Byron's Babbles

Think Fast & Answer Quickly

I am reading the great book The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro. This book is about the leadership and power of Robert Moses. One of the strengths and attributes that people he worked with said he had was his ability to think fast and answer quickly. The context was his ability to quickly make a decision when asked a question or asked how to correct something and articulate the answer.

Usually, I consider myself a slow processor. I’m the one that when a meeting is ready to end will have a few questions to be answered or comments to be made. In other words, I’m a processor. This, I believe is very different than thinking fast and answering quickly. Actually, after thinking about this deeply I would argue this is a skill set we should develop and hone. Here’s why: it comes down to actively listening. We must work hard at actively listening. This means carefully listening to the very end. This also means resisting the urge to start formulating the answer before the other person is done asking the question. Concentrating on the question, rather than your answer, will result in a more thoughtful answer.

We are better and more powerful leaders when we are able to think on our feet, gather our thoughts quickly and deliver our points convincingly. The best leaders are able to do this. Think about it; we live in an unscripted world. Therefore, we must prepare ourselves to think fast and answer quickly.

Several years ago I was judging 30-40 sheep, cattle, and hog shows around the nation each year. I always said that many show committees asked me to judge because I was consistent (you always knew what I was going to pick to win, whether you liked my type or not) and I was fast. I could place a class of 30 lambs quickly and accurately. Which meant I could get through a show with 300-400 head without it taking forever. I always advised new judges to work quickly so the crowd didn’t have time to pick different favorites than what they had picked.

A couple of things we can do to hone these skills when being asked questions is to listen for trigger words. Trigger words will prompt you to be thinking about the most important parts of the question or point being made. It shows the listener that you heard their question or concern loud and clear and are addressing in directly and head on.

Another thing that I have to continually work on is giving the short answer first. In other words, get to the point and don’t ramble on. Give the quick answer first and let the other party ask clarifying or follow up questions.

In the end it really comes down to being authentic. We need to answer to the best of our ability and from the heart. Say what we really think.

Preaching From The Office

Last night we had a great 3D Leadership gatherings in Indianapolis. One of the cool things we did was have a good leader/bad leader discussion. With this we discussed good leadership traits and bad leadership traits. Then by writing good leader traits on the right wing of gliders and bad leader traits on the left wing and throwing them to each other, we developed a top 5 good leader traits and top 5 bad leader traits.

One of the top 5 bad leader traits was “Preaching From The Office”. Bottom-line: the pull to stay in the office can be great. It takes a love of the people and the work to throw oneself into the work, for leaders to leave their offices. The best leaders, according to the teacher leaders I was working with last night, get out of their offices. Here’s why:

  1. When we get out of our offices we give encouragement to those we serve.
  2. When we get out of our offices we discover the amazing people in our organizations. This enables us to get to know those we serve.
  3. When we get out of our offices we collaborate. This allows us to see the organization from all vantage points. Thus we would avoid making decisions in isolation.
  4. When we get out of our offices we see where the vision has leaked, excellence has slipped, and communication has faltered.
  5. When we get out of our offices we are able to tweak and make changes with knowledge, clarity, and credibility.

As you can see this bad leader trait has serious implications. The good news is, it is easily fixed. Get out of your office. You will gain insight and those you serve will love having you in the trenches.

Joyful

Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary HappinessJoyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In this book you will learn how to find joy and bring joyfulness into the lives of others. We learn to not feel bound by convention; break the mold & bring joy to the world through quirkiness. Even a touch of quirkiness can help everyone relax, be less anxious, and feel joyful. We also learn in this great book that playful design increases joy. The second benefit to playful design: it makes designers more innovative. This book will certainly help you to be more joyful.

~ Dr. Byron Ernest

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Do Others Like The Vibes You Give Off?

I pride myself in always having a great attitude. In fact if you were to ask those that know me they would tell you that one of my mantras would be my answer to the question of how I am doing: “I don’t know how I could be any better!” And, I really do believe this.

“The ‘secret’ of success is not very hard to figure out. The better you are at connecting with other people, the better the quality of your life.” ~ Nicholas Boothman

Amazingly this fits with my philosophy of having a great attitude all the time. This is affirmed in Nicholas Boothman’s great book that I am reading right now entitled How To Make People Like You In 90 Seconds. He talks about either having a “really useful attitude” or a “really useless attitude”. I have found, as Boothman also points out in the book, it always pays to have the useful attitude. In fact he provides a great table of both useful and useless attitudes.

From How To Make People Like You In 90 Seconds by Nicholas Boothman

Then, yesterday when flying into Orlando, Florida I had this affirmed when I picked up my rental car. When I went to my Preferred area, the agent told me that they were out of the vehicles in the selected size I always get. I said, “Okay, let’s just figure out what you’ve got; it will be okay.” I was in A garage and she said, you know if you want to go over to B garage they’ve got one. It’s a short walk, so said “No problem. Let’s do that.” Now could have got all huffy and holier than though, but really, what would that have gotten me – nothing.

As I was walking away the agent said, “Thanks for having a great attitude. I like your vibes you give off.” This made my day because I do try to always give off good vibes. Boothman would have been proud because I couldn’t help but take a moment and be the teacher I am and tell her about the book and what I had learned about useful and useless attitudes.

Then when I got to the other garage, I found that the first agent had called over and told them to take good care of me and give me an upgrade to a premium vehicle. So what did having a useful attitude get me? A premium ride. To be clear, however, I am not saying to just have the useful attitude to get stuff or be upgraded. I am saying, as my story proves, authentically having a useful attitude will be just that – useful. So, if we want to live a premium and top shelf life we need to always have useful attitude. What kind of vibes are you giving off?

Leading Toward Morale

As a student of IDEO, a global design company, I was intrigued by a comment that Tom Kelley made in the great book, The Art Of Innovation: “Morale cannot be planned or created.” This is so true. I have actually watched leaders try to plan organizations out of poor morales. It never works. Either the things that foster great morale are happening, or they aren’t.

Leading has to be so much more than just telling people what to do. It’s about building a rapport and fostering real relationship with those that are a part of the organization. Rapport in turn creates trust and then things can get things done. Unfortunately, many leaders either don’t care about morale, or have the belief that giving a pep talk every so often, having a get together or party every so often, or sending someone a gift card will build morale. While these are nice things, they have nothing to do with morale.

So what is morale? Dictionary.com defines it as: “emotional or mental condition with respect to cheerfulness, confidence, zeal, etc., especially in the face of opposition; hardship, etc.: the morale of the troops.” (Retrieved 5/22/2019 from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/morale) Employee morale describes the overall outlook, attitude, satisfaction, and confidence that employees feel at work. We can’t give an employee positive morale. As a leader, though, we do control large components of the environment in which employees work each day. Consequently, we are a powerful contributor to whether a team member’s morale is positive or negative.

When our team members believe they are part of the goals that are bigger than themselves, or their job, this contributes significantly to positive employee morale. We want to feel as if we are part of something important and contributing to success for the greater good is a real morale booster. A deep focus on serving the needs of customers, students, and families, also promotes positive staff morale. Think about this: when employees have confidence in the capability of their organization’s or school’s leadership, they tend to have positive morale.

So if we can’t plan for or create morale, what are we to do? We must create an environment of shared vision for where the school or organization is headed and is positive about the direction. In this environment employees will exhibit high morale. I we genuinely planning to make changes based on feedback, our authenticity will be apparent.

It requires a great team to steer the organization or school toward progress, and if that great team involves happy employees with high morale, the journey will be successful.

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?

Leading With No Brown M&Ms

Posted in Global Leadership, Leadership, leadership mantra, Servant Leadership, Talk Triggers by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on April 8, 2019

IMG_5234I had the chance over the weekend to live out a rock and roll legend first hand. When I got to Washington D.C. on Saturday for the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) Legislative Conference I checked into my hotel, The Madison Hotel. When I got to my room I was pleasantly surprised by a bowl of M&Ms®, a bowl of peanuts, and a bottle of wine. To me the best part was the M&Ms®. As I was getting settled in I got the text below from Mizane at the hotel:

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I had already tweeted a fun message and then promptly texted a response to Mizane. Check these out here:

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Here is the response I got back, now from Jarro who was ensuring customer care:

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The story goes, and it is true, that the 1980s superstar rock band Van Halen (I went to many of their concerts, by the way) demanded, via a clause embedded in their tour contract that the dressing rooms would have bowls of M&Ms® with all the brown ones removed. This was not as David Lee Roth (band front man) described it, “a simple rock star misdemeanor excess,” but an ingenious way to know that all the details of a very complex contract were followed. The clause was buried deep in the contract and it would need to be read and followed carefully to catch it.

So now the rest of the story back at The Madison Hotel and their attention to detail. Yesterday I got, you guessed it, a bowl of M&Ms® with the brown ones removed. Of course I tweeted about it. Here is the tweet:

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The staff of The Madison Hotel certainly understand the importance of talk triggers. You know I have been telling the story all over the place to my fellow state board of education members from all around the country. Therefore, what would my talk trigger look like? First, I was texted as to how I was doing and if I needed anything. What I found was, the staff cared what I said and really was listening on the other end. How do I know this? Because even having fun and asking for another bowl of M&Ms® with the brown ones removed – I received it!

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Paolo Pedrazzini, Me, Jarro

This reflects the hotel and staff’s attitude of care and commitment to meet every need a customer puts forth. When we pay attention to the little concerns of customers, it is unlikely that many major concerns will occur. Then, at a reception this evening lo and behold Jarro came to a reception we were having to meet me. I had the opportunity to publicly thank Jarro and the General Manager of The Madison, Paolo Pedrazzini. I believe this is a great example of customer relations and care at its best.

This is not a matter of perception, but is a reality, and one with which we, as leaders, and our organizations should make peace with and do. Here is my question for you. Are you willing to remove all the brown M&Ms® for those you serve?

You’re Not a Fraud!

IMG_5200Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. This definition came from Wikipedia (retrieved 4/6/2019). To start this post I needed a definition to frame the discussion. The context for this post came from a discussion during one of our Indiana 3D Leadership sessions last year and I am just getting to it on the list of topics I want to blog about. We were discussing how sometimes individuals move quickly to different positions in schools for doing good work. These aspiring leaders were concerned, however, that sometimes they have some imposter syndrome symptoms and believe they might not be as good as others think they are. At first I wasn’t sure I was catching what they were pitching, but then in studying this I have found this really is real.

For example, a perfectionist sometimes falls into this trap. Think about it. The perfectionist sets lofty goals for themselves, tend to be micromanagers, or won’t delegate at all. Then, when things aren’t perfect, he is super hard on himself. This is also the person who had to have straight A’s and the highest scores in the class. I never needed to worry about this and am certainly not a perfectionist. My dad, conversely, was a perfectionist and actually it would keep him from getting things accomplished at times. I remember when he passed away back in 1988 I found several projects not completed around the farm because he was constantly working to make whatever it was perfect. I always said it was like the old adage “measure twice, cut once.” The problem was he kept measuring to try to get it perfect and never got the board cut. Make no mistake, I loved my dad and I respect him more than anyone, but we were very different on the trait of being a perfectionist. I’m not sure I have ever worried about being perfect a minute in my life and have certainly never worried if someone didn’t think I was perfect.

Sometimes people with this syndrome want to know it all. She never believes she will know enough. Remember, to lead a highly effective group or organization you do not want to be the smartest person in the room. Learning has to be agile. There are things we will need to know tomorrow that we don’t know today. Don’t worry about trying to second guess, just be ready to learn when the need arises (which will be always).

If you’ve ever experienced imposter syndrome you need to realize that you have gotten where you are for a reason. It may have been because of your ability to produce, chance, connections, or some other factor, and that is great. Go ahead and embrace your abilities, embrace what makes you different from everyone else, and play off of your own strengths and capabilities. You are not a fraud.

 

 

If You Cannot Lose, You Cannot Win

IMG_5157I always have a long list of topics that I want to blog about. With this post I get to one that hit the list on Christmas Day, 2018. My father-in-law had a page of quotes from a magazine and he did a little devotional reading before we sang Happy Birthday to Jesus (a family tradition on my wife’s side). He handed me the copy when he was done and I got to reading the other quotes. One quote really jumped out at me. Better yet, it hit me like a ton of bricks. It is one of those that I needed to read two or three times to really comprehend what it was saying. Here it is:

“If you want to do something where we can’t lose, then we must accept the proposition that we cannot win.” ~ Gene Hill, A Hunter’s Fireside Book, 1972

Read it one more time. This quote really caused me to take pause. It is very true. I we want to do things that we cannot lose at, then we have to accept that we will never win. At the time I was reading this I was really thinking about lots of things in a winning and losing context. Whether it be in the public policy arena, football bowl games, or many other things. It is very frustrating to me that many times people do not want to get behind, support, or associate themselves with new and innovative things until they know they are going to be successful (a win). That to me is playing not to lose, not playing to win. In athletics, one of the worst things you can do is play not to lose. Very rarely will that strategy get the person or team the win. I believe this is true in all other areas as well.

Not being able to take a loss or having fear of losing will keep us from ever making progress. Trying not to lose is not the same thing as trying to win. Trying not to lose is reactionary. It’s prevention. Most of the time it prevents us from winning. Worst of all, it starts with the belief that we should focus on “not losing,” which gives the idea of losing too much power. “Playing to win” begins with the belief that we can and will win. It’s empowering. The belief that we can win and the desire to do so allows us to take initiative, be creative and innovative, to be resourceful, and to take the necessary actions that will better the chances of winning—even if taking those actions comes with a particular risk. We cannot live risk free and have guarantees that everything we do will be a winner.

We’ve all seen athletes, athletic teams, businesses, and political leaders try to play it safe and approach games, life, and administrations from a safe and play not to lose vantage point. What usually happens? At best, nothing! At worst, the loss. If you’re like me you have probably been in the situation where you were really working hard for a win with very little support of others who were afraid you might lose. Then all of the sudden when the win came, lo and behold, everyone was there to take credit. Amazing!

When we are playing not to lose our focus is not on what we could gain, but on protecting what we already have. When playing not to lose energies are channeled into shoring up the status quo, and guarding against what we do not want to happen. So play to win, not to not lose. In the larger game of leadership, playing it safe is the most dangerous game plan of all. Playing to win might just be the greatest of all leadership traits. It requires putting what you already have at risk for the sake of something bigger, something better. Additionally, it requires throwing caution to the wind and having the courage to creative something new and be innovative. This takes a great deal of courage and a trait that I am so glad I have been blessed with: “being comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

So, lets get out there and play to win. Remember, without failure there can be no real progress. I leave you with the great wisdom of Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

 

 

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?