Byron's Babbles

Working Smarter

Ken Blanchard said, “It’s about preparing and training their people to do their own work, then getting out of their way so they can achieve their goals” (p. 51) in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practiceby Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley. In Simple Truth #18, “Don’t work harder; work smarter,” we are reminded that delegation after we have developed the right people is the smart play. It’s important to find efficient ways to help those we serve tackle their tasks and achieve their goals.

If you’ve ever tried to put “Don’t work harder; work smarter” into action for yourself or others, you know it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Finding ways to get more done while keeping our owner and those we serve stress levels low often proves to be more difficult than it seems. One thing I believe leaders need to do is reduce the to-do list noise will provide a laser-focused team the energy and creativity needed to produce the best results.

Then it becomes about optimizing how projects are approached. We are empowered when we are given the appropriate autonomy to make decisions and get the wrk done on our own and even have the space to make mistakes and learn from them. We must not forget, however, that we must take the time to build up our team’s strength and morale. This must be true development, not just a motivational video clip played at the end of a Friday staff meeting. In order for all this to work, teams must be fully developed and have the technical skills/knowledge to do the job. Are you working smarter?

Every Little Detail Matters

Walt Disney World EPCOT World Showcase Lagoon

In a planning meeting for a future gathering yesterday I was reminded of two very important words: “everything speaks”. Two simple words, but huge implications. It’s all about impact and we need to remember that everything speaks, always! I’m pretty sure Walt Disney gets credit for the “everything speaks” philosophy. And, you don’t have to spend very much time at a Walt Disney World theme park to figure it out. Just like trash cans every so many steps and the fact that Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the Hall of Presidents wears polio braces under his trousers. The details matter! My wife and I experienced a Disney Resort and the Disney Theme Parks for the first time past fall and we both commented on the fact that it was not just the big “wows”, but all the little things that added up. For example, I was amazed at how any time there was a question, someone just happened to be there to answer it.

I have friends who are Disney fanatics and I understand that for Disney the return trip is key. Therefore, they have truly empower their team to make decisions and be servant leaders to enhance the guest experience to the fullest. If you noticed that the word “truly” was in bold, that was no accident. I experienced organization where empowerment is talked about a lot, but never really practiced. Your empowered to do what your told. Have you noticed, places like that don’t retain their employees either? What’s interesting is that if we’re doing the right things we don’t need to talk about it, why? Because everything speaks! Most people don’t even notice all the little things at Disney, but we would if they were not there – so, we don’t need to be told they are there because those little things are speaking. Those we serve only notice what we do when we don’t do it.

Every detail of the experience with you or your organization is saying something about you and your organization. Those you are serving may not consciously know or understand every detail, but subconsciously clues to our culture and the community we have formed are being communicated. One of the key points from my planning meeting that I leave you with is that for the work we do in developing and serving others we need to have an experience mindset, not a task mindset. It is important that we actualize everything so none of the little things get missed. Remember, everything speaks.

Creating Autonomy Is More Than Stepping In A Puddle

Simple Truth #12, “Create Autonomy Through Boundaries”, in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice by Ken Blanchardand Randy Conley reminded me of what my friend and mentor David Marquet always says, “[empowerment and agency without developing the technical skills will create chaos.” Blanchard reminded us of this in this chapter when he said, “Ensure people are aware of all procedures, rules, and laws” (p. 37). The development, goals, expectations, and accountability give us the boundaries.

“A river without banks is a large puddle.”

John Carlos and Alan Randolph in Empowerment Takes More Than A Minute

Just yesterday, as I was in a gathering as a part of some Aspen Institute work in education I am doing right now, we were contemplating how to make sure our educators are have the professional growth and development to do all the work that science tells us is necessary to enhance the quality and depth of student learning when the students have opportunities to interact with others and make meaningful connections to subject material. This is really a combination of the teachers and students having the autonomy to do this important work. Therefore, it is important for organizations to take a systems approach to promoting development and addressing both student and adult skills and beliefs; organizational culture, climate, and norms; and routines and structures that guide basic interactions and instruction. I don’t believe this looks much different no matter what the organization is in the business of doing. If we want more than a “puddle” of autonomy we must create the meaningful opportunities for developing the right ethos for autonomy, agency, and empowerment.

My Memories Matter

As I wrote the rough draft of this post I was on a plane taxiing to the runway at Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C. As I looked out window I saw the dome of our Capitol and the Washington Monument (see my pictures). This caused several moments of reflection. I thought about all 12 U.S. Presidents that have been in office since I was born. I thought about the Vietnam War that happened during my lifetime. I thought about President Nixon and his resignation. I thought about the first President I voted for, Ronald Reagan. I thought about the first Gulf War. I thought about 9/11. I thought about wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I thought about all the time my son Heath and I spent in Washington D.C. when he was growing up when I brought him with me to the Washington Leadership Conference of the National FFA Organization every year. I thought about getting to pay my respects to Ronald Reagan as he was lying in state in the Capitol rotunda. I thought about being with President Obama in the Oval Office. I thought about spending time with, then Vice President, Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden at Number One Observatory Circle. I thought about being awarded the Smithsonian Diffusion Award in the Smithsonian Castle. I thought about the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, and getting to stand at the Brandenburg Gate where President Reagan told Gorbachev to tear down the wall. I thought about being in Vice President Pence’s White House Office. A lot of memories were running through my mind. I realized I’ve experienced a lot in my almost six decades.

That’s a lot of history. That’s a lot of memories. But what does it all mean? Does living through all that matter? Yes, all those memories matter! Our memories make us who we are. They create our worldview in ways we hardly realize. It is why we must be always creating the situations to create memories for our children. We also need to be creating memories for our students. All that we have ever learned, from how to get along and play with others, how to read, and even how to resolve conflicts, makes us who we are. That is why who taught us and our experience of the things we have learned are all embedded in the memories themselves.

Our memories are essential because they allow us to grow and learn to be a better person. Our memories help us understand why we are who we are. When we understand why we are who we are, we become empowered to create ourselves intentionally. Oscar Wilde said, “Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.” I am so glad that my peek out the airplane window caused me to open my mind’s diary and begin reflecting on who I am.

The Leadership Tornado

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

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

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

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

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

Spreading The Wealth

Over the weekend a teacher leader asked me how her principal should be deciding which teachers should get development opportunities and be empowered. I said, “That’s easy; all of them should be getting those opportunities.” As I learned from Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, everyone has potential. Everyone should have empowerment and opportunities for development. Really, our teacher leaders should all have individualized development plans. Therefore, everyone should be in development mode and be empowered to lead from where they are. Everyone is a leader, so leadership should happen whenever and from wherever it is needed. We need to be very careful to not fall in the trap of “earned empowerment.” In other words only empowering the chosen ones who someone thinks has earned it. This might yield empowering and developing 10% at best. I blogged about this in Earned Empowerment is Dangerous.

Then tonight I was reminded how important it is to have the whole team empowered and ready for action. In the first quarter of the New Orleans Saints big 38-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, quarterback Drew Brees had thrown completed passes to nine different receivers. At the end of the first half he had thrown completions to 12 different receivers. That is a big deal. Think about how much more successful the Saints are with that many empowered targets.

So, we probably better take a page from the Saints playbook and empower and develop everyone. Think about it; if we are able to empower all of our people with projects and responsibilities, aren’t we really expanding the capacity of our organization. Really, mass empowerment equals capacity building. This in turn means leadership development of our teams. It also allows us to tap into all of our resources and expertise, which can lead to achieving amazing results.

Great leadership is shifting from telling everyone what to do, to empowering and developing everyone to be ready to come up with the best and brightest ideas and solutions that have ever been thought of before. This will give you a receiver core for big wins like Drew Brees and the Saints.

Power To Do

Last week while in a very deep discussion during a 3D Leadership session we were talking about leadership and power. We were discussing the five forms of power from French and Raven (1959). Here are those five forms of power:

French & Raven, 1959

First of all, the group talked about how great it is that we continue to move from forms of power to levels of what John Maxwell called 5 Levels of Leadership. The group acknowledged how negative most of the five levels of power are, but that those powers exist, how they can be used for positive, and how we should use them for creating positive environments. One of the positive forms of power is “referent.” I have blogged about this power before in The Majestic Leader. Also, here are Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership:

Then someone made a brilliant statement: “The five forms of power have such a limited scope.” I asked what she meant, and she said, “Those are all about ‘power over’ and we should be thing about ‘power to do’.” Again, another brilliant statement! “Power to do!” Now that’s a power we need to develop – Self empowerment.

Therefore, as leaders it’s important to inspire empowerment in others. After all, when people feel powerful, it boosts their self-confidence, which further enhances their work and performance. Inspiring others is often the mark of a great leader, but how do you do that effectively? Being an inspiring leader was the theme of this gathering. To truly empower others we must empower ourselves to be inspirational leaders. How do we do that? Here’s what our teacher leaders said:

  1. Show up – Inspirational leaders understand the significance of just being there. I actually heard from teachers in this gathering that they wished that the school leaders would just come visit there schools and more importantly, their classrooms. You can’t take care of your peeps if you aren’t with your people and that means going to street level and getting shoulder to shoulder.
  2. Be present – This is different than showing up; we must really be present by having open ears and listening, asking the right questions, and having humility.
  3. Withitness – Great leaders position themselves so they can see everything. This is also about being actively engaged.

As leaders of learning we have a key role to play in delivering quality learning. In order to do this it is important to understand the purpose and impact of our role and the impact we have on others. In the case of education, the task of leadership is to make visible the how, why and where of learning. It achieves this by conversations and demonstrations around pupil learning, professional learning and learnings which transcend the boundaries of the school. The challenge for leadership is to nurture the dialogue, to make transparent ways in learning interconnects and infuses behavior.  It promotes a continuing restless inquiry into what works best, when, where, for whom and with what outcome. Its vision is of the intelligent school and its practice intersects with the wider world of learning.

Never forget, the way we see leadership, learning and the quality of our schools, businesses, or organizations is ultimately a product of how we see and think about ourselves. Remember, we have the “power to do.”

Leading Like A Superhero

 

Ever since we were kids we’ve dreamed of becoming superheroes. During our first fall gathering of 3D Leadership, I used a superhero throughline and had participants research superheroes and pick one that best represented themselves; or they could create an all new one. As always, they were super creative (a superhero power) and as they shared out I asked them a few questions:

  1. What is your superpower?
  2. How did you get your powers?
  3. What’s something that your arch nemesis has?
  4. Where would you live when your not saving the world?
  5. If you were on a team of superheroes, what would your role be?
  6. What would you fight the enemy with?
  7. In addition to your powers, what weapon would you want?

A couple of these superheroes really jumped out at me: Wonder Lori and Glinda. Wonder Lori was a new and made up superhero and Glinda was based on the good witch in the Wizard of Oz. The superpowers for these two were empathy and serving. Pretty good superpowers for leading like a superhero, right? Really being a superhero is about tapping one’s ability to do extraordinary things; and, being able to help others doing extraordinary things.

I was really struck by the superhero Glinda from the Wizard of Oz. The participant picked Glinda because of her power of always showing up at just the right time. This blew my mind because I had never thought about this in all the times I have watched the Wizard of Oz. But, what a great superpower, right. All of us as leaders would love the superpower of showing up at the right time. Glinda really did show up at just the right time, every time.

Additionally, the participant quoted Glinda at the end of the movie when she said, “You had the power all along, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” This is such a powerful statement. Glinda was a great teacher—and this compliment is not undeserved. The first lesson she teaches is one of delegation. She tells Dorothy the Wizard might be able to help her get home, but that the journey to Oz is a long and treacherous one. Dorothy needs, as always seems to be the case, more information and asks for it (she’s very good at asking questions). Glinda tells Dorothy to follow the Yellow Brick Road and never take the ruby slippers off her feet. Of course, the Munchkins help her get started and find her way on the yellow brick road. Dorothy has more questions, but Glinda is a master delegator: she waves her wand and disappears! Remind you of any great leaders you have worked with?

Even though we don’t see Glinda very much in the movie, she’s clearly behind the scenes keeping watch, removing barriers, and doing things to help without desiring any recognition. We learn this in the scene in which Glinda sends snow to counteract the effects of the sleep-inducing poppies. Glinda never rushes in dramatically on a white horse (even thought there are really cool horses in the movie that change colors) to fix everything herself and, in the process, undermine Dorothy’s self-confidence as a leader. Even when Glinda reappears at the end of the movie, it is only to make sure that Dorothy has learned the lessons of the ruby slippers for herself – “You had the power all along, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”

Empowerment Needs No Menus!

Angelika & I

To empower means “to give somebody power or authority” and also “to give somebody a sense of confidence or self-esteem.” I believe we can change someone’s world every single day. I have something I love to do when going to a new restaurant for the first time. I’ll tell the server to not give me a menu, and pick the meal for me. To me, this is the ultimate act of empowerment and intent-based leadership. I first did this with my dear friend and leadership idol, David Marquet, when we went out to eat one evening.

Well, last night was the 142nd day of the Global COVID-19 Pandemic; and I was in a restaurant for the first time. We went to Riverstone Corner Bistro in Canton, Georgia, after setting up for our Impact Georgia teacher professional development happening today. So, to my table-guests surprise, told our server, Angelika, “I’m not going to look at the menu online (the way Riverstone limits contact) and I just want you to pick my entire meal for me.” At first she was a little taken back, but then we could tell she was beginning to have fun with this. She even came running back to the table and said, “I’ve got an idea and just want to know if you like lots of cheese.” I, of course, said “Yes” and away she went.

Here’s the deal: Angelika did a perfect job of showcasing the great food of Riverstone Corner Bistro and her abilities as a sever to meet the needs of her customers. She showcased a menu great and favorite if her own – Scallops Risotto. She was beaming when she brought it to the table and beamed even more when I said, “You could not have made a better pick.” It was awesome! And, as I told my table-mates, I probably would not have picked that, but because I empowered someone else, her life was brightened and I got an even better meal.

To empower someone, you have to help them feel proud of the good things they do. This is truly the essence of empowerment. It was clear that Angelika was proud of the menu items she chose for me and of the restaurant where she works. I merely opened the the door and created space for creative thinking. This requires discipline and patience on a leaders part. It also means we take a little risk, but it is worth it. We can provide hints or prompts, like my giving in and acknowledging I like cheese, but allowing those we serve to discover the answer will empower them in future situations.

❤️ Kids Having Ownership!

IMG_7814This past week I had the honor of doing a day long professional development for teachers from all schools corporations in Elkhart County, Indiana. I am representing Noble Education Initiative carrying out this customized professional development. This was part of an ongoing Project Based Learning partnership created by Horizon Education Alliance to bring business/industry and education together to best educate students. I love doing professional development workshops, particularly when they are on topics that I am passionate about. Project Based Learning (PBL) is one of those topics. It is also energizing to be with a group of educators who are very engaged. Groups like this always remind me and validate what Gallup® finds teachers value in question 12 of the Gallup Q12 Index©: “In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?” These teachers have been given this opportunity and very much value the opportunity, and are taking advantage of the opportunity to learn and grow.

The group last week was both passionate and engaged. We started the day with what I called “Level Setting.” I had them work in pairs to talk about their PBL experience now that we were half way through the school year. I wanted them to talk about what they had learned, “wow” moments, what they still had questions about, and what they still needed help with. They were to represent this on a tear sheet and put it up on the wall. Here are a few of the tear sheets that were put up:

Did you see the comment “❤️Kids Having Ownership”? That’s what this is all about. The next few paragraphs will dig into that a little deeper.

IMG_7813

Aubri Mosness with her students

We then had everyone individually do a gallery walk and pick one thing that stood out to them. This was an awesome discussion when the group came back together. There were questions like, “who wrote… I would like to know more,” or “I had that same experience because…,” or “I am so glad you wrote that because that same thing happened to us, and we are still trying to figure out…” You get the idea. One comment really stood out to me during this discussion; It was by Goshen High School Teacher, Aubri Mosness. She said, “I have felt the transition from me doing most of the work to the students doing most of the work. At first I was a little uncomfortable because I felt like I was doing much, but then I realized how much the students were getting out of it.” I was so excited by this. This is such a revelation in teaching. Great teaching should have the students doing most of the work. She was truly facilitating with a student managed classroom and the students have student agency and choice.

Then, at lunch Ms. Mosness’ students presented to the whole group and business/industry representatives that had joined us, on their project and I led a little Q&A. The students were incredible. During the presentation Ms. Mosness commented, “When I give my students too much, too much information, too much guidance, I am taking away opportunities for learning.” This was a drop the mic opportunity as far as I was concerned. The students all concurred. I then asked the students to give a thumbs up or thumbs down on the following question: “School work should look more like real work?” All six students gave me a thumbs up. Our students deserve to learn in an environment that is facilitated in a real world and relevant context.

61NlMeJ8eMLThese students were giving first hand testimony affirming the research I did for my book, The Hand In The Back Of The Room: Connecting School Work To Real Life.” In the book I talk about that the hand in the back of the room was mine, and probably yours too, that was raised wanting to know why I needed to learn what I was being taught. In other words school work must be connected to real life. This is why PBL is so great. Using PBL teaching principles will make school work look and feel like real work. In other words, the question from “the hand in the back of the room is answered as to why she needs to learn what she is being taught. When teachers are allowed to make student learning the ultimate test of facilitation of learning, then instruction improves to produce better learning. The results of my research showed improved achievement/performance in science when students are taught in a relevant context. For me that context was agriculture, but there many other real world contexts to be used. This is why the partnerships with business/industry is so important for our students. The challenge to all of us in education is to find ways to make learning visible by connecting school work and real life for the students we serve.