Byron's Babbles

What Is Your Essence?

Posted in Leadership, Global Leadership, 3D Leadership, Leadership Development, #NEI3DLeadership, Essence by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 17, 2021

I am reading the great book, Mobituaries: Great Lives Worth Reliving, by Mo Rocco right now and while discussing Sammy Davis Jr., he posited that when Sammy did an imitation he had a way of getting to the essence of the person. Our core essence is what makes us uniquely “me”, and is what separates each person in their individuality. This thought of essence is pretty deep. Essence is our style and what seems to show up in every one of our stories. Just as important to discovering our essence is to unraveling the mysteries of our actions, it is also important to explaining the mistakes we make. But, I was also reminded this weekend how important understanding essence is to effective relationships.

I was reminded of this during a discussion yesterday during our Carolinas 3D Leadership gathering. Two participants did some deep soul searching and were discussing how they hated to hear things from their principals or team members like, “your doing to much” or “not sure why you are doing that” or “why in the world did you add so many features to that spreadsheet.” I added that last one because I’m guilty of saying things like that. I am so glad that these two opened up, though, because I believe it opened all our eyes – I know it did mine. We were hearing their essence in their stories. Glad we were listening to understand!

I asked them what it was they wanted to hear. They said they just wanted to hear, “Great job on this” or “This is very helpful” or I really appreciate having this.” For these two, their essence is something like being three steps ahead or going above and beyond or striving for success. What we learned from this discussion was that it is not helpful for those whose essence is to build the over the top spreadsheet to say, “Um, not sure why you spent so much time on this, we don’t need all the bells and whistles.” We just need to acknowledge and recognize the person’s essence. You all know me, I asked what do you want to hear? They told me instead of “you shouldn’t have” they wanted to just hear “thank you, I appreciate all the extra work you have done.” Otherwise, we are not respecting their essence.

Since our essence is our style we don’t want to let a story overwhelm our style. That would mean to lose touch with ourselves. When work becomes more important than the living of your own life, or a relationship overshadows your individual needs, or expectations are so prescriptive that you are no longer in control of your life or how you do your job, we are not living by our essence.

It’s amazing to me how a simple word like “essence” can cause such deep thought. But, just as Sammy Davis Jr. could catch the essence of others, we too have an obligation to listen and watch for the essence of those around us understand the essence of those we work with and have relationships with. Essence is a part of each of our stories and follows us no matter which forms we may take. To truly understand the essence of another is to have power in how we work and flow with other. Finally, we also need to understand our own essence and embrace it because to do so will keep us from working against ourselves.

Leading Like Charlotte’s Web

You all know I love intersectional learning, where I, or I have others, take a random object and create meaning about a seemingly unrelated topic. I never thought that a spider web would lead to the unbelievably deep conversation it did with our Florida 3D Leadership participants last night. To get things started for the evening, I asked them to look at a picture of a spider web I had come across in my barn to the journey they are on right now. When our small groups came back from their discussions I could tell from the energy it was going to be an amazing evening. When the first group started to report out, the participant said, “I loved my group.” Those of you who have facilitated before know how good that sounds and feels.

The participant went on to say that Lauren Berry, Curriculum Resource Teacher at Collier Charter Academy in Naples, Florida, had thought of all the lessons from Charlotte’s Web. You know, the 1952 classic written by E.B. White and then turned into a great movie in 2006. The genius of White’s work was that he used a deceptively mundane and ordinary setting, set of characters, and plot to explain the profundity of life in ways that people of all ages can understand. The perfect definition of intersectional learning! Without knowing it I had spurred this deep discussion with something as mundane, but incredibly complex, as a spider web – in a barn of all places.

So, what did Lauren and her group teach us? First of all, to sum up a 184 page book in a couple of sentences, Wilbur, a pig given to a little girl, Fern, yearns for companionship but is snubbed by the other animals. When he finds out he is be raised for slaughter he is befriended by a barn spider named Charlotte, whose web sits in a doorway overlooking Wilbur’s enclosure. Here are the points that Lauren and her group made to us:

  • Friendship and relationships are at the core of everything. Charlotte said, “After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.” Life is precious, wonderful and beautiful, especially when it is well-lived.
  • Celebrate diversity. Wilbur and Charlotte are very different, but friendship makes it possible to transcend those differences. Even Templeton the Rat, the self-serving one even learns to be a team player (sorry, I couldn’t help but put the rat in the mix, too).
  • Wilbur was humble. “Why did you do all this for me?” Wilbur asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.” “You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.” People respond well to humility because it shows that you place yourself at the same level as others, and not above them.

We were so blessed to be reminded of this story last night. My hope is that we will always keep in our hearts the lessons of friendship, life, and loss that will help us navigate through our lives to be better leaders, friends, and people in this diverse world.

What Are You Focusing On?

Photo and Artwork Credit: Alexis Prieto

I’ve always said that when we place sincere effort on the attributes we want to see, and can let go of those that no longer serve or support, we have greater chance of success in achieving our desired outcomes. This also applies to those we serve as well. Today in a session during our north Florida 3D Leadership gathering participants were to make a graphic representation of their leadership mantra. Alexis Prieto of Keys Gate Charter School did an incredible job of representing “What You Focus On Will Grow” with her scratch art. I really liked this reminder that we need to consciously focus on those things that work for us. We need to focus on the things that will give us amplified results. When telling about this mantra it gave Alexis the opportunity to tell stories and take note of what she was most proud of.

The metaphor part of Alexis’ leadership mantra is also appealing to me. If we plant the seeds we want to grow and tend them well, the more they grow the less room there is for weeds. Whether in this garden metaphor or in our life and work, what we focus on is what we will grow. What we focus on is what grows more fully in our garden of life. What we focus on thrives, so we need to be sure and focus on the good that we have and the good that we want, because without a doubt, what we focus on is what will grow in our minds and in our lives. Just like anything practiced or done repeatedly, whatever we continue to focus on will become stronger in our minds. Therefore it is in our best interest to choose well the thoughts we choose to entertain.

Being Intentional About Your Relationships

Posted in #NEI3DLeadership, Education, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 27, 2021

Last night during our 3D Leadership gathering of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina participants we were working through leadership effectiveness. I was using a triangular model with three keys to effectiveness: 1. Awareness; 2. Ability; and 3. Commitment (see featured photo of this post). Without any of the three it is unlikely we can be effective as a leader. We began discussing how relationships and relationship building were important to all three sides of the triangle. Right about then, one of our astute members from North Carolina, Hayley Messenger, posted the following in the chat:

“It’s a lack of awareness through not being intentional about your relationships with the people you are affecting.”

Hayley Messenger

When I saw this I wanted the group to know more. Hayley explained that many times leaders will only build relationships with certain people or end up getting to know some better than others. To truly function at a high level we must be intentional to know the strengths, weaknesses, future goals, et cetera of ALL those we serve. I loved that she used the word “intentional.” The dictionary defines intentional as “done on purpose; deliberate.” This meaning plays a role in what an intentional relationship is. It involves being active instead of passive and making things happen instead of waiting for them to happen to you.

For example, as a leader, if we want to be ready when we have a position open up, we need to have the relationships with all in the organization to know who would have with the ability for, or even have interest in that position. Intentional relationships are not convenient relationships or just building relationships with those we like best. When we enter into an intentional relationship we are proving that we’re in it for the long run. Having effective communities and organizations is about co-existing and becoming acutely aware and intentional about who we share space with.

Bottom line: By being intentional about creating flourishing relationships, we positively transform every social structure on the planet.

Core Values Are The Heart & Soul

Posted in #NEI3DLeadership, 3D Leadership, core values, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 21, 2021
Laura Goynes

Right now I am sitting in the Orlando International Airport with my flight delayed due to weather, but reflecting on an incredible day of facilitating leadership development for north Florida participants of our 3D Leadership Program. One of the topics of discussion today was core values. During a part of the discussion where we were discussing organizational versus personal and shared versus unshared values, one of our participants, Laura Goynes, interjected that the whole time of the discussion she had been reflecting on her experience working for DryBar while in college. She posited that their core values were easy to share and easy to live. Then she shared them with us and we were all speechless. They were probably the most authentic core values I had ever heard. I was actually pretty excited because Drybar’s core values were in the same vain as the core values I am living for my newly founded company and listed on my website. Here are DryBar’s core values:

The Heart & Soul Of Drybar: Our 10 Core Values & Beliefs

  1. It’s the experience! The single most important part of the Drybar experience is the way we make people feel. We are committed to making our clients feel like a million bucks.
  2. It’s not just blowouts! It’s confidence. And happiness. It’s artistry and quality.
  3. Be yourself! Tattoos, piercings, quirky laugh and all! It’s what makes you special and interesting. As Gaga says, “I’m on the right track baby, I was born this way.”
  4. Embrace the power of random acts of kindness! Selfless acts of kindness make someone’s moment/day/week. This defines you, you define us.
  5. Have fun! Laugh, smile, dance! Look beautiful! Life is too short to be someplace lame.
  6. Always be growing! There is tremendous opportunity ahead for all of us. You commit to helping us grow and we’ll do the same for you.
  7. Nothing is sexier than honesty and humility! Arrogance and cockiness are gross. Actions speak louder than words. Be sexy.
  8. Make a difference! Have an opinion, a point of view. Have the courage to stand up and make a difference.
  9. Pretty is as pretty does! Be a good person. Care about people. You’re only as pretty on the outside as you are on the inside.
  10. We are family! Drybar was started by family. You are part of our family.

Pretty amazing, right? I was so glad that Laura shared these with us and was so inspired. Laura went on to explain to us the people she worked with loved their jobs, DryBar retained employees, employees always felt heard, and that, as an employee, these were easy values to share. So, really it was a “drop the mic” 🎤 moment and Laura had given us the prompt for a great discussion about the authenticity of core values and not needing to be a bunch of buzz words, hooplah, and corporate gibberish. Think about if we all lived personally to the DryBar core values. The world might just be a better place. This whole discussion made me feel better about my own core values which are:

Core Values

  • Integrity above all
  • Everyone is a leader
  • Listen, Hear, Learn, & strive to be better
  • Not just better – Different
  • Never cookie cutter
  • The glass is half full and we want a bigger glass

We will generally be most comfortable working in a company that has a corporate culture that reflects our own personal values. Core values are the guiding principles that help to define how we should behave personally, in business, and perhaps beyond. What gives your life meaning or what do you want to achieve? If you can articulate those answers, you’ll likely see a pattern that you can boil down into a single concept or list of concepts.

It Is All About Infuence

Yesterday, at a leadership gathering I facilitated in North Carolina, a participant asked a very astute question following an activity using examples of great leaders who had greatly impacted/influenced them. She asked, “Does having influence automatically make someone a leader?” She went on to ask, “Is having an influence on someone automatically make you a leader?” I loved these questions and literally stepped back and let the group take over. The discussion made me so proud, because they were using language we have been discussing together for five months now.

Since everyone is a leader, leadership is everybody’s business and you don’t need a title to be a leader. Everyone has the potential to lead and influence. Influence is the most important part of leadership. If someone has influence it means they can get things done. Organizations that value everyone as leaders and believe every person plays a vital role in moving processes forward, have individuals who influence the behavior of others at every level of the organization due to their leadership behaviors. It may be that someone who volunteers to lead projects or that everyone goes to when they have questions. In many cases these were the people some had brought forward as the great leaders who had influenced them. But, the group did conclude that just because you have influence doesn’t mean you’re a good leader.

“Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”

~ John C. Maxwell

Great leaders move themselves and others from a language of prove and perform to improve and learn. To influence others is what being a leaders is all about, but a leader also has to let herself be influenced by others if she is to become a great one. This can be done, for instance, by listening and becoming a student of organizational design and everyone in an organization. The best leaders I know are very good at knowing how to shut up so others can speak up.

Because I shut up and literally sat down and let the group discuss, they discussed things like influence being a person’s ability to shape people and mold outcomes. They also pointed out that influence is morally neutral (can be used for good or evil), but it always involves both relationships and results. So is influence just a fancy term for leadership? I believe the group decided, no. We often put the two together, but they are two separate entities.

Because everyone is a leader, you can lead without influencing. This does not put us at odds with John Maxwell, who said, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less,” however, because the group affirmed you can’t be a great leader without influencing.

Good Leadership Is Pragmatic

Last week I was doing leadership development facilitation for our participants from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. This session involved developing a top 5 list of Bad Leader traits and a top 5 list of Good Leader traits. While we were voting and tallying to get to their top 5s, I thought about how the traits are really pragmatic. Take a look at their voting tallies and their top 5s:

The opposite of idealistic is pragmatic, a word that describes a philosophy of “doing what works best.” From Greek pragma “deed,” the word has historically described philosophers and politicians who were concerned more with real-world application of ideas than with abstract notions. Did you catch that? Doing what works best. Being concerned with real-world application. Look at the Good Leader traits above and I think you’ll agree they involve doing what works best.

Somebody Did It For Me

Leaders motivate us to go places that we would never otherwise go. They are needed both to change organizations and to produce results. In any organizational climate, good leadership is perhaps the most important competitive advantage an organization can have. Amazingly, followers of leaders are just as powerfully driven to follow as leaders are to lead. Great leaders have a way of supporting others to grow and become more productive. Great leadership means putting people in the right place at the right time and then letting them thrive there.

Mr. Combrinck & Ms. Figueroa’s Potato Heads

Yesterday, during our south Florida gathering of 3D Leadership participants, we did an activity that I love to do called “Who Am I As A Leader Now?” We use Mr. and Mrs. Potato Heads to do this and participants build their Potato Head to represent themselves, at that moment, as a leader. It becomes such a powerful reflective time. Then, we gathered in a big circle and shared out. All of the share-outs were so meaningful, but one phrase really caught my attention that a participant ended with, represented by a Potato Head arm placed backward, “Somebody did it for me.” This really struck me because it is so true. Everyone has a “somebody did it for me” story. And this fit so nicely with the work we were going to do later around John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership. Helping others develop into all they can be are those “People Development” and “Pinnacle” levels of great leadership.

Alexis Prieto’s Potato Head

It’s always inspiring to be in a room of educators because developing young women and men into all they can be is what we do. We get to provide that “somebody did it for me” story for many. But, let’s not forget that as leaders we have an obligation to be finding ways to provide those “somebody did it for me” stories for those in our organizational communities. It really comes down to being a servant leader. As I listened to all the stories and reasons for the Potato Head designs I was in awe of all the collective expertise in the room. This group of leaders truly wanted to be the best at serving others. Now, as I write this post I am reflecting on those in my life that have been that “somebody that did it for me” person. There have been a lot, and I would even say this group of south Florida educators “did it for me” yesterday. All of this reflection made me go back and reflect on a blog post I did back in 2013 where I reflected on those who had been a servant leader to me along the way and, in some cases, throughout my entire life. Check out my post, Matthew 20:26 on Being A Servant Leader to learn more about my journey and those who have “been there” along the way.

As we try to make some sense in this pandemic stricken world, I, and I believe all the other participants, needed to hear the stories of others – how they got where they are and how they are dealing with all things related to the global pandemic. We really developed a bonded sense of we are in this together, and while we all may be separated by only a few miles, or hundreds of miles we can all be kindred spirits and part of something bigger than ourselves to into great leaders providing “somebody did it for me” moments.

How about you? Who has provided those “somebody did it for me” moments in your life? And, who are you providing “somebody did it for me” moments for?