Byron's Babbles

Where Is Your Leadership Engine Order Telegraph Set?

I had the opportunity this past week to visit and tour the SS American Victory Ship and Museum in Tampa, Florida. It is an outstanding icon of America during times of war. I particularly learned a lot from the museum and the person there who answered all my questions and took the time to have a lengthy conversation with me. Before that day I really did not know much about Merchant Marine ships, how they were operated, and the relationship to the US Navy. I’m still pretty ignorant, but I am learning.

The SS American Victory was a Merchant Marine cargo ship that supplied our troops at the end of World War II, and then in the Korean Conflict and Vietnam. This ship hauled ammunition, cargo, and troops. The ship was run by the Merchant Marines, but of the crew of 62 part were US Navy personnel who manned the weapons in case of attack. This ship was launched 74 years to the day (May 24) I was there, in 1945. It only took our patriotic citizens 55 days to build the ship.

The exhibits in the museum are awesome and I had the chance to explore the entire ship. I was especially inspired in the wheel house, or bridge, as I looked out the port hole windows and thought about the decisions leaders had to make on this very deck. Then when I went above to the outdoor wheelhouse deck I studied the Engine Order Telegraph (the featured picture of this post). I immediately realized I had found another great metaphor that I believe represents the ways many organizations, leaders, associations, and governments work. Earlier last week I blogged about metaphors in Leading By Metaphor.

The Engine Order Telegraph, also known as an EOT, is a device that transmitted the orders from the pilot to the engine room. It has slow, half, and full for both ahead and astern (reverse). Also, it has stop, stand by, and finished with engine. As I stood there studying the EOT on a beautiful sunny day in beautiful Tampa Ybor Channel and thought about how these are incredible metaphors for leadership.

On these older style ships the captain didn’t physically control the ship like on today’s ships. On this ship the EOT would telegraph what the captain needed and engineer in the engine room made the adjustments – slow down, open up the throttle, et cetera. I thought about how this ship would have been like an orchestra with the captain as the conductor and the deck and engine crew playing the instruments.

As leaders we have the opportunity be a part of telegraphing full speed ahead, reversing the engines, slowing down, or stand by which I believe is analogous to status quo. I chuckled to myself that the EOT was set to stand by because I am such a status quo hater. If I was captain of a ship it would probably be hard to order stand by. I’m kind of a Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut kind of guy – “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” We all have to make decisions using the best intel available at the time from collaboration with our teams to enter the correct decisions into our metaphorical EOTs. We work in such a high speed environment! Therefore, we must figure out ways for professional growth of our leaders and teams on how to achieve organizational goals in the shortest time possible. We must then also find ways to provide maximum professional growth in the shortest time possible.

Therefore, we need to be ready to ring the bells for full speed ahead, just as Rear Admiral Farragut did in Mobile Bay in 1864. Had those ships not been willing to go ahead full, they probably would not be successful. I can tell you that the SS American Victory Ship and Museum team have their EOT set on full speed ahead for telling the story of the important work of Merchant Marine ships. How about you and your organization? Are you stuck in the status quo of stand by? Or will you make the call for full speed ahead?

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It’s Not My Story To Tell

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Hailey showing off her temporary Emoji tattoo

I am writing this post as I sit in the airport waiting to fly home after a few days in central Florida facilitating our last 3D Leadership sessions for the spring semester. I am going to miss doing these in June and July, not just because I love doing them and working with all the great leaders that I have the opportunity to serve, but also because of all the learning and reflecting I am able to do as well. We have had so many great discussion and I have a whole list of topics I want to reflect deeper on and study.

This post is about communication, but not the normal topics related to communication like the leader that talks in espoused cliche´infused declarations like “Students first,” or “Customers first,” “All hands on deck,” or “We need to move with urgency.” Over and over again, they present grand, overarching and fuzzy statements of who really knows what. Too often we assume that everyone shares the same definitions for terms that go on and on like vision, value, move with urgency (does that mean I’m supposed to run everywhere?), teamwork, focus, strategy, and on and on. While it is important for great leaders to get a handle on this communication issue, this is not the focus of tonight’s post.

Tonight, I remembered a statement by one of our North Carolina members, Hailey Odum, made in her first session while reflecting on what she wanted to be as a leader. Hailey said it bothered her when people talk about things they either shouldn’t be talking about, or really don’t know all the details about. She said she does not tell the story if: “It’s not my story to tell.” This really hit me because this is a pet peeve of mine as well.

You know the individuals Hailey and I are talking about here:

  • need to know everything and probably don’t.
  • want you to know they know something.
  • usually don’t have all the details.
  • flaunt that someone called them and let them know something before you, or even say, “I’ll bet they haven’t told you yet.”
  • start with: “I’m not supposed to know this, but so and so told me.”
  • you hear in a meeting an announcement and are told it is not public yet, but you heard a group talking about it the week before with all the details you just heard.

When I look at these items in bullet list form it almost reminds me of being in the third grade again. I am sure you could probably add another six bullet points to this list, but you get the point. Now this is not to say that I do not know things at times in advance of others or that others don’t confide in me at times, but I really do try to use Hailey’s sniff test of asking myself “Is it my story to tell?” If it is not then I shouldn’t. Notice I did not say I don’t because I am not perfect, but I have to say I am much better at applying the sniff test since Hailey pointed this out as a leadership trait that needed to be followed.

This then goes to thinking about how communication is handled. For example if you work in a team, it is probably not healthy for certain team members to find out things ahead of others. If we have to say things like “Oh, I thought you knew.” or “You didn’t hear this yet.” or the worst one “So and so probably didn’t tell you, but she let me know (you’ve just been told you are not worthy of knowing at the same time as everyone else).” Now in reality what we may have just experienced is simply terrible communication skills, but even so, this is a little bit like leadership by the game of telephone. And, because it is probably not the person who is telling you story to tell, things maybe are not represented correctly.

I really appreciate Hailey bringing this up as a topic of discussion because it has now been something that I consciously think about. So next time you know something, or think you know something, ask yourself, “Is that my story to tell?” Nine times out of ten I’ll bet you answer, “It’s not my story to tell.”

Stand Your Ground & Be The Example

IMG_5702Setting an example through your own practice illustrates to others that change is a shared endeavor. True leaders are the pinnacle of what they expect from the people around them. And by setting an example, true leaders encourage their people to aim for that. By walking your talk, you become a person others want to follow. When leaders say one thing, but do another, they erode trust–a critical element of productive leadership.

Great leaders are persistent. Try, try again. Go over, under or around any hurdles to show that obstacles, what I like to call opportunities, don’t define your company or team. This will allow you to create solutions. Don’t dwell on problems; instead be the first to offer solutions and then ask your team for more. 

Furthermore, being the first to change can be challenging. As a pioneer, you have to overcome resistance to the status quo. We humans get used to the way things are. Yet those who dare to rock the boat are in a position of tremendous power, and can send ripples of inspiration out to the world. Lead by example because others will become curious. Remember, our actions are much more persuasive than than our words.

Leadership Is Empowerment

IMG_5706By being generous and loving, we become better leaders. Our kindness inspires others to follow in our footsteps. Humans require community in order to survive. As individuals we are week, but together we are strong. We need to strive for greatness, but we need to lift others as we rise. The goal is not to tower over our fellow humans, but rather to lift them up to where we are. If we all want to succeed ourselves, we cannot do it alone.

Leadership is empowerment. It’s lifting others up, helping them advance, and making them a part of something bigger than themselves. In short, it’s helping people to be a little closer to who they’re meant to be. Our leadership ability won’t be measured by our own advancement, but how well we advance the lives of others.

How does your leadership success measure up?

Leading With Extreme Axe Throwing Finesse

 

IMG_5674There are so many formulas that have been written about as best pathways toward great leadership. I have tried to write a few of those myself. Yesterday, our professional development team went on a team building excursion to Extreme Axe Throwing in Hollywood, Florida. Needless to say, it was a great time, but there were moments when I was struggling just to get the axe to stick. I kept getting told, “Finesse, Byron, finesse!” I had to think about what the heck “finesse” even was. So, off to Merriam Webster dictionary:

  1. refinement or delicacy of workmanship, structure, or texture
  2. skillful handling of a situation: adroit maneuvering
  3. the withholding of one’s highest card or trump in hope that a lower card will take the trick because the only opposing higher card is in the hand of an opponent who has already played

IMG_5676As I familiarized myself with what “finesse” really meant, I began to think about how this related to my current situation at the time of throwing an axe at a target. I believe last night’s situation relates to #2. I needed to be skillful and use the techniques our axe throwing coach instructed us with. Then, as I began throwing I needed to get clever and maneuver to make it all work for me. Sometimes I threw too hard, others I was releasing early, others I kept getting told I was flicking my wrists. We can certainly relate this to leadership, don’t you think?

Check out my axe throwing prowess in this video:

Leadership, then, is an art of finesse. It’s being able to adjust and communicate in different ways, specific to each person. I don’t mean being “everything to everyone.” I just mean having enough self-awareness to know what is going to yield the best response from each person–and then having the patience to execute with that behavior in mind. What makes this mentality so difficult is that, in every capacity, it asks that you, as a leader, put yourself in a serving others mode. We must finesse away ego. We can’t just rage out of impatience, or get upset because other people aren’t working the way we want them to work. We can’t show your frustration–even if everyone else is. We can’t sit back and complain when times get tough. We must be the positive force that leads change. This art of finesse is learned through diligent self-inquiry, and constantly practicing the art of finesse and being flexible in the way you communicate and lead others.

IMG_5675Leadership finesse requires that we, as leaders, constantly identify barriers and causes of struggles. Then, with relentless determination, make the best of the current reality we are in. Using my axe throwing metaphor, one barrier we have is fear of failure. Fear of failure holds us back from our dreams more than anything. The thing I was reminded from axe throwing is that we are going to fail over and over and over. During one round of throwing (10 throws) last night I did not get the axe to stick in the wood once. That’s right; my score was 0 at the end of the round. To handle this with finesse, I was reminded that if you’re, you’ll be rejected too. The key is to fail forward, where the pain of the failure is reduced by the benefit of the lessons it brings.

Remember Who You Are And Be Okay With It

IMG_3778One of my favorite compliments to give someone is: “Thanks for being YOU!” I believe it is a powerful compliment because it implies that what makes that person such a unique human being comes from deep within. What I am trying to do is give unconditional gratitude. I want the person to remember who they are and be okay with it. When I say, “Thanks for being YOU!” I am not just saying thank you for what the person has done – I am saying thank you for who he or she is. I am telling him or her that I value them as a person.

“Thanks for being YOU!” Even for all the mistakes the person made and the flaws he or she found that they want to change. For the times he or she did and the times he or she could not, for one day they will all add up. Any of us at our best is what serves us all best. We need each of us to be who we are in order to shape the future. We grow into being who we are one day at a time. We need everyone’s contribution. We need your contribution as much as mine. It’s something we build as much as we find, to do either takes a present mind.

Remember, you are not a robot or a Barbie™. Therefore, let’s be who we are and be okay with it. This does not mean that we should not work to improve or learn new things. It means we need to be okay with who we are as we continue to improve and evolve as the person we are. I believe every person is a work of art. Research indicates that our capacity for self-evolution and growth of our personality, mental capacities, relationships and actions are all based on conscious intent. Shaping our being is like making art; the same way an artist develops, evolves and creates a painting; or a composer creates music. We can all make our conscious being and all that emanates from it a work of art. As I always say, “There is no bad art.” So let’s go out there and remember who we are and be okay with it.

Getting The Whole View

The person who tries to hide weaknesses actually highlights them rather than concealing them. This concealment actually creates the perception of a lack of integrity and self-awareness. This is why I hate the term “fake it till you make it.” I don’t even think that is possible. At least not in all situations. Let’s face it, whether you acknowledge your weaknesses or not, everyone still sees them.

Self-awareness is probably one of the most important focus areas for leaders, but least discussed. When we are self-aware we can concede all the things we still need to learn and admit any missteps or mistakes we make. These can then turn into teachable and learning moments that give everyone on our organizations permission to be collaborative, thus creating a learning organization.

Welcome To Your New Addiction

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What’s At Your Core (Value)?

Where to begin? There is so much I want to say! Yesterday we had a great gathering of our Florida 3D Leadership group outside Orlando at Renaissance Charter School at Boggy Creek. I love going there and spending time with this group. Yesterday’s topic was core values. We spent the morning setting the stage with some cool activities (Emoji tattoos, making graphic mantras) and discussions around core values and what they wanted to do with their lives and what they wanted their legacy to be.

Then, the coolest thing happened – Lunch!

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Our lunch was delivered and catered from Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. First of all, as the truck, bright yellow, pulled up, it caught my eye out the window I had immediately seen the shiny object and was off topic. Check out the picture of the truck and you will understand what I am talking about. So, as they were setting up at one end of the room we were in, I asked one of the workers, Mariah Miller, whether she liked working at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and if she did, why? Well, let me tell you, she jumped right into our core values discussion and said that she liked it because her boss did not act like a boss and did not want to be called a boss. He wanted to be considered a coworker.

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Graphic Recording by Amy Reynolds

Then her coworker (boss), or leader, as he likes to be called came in, not having heard me ask the question. I called him over and asked him what his workers would say his mantra was (this was a core values discussion from the morning). He then basically reinforced everything Mariah had told us. We were amazed by the message that David Morales had for us in what became an outstanding extemporaneous luncheon keynote, literally.

IMG_8404David explained he had ended up in Florida, via Texas, because he quit his job, and I quote, “because my core values did not match those of the company I was working for at the time.” Of course I am beaming at this point and everyone was looking at me like I had set this up, which I had not. We had discussed how individual and organization core values needed to match. I had said earlier in the day that is was just a fact that if at any point your own core values become much different from the organization you work for, that it was time to quit. He was affirming everything we had talked about earlier in the day, but with the flare of personal experience and a lot of passion.

IMG_5535He then told us about looking for a job and finding Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. He told us how he cut the deal for Fuzzy’s Taco Shop to cater for the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers. He told us about how he has opened 29 businesses. Finally, he explained how core values build communities of commitment. We had been discussing how core values communicate what is important, influence behavior, and inspire people to action. We had also talked about how core values enhance credible leadership. David Morales from Fuzzy’s Taco Shop had become our exemplar. We did not need to spend very much time with his employees to know he was credible.

…it is clearly necessary to invent organizational structures appropriate to the multicultural age. But such efforts are doomed to failure if they do not grow out of something deeper; out of generally held values.” ~Vaclav Havel

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Graphic Recording by Amy Reynolds

Core values are what support the vision, shape the culture and reflect what an organization values. They are the essence of the organization’s identity – the principles, beliefs or philosophy of values. Many organizations focus mostly on the technical competencies but often forget what are the underlying competencies that make their organizations run smoothly — core values. Establishing strong core values provides both internal and external advantages to the organization. Clearly, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and David Morales have mastered this.

Needless to say, we were amazed at this outstanding example of a company and it’s employees living out shared core values. Would you, your organization, or school have been able to extemporaneously keynoted our lunch today with the same level of authenticity related to core values as David Morales, Mariah Miller, and Fuzzy’s Taco Shop were able to?

Play Chess, Not Checkers

IMG_5092Good Leaders Play Checkers.

Great Leaders Play Chess!

Great leaders recognize that each piece on the chess board is different. You cannot play the game (lead), much less win the game, if you do not appreciate, leverage, and deploy each of the pieces in their own unique and individual way.

So today, I facilitated a professional development session for Georgia and Florida principals that I title “Play Chess, Not Checkers.” I started off by asking two questions:

  1. What are the differences between checkers and chess?
  2. What must you be able to do to win at chess?

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is a picture of the notes we took during discussion:IMG_5468

Here are some quotes from the day that stood out:

“What can I attack now, and what can wait.”

“Do You have the skills to pivot?”

“We need big vision protectors.”

“The wrong player changes the entire game.”

“What happens when you hire a leader who runs it like a checker game, instead of chess?”

For this next quote I need to put up the graphic I drew:

This was such a great discussion. And, of course, we could not move on without having them create their own model the ideal leadership chess game. Check out this video of their creation:

As you can see this was a very inspirational and meaningful discussion. We gave a lot of thought to how we lead and the environment we create by using the context of playing chess. How about you? Do you lead like a chess or checkers player?

 

 

Leadership Influence Formula

The ability to influence others is crucial to a person’s success as a leader. Let’s face it, leadership is influence. All of the successful and effective leaders I have encountered developed the way they communicate and influence. After activities involving identifying Mount Rushmorean leadership influencers in their life yesterday, our 3D Leadership participants in Georgia set out to develop the top 5 list of leadership influence. This very creative group went a step further and invented a leadership influence formula.

This happened because of a lively discussion while trying to narrow the list down to five. This had taken place using one of my typical strategies of having participants fly airplanes with their personal top three influencer traits. They then glided their airplane to someone else and so on. We then compiled the list and got down to eight. As you can imagine, it got lively at this point.

The beauty of our 3D Leadership Program is that our participants come from all positions. We have teachers, facilities professionals, principals, and many others represented. This gives us the unique ability to have all vantage points represented in a discussion. This affords us what Dr. Nicky Howe and Alicia Curtis call “diversity of thought” in their great book, Difference Makers: A Leader’s Guide To Championing Diversity On Boards. They contend that what really matters are not the visible differences between people but their unique perspectives on the world.

What I believe we are creating through our cohorts of 3D Leadership participants is an organizational culture that is committed to fostering open-ended, inclusive dialogue. It is about recognizing that every person is a rich tapestry woven together from a million threads. Participants’ age, background, experiences, abilities, job responsibilities, gender, race, family story, and many other things all matter. There is a fallacy that people who look alike have the same views. Nothing could be further from the truth, though.

Bottom line is, this “diversity of thought” enabled us to develop a pretty cool leadership influence formula. Here it is: Innovative + Integrity + Compassion/Caring + Listen + Inspire = Leading By Example. Pretty powerful, don’t you think? As we decided, even you wanted to switch some traits out, if you were doing all the parts of this formula, you would be getting along pretty well.

Do you follow the additive value of this formula? If you follow these traits you will stack things in your favor to quickly become a key person of influence.