.

The Education Catapult

Last evening I had the opportunity to do some of what I call #LearningTogetherApart. Yesterday was Day 245 of the Global Pandemic and the webinar was entitled “Post-Election 2020: Charting a Path Forward in Education.” The webinar was put on by The Hunt Institute and the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), which I am chair of the board for, was one of the partner organizations involved in making this conversation possible. Other partners were The School Superintendents Association, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, and National School Boards Association. And, what a great conversation it was. The panel included The Honorable Margaret Spellings, Former U.S. Secretary of Education (2005-2009), President & CEO Texas 2036; The Honorable Arne Duncan, Former U.S. Secretary of Education (2009-2015), Managing Partner, The Emerson Collection; Chancellor Richard A. Carranza, New York City Department of Education (2018-Present); and Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade County Public Schools (2008-Present). As you can see this was quite the lineup of experience and expertise in the room.

Another highlight yesterday was receiving the new book Beyond The COVID – 19 Pandemic from authors Pradeep K. Kapur and Joseph M. Chalil. I am so glad that I started reading it in the space between the end of the work day and the webinar. In the preface of the book there are six questions posed for the global community to contemplate (p. xxi-xxii):

  • What sort of changes are required at the policy level to cope with such pandemics in the future?
  • How do we better equip global organizations to evolve for dealing with the challenges ahead?
  • Do we need to think of setting up new organizations to replace the WHO and the UN?
  • Can we have new paradigms for healthcare?
  • How do we create reserves and stockpiles of essential healthcare supplies? Where will the money come from when the budgets are already under great stress?
  • How do we get the global economy back on its feet?

As you can see, these are pretty good guiding questions and even though these are not education specific questions they could be great guiding questions for any conversation. Really, the answers to these questions need to involve education in every answer. The authors point out that the pandemic is the biggest disruption to our county in 100 years. In having studied the 1918-1920 pandemic, I am amazed that we are experiencing and struggling with many of the same issues we had then. I can’t wait to immerse myself into the book as these authors dream big and have offered solutions that are possible if we just reach political consensus and carry through to implementation (a core value of how I try to serve as a policymaker on the Indiana State Board of Education).

The panelists last night were also using their experience to dream big. I want to touch on a few thoughts they had by referring back to tweets I made during the conversation. Allow me to pick a highlight or two (or three) from each of the participants using tweets. You can check out all the tweets at @byronernest or by going to #ElectionEd2020. Here we go!

Secretary Margaret Spellings reminded us that education must be a major component of any pandemic recovery plan. As she said, “Education must be on the first train out of Washington.” And, she also reminded us that in order for there to be economic recovery, education must be involved. As a person who believes so much in the involvement of business/industry in education it gave me hope when she suggested that “Alignments between our schools and workforce are going to be critical right now.” This also includes continued alignments with higher education for all of dual credit, dual enrollment, Advanced Placement, internships, and work-based learning opportunities. We cannot let the pandemic take these away from our students. These opportunities provide for some of the greatest outcomes being afforded our students. I loved that Abigail Potts, NASBE’s Director of College, Career, and Civic Readiness, retweeted my tweet on this with comments that added the importance of our high school pathways, broadband access, and state and local investment. And, Abby pointed out in that tweet that education is not partisan but a place to come together to support our students. Thanks for the tweetversation (yes, I just made up a word), Abby!

Additionally, I have to add in one more insight from Secretary Spellings. She reminded us that “We cannot just go back to normal; we must catapult to the new way ahead.” I love the way she put that. I have continued to say over and over we have to take what we have learned and apply it and never look back. “Catapult” was the best term that could have been used for this. Go back to the questions posed in Beyond The COVID – 19 Pandemic and put them into the context of education and that is exactly where Secretary Spellings is suggesting we need to go.

I got to know Secretary Arne Duncan during my service as 2010 Indiana Teacher of the Year. He is so passionate about doing what is right for ALL children. In fact he made this clear when he said, “We need to be fighting for our most vulnerable.” I’ve also been impressed with the non-partisan way in which he views education. He also reminded us that “Education is our best way to bring the country together.” He firmly gave us a call to action for stitching our democracy back together. He posed the question, “What if we committed to go find every lost child?” Wouldn’t it be great if we could reach some consensus on a vital few things we could all work on and begin our evolution dealing with educational challenges? Secretary Duncan finally reminded us that, “We need need a healthy debate/conversation, putting aside political ideologies, based on data. We need the courage to do some things differently.” Well said!

Superindent Carvalho and Chancellor Carranza brought great perspective to the conversation from street level at the school. Superintendent Carvalho taught us that “The rules of the past stop applying. We need to start using what we have learned from the last nine months.” Providing education to ALL children has been a continuing challenge for families, schools, local, state, and federal governments, and leaders around the world. To answer the challenge we have tried and need to continue to try different paradigms to equity in learning for all. In my opinion we must develop a system by which we are developing the whole child in every child. Also, we must develop an ethos that sees the potential in every student. As a policymaker I use the test question of “Will this policy reduce inequity, maintain inequity, or increase inequity?” to inform my decisions. As I listened to these two school leaders I thought about how, after 245 days, we really need to assess what to de-prioritize and what needs to be prioritized.

Chancellor Carranza warned us to not “let our foot off the gas.” Some might argue that in some areas we need to put our foot on the gas, but those are the areas that Secretary Duncan told us we need to all get around and start working together on. When speaking of early childhood education and education funding in general, Chancellor Carranza gave a very real example by asking and answering his own question: “Do we invest early in education? Yes! It takes $20,000/year to educate a NYC student. It takes $275,000/year to incarcerate someone in New York State.” This was a reminder to us all how important an investment education is. And, let’s not forget the economic impact of having students prepared for our ever changing workplaces. Additionally, I think a lot about how we need to identify all the reasons for our students’ learning struggles. This goes beyond having devices and internet access. It takes us into the support structures in place or not in place for the student. We must have the whole portrait of student if we are create the ideal environment for learning.

As you can see, this was quite the discussion and I’ve only scratched the surface. This truly was a conversation, not an interrogation around defining the challenges and how to best disrupt education with the exponential learning we have done during the pandemic.

Knowing The Water

Yesterday I assumed the role of Chair of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) Board of Directors. The day before, in a meeting, I was introduced with the byline that in 24 hours I would be taking the helm. I’m not sure why, but I shivered a little at this. I even said, “I’m not sure what to think about that.” Then, our NASBE Northeastern Area Director, Dr. Audrey Noble (Delaware State Board of Education member) who is an avid boater/sailor said, “You’ll be fine. The key to success at helm is about knowing the water, and you know it well.” She had made a powerful statement there and had said a lot.

Later, as I reflected on that interaction, I remembered an awesome story that came out of World War II. And, of course, the story involves the great leader and 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. The story goes that he went to the tent where his soldiers were mapping out a location for the troops to cross a river. Eisenhower pointed at a spot on the map and said, “We will cross here.” One of his troops said, “We cannot cross there, Sir.” Eisenhower asked why not. They told him they were not sure how deep the water was. Eisenhower pointed to his dampened pants leg and said, “It is this deep.” Clearly, he “knew the water.” Eisenhower had taken the time to actually get his feet wet and know where he was sending his troops.

Leadership by example and working shoulder to shoulder with those you serve continue to be the most successful forms of leadership. These concepts can take many different forms, but is expressed well with the phrase that is on a picture that hangs in my den, “Walk The Talk.” Walking the talk is one of my core values. It really speaks to the fact that our character is our legacy. If we say we believe or will act in a certain way, then our actions should prove that. I blogged about this in Walk the Talk!

A helmsman relies on his knowledge of the water he is in, visual references, GPS, other technological tools, and a rudder angle indicator to steer a steady course. Leading in an organization is no different. One must “know the water.”

Focused Perspective

Posted in core values, Global Leadership, Leadership, Pandemic, Teacher Leader, Teacher Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 30, 2020

Have you ever noticed a cat’s ability to focus like a laser on something that interests them? There is never a challenge to get them to focus, but they become oblivious to what others around them are focused on. This is one of the things I love about cats; they do not need constant attention. But, when they do, you better be prepared to give it to them because that will be their sole focus. If you’ve ever been around cats you know that when they want some affection, they will not notice that you may be focused on something else. I was watching one of our barn cats this morning sitting on a feed pan I had just moved and flipped upside down after a show heifer was done eating. He was hyper-focused on something and I could not take his attention away (see picture).

When working with developing leaders I always talk about the effective leader is focused on self, others, and the wider world. The art of being self-aware and self-managing is about being centered. This enables us to notice our thoughts and feelings, label them, reappraise things that do not serve the situation and lead forward. This centered perspective is important so that understand our own values and how those values fit in the big picture. This also determines what lens we are looking through to bring context to situations. Perspective enables a leader to clearly assess the reality of today while also envisioning what is possible for tomorrow.

We also need an empathetic perspective that has the heart to understand others and identify those who might be struggling and provided compassion. Remember, empathy plus action equals compassion. We need to give people space and permission to take care of themselves. Particularly right now, everyone is in just a little different place dealing with the pandemic. We must remember that their reality is just that, their reality. Asking those we serve what they need and then truly being prepared to help them is crucial. Just thinking through priorities and plans for action can many times do the trick. We don’t have to tell people how to do their job, but syncing frequently on priorities and plans of actions can be very supportive.

How about you? Are you so focused, like a cat, that you may be missing opportunities to focus on those around you and the wider world?

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.

 

With The Crowd, Not Of It

Posted in Cincinnatus, Coke Stevenson, core values, Leadership, Lyndon B Johnson, Power, Purpose, Robert A Caro by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on March 6, 2020

I am reading Robert Caro’s second volume in The Years Of Lyndon Johnson – Means Of Ascent. He is such a great author and I love the things in this book that make me ponder, reflect, and give me pause. Right now at about a third of the way through this volume I am learning about a most fascinating man, Coke Stevenson. Or, Mr. Texas as he was known, was Texas’ 35th Governor.

Cincinnatus Statue in Cincinnati

He is my kind of leader. He practiced the learning of one of my heroes, Cincinnatus, of not wanting to lead for power, but to serve. Cincinnatus always returned to the farm. At the conclusion of all his service he just wanted to go back to his ranch, where he milked his own cows and branded his own calves. See why I love this guy?

Stevenson was beyond reproach in the Austin, Texas bar seen of lobbyists that was known for the three Bs: “beefsteak, bourbon, and blondes” (p. 158). The way Caro described him in this setting really caused me to think: “But although, in Austin, Stevenson was with the crowd at the Driskill Bar, he was not of it; there was a reserve, a dignity, about this tall, broad-shouldered, silent man with that watchful stare that set him apart from the crowd” (p. 159). This was a man that lived his values, instead of talking about them like so many leaders do.

I loved that statement, he was with the crowd, not of it. This was a man modeling, not just going along to get along. He was able to get along on his own terms. That’s a pretty big deal in my book. Following the crowd will cause us to be mediocre at best and live contrary to our core values. It really causes us to live a life of self-betrayal, and resigns is to an average life. It has been said that those who follow the crowd get lost in it.