Byron's Babbles

Leading With Impact

In his great book, This Is Day One: A Practical Guide To Leadership That Matters, Drew Dudley told us to create a pledge to create experiences that make others feel good about engaging with you. To do this he explained we need to pick a value. An example would be “impact.” You can define impact as “a commitment to creating experiences that make others feel better after interacting with me.” I love this value you and try really hard to practice it daily by asking myself a question like, “What have I done today to recognize someone else’s leadership?” Sometimes our light shines better by reflecting the light of others.

Last night I experienced this first hand by someone else’s living being impactful. Jason Ferreira sat down beside me last night at a dinner we were having for National FFA Teacher Ambassadors and said, “I have something I want to tell you. Not a day goes by that I do not use what I have learned about facilitating in my own classroom, facilitating for teachers, or helping others improve their facilitation.” He went on to say that he keeps many of the objects I use for facilitating on hand, like toys and Big Feelings Pineapples. Then, Jason said, “I wanted to tell you that I’m person because it makes me better to reflect on this and tell you thank you and how much you impact me every day.” I’ve got to tell you that this recognition of my leadership felt really good.

This wasn’t an ego thing. Quite the opposite. It was an affirmation that the teaching I am doing for National FFA Teacher Ambassadors is having a impact. It motivated and inspired me to want to work even harder serving the Ambassadors I love so much. Jason showed me a living example of having a daily “impact” – he made me a better person by his interaction with me and he recognized my leadership. I am grateful for Jason being an example and what he does to impact students lives and the lives of others every day.

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Trust Is Not A Place

Here we are in week 48 of 2022 and I am reading Simple Truth #48, “Building Trust Is A Journey, Not A Destination” in the great book Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice, Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley this morning. Trust being viewed as a journey and not a destination is in line with what I wrote in Trust Is A Verb. In that post I quoted Michael Fullan, who argued that “trust is a verb before it becomes a state.” In that post I discussed that trust becomes part of the community culture in real time. Furthermore, trust is an action. When a leader is an active participant and becomes part of the group, accountability becomes a shared norm instead of something imposed from above. Randy Conley told us, “The truth is that building and keeping trust is a journey, an ongoing process of demonstrating trustworthiness.” Again, trust happens in real time.

Just like with any journey, wrong turns can be taken and trust lost. If we have done something to lose others’ trust, Conley advises to acknowledge, apologize, and act. We are reminded that “…it may take some time to fully restore trust in a relationship – but it can be done.” He went on, “Remember, building trust is a lifelong journey. There is no final destination.” In any team or organization trust is critical. In this ever more transparent world we need to be embracing the journey using our ability, integrity and benevolence to build trust.

Leading Like A Safari

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 27, 2022

Yesterday I wrote Leading Like Giraffe after visiting Tennessee Safari Park in Alamo, Tennessee. The visit also made me think about how organizations are much like a safari. A safari is a journey. Really, aren’t all organizations on a journey? Safari’s typically provide revenue for local conservation projects and game parks, helping to protect habitats and wildlife, rather than taking them out. Safari’s also play an important role in creating awareness about wildlife conservation, as well as benefiting local communities. Huh, sounds like what responsible leaders, organizations, and businesses do. A modern safari is a socially responsible journey. So should leading an organization.

The more I looked into the safari, organizational, and corporate worlds, and then the routines, rules and ways of communication, the more I realized how beneficial it would be if the organizational/corporate world could learn from nature. For one thing, nature never wastes. Also, the areas of personal development of leadership and teamwork skills, and social responsibility are opportunities we must not miss. Let’s all make sure we are taking our leadership journeys seriously and leaving the world in a better place than we found it.

Leading Like Giraffe

Posted in Educational Leadership, Giraffe, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Tennessee Safari Park by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 26, 2022

Yesterday we might have just started a new family tradition for the Friday after Thanksgiving. For the second year in a row we are spending Thanksgiving weekend with our son’s girlfriend’s family in Medina, Tennessee. We love her family and have an incredible time. Yesterday, we went to the Tennessee Safari Park in Alamo, Tennessee. It was awesome! We laughed so much, learned so much, and had so much fun. My son said, “We need to do this every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving.” Tomorrow, I’ll have another post about the safari, but for now just know this drive-through safari with an additional walk-through park is very well done. This post is about my experience with the giraffe in the walk-through park. We had already experienced two giraffe in the drive-through portion of the experience and was just amazed by their height and how majestic they are. Then, in the walk-through zoo, I got to pet and feed one carrots (see featured picture). I fell in love! So, you know me, I started to do some research.

First of all, these majestic and beautiful gentle giants are basically mute. They make no whinnies, growls, trumpets or howls. Maybe the occasional snort. Now, there is a great leadership trait – no talking! Leading by action and doing. excellent vision. Giraffe eyes are among the largest of land mammals. A giraffe sees in color and over great distances in front of them and has such a great peripheral vision they can see behind themselves as well. Just like the best teacher leaders I know! Their exceptional vision enables them to scan and to keep track of each other. Are you seeing this connection to leadership come together?

Growing to between 13 and 18 feet tall, giraffes are the tallest animals on earth. They have an elevated vision (I’ll bet you didn’t see that coming). Therefore giraffes have a terrific field of vision for seeing what’s ahead – food, obstacles, or dangers. In fact, I learned that zebras, deer, and wildebeests (all of which we saw and fed out of our little white buckets), often congregate near giraffes to take advantage of their ability to see and move toward food and away from predators. Huh, isn’t this what we appreciate about great leaders and makes us want to follow their influence. As leaders we need to strive to be like giraffes and identify opportunities, see dangers in advance and, in turn, take action accordingly. We need, at times, to be able to take views from 30,000 and 10,000 feet.

While the giraffe, with their elevated vision, are great at seeing potential threats, they are also willing to take on dangerous predators. Giraffes have the ability to kick and deliver deadly blows to the would-be predator. Also, giraffes have ossicones which are comparable to horns or antlers that allow them to use their head like a hammer. Isn’t that another thing great leaders do? Not the deadly blow part, of course, but be proactive in identifying and resolving issues before they become detrimental to the organization, group, or community. Because of the elevated vision, great leaders can respond instead of always reacting when unexpected dangers do arise. Like giraffes, great leaders do not hesitate to take effective action.

Just like giraffes stand tall, we all should find our natural attributes and use them. Every giraffe is unique. No two giraffe have the same coat pattern. Just like each of us have our own characteristics that make us incredible, and make the team incredible when all those characteristics come together. Are you leading like a giraffe?

The Journey Is Taking You

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 25, 2022

Yesterday in my Thanksgiving social media post I said, “I’m thankful for all the organizations, companies, schools, universities, teachers, & other leaders I get to help every day! Thanks for allowing me to be on a journey with you. If you’re in need of creative &collaborate help, let me know at byronernest.com.” I had a person tell me they really liked the sentence, “Thanks for allowing me to be on a journey with you.” I really do try to approach the work I do for clients as “helping” and being on a journey with them. Most times we are not taking the journey; the journey is taking us. In other words, doing the work is what makes me happy. Helping others reach the milestones on their journeys allows me to take part in some pretty amazing journeys as well. It is about putting in the work, playing, and discovering.

“Lots of people want to be the noun without doing the verb. They want the job title without the work. Let go of the thing that you’re trying to be (the noun), and focus on the actual work you need to be doing (the verb).” ~ Austin Kleon

If we plan out all of our own journey, it becomes about us and not about those we serve. As Austin Kleon told us (see inset quote), we need to be “verbs” and focus on the work, not “nouns”just focusing on what we want to be and where we want to go. When we allow ourselves to let the journey take us, we can experience the goals being benchmarks along the way with the journey itself being the richest part. In other words, take the journey! Do! As I said earlier in this post, put in the work, play, discover. No amount of goal-setting or planning can control where a journey can take us. This is a good thing. We simply never know where the journey will take us. Do the work and be a verb and enjoy the journey.

Love Is A Practice

I talk a lot about needing to love those we serve. Love is a practice, it is not something you find or don’t find. You can practice love for the rest of your life. We need to take this very seriously. On this Thanksgiving Day 2022 I am reflecting on how we need to love. I know what your thinking. You’re saying to yourself, “Byron, love is something you should write about on Valentine’s Day.” No. That’s about romantic love. I’m talking about real love. The kind of love that emerges from a shared appreciation. This shared appreciation is why I write about this on Thanksgiving morning. If we truly appreciate those we serve, we need to love them.

So, what does that mean, you ask. It means both parties are made better by the relationship. This kind of love takes into consideration the passions, goals, core values, strengths, and weaknesses of one another and use those to set a direction of how to help each other be made better. I seem to interrogate the thought of love a lot. Love is the desire to improve the beloved’s life. When we love our students, we do everything in our power to improve their lives. When we love our teachers, we do everything we can to improve their lives. I love my wife and son, so I do everything I can to improve their lives. I’m sure you get my point by now.

Love is a very profound type of recognition. The best leaders I have know and respected have a keen ability to really see into another person’s normally hidden depths, and to realise how profound and important they are. Those great leaders understand that everyone, yes everyone, has potential. The great leaders will love you enough to pull, mold, develop, and help us hone that potential. Loving others is not something to be taken lightly. It’s about being thankful for those that cross our path and recognizing their greatness and what you can offer to bring about their full potential. Let’s hone our own practice of loving.

Don’t Lead With Handcuffs

Having been involved with organizations in the past who’s “rumor mills” were the most efficient thing they had going, this week’s Simple Truth #47, “People Without Accurate Information Cannot Act Responsibly, But People With Accurate Information Are Compelled To Act Responsibly” in the great book Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice, Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley really resonated with me. The so called leader kept everyone in a state of wondering. Then, there always seemed to be the “chosen one” of the month who was just dying to make sure that everyone knew that they knew what was going on, and around and around we go. Thus, the rumor mill is formed.

It comes down to a lack of self confidence, being on a power trip, and as Randy Conley taught us; trust. As Conley said, “When people don’t have accurate information, it’s as if their leader is handcuffing them from being their best” (p. 121). I get the argument that sometimes there is information that cannot be shared, but there still needs to be clarity. Literally tell those you serve what you can’t share and why. Bottom-line is if you are not communicating and providing information, the rest of us will make it up.

Organizations with a high trust are where collaboration and transparency are at their best. That lack of self confidence and sense of power I mentioned earlier causes some to do what is called “knowledge hiding.” There has been research done that argues some feel they gain status and power by knowing unique information that know one else knows. I kind of chuckled to myself as I read the research. The metaphor of a Queen on her thrown throwing out little breadcrumbs at her weekly meeting – just enough to make you want more. Again, not the organization you want to be a part of. How about you? Are you hiding knowledge?

How Did You Learn Today?

What gets learned is very different than
“how” the learning happens. If we only focus
on the “what” we miss tremendous
opportunities for learning to occur. Think about when you were a kid or when you ask your own kids today, “What did you learn at school today?” Answer: “Nothing.”

But how about those days when some activity, project, or lab really tripped your trigger? Were you learning? Yes. What made it impactful was how you learned. We all learn differently whether we are adults or kids and there must be a variety of engagement strategies used. Even better is to give the student choice and agency in deciding the “how.”

Our scholars learn in a complex social environment and we have rapidly changing contexts. When teaching with relevance and how students learn, four important learning criteria are enhanced: core academics, stretch learning, learner engagement, and personal skill development. Students need to develop skills in information searching and researching, critical analysis, summarizing and synthesizing, inquiry, questioning and exploratory investigations, and design and problem solving.

While facilitating some student focus groups recently, the students pointed out that some teachers fail to provide a context through observations, inferences, and actions appropriate for students to make the connection to the real world. These connections help the students to understand higher-level science concepts. Students, now more than ever, want to understand how they will use what they are learning today in life or in a career. We adults are the same way, we want to learn things we can use immediately in what we do.

We need to remember to frame learning as a process rather than merely an outcome. Additionally, meaning making, is at the core of how we learn. Finally, how we learn includes the role of prior experience and interpretation of that experience. This is where we must help in providing experiences to give real world context. Thus, why I am such a proponent of work-based learning, apprenticeships, and internships. How we learn matters!

Speaking Of Others Instead Of About Them

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 20, 2022

It is not easy to be the person who always tries to see the good in others; who gives everyone the benefit of the doubt, who employs compassion instead of criticism. I really believe we need to employ speaking of others instead of about them. I know some of you are saying,” That’s just semantics, Byron.” But I say language matters here. There are a great many people who I deeply respect and care who, and of whom I speak of often – I don’t talk about them. Usually, I am speaking of some great attribute of the person, some funny quirk that makes them special, or some event/activity done together. When speaking of, there is laughter, but not laughing at. Think about how cool it feels when sharing stories of adventures with others. Remember how good kindness feels — how it opens your heart instead of shriveling it. Pledge to make it your rule instead of your exception.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” ~ Plato

Additionally, we can never completely know the personal pain or situations of the people we come in contact with on a daily basis and that it’s this lack of knowledge that should be the lens through which we see the world and everyone in it. As social creatures, we focus a lot of our attention on other people and that comes through in what we talk about. Telling stories helps us understand others and fills in blanks for others and ourselves understand others. We all have an innate need to understand others and when talking about someone this fills the need. Why I am such an advocate of speaking of instead about is because I don’t want to be skewed by someone else’s experiences. I want to base my feelings toward another person based on my experiences not others and I hope others would do that with me.

The Real-World Inspires

Hadi Partovi & I at National Summit on Education 2022

Don’t you just love it when something you advocate a lot is affirmed by someone else? Well, I do! Anyway, yesterday during the keynote lunch panel discussion at the Excelin Ed National Summit on Education 2022 entitled “A 21st-Century Education: Critical Skills for Every Student’s Success” the rest of the attendees at Table 18 kept looking over at me and kept saying things like, “you say that all the time.” And, yes, that was true! I have known one of the keynote panelists, Hadi Partovi, for a long time. Hadi is CEO of the education nonprofit Code.org. I have always known Hadi to be very insightful as what our scholars need to know when continuing the learning journey after high school. Notice I call it a “learning journey” because no matter whether a scholar chooses enrollment, employment, or enlistment, they will be continuing on a learning journey. I am approaching the six decade mark and I am still on an incredible learning journey. In fact, I am not so sure I haven’t learned more in the last year than at any point in my life. How cool is that?

Back to Hadi because some of his comments are the focus here. He said:

  • “If kids are excited to learn something, they will go learn it.” – I am thinking TikTok here. I am pretty sure none of our students took a TikTok course in their school.
  • “Don’t worry about the order in which we schedule scholars to learn things; more importantly, we need to be inspiring students to go learn.” – Personally, I always advocate that how students are learning is at least as important, if not more important than what they are learning. Learning howto learn is the most important thing we can do in the world today.
  • “Relevance and inspiration go together!” – Who knew? Every scholar in every school in the world! They might not say it, although they do, when they say things like, “Why do I need to know this?” If that Hand in the Back of The Room can’t be answered there will be NO inspiration to learn. Trust me, I know because I was that student with his hand up in the back of the room almost six decades ago now.

Bottom-line: we must remember that the real-world inspires. Our students are the expert in their own life in context, no one else is. Our kids are learning in a complex social environment. Our students will inherit the future and we need to do everything we can to have them ready to learn and have the creative designs to solve the future issues.