Byron's Babbles

Leading With Intellectual Honesty

I am reading a great book right now that is super hard to put down every time I get a chance to sit down and do some reading. The book is by one of my favorite Presidents, Harry S. Truman. Where The Buck Stops: The Personal and Private Writings Of Harry S. Truman. This great book was published by President Truman’s daughter, Mary Margaret Truman Daniel. Although the book is entirely written by President Truman, with the exception of the introduction, he did not want it published till after he and the former First Lady, Bess Truman, had both passed away. The reason was that he is very critical of some of the presidents before and after him and did not want his thoughts released while he was alive. In the book, our 33rd U.S. President gave his “cut to the chase” theories and opinions on leadership and what it takes to be a great leader. He even gave his picks for best and worst presidents and, in detail, defended his reasoning.

It would seem that my post today is to promote the book, but really that is not the case. Although, I would recommend reading the book. I was intrigued by a comment President Truman made in the book when arguing that the appearance, height, or stature of President has nothing to do with greatness. President Truman said:

“A president has got to have qualifications to do the job that he’s supposed to do. He has got to be honest. Particularly, he’s got to be intellectually honest, and if he isn’t, it doesn’t make any difference what kind of appearance he makes. In the long run, his good looks or good public presence doesn’t amount to anything because he’ll do a bad job, and he’ll be found out. Or even worse, as I’ve been pointing out in this book, some presidents go into the presidency and don’t do any kind of job at all.” ~ Harry S. Truman in Where The Buck Stops (Kindle Location 1369 of 6958)

I bolded the term that intrigued me: “intellectually honest” or intellectual honesty. What is intellectual honesty? It means always seeking the truth regardless of whether or not it agrees with your own personal beliefs. President Truman was reminding us that the great leaders approach problems and decision-making as rationally as possible. In other words we make arguments we believe are true as opposed to arguments we are supposed to by popular opinion or public pressure. We should not be afraid to show vulnerability or admit when we are wrong or don’t not know something. Probably a President, more than anyone else, can appreciate that facts and information may likely change, requiring a shift in execution.

The best leaders I have observed have the curiosity to learn and improve — and an innate desire to create, innovate, iterate, and discover better and more efficient ways of doing things. When great leaders see change as an opportunity for growth they are able to pivot and execute effectively. We must work really hard to not cover up what we don’t know, or let personal beliefs interfere with our pursuit of the truth. As President Truman pointed out, this is not easy. We must continually work at it.

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Leading Like Sitting Bull

As a note taker who always has a notepad or notebook with me, I am always finding notebooks or find myself studying old notes from the past. This week I came across a notepad (see picture) that referred to the book The Genius Of Sitting Bull: Thirteen Heroic Strategies For Today’s Business Leadersby Emmett Murphy and Michael Snell. These were notes from a workshop back in the ’90’s. Interestingly, I only wrote down nine of the strategies – not sure why not all 13. The lessons, however, are still very applicable today in 2017.

Having traveled to the Black Hills in South Dakota this past summer and studying and retracing the steps of such historic figures as Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and General Custer it was very cool to come across this notepad. Here are the 13 strategies:

  1. Commitment
  2. Integrity/Trust
  3. Empowerment – Intent based leadership
  4. Living among your people – working shoulder to shoulder
  5. Healing – be responsible for the welfare of others
  6. Communicate
  7. Strategic Vision
  8. Respect the competition
  9. Redefine the rules of battle
  10. Guardianship – knowing the terrain
  11. Right people in the right places
  12. Courageous – welcome crisis
  13. Success – measure the results

It was great to reflect back on the lessons learned from Sitting Bull, particularly after taking a journey this past summer in his homeland. Hopefully this will prompt you to reflect on the 13 heroic leadership strategies and how you are doing related to them. If you are like me there is always a lot of room for continuous improvement.

Racing Toward Success!

This weekend we went on what I am sure to be the first of many college visits with our son, Heath. We went to Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky home of the Racers 🏇. Picking a postsecondary path is not an easy thing to do. While chairing our state’s Graduation Pathways Panel over the past several months this has become glaringly obvious. Everyone, as you can imagine has their own idea of what success is. I still ascribe to the definition of Dr. Felice Kaufmann. She defines success as:

“SUCCESS: Knowing what one wants in the world and knowing how to get it.” ~ Dr. Felice Kaufmann 

Dr. Kaufmann was a teacher and counselor of gifted children, grades K-12, a professor at Auburn University and the Universities of New Orleans and Kentucky and served on the Boards of the National Association for Gifted Children and The Association for the Gifted. I believe that while her work was with gifted children, the principles apply to all. Furthermore, I believe all children are gifted in some way. This is why it is just as important for us to make education relevant and form relationships with our scholars as it is to make education rigorous. Success looks different for all of us and it is not something we can graph with a straight line.

“The best piece of wisdom I have learned from studying gifted adults for 30 years is that achievement for achievement’s sake does not necessarily provide a lasting and meaningful structure for living one’s life. While achievement is important, in the long run success means being able to identify and understand one’s real needs and finding ways to meet those needs in a constructive and personally meaningful way -whether it’s finding a cure for cancer or influencing and being deeply loved by family and friends. E.M. Forster said it best and most succinctly: Only connect.” ~ Dr. Felice Kaufmann 

As we were visiting Murray State University this past weekend I really began thinking about this. It is our job, as Heath’s parents, and his school’s job to help him identify and understand his real needs and support him in finding ways to meet those needs in a constructive and personally meaningful way. Not an easy task. In thinking about this I was reminded of thoughts from Howard Gardner at a recent Project Zero gathering at Harvard Iniversity: we need to move away from thinking “How smart are you?” To “How are you smart?” To me this means we need to take into account how our students learn and what he or she really wants to be learning about and doing. 

Heath With Racer 1


The mascot of Murray State University is the “Racers” – a thoroughbred race horse. Actually we had the chance to meet Racer 1, the current mascot this past weekend up close and personal. It is such an awesome mascot. Thoroughbreds are known for their agility, speed, and spirit. In fact Murray State’s motto refers to the thoroughbred: 

Having raised and raced thoroughbreds for a time in the past I can so relate to this. Every racer had a mind of it’s own and every one had different talents – distance, sprinter, likes mud, likes to be challenged, wants to come from behind, needs to take the lead, high spirited, easily distracted (needs blinders), et cetera. Sound familiar? Heath still likes playing in the mud! Our challenge as educators and parents is to, like the role of a jockey, rein and channel a constant flow of ideas. The art is to know how much rein to give and when to give it. 

I was so impressed with Murray State’s student centered focus. And, you guessed it, even ended up tweeting about it with Murray State University President, Dr. Bob Davies. We had a great Agriculture School Ambassador, MacKenzie Jones, from the Hutson School Of Agriculture who spent time with Heath and have him a personal tour of the university and university farms. He was so impressed with how personal the education was tailored and the close relationships between professors and students. MacKenzie drove home the fact that it is not just about getting a degree; it is about getting a true education through hands-on experiences and the faculty understanding the students’ needs and what makes him smart. She explained that a tudents in the Hutson School of Agriculture receive a “large university” education in a small school setting.

It was great to visit a university that is truly student focused, giving students the personal attention they need, but also providing them with current and breaking agricultural technology to take their education to a level that will make them highly competitive in the job market. 

And…by the way, we spent time with the football team. The racers defeated Tennessee Tech 31-21. Go racers! 🏇

Why Aren’t You Perfect Already?

Originally published on the Flynn Heath Holt Blog by Diana Faison, Mary Davis Holt, Kathryn Heath, and Jill Flynn

What’s on your to-do list this season? We’re guessing there’s a “make this,” a “go here,” a “buy that.” We’re also guessing is there isn’t a “do this for myself” on it anywhere either. Besides wrestling other shoppers for the last turkey at the grocery store, you may be lifting your feet for the office janitor to vacuum the floor, trying to get year end projects finished. But why not keep your sanity this year? We have a few ideas of how you can.

One of the rules we ask women to break is the “it’s all or nothing” point of view. The holidays are particularly tricky in trying to get it right both at work and at home, but it’s not all or nothing, it’s both-and. We’ve seen women in our coaching set themselves up for failure by trying to do it all and make it look easy. You can have your fruit cake and eat it too- you just may have to tweak the way you do it.

Delegate. Have a teenage son who’s at home from school on break? Give him the grocery list. Maybe the intern who’s been waiting for a project should write that memo so you can finish your expense report. Don’t do every little thing yourself- only the important things.

Prioritize. Focus on that which makes you the happiest, and have realistic goals you can build on. If decorating your home is your thing, do it; but go buy the pie you’re in charge of bringing to your parents’. Blend your work-life and consider compromise. Sometimes we’d be a lot happier if we simply decided to let go of the little things that don’t amount to much.Give yourself a break! Take some time during your day to leave the office and read a magazine, call a friend, or take a walk. Make some time for you this holiday season- even if it’s just 20 minutes. You’ll feel recharged and more positive both in the office and at home.

Whatever your holiday plans this year, try not to get burnt out; it does nothing for your career or your personal life. Stay positive. Move forward. And Happy Holidays from your friends at Flynn Heath Holt!

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About Kathryn Heath:

Kathryn Heath is a founding partner at FHHL who develops leadership programs, coaches executives, and designs training. She co-authored Break Your Own Rules, which landed on the best-seller lists of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The Washington Post. She also co-authored The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders Previous to FHHL, Kathryn was Senior Vice President and Director of First University at the nation’s fourth-largest bank, First Union (now Wells Fargo), where her inventive and results-focused approach won her numerous awards in the field of learning and development.

About Diana Faison:

Diana Faison is a partner at FHHL and worked with the firm as a consultant for over 10 years prior to her partnership. She began her career as a teacher of Leadership Development studies and a Dean in Student Affairs at Queens University and the University of North Carolina—Charlotte. Diana is a sought-after keynote speaker on business leadership topics such as political savvy, brand, personal power, authentic leadership, and well-being. She is also the co-author of The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders.

About Mary Davis Holt:

Mary Davis Holt is a partner and co-author of Break Your Own Rules, and The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders. She is an in-demand speaker who shares her hard-won insights and promotes the firm’s new rules for success to a wide range of audiences. Mary is also a sought-after facilitator, executive coach, and she works with companies to plan strategies that change the culture to support women leaders. Prior to joining FHHL, Mary held executive positions at Time Warner with oversight that ranged from finance to information technology, marketing, human resources, manufacturing and distribution.

About Jill Flynn:

Jill Flynn is a founding partner at FHHL and a co-author of Break Your Own Rules and her latest co-authored book, The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders. Jill previously served as Senior Vice President at the nation’s fourth largest bank, First Union (now Wells Fargo), where she established their leadership development, diversity, organizational consulting and employee satisfaction initiatives. As the corporation grew exponentially during her tenure, Jill and her team prepared a cadre of high-potential leaders to assume senior positions. Within a three-year timeframe, the number of women in these roles increased from 9% to 26%.

What’s Possible When You Dream Big with Passion, Purpose, and Joy

Originally published on the Flynn Heath Holt Blog by Diana Faison

When my younger daughter graduated from college. Her accomplishment got me thinking about how graduation is an opportunity to reflect on what’s possible.

As you reflect, I want you to explore big dreams and move forward with a sense of purpose. And I want you to seek joy along the way.

EXPLORE BIG DREAMS

My daughter has big dreams to be the world’s best third grade teacher. Her passion and drive remind me of my early career. On my first day working at a small women’s college, I was passionate, legacy-driven, committed. The women I served were my top priority, and I wanted to make a difference in each of their lives.

Early on in that job, I met a high school senior with limited resources. I encouraged her to apply for a full scholarship. Over her four years with us, I watched her bloom and gain confidence. We still stay in touch, and she’s grown into a successful entrepreneur in her own right. I cannot help but feel we can all make a difference one conversation at a time. She had big dreams, and so did I; we supported each other.

MOVE FORWARD WITH A SENSE OF PURPOSE

You may feel a strong sense of purpose on day one of this new life adventure following graduation. I felt a calling early – I knew I was a born coach. I knew I was a teacher, an educator.

But it took me years to realize that my work was fulfilling my purpose to coach and lead high-talent, women leaders. I was able to get here now because I had key women and men who gave me a chance. The Academic VP at a woman’s college hired me. A mentor made me teach large university classes at a young age. Two female executives at a large financial institution gave me my first significant contract which launched my solo practice. Now, I am in partnership with three talented women leaders and we own a multimillion dollar company.

Embrace that person who believes in you and wants to show you the ropes; ask them questions; let them know what you’re “doing”. The dots will connect much faster, and your purpose will reveal itself to you sooner than you think.

SEEK JOY

In her recent commencement address at Berkeley, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg talked about joy as ever present; we forget about it because we are bombarded with negativity. So we must SEEK joy. Turn off anything that’s reminding you of the world’s problems or bad news. Yes, work gets hard and life throws mean curve balls. But, there are things for which we are grateful. Before I left for my freshman year of college, my childhood home burned to the ground. It was a devastating loss for our family. But my mother’s response shifted everything for us. “Well, now at least we can rebuild the house we dreamed about,” she said. I could have been trapped in that burning house, but I survived. We survived. I am forever grateful.

Seeking joy means seeking gratitude. I reflect each and every day and ask, “For what am I grateful?” My kids hated this ritual at the dinner table. But, today they would say it paid dividends. They are joyful adults exploring big dreams, moving forward with purpose, and making a difference.

The future is simple: It’s shaped by the magic that comes from your passion, purpose, and joy.

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About Diana Faison:

Diana Faison is a partner at FHHL and worked with the firm as a consultant for over 10 years prior to her partnership. She began her career as a teacher of Leadership Development studies and a Dean in Student Affairs at Queens University and the University of North Carolina—Charlotte. Diana is a sought-after keynote speaker on business leadership topics such as political savvy, brand, personal power, authentic leadership, and well-being. She is also the co-author of The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders.

Leading Through The Lens Of Opportunity

This past week I had a leader I am working with on a project say to me, “I am having trouble looking at this project through three different lenses.” My immediate response was don’t look through three lenses; just the one you were made a part of this project for. There are others on this committee that can work through the other lenses. It really got me thinking about whether we, as leaders, should look at things through multiple lenses or only one. 

The most effective leaders I know approach problems through the single lens of opportunity. I had an incredible mentor and friend early in my career that always called problems “opportunities.” That has stuck with me ever since. The best leaders are the best problem solvers. They have the patience to step back and see the problem at-hand through broadened observation; circular vision. These great leaders see around, beneath, and beyond the issue/problem (opportunity) itself. They see well-beyond the obvious and see opportunities. 

I also believe it becomes crucial to become a convener and let the wisdom of the crowd/community take over. This creates an environment where everyone’s concerns, points of view, ideas, and solutions are freely expressed. This community structure welcomes efficient cross-functional collaboration and problem solving. This also eliminates silos and allows individuals lead through the lens of their expertise. 

Great leaders seek out and convene lifters and high-potential leaders within the organization or community to reap the benefits of open-mindedness that leads to more innovation and initiative. We should invite people together and name the possibility about which we are convening. I also believe we must specify what is required of each and what lens they should look through should they choose to be a part of the opportunity.

Reflections Of A Leader

IMG_3011In my most recent post, The Leadership Symphony, I mentioned that I had just finished the great book 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader by John Parker Stewart. This book was truly 52 lessons that made me think about my own leadership and how to practice continuous improvement and honing of those skills. This is a book that prompted reflection and thought on my own leadership style and that style’s impact on those I lead.

Additionally, many of the lesson prompted ideas for blog posts. Here is a link that will take you to a run of all of them: https://byronernest.blog/?s=john+parker+stewart. All the lessons were easily adaptable to the real life leadership situations I was and am experiencing. As a guy who believes everyone is a leader, I love the Lead Now!™ model that is used to guide this book. As leaders we have a responsibility to create purpose and deliver excellence. Furthermore, if we intend to have those we serve leading from where they are we must continually develop others, as well as ourselves. Finally we must lead change.

Screen Shot 2017-11-04 at 12.53.02 PM

img_2431The four quadrants were developed using data from 360° leadership feedback, so it is no wonder that the lesson caused a great deal of reflection and self inflection. The stories in this book and the thoughts provoked enable the leader not to observe leadership, but to hone and develop leadership skills. These lessons increased my awareness of how I am perceived, and how I can make adjustments. As leaders we have scores of experiences from which to draw learned knowledge. I believe it is important to develop a habit of stopping the action occasionally to reflect and write about what happened, what worked, what didn’t, and what am I learning – thus my blog. I believe we have, literally, thousands of learning experiences. Without some type of guided reflection we lose thousands of learning opportunities. What are you doing to guide your reflection and continuous leadership improvement?

 

The Leadership Symphony

IMG_1279Well, I have come to the end of another book. Actually this is the completion of my 84th book this year. My goal is 87. It has actually taken me a year to complete this book as it is divided in 52 distinct lessons. I have tweeted about many of them. I will do a post about the book as a whole and include the posts, but for now want to post thoughts on the 52nd lesson. In lesson #52 entitled “What Makes A Symphony” in 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader by John Parker Stewart he tells us how the conductor brings individual musicians together to form the playing of the symphony.

“A symphony consists of polished performances from many sections that become a unified whole. If not played together it is merely a cacophony of disconnected sounds.” ~ John Parker Stewart

This chapter really resonated with me as a believe in shared, intent-based, leadership. Everyone is a leader and has a part. But, there still must be a leader who is conveying the shared vision and making sure the musicians, in the case of a symphony, have the necessary professional development to do their part.

IMG_1273This point was driven home this morning in the last general session of the annual conference of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE). The keynote was delivered by Dr. Pedro Noguera. He is the Distinguished Professor of Education at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA. His research focuses on the way in which schools are influenced by social and economic conditions, as well as by demographic trends in local, regional, and global contexts. In his keynote, Dr. Noguera gave five strategies for successful school leadership:

  1. Shared leadership
  2. Concerted effort to obtain buy-in around the strategy
  3. A coherent strategy focused on student needs
  4. Differentiated professional development
  5. Follow through, examining the evidence, sticking with it

“Only a clearly communicated perspective, directed by a wise and capable leader, results in a magnificent performance. ~ John Parker Stewart

The big takeaways for me and relations to this 52nd lesson were the idea of shared IMG_1277leadership, coherent strategy, and differentiation. As I said earlier, every person in an organization is a leader. As in a symphony, every person has an important part no matter their job or instrument. Additionally, in a symphony everyone needs to be playing from the same musical score, or strategic plan. And, finally, since everyone one plays different instruments or has different jobs or is playing/working at a different level of proficiency, the development must be differentiated.

img_2431The bottom line is that shared leadership an drive change. If, as a leader, we are the conductor, we must bring everyone together sharing the leadership of a coherent strategy. We know, for example, in schools we must invest in teacher leadership by developing leadership pipelines. This involves cultivating structures, processes, and mindsets for shared leadership. We must also prioritize and enhance instructional leadership skills. What are the priorities of your industry or organization?

Leading With Style

IMG_1263In lesson #51 entitled “Fantastic Or Flop” in 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader by John Parker Stewart the story of 1968 Olympic record breaking gold medalist in the high jump, Dick Fosbury was told. The moral of the story was not the gold medal or breaking of a record; it was his unorthodox style. Everyone (including his coaches) wanted him to change his style. He would not because he knew his style was right and fit him. Now, his “Fosbury Flop” is the most accepted style for the high jump still today.

“Your style is your own. Don’t worry if it’s not traditional, if it is right for you.” ~ John Parker Stewart

This story really resonated with me as a guy who has a little different leadership style. Let’s face it, not everyone is ready to accept full on intent-based leadership or convening large numbers of stakeholders. But, as John Parker Stewart says:

“You’re style is your own. Don’t worry if it’s not traditional, if it is right for you. We must know ourselves and be true to ourselves.” ~ John Parker Stewart

img_2431We must then use our talents, skills, and values to continually improve and hone our style of leadership. Sometimes we just need to take a moment to evaluate the way we lead, so we can define ways to improve or adapt to our organization’s changing needs. So much of what effective leaders do is nurture others. Wise leaders cultivate their staff members’ leadership skills, both to ensure support in carrying out and sustaining change and to establish a network of rising leaders to fill future positions. So, no matter what our style we need to make sure we are developing others. For me, the inclusion of others is such an important part of leading. Effective leaders know where they need to go, but they also know that they must invite others to assist in the journey. That journey is where we need to let our style shine through.

 

Feeling Your Leadership “Vibe”

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Sophie and I w/the Pear Tart

I had the honor and incredible pleasure of going out to eat this evening with my fellow National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) board of directors. We went to Seven Lamps in Atlanta, Georgia. Seven Lamps has an awesome selection of craft food and drinks. The restaurant’s unique name comes from a book length essay, The Seven Lamps of Architecture, by English art critic John Ruskin. The “lamps” refer to the seven principles of architecture: sacrifice, truth, power, beauty, life, memory and obedience. That essay alone will turn into a complete other study for me.

 

Those who know me know that I love it when our server enjoys and wants to pick the meal. Well, let me tell you, Sophie was just that kind of server. When I pushed the menu away, and asked Sophie if she would just do the picking her whole face lit up and I knew we were in for a treat. She said, “Byron (she had already figured out my name and was using it), I am feeling your ‘vibe’.” Lobster roll and shrimp for appetizer, Salmon for the main course, and pear tart for dessert. Yep, she was feeling my “vibe”! It was awesome!

IMG_1206Now, the food was incredible and Chef Drew Van Leuvan is stellar, but bottom line is it was Sophie who made the evening complete with her ability to feel the “vibe”. I know I have blogged about this before, but I believe how a server handles doing what Sophie did tonight – picking everyone’s meals for them – is a sign of great technical skill and leadership. She clearly knew every dish, drink, appetizer, dessert, and whatever else on the menu inside and out. She had clearly tried everything and knew the intimate taste, cooking method, and ingredients of each. Clearly, Seven Lamps creates an environment where the team members get the technical knowledge to truly server their customers. This was the first key to Sophie’s success.

IMG_1207Then, Sophie exhibited great leadership by accepting the responsibility and risk, with enthusiasm I might add, of picking our meals for us. It is amazing to me how many times I have done this and I have never had a choice made for me that I did not like. Sophie explained how each dish was prepared and even brought others in different roles in the restaurant over for us to meet. I’ve heard it said, “If you want to flourish, choose how you show up.” Sophie showed up tonight to flourish, and I can guarantee you she shows up every night to flourish.

Our inner thoughts and attitudes radiate through facial expressions, body language, tone, and language.This would be our “vibe”. Sophie was giving off the “vibe” that told me that she believed these things about herself:

  1. I showed up to serve
  2. I am glad to be here
  3. I am having fun
  4. I am competent and knowledgeable
  5. I am making a difference
  6. I do a good job

She was giving off a pretty good “vibe”, don’t you think? What “vibe” do you give off to those you lead?

IMG_1211I did have to ask Sophie what “vibes” I was giving off. She explained that she was picking up that I was curious, adventuresome, and ready to try and learn about something new. Guilty! She could not have gotten my “vibe” any more correct. And…what better place to practice being curious, adventuresome, and ready to try and learn something new than in a restaurant you’ve never been to in a city 567 miles from home? The key is to align our behaviors with the “vibe” we want to send.

IMG_1208Tonight at Seven Lamps I learned from Sophie that understanding our own “vibe” and the “vibe” of those we serve allows us to be greater, more effective leaders. We need to keep learning more about ourselves and others. We need to keep trying new things. Finally, we need to keep honing and combining our passions with our skills – this will empower and maximize our potential.