Byron's Babbles

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?

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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?

Hailey’s Energy Bus

Several years ago I read the great book, The Energy Bus, by Jon Gordon. It is an outstanding book written as a fable. The book is written from the perspective of a middle manager (George)  who is leading a team heading nowhere. Through a series of events he ends up riding a city bus with a positive motivation guru at the helm and a group of “energy” converts in the seats. After riding the bus for two weeks he has learned 10 lessons.

I was reminded of this book this past Thursday night while working with our Carolinas 3D Leadership participants in Kannapolis, North Carolina. The participants were working on a creative activity of putting 10 of the top influencers of leadership in their lives into a collage. Low and behold as I’m circulating I find Hailey’s Energy Bus. It immediately took me back to The Energy Bus book. Hailey Wade Odum realized that these leaders who influenced her, gave her energy. The energy to be a great teacher leader and K-5 STEM Lab instructor at Cabarrus Charter Academy Elementary School. She even tweeted, “Hop aboard the #Leadership #EnergyBus.” Jon Gordon would have been proud!

This really made me think about the ten lessons in The Energy Bus. They all applied to Hailey’s picks of her top ten influencers. Here’s the ten lessons (rules):

  1. You’re the driver of your bus.
  2. Desire, vision, and focus move your bus in the right direction.
  3. Fuel your ride with positive energy.
  4. Invite people on your bus and share your vision for the road ahead.
  5. Don’t waste your energy on those who don’t get on your bus.
  6. Post a sign that says, “No Energy Vampires Allowed” on your bus.
  7. Enthusiasm attracts more passengers and energizes them during the ride.
  8. Love your passengers.
  9. Drive with purpose.
  10. Have fun and enjoy the ride.

All of these rules I’m sure went into Hailey’s picks of her influencers, but in listening to her report out I believe that rules 2, 3, and 9 were pretty important in the decision. It’s all about personal responsibility. We are each responsible for the direction of our lives. And the direction of our lives is shaped by each day, each thought, and each person we use as a mentor or exemplar. If we are complacent in our lives we let others drive for us. We need to be driving our own energy bus. Have you ever felt out of control? Well, it’s time to take charge and drive your own bus. In my experience, the realization that my efforts now can reap big rewards in the future has always been very empowering.

The other thing we spent time visiting about is that people are constantly being added to our bus. As our lives evolve and we continue to iterate and reinvent ourselves, some of our influencers will change. Unlike like the real Mount Rushmore that is literally carved in stone, our personal Mount Rushmorean leaders should be molded such to be constantly evolving. Who’s on your ENERGY BUS?

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?

What’s In Your Leadership Toy Box?

IMG_4980A week ago I facilitated one of our 3D Leadership gatherings in Florida. We used a Leadership Toy Box through line and had the participants pick a toy at the beginning and describe what leadership traits the toy possessed and how they could use the toy for great leadership. From that discussion we came up with a great list of leadership traits to focus on:

  1. IMG_4978Flexible
  2. Big
  3. Supportive
  4. Balanced
  5. Resourceful
  6. Wise risk taking
  7. Celebrate
  8. Confident
  9. Results driven
  10. Perspective
  11. Approachable
  12. Resilient
  13. Humble
  14. SynergisticIMG_4979
  15. Listens
  16. Caring
  17. Vulnerable
  18. Encouraging
  19. Purposeful
  20. Empathetic

Pretty incredible list, don’t you think? If you aspire to lead, but fill effective leadership roles whose vision will inspire, these are the leadership skills to answer. There are many other leadership traits that could be listed here, but these are certainly traits that, if mastered, would make a pretty effective leader.

The trait that came up the most in all our discussions was flexibility. Flexible leaders are those who can modify their style or approach to leadership in response to uncertain or unpredictable circumstances. Flexible leaders have the ability to change their plans to match the reality of the situation. This flexibility can be helpful when pushing through change. Dr. Ron Heifetz, Harvard University, was the first to define the distinctive theory of adaptive leadership. Adaptive leadership is about mobilizing others to make progress addressing the gap between the way things currently are and the desired state you are striving toward. Additionally, adaptive leadership is a way of reading the situation and understanding what is needed to work with others.

To fully get our minds wrapped around this we need to recognize there are two types of opportunities (challenges): technical and adaptive. With a technical opportunity there is an exact answer that is already known. Adaptive opportunities involve a human component and multiple viewpoints, opinions, attitudes, or diverse set of stakeholders. I believe if a leader takes the 20 items from above and applies them to an adaptive challenge she would be well served and in a position to lead effectively. This is why I am such a believer in creating an open environment for learning about leadership. It enabled the discussions, which started with toys, to get to learning about 20 skills for developing as a leader. What traits/skills would you add to the list?

Leading Like Mr. Incredible

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 2.05.58 PMAt our most recent 3D Leadership gathering in Florida we had the participants make name tags because our group size was around 80 individuals. But you know me, I couldn’t just have them make a normal boring name tag with a name, they also had to put the name of the superhero that they would most want to be. Then during some presenting out they had to tell us why. Great activity and way to get to know others! I was blown away, however, by one person, Bradley Warren, Assistant Principal at Waterset Charter School, who put Mr. Incredible AKA Byron on his. I was honored and asked the person why and he said, “You remind me of Mr. Incredible.” I’m pretty sure he was kidding, but… So, I had to do some studying on, you guessed it, Mr. Incredible.

IMG_4985Basically my research revealed that Mr. Incredible started out like any other superhero by saving the world several times. Then I found that he and other superheroes were forced to suppress their superness (yes, I made up that word). During this time it was tough for Mr. Incredible because he was looking for ways to be great and help others. Also, during this time he got married and started a family. Sounds like a lot of us, right? This reminded me that God intended us all to be leaders, fight for what is right, to win, and to defend. I try to live up to this call every day.

The big thing that stands out about Mr. Incredible to me is the fact that for him to realize it was not all about him was that he had to end up with a real family with the real day to day challenges and tribulations we all face. In thinking about it, all of the Thansuperheroes are real people with real challenges who lead real lives. It’s easy to be Mr. Incredible, or any other superhero for that matter, when you have super powers. It’s much harder to be a dad and husband, like the real Mr. Incredible, Robert Parr, who works each day and raises kids to adulthood has to do.

“No matter how many times you save the world. It manages to get back in jeopardy again.” ~ Mr. Incredible

We all need a challenge and we all need to do our part to save the world. Whether that is in the world of education, like in my case, or wherever your passion and purpose takes you. We must all choose to lead. We need to all realize we are valuable whether we can leap tall buildings (which we can’t) or not. We can, however, make a huge difference just being who we are.

What great leadership lessons I learned from a simple name tag. Thanks Bradley, for making me evaluate and reflect on whether I am living up to the Mr. Incredible standards. Do you have any Mr. Incredible insights to add?

Displaying Leadery

Screen Shot 2019-02-23 at 6.10.31 PMSo, those that know me know I love coming up with new words. I am OK with making new words that end up getting the dreaded red hash-marked line under them (meaning it is misspelled or doesn’t exist). Today at our February Carolinas 3D Leadership gathering in South Carolina, the group came up with a new word: “Leadery”. I was all over it immediately because of my love for creating new words. Why can’t we create new words, anyway? Who is the new word police? What is the process for creating a new word? Well, I did a little studying.

It turns out any of us can create new words. In fact the term for someone who coins a new word is a neologist. If you say you knew this you are lying! Shakespeare is often held up as a master neologist, because at least 500 words (including critic, swagger, lonely and hint) first appear in his works. Experts, however, are not sure whether he personally invented them or was just transcribing things he’d picked up elsewhere. I’m guessing with his creative mind he invented them. From what I could find there are about 1,000 new words added to our language each year.

Back to “leadery”. In this case adding the ery to the end of the noun, leader, makes it an adjective. This is pretty cool because I would compare it to bravery. How many times have you heard that someone displayed great bravery? Or, she conducted herself with bravery? Or, the General led his troops with bravery? Probably a lot, right?

Well now we have a term for the act of practicing great leadership: “leadery”. Think about these potential sentences:

  • She showed leadery when taking on the principalship of the failing school.
  • It took tremendous leadery to do what was right.
  • It took a great deal of leadery to change the culture of the organization.
  • If we stay focused on self, others, and the wider world we can lead with leadery.
  • She instilled leadery in the team.

There’s a good chance that “leadery” won’t become one of the 1,000 new words for 2019, but it has sure been fun to learn about the development of new words. Why not have a word that compliments “lead” or “leading” the way that “bravery” compliments “brave”?

Final question: Can it be said you are displaying leadery?

“Innovation Happens Between The Ears”

I heard a great phrase from a retired U.S. Air Force General today. He said, “Innovation happens between the ears.” This quote was in reference to the story of the young Lieutenant George S. Patton developing a plan for making newly invented tanks into an effective tools for war in World War I in 1917. Tanks had not been effective yet because no one had taken the time, nor had the creative genius to figure out how to use the big, slow, machines that got stuck easily. Thus, innovation is not about the gizmo (in this case a tank); innovation is about how the gizmo is used to change the world.

I believe that the tanks mentioned above were just inventions, or worthless gizmos, until Patton got ahold of them and used them to innovate. In doing a little studying I came across the work of Canadian historian Benoit Godin. Godin attributes the differentiation between inventions/creations and innovation to a 1939 definition offered by Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter. He defined invention as an act of intellectual creativity undertaken without any thought given to its possible economic import, while innovation happens when individuals figure out how to craft inventions into constructive changes in their organizations, personal lives, or to change the world. This is why some believe, while use of the word innovation is at an all time high, actual innovation is on the decline.

It has taken innovation to take many creations, inventions, and failures into complete successes. There is a very thin line between brilliant innovation and absolute failure, and there are many famous examples. Examples that include: penicillin, slinky, Wheaties, plastic, pacemakers, and my favorite, Post-It Notes. The creation of a weak glue when Spencer Silver of 3M was trying create a super strong glue in 1968 was revolutionary. It took till 1980, however for the first Post-Its to be distributed. It took a little while and another 3M employee, Art Fry, for Spencer’s mistake creation to become an innovation that has certainly changed our world. Let’s face it, Post-It notes are everywhere.

In the context of change, innovation does not happen for innovation’s sake, but to find more effective ways of doing things. How about you? Are you creating gizmos and procedures, or innovating to create social change and break the status quo?