Byron's Babbles

Contrarian Thinker

One day, this past week, I was introduced to a group I was speaking to as a “Contrarian Thinker.” Honestly, I wasn’t exactly sure what that was. After doing a little research, however, I found that this was probably a pretty accurate description. Contrarian thinkers are trailblazers. ✔️Check. They are polarizing visionaries who are just as likely to be called crazy before brilliant. ✔️Check. Contrarian thinkers have the foresight to see hidden opportunities and seize them when the right moment presents itself. I would like to think I do this, but I’m not so arrogant to say check on this one.

Never forget, the risks of going against the crowd are greater, but so are the rewards. The rewards of innovating, curiosity, and an imagination gone wild are always worth the effort. An important fact for a contrarian thinker to remember is that no one will be expecting you or your ideas to succeed, which is one of the reasons you will.

Then, last night as I was flipping through the channels (are they still called channels on the tv?) I stopped on Shark Tank long enough to hear Mark Cuban described by one of the other Sharks as a contrarian thinker. So, off I went to learn more about his storied history.

While reading 9 Critical Turning Points That Shaped Mark Cuban’s Extraordinary Career by Drake Baer, I found that Mark Cuban is a contrarian thinker. One of my favorite quotes from Mark Cuban in the article is, “The ‘sprint’ doesn’t have a finish line. There’s never a point where you can say, ‘We’ve made it.'”

The more I studied this topic, however, I really found that many contrarian thinkers always find an opposing view. I don’t think that is me at all. Nor do I believe that would be very productive. A more productive view would be one of “independent thinker.” My takeaway to share with you is that rather than always being swayed by consensus view, or consistently being a contrarian, we should strive to be independent thinkers. I always strive, and would encourage you to as well, look at different perspectives, and sometimes find a unique angle.

Remember, if you think the same way as everyone else, it is very difficult to outperform them.

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.

Is Your “Want To” Big Enough?

This morning I flipped through the television channel to see what was going on in the world and stopped on a channel with one of my favorite preachers, Joel Olsteen. When I tuned in he was asking the question, “How big is your ‘want to’?” I love this question. Many times our “want to” must get to a certain size for us to make a change or go after a desire.

This went right along with a discussion we had this past week in our 3D Leadership Program about the statement in Nothing More’s song Do You Really Want It?, “Everyone wants to change the world, but one thing is clear, no one wants to change themselves.” How big your “want to” is goes right along with this.

Your “want to” is how bad do you want to accomplish something. It is your “want to” that will be your driving force behind how far you go and how much success you will have with it. Many people like to talk big games, but “talk” and your “want to” are two different things. You have to really want something in life in order to accomplish it, especially if it is a big goal or aspiration. As with all big goals and aspirations there will usually be a lot of obstacles and roadblocks that will pop up along the way.

Other people call it your “purpose”. Some call it your “why”. Your “want to” is what it really is. How bad you want it, or answering the question Nothing More asks, “Do you really want it?” is what it really comes down to. Your “want to” will determine how far you will go to ensure success. The bigness of your “want to” must rise to match the power hidden in the thing you want.

Bottom-line: until your “want to” gets big enough, we will never make the changes, or do the necessary preparation, or other things needed to do the desired action. To achieve great things to change the world, you need a big “want to”. Your big “want to” should inspire and drive you to take the necessary action to achieve it.

Less “Why” and More “How To”

IMG_6531Recently, I was sitting in on some teacher professional development sessions and I looked over at a teacher’s notes and saw that he had written, “I need less ‘why’, and more ‘how to”. This really struck me because I had just interrupted an earlier session to see how many really thought they would be able to jump right in and do the task being trained on – some thought they could, but many wanted to try it and then have someone ready to help them. Having spent most of my career in the classroom I knew it was thing to have been shown how to do something, and then actually doing it when there were 30+ young scholars staring you in the face.

After seeing this note, I began to think about whether we had become so enamored with always explaining the “why” that we were missing the mark on the “how”. Clearly in these trainings we were for at least one participant. This struck home with me because I believe in my own world I get a lot of “why”, and then there are very few who really understand the “how”. As you will find later in this post, we need both.

I told the teacher after the session that I had seen his note and was interested. He told me it was not being critical, but he needed more time on how to do some of the tasks than so much time on why. I told him this made total sense. Really, the why should be about the vision in a quick statement of the importance and not a dissertation, or what turns into a chance for the presenter to pontificate and gain self gratification. Many times, I have found, this is because the person presenting does not understand how to do the task very well themselves.

The more I thought about this, I realized we have become very “into” talking about the “why” of everything. I get it! I really do, but because of all the writing about the “why” I believe we are forgetting to develop the “how” to the same extent. Even though the title of Simon Sinek’s great book Start With Why focuses on the “why,” he still told us that there must be those doing the “how.” For example, without Roy Disney, Walt Disney’s vision would never have been carried out. Thinking about all this brought to mind one of my favorite parts of L. David Marquet’s great book Turn The Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders. Marquet explained to us in the book that when practicing intent-based leadership, where everyone is a leader, we must provide the needed technical training or it will be chaos. Genius, right! I might know “why” I need to put a fire out on a submarine, but if I don’t know “how” it becomes a bigger problem. So I might add to Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, “Finish With How”.

Think about it from a school perspective; if I spend an hour telling you how important taking accurate attendance is each period for high school students and why each period will be analyzed and rolled into the daily attendance, but then don’t spend the majority of the time making sure you understand the management program (technology) and how to use it, I have failed you. Also, we would need to make sure you understand the best practices of taking proper attendance at the beginning of the period and then updating for individual circumstances that happen during the period. I believe you get the idea, but it has become to easy and “cool” to just spend time on the “why” because that is the latest buzz phrase – “gotta tell them the why.” I’m cool with that, but make sure I understand “how to” too!

How about you? Do you need less “why”, and more “how to”?

Teacher Leader Shape-Shifter

This morning I did a session for our Teacher Academy where I had the teachers pick a toy from a bag of lots of different cool toys. I gave them two minutes to play with the toy and then they had to report out how the toy related to their classroom, serving students, and them personally. This is a great reflective activity that really makes participants think. Then, of course, these reflections really get me thinking and I end up writing blog posts like this one.

One of the teachers chose a Slinky® and while reporting out she described herself as a shape-shifter. She stated that she needed to adjust and adapt according to student needs. This was genius. I have always tried to inspire team members to be continually comfortable shape-shifters. I am such a big fan of fluid change; whether that is organizationally, personally, or in the classroom. We need to be comfortable with the one thing that is constant – change.

Here’s the deal: as leaders, teacher leaders, and organizations, we must be comfortable with an ever-changing skin; no matter what we call it. Whether we call it change, changeover, conversion, metamorphosis, mutation, shift, transfiguration, transformation, translation, transmutation, transubstantiation we must have the resilience that shape-shifting brings to be successful. I would suggest that leaders and teachers must become adept at negotiating multiple, sometimes divergent, identities. We must be adaptive because everything we do during the day as teachers is situational – it shifts from context to context.

In other words we all need to use our portfolio of attributes, skills, and experiences to arrange, re-arrange, and adapt to meet the needs of our current situation. The concept of shape-shifting implies a sense of individuality and free agency in making choices, removed from constraints. By creating her own meanings for curriculum and leading of learning, the teacher who inspired this post, will be able to apply it within the context she is teaching. We then need to be able to demonstrate the resourcefulness and ability to change as contexts change.

Shape-shifters can be seen as innovators, rebels, or even a compromiser, but I see this as an important adaptive leadership trait. I do believe that shape-shifting also allows us to push away from the status-quo way of doing things and adapt to changing needs.

Soaring Like A Malcontent Eagle

This past Saturday night I got caught up watching the documentary “The History Of The Eagles” on CNN. As a student of rock and roll bands and artists I became engrossed. Particularly when you think about all the artists that were members of the Eagles, like Glenn Frey, Don Henley, and Joe Walsh; or those who influenced and mentored the band, like Bob Seger, Jackson Browne, and Linda Ronstadt. There were so many things that I could blog about after watching this. I took a couple of pages of notes.

One of the things that caught my attention was when the Eagles manager said that Don Henley was a “malcontent.” Henley, however, just wanted the band to keep getting better. A malcontent is someone who is dissatisfied and rebellious. I believe many tines those of us who have a very defined purpose and are very passionate are viewed as, and rightly so, rebellious. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.

Isn’t a malcontent really someone who is not satisfied with the status quo? Couldn’t a malcontent be that person who sees a need and opportunity for change? Finally, couldn’t a malcontent be a catalyst for change? When all three of these questions get answered with “yes,” that constitutes a person being a productive malcontent.

This is the person who challenges what is being done, but always has an alternative to offer. This is healthy. It’s the person who just complains and fights change with no alternatives that is toxic to the organization or community. So let’s embrace the productive malcontent and be vulnerable to positive/constructive criticism/change for the betterment of our organizations, schools, businesses, communities, or even rock bands.

Triageformational Leadership: New Hybrid Definition of Triage and Transformational Leadership

Screen Shot 2019-06-14 at 2.40.45 PMYou all know how I like to make words up, so here is my latest: Triageformational Leadership. Actually, I made up the word and the definition over a year ago while in a meeting, but am just now blogging about. Does that give you any indication of how long my “want to blog ideas” list is? Anyway, here is the definition: The process of leading by core values to determine and prioritize needed changes so limited resources can be rationed efficiently and effectively to support the organization’s realization of vision and mission.

The important thing to note about triageformational leadership is that that the transformation is done by triaging by using core values. So many times this is given lip service, but not really done. By putting our core values at the forefront of our triageformational leadership we:

  1. determine our school or organization’s distinctives.
  2. dictate personal involvement.
  3. communicate what is important.
  4. embrace positive change.
  5. influence behavior.
  6. inspire people to action.
  7. enhance credible leadership.
  8. shape teaching/employee character.
  9. contribute to educational/organization success.

…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

So much goes into truly embodying what it means to be a triageformational leader beginning with the sense of community we develop within an organization. Those that I believe that would make great triageformational leaders place a high value on fostering an environment or community of collaboration. This community is balanced, diverse, and equitable. These leaders build community and culture by truly living out their own core values and the organization’s core values. Just like doing triage in an emergency situation, these leaders are prioritizing what gets done next by matching core values to the situation. This in turn brings about transformation and service oriented leadership.

Buy In From All Vantage Points

Screen Shot 2019-06-12 at 8.48.42 PMThis week I had the opportunity to present a leadership academy workshop session entitled “Buy In From All Vantage Points.” The gist of the session was how to get an entire school staff to “buy in” to a continuous education model and other important school initiative. When I was first given the title I balked a little, but then decided to leave it so I could refer to not liking the title. I don’t like the title because “buy in” to me implies that there needs to be a “sales job” done after decisions are made. In my view, decisions should be made by including a wide range of individuals so the initiative, challenge, or opportunity can be looked at from all Vantage Points©. I refer to and use this model often when discussing leading change, which is what I would have titled the session. Here is the Vantage Point© model developed by MG Taylor Corporation:

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When I want people to understand how powerful using The Vantage Points© is to leading change, I like to compare it to board games. If you think about it board games have a philosophy, culture, policy, strategy, tactics, logistics, and tasks. So, I had the groups pick a board game to use as an example. The group picked Candy Land™. Then they had to discuss board game from the seven Vantage Points©.

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One of the groups of the two sessions I did on this did some research on the Candy Land™ board game and we learned some history. We were reminded that in the 1940s the dreaded disease of Polio struck thousands of Americans. In response to this, Eleanor Abbott, who was a victim of the disease herself, set out to develop games that would help recovering children pass the time. Milton Bradley, which is now Hasbro® began marketing the game in 1949 and is still being marketed today. Additionally, it is now available in electronic forms.

As the group made the comparison to leading change, they found that the philosophy was to be attainable and challenging to all – what we want in all education initiatives. Just like a board game, we need to give everyone a chance to play and have the opportunity to be a part of the decision making. It’s important to acknowledge that you will never convince everyone to get on board. An unfortunate truth is often that a better future for your school or organization doesn’t always mean a better situation for every individual in the end. It should, however, mean a better situation for the students we serve.

We need to always remember, when leading change, that change is always personal. Think about it; any time there is a change we all question how the change will affect us personally. As leaders, we need to be cognizant of this, and address this. By involving individuals from all vantage points we are able to help everyone, including ourselves, understand how the change will affect everyone. Leading change and new initiatives is a process, we need to use all our tools and techniques to manage the people side of change to achieve the required school or organization outcome. Effectively leading change incorporates the organizational tools that can be utilized to help individuals make successful personal transitions resulting in the adoption and realization of change.