Byron's Babbles

Tear Down This Wall!

DoYouReallyWantIt

“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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Leader Traits From The Palmetto State

I was reading some research on leadership development this week and one of pieces that jumped out at me was the statement, “what leaders really want is a personalized experience and the opportunity to learn from…their fellow-leaders.” I was reminded of this last night during the September 3D Leadership gathering of our South Carolina members. One of the things discussed during our plus/delta time at the end was the fact they were able to discuss freely and transparently which made it possible for them to get to know each other and learn from each other. In fact one participant said, “I’m so glad you brought up the issue of communication and that we discussed that. Now we can work on making it better.” Effective leadership development involves time for reflection and learning from those around us.

We did one such learning activity last night where the South Carolina group developed their own top list of good and bad leadership traits. It was a great discussion with being supportive coming out as their number one trait every good leader should have. Here are the rest of their results:

Here’s what we know: Success in today’s world depends on how leaders perform as a team. The unpredictable and rapidly changing landscape, whether it is in government, education, or business, means you need to have people with a variety of skillsets and mindsets who can quickly step in to show leadership in response to a variety of challenges. This is why organizations need to look at all employees as leaders, with “leadership potential,” and start developing leadership potential earlier in careers. That is why we do 3D Leadership – to help our leaders Discover, Develop, and Distribute leadership wherever and whenever it is needed.

North Carolina Leader Traits

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North Carolina 3D Leadership Cohort #1

Last night at our North Carolina cohort of 3D Leadership developed their top five list of good leadership traits and bad leadership traits. To do this we used one of my go to facilitation props (no pun intended), the toy prop gliders. Here is what participants did:

The groups then got back together and listed their top five list. Then the whole cohort voted on the top five good leadership traits and top five bad leadership traits. Here are the results:

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It is always interesting to me that as I do this in many different states and with individuals of different experiences, how different the lists can be. Successful organizations need leaders, someone (or as I believe everyone) who can inspire employees and lead them and the organization toward success. Leaders encourage others to work to their full potential, inspire creativity and aid motivation. During turbulent times, the need for good leaders intensifies. As I always say, “Leading is easy when things are going great, but really hard when it is chaos and earthquakes.” Someone who presents a clear vision for recovery, leads by example and instills confidence in those around them. A good leader has many traits, if you can recognize these within yourself and capitalize on them, then you can become a successful leader in your work environment and on your team.

By consciously making an effort to exhibit the traits highlighted by my North Carolina friends, people will be more likely to follow us. If we exhibit these traits on a regular basis, we will be able to grow our influence to its full potential as a leader. What’s on your top five list of good and bad leadership traits?

Horse Power – What is the Equivalent for Companies? HumanPower

This guest post originally appeared on the Alex Vorobieff Blog

Horse Power – What is the Equivalent for Companies? HumanPower

By Alex Vorobieff

Today, there is a lot of talk about Artificial Intelligence, AI, and computers taking over more jobs but as I write this, human beings still provide the essential power to build thriving companies. What is this power we provide? The term “Human Resources” is inadequate. The term “Human Capital” is static. A company’s power comes from its people’s ability to coordinate their efforts. HumanPower is what propels companies. We quantify car engine horse power but what is the equivalent for companies? HumanPower.

What determines whether a company thrives or slowly dies? How well its people use their experience and expertise to coordinate their decisions and actions.

Recent scientific insight has shed light on how our species of humans, homo sapiens, evolved and thrived while other species died out even though we were not the fastest or strongest.  We survived because of our unique competitive advantage; our ability to coordinate our efforts.

Coordinating efforts generates the HumanPower that propels the few companies past the many that struggle, but misaligned HumanPower can also tear companies apart. For example in an Olympic rowing competition, team members rowing at slightly different paces are working against each other and diminishing their HumanPower. Understanding how to harness HumanPower is critical for growing a business successfully.

Okay Vorobieff, how do we coordinate the efforts of our people? By answering key questions that provide guidance for people within the company to make big and small decisions such as:

Why does the company exist?

• What are we really selling? (What problem are we solving for our customer?)

• Who is our core customer?

• What is essential for the company to survive and thrive?

• What are the core values essential for keeping our unique culture?

• Who is responsible for what?

• When things don’t go according to plan, how do we get back on track?

• What is the number one priority for the company?

These questions do not answer themselves. If answered, the answers are easily forgotten, or often not communicated to new team members.  Most companies do not have clear answers to these questions. Over time, differing and conflicting answers evolve generating conflicting decisions and efforts or worse DeadPayroll.

How can you measure HumanPower? There is no Dynamometer to hook people up to measure a company’s horsepower. It’s easier to measure the drag than the force. Start with measuring your DeadPayroll.

You can also measure HumanPower by using the most powerful tool humans’ possess, questions. Start asking the key questions listed above to your leadership team. Let them answer separately and see if your people are headed in the same direction or are pulling the company in different directions.

Coordinating decisions and actions was the competitive advantage our ancestors used to survive and thrive in a harsh environment where survival was not guaranteed, and the same coordination will determine whether your company thrives in a competitive environment where long-term survival is not guaranteed.

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About Alex Vorobieff

Founder and CEO of The Vorobieff Company, Alex Vorobieff is a business turnaround specialist, working to implement Business Alignment Tools for their specific needs. Alex has served as clean-up CFO and president of companies in telecommunications, aviation, aerospace, and real estate development, leading successful turnarounds in as little as three months. He shares his how-tos and techniques through Confident ROi magazine and his latest book, Transform Your Company: Escape Frustration, Align Your Business, and Get Your Life Back.

Who We Are

After my post yesterday, I really got to thinking about this question of being bigger than something other than ourselves. You can click here to check out All The World’s A Stage. It’s actually pretty simple, however, we are all part of something bigger than ourselves, namely the universe. We often forget this, however, and we stop looking beyond our own body, opinion, experience, well-being, and other self interests. I constantly need to be reminded that, though I am tiny and only temporarily on this earth, I can take action toward outcomes that go beyond my own life, needs, comforts, desires, gains and losses — often through shared work with others, influencing decisions, or helping, coaching, or mentoring others.

Because it was my conversation with Johnny Hawkins, Mark Vollelunga, Daniel Oliver, and Ben Anderson, the band members of Nothing More, that really got me thinking about all this, I am going to point to one of their songs for inspiration. Honestly, I not paid very close attention to the words of their song, Who We Are, until they autographed the poster pictured here in this post, and gave it to me. It has the words to the song in the background. There’s a pretty powerful message in this song that who we are should keep us believing. Click here to watch the video of Who We Are by Nothing More.

“It’s who we are that keeps me believing

There’s something here bigger than ourselves

If I’m wrong then why am I still feeling?

Who we are, keeps me believing

Keeps me believing”

~ Chorus From Who We Are by Nothing More

This is actually very profound. Who we are is much more important than what we do. We need to focus on being bigger on the inside, our character, than we are on the outside, our influence. Think about it, if our character waivers, our influence becomes discounted. We must line our lives up with our values or we will live a life that is out of balance and devoid of the creative energy we need to achieve our true potential.

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? ” ~ Jesus in Mark 8:36

We also need to think about the chorus phrase, “It’s who we are that keeps me believing.” Think about that; it doesn’t say, “who I am” it says, “who we are.” This is profound when we think about leading or being part of our businesses and organizations, our communities, our schools, our country, or the larger aggregate of the world 🌎. Who we are and what we believe in aggregate matters. We need to create organizations, communities, countries, and a world 🌍 where we all matter.

“What we know matters but who we are matters more.” ~ Brené Brown

As it says in Who We Are, I want the “you, that’s in me, [to be] in everything.” Let’s work to create a world where we can “stand together” because of Who We Are!

Leading Without “Virtue Signaling”

Getting Ready To Get On Nothing More’s Tour Bus

Yesterday, I had the rare opportunity to spend time on the tour bus of one of my favorite rock bands before their concert at Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center. The band was Nothing More. Those that know me know I love rock music and still dream of being a rock star. Hey, if my idol, Gene Simmons can still be rockin’ it at age 69, no reason why I don’t still have time, right? Anyway, back to the subject of this post. I believe we all imagine what goes on in a rock band tour bus, but I’ve got to tell you I was amazed by the deep conversation we had. I gotta tell you the conversation yesterday is going to span several blog posts.

First of all, Johnny Hawkins, Mark Vollelunga, Daniel Oliver, and Ben Anderson, the band members of Nothing More, are four of the greatest guys you will ever meet. They are super friendly and very deep and philosophical thinkers. Need I say more for you to understand my gravitation toward them. So, I asked them if they would tell me a little more about one of their songs, DO YOU REALLY WANT IT?,” that I use to introduce a leadership training session I do. Little did I know the great conversation that was about to begin. As I said earlier, the conversation is going to turn into several blog posts, but this morning’s is going to be about something that Johnny Hawkins talked about that really made me pause and think; think about my own actions, as well as others.

Johnny started talking about “virtue signaling.” If you would have told me we were going to talk “virtue signaling” on Nothing More’s tour bus before yesterday, I would have told you you were nuts. But, I gotta tell you, I really wanted to get back on the bus and ride to the next venue, and have one of those all night philosophical discussions. I loved Johnny’s visual description of “virtue signaling” when he took his fingers and made a circle ⭕️ symbolizing a button and held it to his chest. He talked about how this signaling is a camouflage. It’s noticeable how often virtue signalling consists of saying we hate things. Or, many times by saying we are for something, we are saying how much better we are than others. The emphasis on hate distracts from the fact we are really saying how good we are.

“Virtue signaling” is a habit we now have of indicating that one has virtue merely by expressing disgust or favor for certain political ideas, cultural happenings, or philosophical or religious beliefs. The phrase was coined by the British author, James Bartholomew. When we seize moments to throw a fit about what or who we hate, we many times are not really talking about the real issues or our philosophical differences with another person, we are just showing our vanity and try to signal to others how virtuous we are. As James Bartholomew said, “If you were frank and said, ‘I care about the environment more than most people do’ or ‘I care about the poor more than others’, your vanity and self-aggrandizement would be obvious. . . . Anger and outrage disguise your boastfulness.” In other words we are not talking anything of fact or substance. Johnny pointed out that we really need to take a step back and think about what we can do. This is much tougher than just saying we are going to solve world hunger, eliminate all racism, or make all schools great. Think about it. It is easy to say those things, but a much tougher conversation when we begin to think about what we are personally going to do.

We discussed how we talk about changing the world, but we really need to think about changing the things within the scope of what we can control or affect change. A big part of that is just changing and growing ourselves. That’s why I am so moved by the chorus in the lyrics of the song, DO YOU REALLY WANT IT? where it says, “Everybody wants to change the world, But one thing’s clear, No one ever wants to change themselves.” This is the chorus that I use for a major discussion among up and coming leaders. As you can see, this prompted an inspiring discussion that helped me grow as a person and leader that I have not even begun to scratch the surface on in this post. How about you? Do you really want it? What can you change? Are you willing to change yourself? Or will you “virtue signal” and blame others? Let’s take our “virtue buttons” of our chests and talk about substance and the issues not about the people and personalities.

The Great & Humble Leadership Of Calvin Coolidge

This past July my family and I spent the day in the beautiful Green Mountains of Vermont in Plymouth Notch. We went there to learn more about one of my favorite Presidents, Calvin Coolidge. I have read many books about our 30th President and studied many of the papers he wrote. I am fascinated with his leadership style, path to the Whitehouse, and his upbringing. In our quest to get my son to all 50 states before he graduates high school, we thought it fitting to spend time at the birthplace and childhood home of President Coolidge as our way of seeing Vermont.

Snow Roller

As soon as we walked up to the visitors center, we understood the draw of this place known as Plymouth Notch. It was beautiful! Then as we learned about President Coolidge’s grandparents and parents, it became very evident how he could grow up to be President of the United States. His father was born in Plymouth, Vermont. John C. Coolidge was truly a servant leader. As I see it, he was the guy who held the town together. He was a farmer, store owner, and worked at a variety of other occupations. He served as the postman, snow roller (there was no way to plow snow at that time so they rolled it – see picture), town police, cheese maker, and he even made carriages. In addition, he was a veteran of the Vermont militia, and was in charge of the area militia. As you can see, he was a prominent local leader, he served in numerous Plymouth town offices, and was elected and served in both the Vermont House of Representatives and Vermont State Senate. What a role model for our 30th President.

This was quite the example for the young Calvin Coolidge growing up. President Coolidge learned hard work on the farm and developed a love of agriculture and farming that never went away. I wonder if there will ever be another President of the United States who grew up on a farm or who was a farmer like Calvin Coolidge or Harry Truman? It was amazing to stand in the sitting room, known as the “Oath of Office Room.” Coolidge was back home when President Harding died, so was sworn in by his father, there in that room, to be President of the United States. The room displays the table, Bible, and kerosene lamp used in the swearing in and then his inauguration. President and Mrs. Coolidge occupied a second floor bedroom during their many visits. Here we were, standing where all this happened.

“…to walk humbly and discharge my obligations.” ~ Governor Calvin Coolidge when asked his goal as Governor Of Massachusetts

Calvin lived in Plymouth Notch until 1887, when he left for school.  In 1895, he graduated from Amherst College in Massachusetts and moved to nearby Northampton to study law.  Northampton, Massachusetts would be home for him for the rest of his life. After admittance to the bar in 1897, he established his law practice and soon became involved in local politics. Here are some key milestones in Coolidge’s rise to the presidency:

• Began a steady rise in the State Republican Party in 1899

• City Councilman of Northampton, Massachusetts

• Mayor of Northampton, Massachusetts

• Served in both houses of the Massachusetts State Legislator

• Served as Massachusetts’ Lieutenant Governor and Governor

• Gained national attention during the Boston police strike of 1919

• Elected as Vice President to Warren G. Harding in 1920

• Became President in 1923 upon the death of Harding

• Elected President in 1924 after gaining the faith of the American people in only 15 months

President Coolidge was an outstanding example of a President who regarded his office, the most powerful in the world, as a stewardship–rather than as an opportunity to remake civilization. He proceeded from practical considerations of government, politics and popularity, applying his life-long experience as an elected office-holder. His decisions were usually compromises, made after long consideration of the conflicting interests involved. He announced them in as few words as possible and committed himself only so far ahead as might be necessary. During his administration the advance of the United States into the future was distinctly experimental–always in search of the sound course.

“They criticize me,” Coolidge said, “for harping on the obvious. Perhaps someday I’ll write On the Importance of the Obvious. If all the folks in the United States would do the few simple things they know they ought to do, most of our big problems would take care of themselves.” ~ President Calvin Coolidge

I am so glad we had the opportunity to walk among the houses of President Coolidge’s family and neighbors, the community church, taste cheese in the family’s cheese factory still in operation today, one-room schoolhouse, and general store which have all been carefully preserved. We also were able to pay our respects as the President is buried in the town cemetery. From walking where he walked we can understand why all during his life he would never waiver in his character or methods. He listened, he assimilated, and he waited until there appeared what seemed to be the soundest course. He did not try to make circumstances; but, when they appeared in the right configuration, he acted. By spending time there I learned where he had learned to be the principled and outstanding humble leader. I have been a student of Calvin Coolidge leadership for many years, and have now had the experience of seeing and understanding where his principled and conservative beliefs came from and were developed.

Refreshingly Organic Leadership

Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness, and TrustHumble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust by Edgar H Schein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a refreshing change to other leadership books and theories that have multiple steps that really only work in an ideal culture or environment, or when everything is going perfect. Humble Leadership is not about doing this and then that; it is about building authentic relationships and trust, and then letting the group growth and development happen organically. This book starts out by posing the question as to whether the leader makes the culture, or the culture makes the leader. The authors also posit that leadership exists at all levels and everywhere in the organization. This helps the reader view leadership as multidimensional as opposed to a two-dimensional, top-down hierarchy. Humble Leadership is about relationship building and trust. Humble Leadership teaches the reader how to be adaptive and practice adaptive leadership while letting the individual team members and organization grow in an organic way. There were great examples of how Humble Leadership works with the Air Force Thunderbirds and David Marquet’s turning around of the Navy submarine, USS Sante Fe. This book is a must read for all leaders who want a culture where every person is empowered to be a leader and is working to make the organization great.

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The Implications of What We Call “Level 2” Relationships at Work

The following is an excerpt from Humble Leadership

The Implications of What We Call “Level 2” Relationships at Work

By Ed and Peter Schein

Organizations today are doing all kinds of experiments in how work is defined and are showing great flexibility in how roles and authority are allocated. What we see in these experiments is that they encourage relationships that are more personal. Bosses, direct reports, team members, and resources from other teams are making it a point to get to know each other at a more personal level, fostering more openness and, in time, more trust and the psychological safety to speak up and be heard.

In a Level 2 relationship, I convey that “I see you.” This is not necessarily “I like you” or “I want to be your friend,” or “Let’s get our families together,” but I let you know through my words, demeanor, and body language that I am aware of your total presence, that in this relationship we are working together and are dependent on each other, are trying to trust each other, and should each try to see the other as more than a fellow employee, or associate, or team member, but as a whole person. By conveying that “I see you”, we are also conveying that we will not allow “professional distance” to separate us; we are forming a personal-working bond that will not tolerate obfuscation or deception. Seeing each other as whole persons is primarily a choice that we can make. We already know how to be personal in our social and private lives. Humble Leadership involves making that conscious choice in our work lives.

Six Principles of Humble Leadership

  1. Humble Leadership builds on Level 2 personal relationships that depend on and foster openness and trust.
  2. If Level 2 relationships do not already exist in the workgroup, the emergent humble leader’s first job is to develop trust and openness in the workgroup.
  3. In a Level 2 workgroup Humble Leadership emerges by enabling whoever has pertinent information or expertise to speak up and improve whatever the group is seeking to accomplish.
  4. The process of creating and maintaining Level 2 relationships requires a learning mindset, cooperative attitudes, and skills in interpersonal and group dynamics.
  5. An effective group dealing with complex tasks in a volatile environment will need to evolve such mindsets, attitudes, and skills in all of its members.
  6. Therefore, Humble Leadership is as much a group phenomenon as an individual behavior.

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About Authors

Edgar H. Schein is Professor Emeritus from the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management. He’s a pioneer in organizational studies, organizational culture and leadership, process consulting, career development. Ed’s contributions to the practice of O.D. date back to the early 1960s and continue with the recent publication of Organizational Culture and Leadership 5th edition and now Humble Leadership, co-authored with Peter A. Schein, co-founder of OCLI.org who brings 30 years of hands-on experience in large and small companies leading growth initiatives in Silicon Valley.