Byron's Babbles

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?

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?

We Must Listen For What Is Not Being Said

img_4774One of the things I love most about facilitating our Noble Education Initiative 3D Leadership gatherings is when participants say things that really make the group dig in and think. This is heuristic learning at its best. Last night one of our central Florida participants made the comment that as a leader she needs to “listen for what is not being said.” This caused a good discussion around the idea of why was something not being said or were the things not being said even known about to be said. That’s quite a mouthful, don’t you think?

So, how does one get better at paying attention to what is not being said? Good question, right?

Sometimes the challenge is on the end of the person or group communicating with us. If you think about it, we’ve all been in this situation, or at least I have. There are times when we just don’t have the knowledge, words, or correct vocabulary to express what we are thinking. Additionally, the other person does not have the emotional self awareness to convey what they are feeling to get their needs on the table for discussion. Furthermore, there are times when people are just afraid or uncomfortable to intimate their honest thoughts, opinions, and feelings.

We must, as leaders, listen for avoidance of topics, vague communication, or lack of knowledge. These are all cues that something may not be being said that should be. We can combat this by doing more listening than talking. Also, we need to listen to understand, not listen to respond with an answer. We should think more in terms of what is the right next question. Word clues are great to listen for. Finally, we need to pay attention to body language and other non-verbal cues that tell us the person or group we are convening with has more information that is not being told.

In our discussion, we decided there is to perfect equation for listening for what is not being said, but that we must be curious and listen for underlying issues or topics. We need to ask clarifying questions to make sure we we understand before moving on from a topic. Listen and clarify!

That’s A Little Too Far Out There!

This past weekend, at our Carolinas 3D Leadership gathering, I was recording comments during a planning discussion for a project they were working one. It struck me that at one point they went from talking transformation to the comment, “That’s a little too far out there.” I’m thinking to myself, “Uhm…if it’s going to be transformational, it probably needs to be out there.” I’ve always believed, and I we often see this; the idea that seems crazy at first turns out to be the idea that propels the organization forward or enables the desired transformation.

As I see it, passion, purpose, and capacity are the only requirements for coming up with and participation in “way out there” ideas. And, once the freedom to try out new ideas becomes ingrained in employees’ behavior, it can spread and transform the entire culture of your organization to be nimbler and more creative.

We need to create environments where we can challenge the status quo as if no one’s judging you. If being open and willing to try out new ways of working isn’t practiced and encouraged in the culture at the top of the organization, how anyone ever have the courage to voice their ideas?

The secret to truly agile and innovative organizations is this: they encourage and invite new ideas from all levels and see leaders at every level. So, next time you have that idea that might just go too far, voice that “crazy” idea regardless of your title or level; lead from where you are!

Puzzling Leadership

As you know, the first step in putting a puzzle together is to look at the picture on the box to see what the completed puzzle will look like. As a leader, we need to have a vision (picture) of the final product, and what it is you are trying to accomplish. But, what happens when the puzzle pieces are blank and there is no picture on a box?

It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to put a puzzle together if you do not know what the picture looks like. It is also difficult to be a good leader if you do not know what you are trying to accomplish. But, if there is a vision and plan the leaders can create the picture and paint the picture one puzzle piece at a time.

I witnessed this yesterday at our Carolinas gathering of our Noble Education Initiative 3D Leadership Program. Our theme for the day was “Setting The Leadership Table.” The main activity of the day involved telling the story. The only catch was that participants had to tell the story by planning and doing a luncheon telling the story of the North and South Carolina schools with the decorum, appetizers, salad, main course, and dessert. There was a budget provided and the participants had two hours to plan, go get supplies, prepare the food, decorate the room, and have their story ready for stakeholder guests to arrive for the luncheon. Here was the agenda for the day:

I loved the planning discussion that ensued. Here are phrases and things that were said that jumped out at me during the discussion:

Now, back to the puzzle metaphor. The participants decided to use a puzzle through line for the luncheon. Genius! Here’s the cool part; the same rules of making a puzzle applied to leadership and successful completion of the project. Here are the steps:

Step #1-Have a vision, know what you want to accomplish

Step #2-Get to know your group members. Interestingly, we talked about this in our “what did you learn” time afterward. It was discussed that the event would not have been near as successful back in January when the group came together for the first time.

Step #3-Identify leadership qualities you will need to be an effective leader

Step #4-Follow the guidelines

Step #5-Understand your importance, where you fit, and what you have to offer. This was a topic many reflected on following the luncheon.

So, here’s the deal: everyone had responsibilities and had to complete a puzzle piece and write the story for their school’s part of “Team Carolina.” I also was asked to complete a piece of the puzzle representing Noble Education Initiative’s (NEI) role in the puzzle of support for the Carolinas.

What we found was that creating the puzzle pieces for our puzzle used the same leadership principles needed for forming an effective team. When forming a group of individuals into a team, you must first figure out the following:

  • Strengths, What are the individual strengths of each one? How can the strength of one, build up the weakness of another?
  • Shape, What does each individual bring to the table as far as expertise and knowledge? Just like a puzzle piece each one will have something to share to the greater picture or vision your trying to create.
  • Edges, Which individuals define the shape and scope of your vision? There will be some that will have definitive edges that will build the foundation of your team, therefore making the picture clearer to all who view it.
  • Odd shapes, Which individuals appear, at first , not to fit into the picture? There will be those that don’t look like they are going to fit or add value to our vision or picture. Sometimes, these are the very pieces that end up truly fitting in and adding a lot of value to the team, making the overall picture clearer.

As I watched the participants put their pieces together and tell their school’s story, they did a great job of keeping the overall picture in view. So many times we lose focus on the overall picture and what do we do? We start to panic and cram pieces together. This is when we are no longer leading but are dictating and mission creep begins to take over. Or even worse, we begin to lose puzzle pieces, and we all know what’s it’s like to put a puzzle together with missing pieces.

The beautiful thing is, that when we do get all the pieces together we have created a beautiful picture, a real team (not just a bunch of individuals), and a true network of schools. How is your organization’s puzzle coming together?

The Blind Spots Identified

The following is an excerpt from What Are Your Blind Spots?

The Blind Spots Identified

By Jim Haudan and Rich Berens

We have identified five leadership blind spots that perpetuate disengagement and indifference. They do the exact opposite of creating thriving, innovative workplaces that turn customers into advocates and fans. Let’s take a quick look at each one before each chapter breaks them down further and answers the key questions leaders need to ask themselves in order to see things as their employees do.

Leadership Blind Spot #1: Purpose

Common Misconception. Purpose matters, but it doesn’t drive our numbers.

The Basics. While there was a time when employees were only paid to complete a specific set of tasks, there is way more to it than that today. Many leaders are starting to embrace the concept of purpose but fail to actually run their businesses in a purpose-driven way.

The Question We Will Answer. As leaders, how can we put purpose at the center of the way we operate our business and achieve exceptional financial results because of it? Leadership

Blind Spot #2: Story

Common Misconception. We have a compelling story to tell that our people care about.

The Basics. Most organizations have a semi generic vision statement, accompanied by what seems like too many slides to outline their strategy for what winning looks like for the organization. Leaders believe they have a compelling story to tell, but when seen through the eyes of the employee, the complete opposite is often the case.

The Question We Will Answer. What makes a strategy story compelling, and how can we craft one for our people?

Leadership Blind Spot #3: Engagement

Common Misconception. Rational and logical presentations engage the hearts and minds of people.

The Basics. In many organizations, a tremendous amount of money is spent creating strategies to win. Those strategies then get communicated using PowerPoint presentations, road shows, or town hall meetings—but things seemingly get stuck. Employees fail to connect with the strategy, leaders are frustrated about the lack of progress, and managers just try to hold the ship together.

The Question We Will Answer. How do we move from presentations to conversations and create genuine engagement in strategies in the business?

Leadership Blind Spot #4: Trust

Common Misconception. People will not do the right thing unless you tell them what to do and hold them accountable to do it.

The Basics. Companies want and need to deliver great service to differentiate themselves, and the common belief is that the best way to deliver this is to create tight processes, scripts, and routines that minimize variability—to hold people and their behaviors to a strict policy and uniform standards. But that approach will never create consistent yet unique, differentiated, and personalized experiences that lead the market.

The Question We Will Answer. How can we trust and scale the unique human judgment, discretion, and care of our people, while at the same time having firm standards that we all share?

Leadership Blind Spot #5: Truth

Common Misconception. My people feel safe telling me what they really think and feel.

The Basics. In many leadership teams, what people really think often gets discussed in the hallways and bathrooms and by the watercooler rather than in meeting rooms. People don’t feel safe telling the truth because they don’t think it is smart or safe to do so. Many leaders believe that to be effective and successful, they need to be smarter than the next guy, fight for their area of the business, and not show vulnerability. This mentality creates lack of trust, collaboration, and common ownership for a greater goal—and ultimately greatly slows down execution speed.

The Question We Will Answer. What can we do as leaders to make it safe for our people to tell the truth and act on those truths to make the business better?

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About Jim Haudan

Jim Haudan is Co-Founder and Chairman of Root Inc. Root Inc., the organizational change expert on helping companies create leadership alignment, execute strategies and change successful, build employee engagement, and transform businesses.  He is a sought-after business presenter who has spoken at TEDx BGSU, Tampa TEDx, and The Conference Board. His latest book, What Are Your Blind Spots?: Conquering the 5 Misconceptions that Hold Leaders Back is co-authored with Rich Berens is CEO and Chief Client Fanatic of Root Inc. The book equips readers with the tools needed for a personal leadership reset. You’ll discover how to increase engagement, productivity, and growth in your own organization.

About Rich Berens

Rich Berens is CEO and Chief Client Fanatic of Root Inc, and has helped align leaders at Global 2000 organizations to drive strategic and cultural change at scale. He is a noted speaker on the issues of, transformation, and how to create lasting change  and has authored articles for numerous publications and blogs. Under Rich’s leadership, Root has been listed among the Great Place to Work® Institute’s top 25 places to work, been named to the Inc. 5000 fastest-growing companies list, and experienced 10 years of consecutive growth. His latest book, What Are Your Blind Spots?: Conquering the 5 Misconceptions that Hold Leaders Back is co-authored with Jim Haudan is Co-Founder and Chairman of Root Inc.

Creating a Strategy for a Compelling Story

The following is an excerpt from What Are Your Blind Spots?

Creating a Strategy for a Compelling Story

By Jim Haudan and Rich Berens

A few key concepts must be established when creating and delivering an effective story. Each and every time you create an effective story, you must:

• Identify your primary audience.

• Focus on the overall message.

• Outline the core drama.

• Make it personal.

• Practice delivering it.

Let’s explore how to execute each one together.

Identify Your Primary Audience

Before you start crafting your story, you should have clarity on who your primary audience is. What is this group’s mindset and knowledge base on the content? Do you want the people in the group to be excited, curious, fearful, apprehensive, or charged up? How much do they know about your story already? Do they have any preconceived notions? If you don’t have full awareness about your audience, you could craft a compelling story that misses the mark with those you are trying to reach.

Focus on the Overall Message

Just about every great story has an overarching message, moral, or key takeaway. Think of any of your favorite movies. There are many subplots, but they tend to be connected to one larger dominating theme. In Star Wars, the Rebels beat the Empire and destroyed that darn Death Star the enemy kept rebuilding. In E.T., Elliott and helpers made sure to get the poor fellow back home. Think of the story you want to tell your employees.

If being risk averse is a core concern within your organization, you might focus on how taking risks and embracing failure is essential for long-term success as the major guiding thought. If the key concern is speed and adapting to a rapidly changing competitive environment, the ability to collaborate, transcend silos, and work differently might be your guiding thought.

Outline the Core Drama

Any great story has a core drama that shapes its narrative. Whether it’s something that disrupts, creates a new challenge, or forces the key characters to think and act differently, drama is present. Be clear on that drama and make it a critical component of your narrative. This could be a nontraditional competitive threat, the inability to work together within the organization, or a dramatic shift in customer expectations. No matter the situation, you will want to build out that core drama element and channel most energy toward overcoming that issue.

Make It Personal

Every story gains credibility and authenticity when it feels real and personal. So if you think that changes in customer expectations are a real threat to how you can compete, share personal experiences that friends, family, or even you personally experienced when purchasing your product or service. This might create unexpected “aha” moments. We were working with the CEO of a leading building products company that had great products but was struggling with the customer experience it provided. At a leadership meeting, the CEO shared a detailed account of how he remodeled his kitchen and the very frustrating experience he had buying his cabinets and said that he was inclined never to do it again. It made the challenge more vivid and personal, and it moved the topic from an intellectual customer experience problem to a meaningful account of what it is like to interact with the company’s products and channels in real life.

Practice Delivering

It Interestingly, when we ask leaders how often they practice giving a keynote speech or a key presentation to their board, they respond by saying, “Always.” When we then ask how often they practice telling their strategy story to their people, their answer is, “Rarely.” Like most things in life, it takes practice to be great. In boxing, the conventional wisdom is that you have to practice for 30,000 minutes to be good for 3. Comedians run through an incredible amount of reps before they master the timing of their jokes. As leaders, we often share content in real time and don’t practice our delivery. The ability to practice how you tell your story, where to emphasize certain points, where to pause for reflection, and how to really engage with your audience simply takes time and practice.

Putting These Steps into Action

By combining these story creation essentials (primary audience, overarching message, core drama, making it personal, and practice), you will have a storyline that complements your vision headline.

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About Jim Haudan

Jim Haudan is Co-Founder and Chairman of Root Inc. Root Inc., the organizational change expert on helping companies create leadership alignment, execute strategies and change successful, build employee engagement, and transform businesses.  He is a sought-after business presenter who has spoken at TEDx BGSU, Tampa TEDx, and The Conference Board. His latest book, What Are Your Blind Spots?: Conquering the 5 Misconceptions that Hold Leaders Back is co-authored with Rich Berens is CEO and Chief Client Fanatic of Root Inc. The book equips readers with the tools needed for a personal leadership reset. You’ll discover how to increase engagement, productivity, and growth in your own organization.

About Rich Berens

Rich Berens is CEO and Chief Client Fanatic of Root Inc, and has helped align leaders at Global 2000 organizations to drive strategic and cultural change at scale. He is a noted speaker on the issues of, transformation, and how to create lasting change  and has authored articles for numerous publications and blogs. Under Rich’s leadership, Root has been listed among the Great Place to Work® Institute’s top 25 places to work, been named to the Inc. 5000 fastest-growing companies list, and experienced 10 years of consecutive growth. His latest book, What Are Your Blind Spots?: Conquering the 5 Misconceptions that Hold Leaders Back is co-authored with Jim Haudan is Co-Founder and Chairman of Root Inc.

The Messiness Of The Truths We Are Frustrated With

Reality is, if you are willing to be present in the messiness and take appropriate action based on the conditions in which you actually find yourself, you will be uncomfortable quite often and also probably experience feeling vulnerable. We dove into this messiness at our Indiana 3D Leadership gathering this past weekend. The through line of our gathering was, “What’s My Story?” The first activity was to carve a pumpkin. You heard me right, carve a pumpkin. But not just the usual face, but a jack o lantern that answered the phrase: “Truths We Are Frustrated With.”

I’ve gotta tell you, I was blown away. They were all awesome. The stories were all awesome. The group was so into this project that they found a dark room, lit up their pumpkins, and formed a semi circle to tell their stories. I videoed a few of them and let me tell you they were all inspiring. I am sure I will have more blogs following this one on these stories.

One of the stories that jumped out at me was on the messiness of leadership and the truths that frustrate us. Check it out by clicking here:

I learned a lot from this observation and visual. This pumpkin carving and story taught us that, as a leader, it’s up to us to put ourselves second, and operate in a way that allows others to feel at ease, to feel understood, and to work in the way that’s best for them–even if it’s not the way we might operate ourselves. Sometimes we need to let go of the meaning we are putting on the moment and just be there.

Your team wants to know what you stand for and believe in, and that your values align with theirs. Great leaders step up to challenges, and come face-to-face with their commitments.

Tear Down This Wall!

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“Mr. Gorbachev, Tear down this wall!” ~ Ronald Reagan

This past week during our South Carolina 3D Leadership gathering I was reminded of those immortal words of the first President I ever voted for, and my favorite President, Ronald Reagan. This past spring I had the opportunity to visit the very spot where he showed audacious leadership and spoke those audacious words. We were discussing change, our willingness to make changes in ourselves, and how change happens within an organization. As always, I had our participants make a graphic representation of their thoughts. As always, they all blew me away, but one really intrigued me. Ms. Linda Russell of Mevers School of Excellence drew a brick wall with a split in it with the word “change” (pictured here). As she explained her drawing and how we need to break down the walls, I was reminded of how this was what President Reagan was doing. As with all change, this involved risk and audacity, but he was clearly communicating to Soviet leadership what he [Reagan] desired.

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Ms. Russell’s Great Graphic Representation

We later got into a discussion of good and bad leadership traits. I blogged about these in Leader Traits From The Palmetto State. Click here to read that post. One of the traits discussed was communication. I was so glad that we are able to have open discussions that actually lead to results and professional growth of participants. Two of our participants were discussing how a lack of communication was causing a wall to be built brick by brick. This barrier be, and was in this case, an unintended wall. Lack of good communication can send mixed messages or aloofness, complacency, and unwillingness that others will become alienated and not bother to interact with those parties. They may even avoid them altogether. It was discovered that the issue was just so much going on that time was not being taken to do easy and quick communiques. Right then and there the bricks began to come down from the wall.

Great leaders know how to overcome these obstacles. They cross the aisle, bridge the gaps that separate factions, and find ways to communicate in effective ways. They know that any walls are drag factors that will slow down progress and possibly sabotage the mission. So the walls must be struck down in order to move forward. How about you? Do you have any walls that you need to tear down?

Why You Should Read “What Are Your Blinds Spots?”

What Are Your Blind Spots? Conquering the 5 Misconceptions That Hold Leaders BackWhat Are Your Blind Spots? Conquering the 5 Misconceptions That Hold Leaders Back by Jim Haudan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book dives deeply into five areas that are written and talked about often in the realm of leadership, but does it in a way that is different from all the rest. The areas of purpose, story, engagement, trust, and truth are all leadership dispositions that most would think are very straightforward. Because they are dispositions, however, we become blind to our organizations and our own approach to these, we miss opportunities for improvement or even gross inadequacies. This book is not just all talk; practical applications are given along with activities to identify and inform our blind spots. We all have a leadership style and mantra, and this book gives the reader a chance to take an introspective look at whether that mantra is what we want those on our team to be sharing about us. As a leader, student of leadership development, and leadership development professional, I found the lessons in this book engaging, able to be used immediately, and transferable. I grew professionally from reading this book.

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