Byron's Babbles

Leading FOR Others

I had the chance to go visit three Indiana schools this past week and see some great things happening for students in our state. I visited the International Soccer School of America, Stable Grounds, and Millersburg Elementary Middle School. I love getting out into schools and seeing programs that I have not visited before. This is an important part of my own development as a citizen leader and being part of the Indiana State Board of Education. It is impossible to understand others and build relationships without taking the time to visit and listen. At all three stops I saw communities of people who were innovating to serve our young scholars. They were meeting them where they were and preparing them for the future they choose.

When we lead as a community we foster an environment for inspiration, success, trust, and teamwork. I want to lead FOR others, to provide thought and care, develop strong relationships, support others in their own successes and consciously act with integrity. When we develop as leaders FOR others, we grow in grace, understanding, and self awareness.

Being Childlike

The other day during a Zoom meeting I said that I thought that I had matured a little over the last year. Then, one of the participants said, “Well, just don’t quit being childlike.” I thought about that and actually wrote it on my notepad. Now, as I come back to that note I guess I look at being childlike having all to do with growth, curiosity, and feeling free enough as individuals to be ourselves without unduly formed restrictions. Those things really have nothing to do with maturity and all to do the positive qualities related to children. Things like innocence, trusting, unguarded, or being vulnerable like a child. It also means taking off the many masks of propriety imposed within our society that limit our creativity and sense of exploration. I do allow myself to play, and to be silly.

I probably wouldn’t have written a blog post about this, but when reading yesterday in Mo Rocca’s awesome book, Mobituaries, yesterday he wrote that someone had described Sammy Davis Jr. as being childlike, not childish. This made me think more about the difference. Sammy certainly was fun, relaxed, spontaneous, creative, adventurous, and silly. At the same time that he was entertaining us he was doing a lot of great things in the world. Certainly not childish behavior. Childlike, yes; childish, no.

Therefore, being childlike has everything to do with growing, being curious, and being ourselves without those unduly formed restrictions that society wants to place on us. I sure hope I don’t grow out of being childlike!

What Is Your Essence?

Posted in #NEI3DLeadership, 3D Leadership, Essence, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 17, 2021

I am reading the great book, Mobituaries: Great Lives Worth Reliving, by Mo Rocco right now and while discussing Sammy Davis Jr., he posited that when Sammy did an imitation he had a way of getting to the essence of the person. Our core essence is what makes us uniquely “me”, and is what separates each person in their individuality. This thought of essence is pretty deep. Essence is our style and what seems to show up in every one of our stories. Just as important to discovering our essence is to unraveling the mysteries of our actions, it is also important to explaining the mistakes we make. But, I was also reminded this weekend how important understanding essence is to effective relationships.

I was reminded of this during a discussion yesterday during our Carolinas 3D Leadership gathering. Two participants did some deep soul searching and were discussing how they hated to hear things from their principals or team members like, “your doing to much” or “not sure why you are doing that” or “why in the world did you add so many features to that spreadsheet.” I added that last one because I’m guilty of saying things like that. I am so glad that these two opened up, though, because I believe it opened all our eyes – I know it did mine. We were hearing their essence in their stories. Glad we were listening to understand!

I asked them what it was they wanted to hear. They said they just wanted to hear, “Great job on this” or “This is very helpful” or I really appreciate having this.” For these two, their essence is something like being three steps ahead or going above and beyond or striving for success. What we learned from this discussion was that it is not helpful for those whose essence is to build the over the top spreadsheet to say, “Um, not sure why you spent so much time on this, we don’t need all the bells and whistles.” We just need to acknowledge and recognize the person’s essence. You all know me, I asked what do you want to hear? They told me instead of “you shouldn’t have” they wanted to just hear “thank you, I appreciate all the extra work you have done.” Otherwise, we are not respecting their essence.

Since our essence is our style we don’t want to let a story overwhelm our style. That would mean to lose touch with ourselves. When work becomes more important than the living of your own life, or a relationship overshadows your individual needs, or expectations are so prescriptive that you are no longer in control of your life or how you do your job, we are not living by our essence.

It’s amazing to me how a simple word like “essence” can cause such deep thought. But, just as Sammy Davis Jr. could catch the essence of others, we too have an obligation to listen and watch for the essence of those around us understand the essence of those we work with and have relationships with. Essence is a part of each of our stories and follows us no matter which forms we may take. To truly understand the essence of another is to have power in how we work and flow with other. Finally, we also need to understand our own essence and embrace it because to do so will keep us from working against ourselves.

Work The Problem

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, puzzle by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 11, 2021

I love the phrase, “Work the problem.” I’ve heard some of my military trained friends use this phrase. To me it means not sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring the problem or hoping it goes away. It also means we won’t guess. As Gene Kranz would say, “Work the problem. Don’t make it worse by guessing.” What he was saying was that to work the problem we need a firm understanding of the complex puzzle and what’s going on to work the problem.

Let’s also not forget in The Martian when Mark Watney, was stranded alone on Mars. My favorite quote from the movie after him having the mantra of working the problem was, “You begin. You do the math. You solve one problem, then the next one and then the next one. If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.” It’s kind of like making a puzzle; one piece at a time.

To work the problem we need to define the problem or challenge. Then we need to determine the desired outcome. For Watney, it was coming home. Information and research gathering comes next, followed by the most important part: the game plan. Then we go from working the problem to working the plan.

Attracting Successful People

Posted in Collaboration, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 9, 2021

If I had heard the story of H.B. Reese, I had forgotten it. He actually started a rival candy company in Hershey, Pennsylvania while still working in chocolatier Milton Hershey’s factory. Can you imagine what would happen with most leaders? There would be inevitable envious fit, and then there would be the immediate firing. Not with Milton Hershey. He supported Reese in creating that very special candy cup we all so enjoy. Not Sorry!

In fact the Hershey factory supplied the chocolate for the experiments as Reese developed the peanut butter cup. Of course Reese became successful and he and Hershey collaborated forever after till both their deaths. In fact the two companies were merged after their deaths. This is such a strong reminder that we all need to be aiding in the success of others. And, as others see this happening, it will attracted more talented people our way.

Even though they were competing, Hershey and Reese were inspiring each other. Who are you helping to be successful? Don’t be sorry!

Every Voice

Posted in Discourse, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Ideas, Leadership, Leadership Development, Listen, Listening by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 29, 2021

I must say I am pretty impressed with the newest FBI show “FBI International.” The characters and character profiles did it for me. I was particularly drawn to the team leader, Scott Forrester played by Luke Kleintank. It was explicit in the shows script that he had picked an elite team with every person being selected for a reason and their specific strengths and skills. That got my attention – the writers want us to see him as an outstanding leader. Then, two lines in the episode I watched last night really jumped out at me and were reminders of great leader traits.

The first was early in the show after a team member had given a dissenting viewpoint to Forrester, which led to some discourse, and Forrester giving his reason for disagreeing. The dissenting team member was new and wasn’t sure how to feel about the interaction. Another member of the team pulled her aside and told her that Forrester was the type of leader that valued the team and wanted “every voice in his ear.” He wanted and needed to hear from everyone. Every voice on the team mattered. Every dissenting view mattered. Forrester was not worried about being right, he was worried about getting to right. So many poor leaders want to look smart and don’t want to hear views contrary to their own. Forrester reminded us we need every voice in our ear. BTW: it turned out the team member was right and he was wrong – so glad they wrote it that way!

In another scene, another team member brought Forrester an idea that might be a long shot to pursue. Forrester said, and I love this, “Take that wherever it goes.” Is that not just the coolest response ever? He had just given the team member full empowerment. It no longer mattered if it was a wild idea or not. The team member could fully invest. Giving team members this kind of freedom, without risking ridicule or reprisal, frees them to consider ideas and approaches that might otherwise go unexplored.

Great leaders encourage and development the ability to scrounge, forage, and rummage for ideas. We must learn to search everywhere for available ideas. Are you letting your team members follow their ideas? Or, are you letting their voices in your ear?

Leading Like Charlotte’s Web

You all know I love intersectional learning, where I, or I have others, take a random object and create meaning about a seemingly unrelated topic. I never thought that a spider web would lead to the unbelievably deep conversation it did with our Florida 3D Leadership participants last night. To get things started for the evening, I asked them to look at a picture of a spider web I had come across in my barn to the journey they are on right now. When our small groups came back from their discussions I could tell from the energy it was going to be an amazing evening. When the first group started to report out, the participant said, “I loved my group.” Those of you who have facilitated before know how good that sounds and feels.

The participant went on to say that Lauren Berry, Curriculum Resource Teacher at Collier Charter Academy in Naples, Florida, had thought of all the lessons from Charlotte’s Web. You know, the 1952 classic written by E.B. White and then turned into a great movie in 2006. The genius of White’s work was that he used a deceptively mundane and ordinary setting, set of characters, and plot to explain the profundity of life in ways that people of all ages can understand. The perfect definition of intersectional learning! Without knowing it I had spurred this deep discussion with something as mundane, but incredibly complex, as a spider web – in a barn of all places.

So, what did Lauren and her group teach us? First of all, to sum up a 184 page book in a couple of sentences, Wilbur, a pig given to a little girl, Fern, yearns for companionship but is snubbed by the other animals. When he finds out he is be raised for slaughter he is befriended by a barn spider named Charlotte, whose web sits in a doorway overlooking Wilbur’s enclosure. Here are the points that Lauren and her group made to us:

  • Friendship and relationships are at the core of everything. Charlotte said, “After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.” Life is precious, wonderful and beautiful, especially when it is well-lived.
  • Celebrate diversity. Wilbur and Charlotte are very different, but friendship makes it possible to transcend those differences. Even Templeton the Rat, the self-serving one even learns to be a team player (sorry, I couldn’t help but put the rat in the mix, too).
  • Wilbur was humble. “Why did you do all this for me?” Wilbur asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.” “You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.” People respond well to humility because it shows that you place yourself at the same level as others, and not above them.

We were so blessed to be reminded of this story last night. My hope is that we will always keep in our hearts the lessons of friendship, life, and loss that will help us navigate through our lives to be better leaders, friends, and people in this diverse world.

The Path To Brilliance

Posted in Brilliance, Brilliant, Creativity, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 21, 2021

Have you ever been called brilliant? Have you ever called someone else brilliant? Have you ever looked at something and said, “Brilliant!”? Yes, you guessed it, I’m writing about brilliance. It is such a versatile word that has many meanings and connotations. Actually, brilliance is subjective. What’s brilliant to me may not be brilliant to you. What speaks to me may not speak to you. I loved the line in The Bookshop At Water’s End by Patti Callahan Henry where Mimi tells Piper, “There’s more than one way to be brilliant.” I looked up the word brilliant and found it to mean bright, radiant, clever or talented, outstanding, and impressive. Do you get the idea of why that word is so versatile? Also, I can think of people or art that fit one or two of those definitions, but not necessarily all. Brilliant people are those who stand for something larger than themselves. Brilliant people are those that have found their own niche or are creating their own niche.

We can all be brilliant. Mimi also reminded Piper that, “We all take different paths.” But, it must be on our terms – our own vision and place in the world. Each of us has a place in this world. Each of us has a different path to brilliance – that creativity and unique perspective that each of us has. For those we serve, whether teammates, employees, or student scholars, let’s not forget “There’s more than one way to be brilliant.” How are you being brilliant?

Leading Like Columbo

Posted in Ambition, Artist, Columbo, Global Leadership, Humble Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Passion by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 19, 2021

Many of you probably could have guessed that after a week of celebrating 50 years of Columbo that I would do a post about the rumpled and disheveled, but brilliant homicide detective played by Peter Falk. I blogged about him before in Listen and Look, Look and Listen. This past Wednesday, September 15th marked 50 years to the day since the first episode. Cozi TV 📺 did a Columbo marathon yesterday, and I made time last night for an episode I had not seen. The episode I watched was Murder, A Self Portrait. A new book, Shooting Columbo, by David Koenig just released this fall and is on my to read list. And…one more thing…I need to go back and reread Falk’s great book Just One More Thing.

There are many lessons that can be learned from the character, Lieutenant Columbo. For example, the conversation with Oliver Brandt in the Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case: “You know, sir, it’s a funny thing. All my life, I kept running into smart people. In school, there were lot’s of smarter kids, and when I first joined the force, sir, they had some very clever people there and I could tell right away it wasn’t going to be easy making detective as long as they were around. But I figured if I worked harder than they did, put in more time, read the books, kept my eyes open, maybe I could make it happen. And I did. And I really love my work, sir.” Did you catch that? He decided to work harder than everyone else.

Columbo has zero vanity. Most who know me, know I have little use for vanity. For many, vanity and ambition rule their passion. I loved the line in The Bookshop At Water’s End by Patti Callahan Henry that says, “His ego was dented, not his heart.” This was referring to Piper rejecting the plea of the boyfriend who had dumped her to get back together. In other words he really didn’t love her, he just didn’t like being seen as being rejected himself – vanity. It is the lack of vanity and his best feature of humility that give Columbo the skills to work with famous artists, as in the episode I watched last night or a homeless alcoholic in Negative Reaction. He is an authentic person with no false airs about him.

Status symbols don’t matter to Columbo. Just look at his beat up car. He is happy being who he is and being very good at it. That really is a big part of the success of the character of Columbo – being underestimated. It’s a reminder of how much credence we give to images. There are no delusions of grandeur. He’s absolutely content with what he has. We could all learn a lot from this.

“Everything under the surface,” “I would have had to keep digging,” and “You have to finish the painting” were all quotes that were meaningful at the end of the episode I watched last night and spoke to Columbo’s tenacity and thoroughness. Had Columbo not taken the time to read a book about the murdering artist he would not have known about a special paint, Barsini Red, that made solving the case possible. We must keep digging and know there is always more under the surface.

The Power For Change

Posted in change, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 14, 2021

I have always been a believer that we need to view our worlds from the perspective that there are no wrong decisions as long as we base them on all the information we have at the time. I was reminded of this last week and have now taken time to pause and reflect about this. The reminder was a comment in The Bookshop At Water’s End by Patti Callahan Henry. The book was amazing and I highly recommend it. Here is what was written: “We do what we can with what we know at the time. And, with what we believe.” This is so true. Our knowledge, wisdom, and beliefs come into play when making decisions. Additionally, our emotions play a role and I believe this is a good thing. Every moment of success in our lives has been a result of all the decisions we’ve made combined, whether we call them bad or good, or right or wrong. Our decisions are additive.

I love another line in the book where the character said, “We can’t subtract or undo decisions but we can make new ones.” This speaks to the additive nature of decisions I spoke about. What I really reflected on while reading this great book was that while some decisions open doors wide to success, others pull us into real and sometime perceived problems. But, it’s our attitude toward those decisions that decide our fate, not the nature of those decisions.

Let me share one more quote from the book to help make my final point: “Inside the very worst things you can find the power for change.” Sometimes decisions that seemed wrong at the time, help us make the right decision. For example, the student who chooses to do an internship in a medical office and hates it. The decision was not wrong, it was the right decision to let her know she didn’t like that field and should pick something else. So don’t judge your past decisions too harshly, instead learn from them and move on. Don’t use them as an excuse to affect your present.