Byron's Babbles

Leading Like Yahtzee

Last week in our first gathering of our newest cohort of Florida 3D Leadership Program participants, we were discussing leadership being like chess or checkers. The participants even played chess and checkers while having the discussion. We had some great discussion related to this considering things like you must know your opponent, players have limited movements, checkers is at a smaller level, checkers and chess have different missions, playing chess is more like be a principal, playing checkers is more like being a teacher leader, and strategic movement/placement. Then, one group discussed that they thought leadership was more like playing Yahtzee. The game of Yahtzee then came up again in another discussion. I finally had to come clean with the group and admit I had never played Yahtzee or even knew how the game was played. Of course after the gathering was over I had to look up the game of Yahtzee and found that the group was right, there are leadership characteristics contained in the game of Yahtzee.

Actually, on the surface Yahtzee appears to be a simple game. Each player gets thirteen turns to complete their score card. The top section of the score card consists of numbers 1 thru 6. You need to roll three ones, three twos, three threes, etc. to get your “minimums.” You could also roll four fives (or four of anything), which comes in handy if you were only able to roll two threes on a previous turn. The idea on the top section is to score at least 63 total points, so you can get the 35-point bonus. If you get a “Yahtzee!” you score 50 points. That’s when you get all five dice to be the same during your turn. Some players focus solely on getting Yahtzee at the expense of everything else. Some people really work hard count on getting the Yahtzee. From my studying, however, a balanced scorecard is more beneficial to winning the game. Balance is important in leadership as well. In education for example there must be balanced effectiveness in governance, financial health, student performance and achievement, or teacher effectiveness. Concentrating on any one of these and forgetting the rest would be disastrous to the school.

Yahtzee seems like a game of chance. It’s much more. It’s a game of decisions and imperfect trade-offs. Wow, doesn’t that sound a little like leadership. So, there is actually some genius in comparing leadership to the game of Yahtzee. We must at some point fully form our approach to decision making. Success, failure, decisions, and sacrifices are in play with every turn while playing Yahtzee. Excellent practice for leading in real time. The game of Yahtzee is completely random. But, as leaders we know that sometimes completely random things happen. Therefore, something completely random and driven by chance can be, as we can learn from playing Yahtzee, be managed within a solid set of priorities and strategies. Do you have other ways you would compare playing Yahtzee to leading effectively?

Irrational Exuberance

As an artistic leader versus being a technocrat, I have always been that one focusing on how great things were going to be; how great that lesson I just planned would go, how that next webinar would go, how many gazillion people would want to be part of a new leadership program, or how much everyone would love that latest workshop activity I just planned. Sometimes, because of this focus, I am viewed as not being detail oriented enough, or not being realistic enough. Some of that might be true, but as David Taylor-Klaus (DTK) pointed out Chapter 21 of Mindset Mondays with DTK entitled “What Could Go Right?”, nothing can ruin an organization quicker than not planning for success.

I’ve actually seen and experienced this with new schools that weren’t prepared for the large number of students who enrolled. It is tricky to not be prepared for great things. Without thinking through what could go right, we won’t be ready to handle great things when they happen.

“Stop being afraid of what could go wrong, and focus on what could go right.”

~ Unknown

DTK pointed out that companies buckled under the pressure of not being able to handle what Alan Greenspan called, “irrational exuberance,” during the dot-com era. Bottom-line: we must focus on what could go right. I like the quote above because while we need to have operational awareness of challenges and obstacles, we must not fear them. What are the next things that will go right for you?

Do you have style?

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, James Madison, Leadership, Leadership Development, Style by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 16, 2021

“Madison’s style was not to have one” (Ellis, 2002). I’m reading Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph L. Ellis and this was a statement by the author about our fourth President, James Madison. From Ellis’ book and now digging a little deeper about Madison I find that Madison showed a blend of abilities in all he did. All of this got me thinking, however, is it possible to not have a style. I actually do a teacher leadership session on developing and embracing your own style. So, my initial thought here is that to not have a specific style, might just be a style. Hopefully you’re catching what I’m pitching.

Some have called James Madison a philosopher statesman. After all, he was one of the principal architects of the constitutional and political institutions that continue to shape our nation’s life today. Madison could take ideas and put them into action – a hallmark of American citizenship. Leadership is the ability to persuade others to follow a certain path. Leadership as a concept was demonstrated in the life of James Madison through intellect, fairness, hard work, and pursuit of excellence in everything that he did. Therefore, we could list all the leadership traits that Madison had, and there were many, but that still doesn’t answer the question of style?

To answer this question I had to uncover what is even meant by personal style. After reading quite a bit about style, I concluded it is how a person influences their everyday life, how they look, behave and present themselves to the world. True style is a very personal thing. Style is a personal consideration. Nor does style belong to the crowd or to the norm. Style is a natural expression of the self.

Madison possessed the ability to come up with a solution to a complex problem. His leadership skill in this department was tested during the American Revolution and the time when the United States government was still in its infancy. For all of his leadership acumen, however, Madison lacked many of physical and oration attributes we are obsessed with today. He was only 5’4” tall, pale, and was said to have trembled when he delivered his first inauguration speech. Madison’s long list of exemplary leadership traits, understanding that leaders are followers first, and his desire to be a lifelong learning enabled him to develop out of mediocrity to be considered a Founding Father.

So, is it possible to not have a style? I don’t think so. Here’s how I see it: Who we are includes our style. Our style reflects the coherence between all levels of the self – what we desire, what our habits are, our thinking, our intentions, what we say and what we do, as well as how we reflect. Glad I had this chance to reflect. Do you have any thoughts on this?

What Lies Beyond Your Imperfections?

Posted in Authentic, Authenticity, DTK, Educational Leadership, Flawsome, Leadership, Leadership Development, Mindset Mondays by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 10, 2021

Funny how things work out. I’m reading the great book Flawsome: The Journey To Being Whole Is Learning To Be Holey by Georgia Murch right now. Her book teaches us that being the best you you can be requires us to accept our flaws. As she said, “Your unique flaws draw people to you.” I love that and have been enlightened over the years to understand that people want me for who I am, not someone else. It is about being authentic.

So what’s funny? I’m also reading Mindset Mondays With DTK by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK). DTK’s book is is set up in 52 chapters set up to be read on, you guessed it, Mondays. This week I’m on Chapter 20 entitled Beyond Imperfections. So, some of the same stuff I was learning from Murch. DTK told us that trying to present ourselves as perfect is inauthentic. I have known organizations that have also got caught up in believing they are perfect. DTK wrote, “The fantasy that we’ll become perfect leaders, perfect partners, or perfect people is just that – a fantasy.” Remember, no organization or person is perfect. My imperfections make me, well, me.

So by recognizing our flaws and imperfections we can also find and develop our perfections. This is why I am such a believer in finding our strengths. Let’s recognize our weaknesses and grow our strengths. You be you!

Insight From All Vantage Points

Posted in Blue Bloods, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Vantage Points by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 9, 2021

In leadership development I talk a lot about using all Vantage Points©️ (MG Taylor Corporation) in order to get to the right decisions when making changes, developing new initiatives, or any decision that involves people. The Vantage Points Model©️ has us making sure we have insight from seven distinct, yet not mutually exclusive, vantage points: philosophy, culture, policy, strategy, tactics, logistics, and tasks. In other words, we can never understand the philosophy of a system or enterprise until we are immersed in the tasks that comprise its daily functions. Conversely, only immersing ourselves in daily tasks can blind us to culture and philosophy, or cause us to accept it too casually. I am such a believer is using the Vantage Points Model©️ as a guide for all decisions. Any decision should have representation from all seven areas before being finalized. I contend that if we always get all seven areas represented the initiative or change had a much greater chance of succeeding. In schools, for example, I have seen good ideas fail because someone dictated the idea to teachers without finding out that the plan for implementing just wouldn’t work when actually used in the classroom.

Last night on Blue Bloods (I really like that show) Erin Reagan, played by Bridget Moynahan, after prosecuting a case had to make a tough decision about a sentence recommendation. She was agonizing over it trying to make the decision all by herself. Finally, her wise New York City Police Chief father, Frank Reagan, played by Tom Selleck, gave her some of that great fatherly advice. He advised her, “If you gotta make a decision that affects people’s lives you might want to talk to all the people whose lives are going to be effected by that decision.” Bingo! Exactly the point of making sure every decision is viewed from all vantage points.

Living Lifeopoly

In Chapter 19 entitled “Mistakes Don’t Matter” in the book Mindset Mondays With DTK by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK), he used the metaphor of life being a little like a game of Monopoly. Well, I couldn’t resist created my own game called Lifeopoly. And, yes, Lifeopoly has a red hash line underneath it. I love creating new words. I even drew a prototype box for the game shown here as the featured image of this post. Let me know what you think. This chapter was all about mistakes and our mindset in dealing with those mistakes. DTK described it this way, and I have inserted a blank for you to put whatever area you’ve considered yourself a failure in: “The wounded version of myself was making this one significant failure mean that I would always be a failure at ___________________” (p. 151). As a person who can make hundreds of mistakes per day, I have developed a mindset of considering what I can/have learn(ed) from these mistakes. Failing at something once does not we we are always going to fail at it. Never forget, we have to be bad at something to get good at it.

I loved the Happy New Year card that DTK described getting from a friend that said, “This year, may every mistake be a new one” (p.152). I thought this was very appropriate given this is the first week of 2021. I am also reading the great book The Midnight Library: A Novel by Matt Haig right now. I’m not going to divulge too much here because you need to read the book, but there are three great passages in the book that caused me to reflect on making sure we grow from mistakes and life’s events. Additionally we need to not get so uptight and view some things as moves on our Lifeopoly journey. Our time and energy is best spent being the best “me” we can be, and as an educator I’m reminded we need to make sure our students have as many experiences possible and help them understand how to grow and learn from the mistakes and experience life offers. Here are those passages from The Midnight Library I believe will cause you to do some reflection about life decisions and mistakes:

“‘Because, Nora, sometimes the only way to learn is to live.'” ~ Mrs. Elm to Nora

The Midnight Library, p. 67

“Everyone’s lives could have ended up an infinite number of ways.” ~ Nora thinking to herself

The Midnight Library, p. 54

“‘If you aim to be something you are not, you will always fail. Aim to be you. Aim to look and act and think like you. Aim to be the truest version of you. Embrace that you-ness. Endorse it. Love it. Work hard at it. And don’t give a second thought when people mock it or ridicule it. Most gossip is envy in disguise. Keep your head down. Keep your stamina. Keep swimming…'” ~ Mrs. Elm to Nora

The Midnight Library, p. 93

How about you? Are you embracing your you-ness?

Learning From KISStory

As they have since the band began it’s journey when I was 10 years old, the greatest rock band ever, KISS, continues to influence my life. I attended the KISS 2020 Goodbye New Year’s Eve concert held in the United Arab Emirates last week at Atlantis, The Palm and have been processing it in my mind ever since. Live music was silent and as of the the day of the show, on New Year’s Eve, KISS had not been on stage in 296 days. I even used it as the theme/throughline for a professional development program I did yesterday for teachers entitled “Student-Student Interaction.” KISS, in conjunction with Landmarks Live, is the ultimate example of fan-fan and band-fan interaction. I took three pages of notes during the three hour event put together by KISS. There were leadership lessons from KISS on how to deal with COVID-19 lessons; how to engage a huge global audience virtually; how to engage in person and virtual fans individually; how to bring together an international team; how to change what working as a team looks like during a pandemic; how to keep over 400 team members safe (they had no COVID cases) and have them working in-sync; and, triple the physical size of the show.

Director of the show, Daniel E. Catullo, put it this way: “We are attempting to pull off the biggest show of 2020 at the height of the pandemic.” Let me tell you what, they did! I remember when I saw the first announcement of this back in November, I said, “Leave it to KISS to figure out how to make big things happen during a pandemic, and do it safely.” They spent extensive time explaining how they dealt with COVID protocols during the first part of the three hour event. Everyone should watch that introduction documentary – they did it right, they did it well, and are a model as to how, in my opinion, we should be doing it. I said out loud during the event, “why are we not doing it this way in our schools. This is the right way to do it!” They had contact tracing protocols using colored bands identifying work groups, bracelets that kept track of every person coming within two meters of each other, daily testing, strict mask wearing, et cetera, et cetera. And, let me repeat what I said earlier, the day of the concert they were reporting no COVID cases. Well done!

“It’s KISS! Anything worth doing is worth overdoing as far as they’re concerned. I hope this inspires other’s to want to do shows.” ~ Robert Long, Production Designer

The shows Production Designer, Robert Long said it best, “It’s KISS! Anything worth doing is worth overdoing as far as they’re concerned. I hope this inspires others to want to do shows.” With all the gimmicks, stunts, and theatrics that we are used to with KISS times 1000, they lived up to Long’s expectations of overdoing it. Setting world records for things like tallest flame thrown in a concert to over 1.5 million dollars in pyrotechnics, the show was over the top. After opening with “Detroit Rock City” and “Shout It Out Loud” we heard from Paul Stanley for the first time when he said, “Hello Dubai! Hello World!” He was drawing all of us at home in. Then after “Deuce” he drew all of us at home in the rest of the way saying, “If you’re here that’s cool. If you’re at home, we’re talking to ya. You count!…This is your show!” And, let me tell you it felt like they were singing every song, shooting off every firework, and making every gesture just for me. I reminded teachers yesterday how important it was whether teaching students in person or virtually that we make each one feel like we are speaking to them personally. I appreciated how Gene Simmons would point to and look right into one of the more that 50 cameras being used for the show and speak just to me. In fact we had a little fun yesterday during my professional development with Gene’s best practice. Every time someone spoke, reported out from small group discussions, or addressed someone virtually (we had a group in person with me, a group that was virtual, and some individuals who were virtual), we would point and look directly into the camera or Owl to draw everyone in.

“If you’re here that’s cool. If you’re at home, we’re talking to ya. You count!…This is your show!” ~ Paul Stanley

Using best practices, that we in education need to emulate, KISS did a phenomenal job of acknowledging those fortunate enough to be on the individual room balconies of the hotel while intentionally involving and engaging all of us around the world at home screaming, yelling, playing air guitar, and singing along. This was one of the most spectacular rock shows in history. What they achieved is what we need to work hard to achieve in anything we have to do virtually or in a blend of virtual and in person right now: recreate the visceral energy of being live. KISS pulled this off brilliantly and, as Paul Stanley described it: “Bombastically!” with the KISS 2020 Goodbye New Year’s Eve concert. As KISS’ music manager, Doc McGee said, “Why, because people need it.” We’ll bring it to the people. We have to have a tipping point, and I think this is the tipping point.” Let’s all strive to be like KISS and be a tipping point for all great things as we continue to do all the things we need to do to keep life going during the rest of the pandemic. Happy New Year!

Top 10 Books Of 2020

2020 was an incredible year of reading. I finished reading 119 books this year. I was an extremely tough chore to pick my top 10 and then put them in order. I love books because for a brief moment in time, books release us from the constraints of our own reality. They take us beyond our own small place in the world and into another person’s real or imaginary one. Each of us has a unique and valuable role in life. When experiencing life through the eyes of another, we encounter diverse angles on life’s most common situations. I have read such great books this year by very talented writers. Finally, I am a better person and understand many more diverse perspectives from reading 119 books this year.

Here are the posts that give the posts influenced by books I read in 2020 by each quarter:

The First Quarter Of An Incredible Year Of Reading

Second Quarter 2020 Book Inspired Posts

2020 Third Quarter Book Inspired Posts

The Books That Opened My Eyes In The Fourth Quarter Of 2020

Here is my video revealing my Top 10 Books Of 2020:

Learning Together Apart

As I walked back to the house from the barn this morning I noticed the unmistakable sound of fresh snow squeaking and crunching under my boots with every step. For anyone who has ever lived in a climate with snow, this sound is immediately recognizable. These sounds reminded me that in the midst of a pandemic, we have watched the transformation from winter, to spring, to summer, to fall, and now, back to winter. But other transformations are upon us everywhere without such clear cut and defined definition. These other transformations are of a global perspective and are personal, health related, economic, political, and economic. When you add all this together it is very complex change.

All those areas listed above are constantly evolving, but as we know a single virus has taken over how the game is played right now. Think about it, change has come in much the same way you draw a card in a board game – “You are now in the middle of a pandemic; go back 10 spaces.” Or something like that. Change is here, and has been here. There are changes in my house, in my body, in my family, in my community, culture, economy, and in the whole wide world of ecological systems. In some ways things are falling apart, but maybe that has to happen to put things back together.

I guess it is only appropriate that one of my last posts of the year, on New Year’s Eve, would be entitled with the hashtag I coined back in March as we began our, now 294 day, journey together dealing with the global pandemic – #LearningTogetherApart. As a person who believes so deeply in the power of community, it is about “showing up.” Just like when Major League Baseball gave us the opportunity to show up, albeit in the form of cutouts. Nevertheless, in our case, my family was in attendance for every Cincinnati Reds game in Great American Ballpark in Section 136, Row P, Seats 6-8.

You might say this is a trivial example in the face of a pandemic, but I would argue it’s the perfect example of being invited to be a part of a community. Being invited is fundamental to showing up and be part of a community. By being invited by the Reds and the Reds Community Fund we were able to, as a family, show up to help the Reds Community Fund continue the creation of programming that connects underserved children with baseball and softball, and connecting baseball with the community.

So, in the case of my field of education where right now via Zoom we are expected to give our students a sense of “home” when some children have never experienced or have any perceived notion of what “home” is, I must continue to show up and support environments for learning together apart. The issue just described is very complex with no one direct solution as some might naïvely think. Education, religion, poverty, economics, technology, generational cultures, and community are all woven together as part of this issue. No single directive will solve this. I hope to take the opportunity each and every day to shift the tone.

Even though things are confusing, terrifying, infuriating, heartbreaking, and completely out of control right now, we all need to keep showing up. We must continue “learning together apart.” We still do not know what all will be required, but whatever it is we must, with all we can offer, be there, learning, in integrity and generosity.

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.