Byron's Babbles

WAIT and Listen

This week in Chapter 32, “Listening Is Love,” in Mindset Mondays with DTK by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK) I was reminded of two very influential books I have read this year. I wrote these notes down while reading the second revised and expanded edition of Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art Of Asking Instead Of Telling by Edgar H. Schein and Peter A. Schein:

  • We get opinionated distortions
  • We value telling over listening
  • We may need to know what others know in order to solve our own problems
  • We need to access our ignorance

Additionally I was reminded of some notes I took while reading the sixth edition of the great book by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans Love ‘Em Or Lose ‘Em. Here are a few of the many things I wrote down:

  • Ask so you don’t have to guess
  • Let your people mentor you
  • Think “what if” before you think “no”

As you can see, these two books were impactful to my own development on this topic of loving others through listening. I love (pun intended) that Kaye and Jordan-Evans taught us that loving those we work with is the correct terminology. If we want to relate with others, as DTK relates, we need to form our relationships empathically, not transactionally. Here are some of my blog posts that were inspired by these books:

DTK said, “In coaching, our job is to put all of our attention over there (on the other person) and dance with what arises, instead of pre-planning any response or follow up” (p. 236). It was also discussed in this chapter that we need to put a focus on what we want for other individuals instead of from them. To do this we must really show our love by listening. A great tool DTK introduced was WAIT – Why Am I Talking? Many times, instead of deeply listening we start thinking about what we can ask or what we know. We start telling instead of listening. So, I love this tool of asking ourselves “Why am I talking?” In the book Working, Robert Caro discussed that when doing research interviews for his biographies, he writes “Shut Up!” in his notes to remind himself he is there to listen and not do all the talking and asking. We all need to continue to hone our skills. If you’re like me, you have gone to meetings and know that you and others won’t talk much because __________ McTalksalot (yes, I actually have nicknames for some of these people) will do all the talking. Let’s show our love by listening.

Are you showing your love for those you serve by truly hearing them?

The Centrifuge That Is Life

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Every so often a book comes along that makes me reflect on many aspects of my own life. This great book, Rules Of Civility by Amor Towles, did that for me. I had pages of notes and quotes when I was done reading. Additionally, I had blog posts that were inspired by Rules of Civility – Visions & Revisions and What Do You Look Forward To?. This book brilliantly took the reader back to Manhattan in 1938, where authentic, human characters inhabit a playground that comes alive with the manners of a society on the verge of radical upheaval. George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Descent Behavior were weaved into the book throughout and were actually all listed at the end of the book.

At the end of the book we realize we’ve had a look back from the protagonist, Katey Kontent’s, 1966 perspective and that we have experienced all the twists and turns of the characters’ lives. This made me think of all twists and turns in my own life and the non-linear nature of our lives. One of my favorite quotes in the book is, “Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Sometimes, it sure seems that’s what life intends. After all, it’s basically like a centrifuge that spins every few years casting proximate bodies in disparate directions. And when the spinning stops, almost before we can catch our breath, life crowds us with a calendar of new concerns.” I thought about all the people who have come and gone in my own life and those that have come and gone and come back. This also made me think about the peoples’ live I have come and gone from. What influence were they on what the portrait, that is my life, looks like today? What influence have I had on others’ portraits?

As Shakespeare taught us, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.” This book was a powerful reminder that people come into our lives and we enter other peoples lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Also, as a person who believes we should create space in our lives for serendipity, I think about the chance meetings of people who have then become influential in my life. What if characters in the book had shown up at a bar on a different night? Think of all the “what ifs…?” in your own life. When we treat every encounter as a chance to impact, influence, or inspire we bring purpose to our lives. Most people that enter our lives are seasonal and they’re with us for a reason. Once that reason is fulfilled life has a way of moving them on.



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Accessing Our Own Ignorance

Posted in Global Leadership, Humble Inquiry, Humble Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 12, 2021

Many times our own knowledge, or love for our own knowledge gets in the way of our ability to grow and learn. We must always remember that we may need to know what others know in order to solve our own problems. I am reading an advance copy of the second revised and expanded edition of Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art Of Asking Instead Of Telling by Edgar H. Schein and Peter A. Schein. The book reminded me that when we want to influence others we need to “access our own ignorance.” It helps to come to the conversation with a genuine desire to learn; a belief that the other person has information we need in order to be successful. This gives us the potential for new knowledge to emerge that just might enhance our decisions.

If we can open ourselves to learning from others, we can collaborate to help each other. When we access our ignorance we come to conversations both confident about what we know, and humble about what we don’t know. To me, accessing our own ignorance is like becoming a sponge and soaking up all the knowledge and wisdom from those around us. In order to learn through collaboration we must acknowledge that we all need each other to accomplish our goals.

“Getting It Right” Before “Being Right”

Screen Shot 2020-07-28 at 8.33.08 PM“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 KJV). A good daily growth exercise to read a chapter of Proverbs every day each month. There is a lot of wisdom to be gained from King Solomon. The difference between “getting it right” and “being right” with this statement, is not to suggest that we are more often than not wrong in our thinking. Despite the religious origin, people use this nowadays without religious overtones. People can say this simply as a warning not to be too arrogant.

To me “getting it right” before “being right” means having humility and an ability to consider all sides of an issue or question. Being humble does not mean that you diminish your value or take a subordinate position in terms of presenting your ideas or perceptions. It does, however, as a leader, mean than we should listen to others’ ideas before always presenting our own. And acknowledging when those ideas are better than our own. True humility is a sign of wisdom, knowledge, confidence, and strength.

“When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

“Getting it right” is a core value I practice to remind myself that making a contribution as part of a bigger team means that you have the humility to accept that others also have something worthwhile to contribute. I truly believe there is no such thing as an “expert.” But, I do talk about the “collective expertise” in the room all the time. We should all strive to be an important part of a “collective vision.” When we give up the need to always be right, we communicate and listen on a deeper level, with more understanding and acceptance, and with less judgment and resistance.

Arguing The Value Of Our Experiences Is Futile!

Posted in 3D Leadership, Humble Leadership, Leadership, Ontological Humility, ontology, Radical Candor by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 27, 2020

I just finished reading one of my favorite books for the third time. If you’ve ever had one of those books that you learn something new from or discover something you missed the first times you read it, you understand where I’m coming from. The great book I’m referring to is Radical Candor: Be A Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humility by Kim Scott. I’m not sure a person shouldn’t read this book once a month, but more importantly one should put in place the lessons learned from this great book.

Something I believe separates her writing from other books in the leadership genre is how Scott shares her mistakes and missteps right along with the successes. In other words, she practiced what she preached in the writing of this book. Scott truly takes her commitment to herself as seriously as any other professional responsibility. Ironically, as I was writing this post I got a text from a school leader I am mentoring asking me to share my top five leadership books. This book will, no doubt, be on the list I suggest to her.

I have always been impressed with the ontological approach to leadership and with ontology. Much of what Scott taught us was how to form the work community necessary for each of us to “be” when answering the question of “what can we create together?”

In the book, Scott refers to “ontological humility.” The source she referenced is Fred Kofman’s book Conscious Business: How To Build Values Through Values. Ontological humility is the idea that none of us has sole claim on reality or truth. We must recognize that others have equally valid perspectives that deserve our consideration and respect. You don’t have to read very many tweets, be a part of an organizational team, or be involved in very many meetings to know ontological humility is not practiced very well in many settings. Make no mistake, it is tough to live this as a value. But, it is an important leadership trait to hone.

In fact, I try to bring ontological approaches into all leadership development gatherings I do. Additionally, it is an important part of the coaching and mentoring I do. I blogged about it in Leading With Natural Self Expression. This intuitive and natural expression that forms our leadership comes from our recognizing our experiences and the experiences of others. In education it is these experiences that enable teachers to bring real world relevance into lessons for students. Bottom line is we must understand the experiences that form our colleagues’ reality. Scott posited in the book we need to understand the past experiences of our colleagues all the way back to kindergarten.

One of my favorite quotes that I wish I knew who to credit it to is:

“To argue with someone else’s experience of reality is futile…To add their experience to yours is possibly useful.”

Read that one more time and let it sink in. Pretty deep, right? This is why the teaching of Scott in Radical Candor is so important. We must better understand ourselves, our thoughts, and our actions. Then, and only then, by understanding those on our team can we understand how to coach, mentor, provide praise, criticism, or other guidance effectively. Notice, Scott promoted guidance versus feedback. Just the term “feedback” alone, she taught us, makes us bristle. We need to care personally and challenge directly. These are the ingredients necessary for Radical Candor™️ to flourish. How well are you practicing ontological humility?

Known Knowns, Known Unknowns, & Unknown Unknowns

Today during the last day of our Teacher Academy I realized that our first year teachers and those teachers who were with us for the first time still had a few gaps of things they needed and wanted to know for the first day of school. It is very tough to give beginning teachers everything they need to know, and many times in doing so it is like making them drink from the proverbial water hose. So, I pulled an audible and planned a “lunch and learn” and framed it as giving them a chance to learn about what they knew they didn’t know. It was awesome and a huge success. We had pizza and salad and had four of our great teacher leaders and school leaders sit and have a conversation just answering their questions (they did a great job, by the way). This group of new teachers had great questions and were much more at ease going into the weekend before the start of school. They were so appreciative of having the opportunity to have a discussion in a non-threatening environment and be able to ask anything. I was quickly reminded of how many times we awesome people know things that in reality they would have no way of knowing.

Many times we don’t know what we don’t know; we know more than we quite know we know; or know what we don’t know. Sometimes we need to pose the question: “What don’t you know and how will you learn it?” What I learned today was that we need to take time to listen to those we serve and find out what they know they don’t know. This seems like such a novel idea, but I’m not sure we do a very good job of this at times.

“As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” ~ Donald Rumsfeld – February 12, 2002, Department Of Defense news briefing

Maybe another great question we should ask as leaders is, “What do you feel unknowledgeable about?” You can’t know what you don’t know. You can’t know about things you have yet to discover. You can’t know what the future holds, though you might conjecture on it. But, many times we do know what we don’t know. This is simple ignorance: just not knowing and knowing you don’t know.

Contrast simple ignorance with compound ignorance: thinking you know but knowing so little you can’t recognize your own ignorance. Today really made me think about the fact that we need to embrace simple ignorance and allow those we serve to express what they know they don’t know. Simple ignorance is the most honest and least harmful. It can be beneficial in avoiding stupid mistakes as well as prompting one to learn more.

Are you encouraging others to explore the things they know they don’t know? Are you helping them learn the things they know they don’t know?

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?

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?

As Leaders, We Create The Weather

How do you show up? Think about this: do you show up sunny and bright or stormy and cloudy? Bottom line: if you show up as sunshine it will be a shiny happy day for the team. If you show up as a thunderstorm, however, it will be a rough ride. Either way, unlike the weather outside, you have the ability to influence the weather of your organization.

If you don’t believe this think about if you have ever worked with someone who you need to ask others what kind of mood he or she is in before talking to him or her. If you’ve experienced this then you have experienced leaders controlling the weather.

Therefore, we need to be intentional about the weather systems we create. Think about about the extremes: blizzards, hurricanes, extreme heat, or tornadoes. Then think about that sunny day with a calm breeze and moderate temperatures. Which of these weather patterns would you want to be creating?

Your teams and organizations will take their cues from you and whatever weather pattern you are projecting. If your outlook is sunny and bright, the organization is sunny and bright. If your outlook is full of storm clouds, the weather in the organization will be pretty much the same.

Next time you are with your team or people, imagine you are the weather map behind the meteorologist on television and she is about to give the weather report. If you take this moment of being mindful, it will help you to calm any storm fronts and bring sunshine and calm breezes to your organization.

Don’t forget, you are your organization’s meteorologist. As leaders, we create the weather. What kind of impacts do your weather systems have on your organization?

Be You!

Last night at our Carolinas 3D Leadership gathering I was struck by a phrase that Stephanie Klingler, the Assistant Principal at Cardinal Charter Academy, put on one of the projects we were working on. The project was identifying Mount Rushmorean leaders and the influence other leaders have on us. Her statement was:

“Be You! Stay strong. Get up! Be the example to others.” ~ Stephanie Klingler

Super powerful, don’t you agree? If Leadership is about influence then this is the example we want to be and what we want modeled for us. It’s about being authentic and doing what Machiavelli taught us: to declare. Who we are is how we lead, pure and simple. Being a great leader is really the simple act of being you. It’s about putting your experiences and what you believe into a package that guides how you lead and the example you are. Stephanie’s statement says it all: be you, be strong, be an example, and keep getting up. It is who she is.

Stephanie is on the left with her mobile office for being a leader of learning!

If we want to lead and be a Rushmorean (yes, I made that word up) leader, then we must know ourself. Being ourself means being authentic. It is okay to be you. It’s really the only person we can be. As my friend Sally Hogshead teaches us, you need to be the best you you can be. The fascinating you! The best way to become an effective leader is to find congruence between what you think, say and do. That said, in order to become an effective leader you have to know who you are: your values, your strengths, what you stand for, why you stand for it, and what your ethics are. Then act on them with conviction and without apology. This is what I believe Machiavelli meant when he says we must “declare.”

Are you being YOU?