Byron's Babbles

Where Is Your Leadership Engine Order Telegraph Set?

I had the opportunity this past week to visit and tour the SS American Victory Ship and Museum in Tampa, Florida. It is an outstanding icon of America during times of war. I particularly learned a lot from the museum and the person there who answered all my questions and took the time to have a lengthy conversation with me. Before that day I really did not know much about Merchant Marine ships, how they were operated, and the relationship to the US Navy. I’m still pretty ignorant, but I am learning.

The SS American Victory was a Merchant Marine cargo ship that supplied our troops at the end of World War II, and then in the Korean Conflict and Vietnam. This ship hauled ammunition, cargo, and troops. The ship was run by the Merchant Marines, but of the crew of 62 part were US Navy personnel who manned the weapons in case of attack. This ship was launched 74 years to the day (May 24) I was there, in 1945. It only took our patriotic citizens 55 days to build the ship.

The exhibits in the museum are awesome and I had the chance to explore the entire ship. I was especially inspired in the wheel house, or bridge, as I looked out the port hole windows and thought about the decisions leaders had to make on this very deck. Then when I went above to the outdoor wheelhouse deck I studied the Engine Order Telegraph (the featured picture of this post). I immediately realized I had found another great metaphor that I believe represents the ways many organizations, leaders, associations, and governments work. Earlier last week I blogged about metaphors in Leading By Metaphor.

The Engine Order Telegraph, also known as an EOT, is a device that transmitted the orders from the pilot to the engine room. It has slow, half, and full for both ahead and astern (reverse). Also, it has stop, stand by, and finished with engine. As I stood there studying the EOT on a beautiful sunny day in beautiful Tampa Ybor Channel and thought about how these are incredible metaphors for leadership.

On these older style ships the captain didn’t physically control the ship like on today’s ships. On this ship the EOT would telegraph what the captain needed and engineer in the engine room made the adjustments – slow down, open up the throttle, et cetera. I thought about how this ship would have been like an orchestra with the captain as the conductor and the deck and engine crew playing the instruments.

As leaders we have the opportunity be a part of telegraphing full speed ahead, reversing the engines, slowing down, or stand by which I believe is analogous to status quo. I chuckled to myself that the EOT was set to stand by because I am such a status quo hater. If I was captain of a ship it would probably be hard to order stand by. I’m kind of a Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut kind of guy – “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” We all have to make decisions using the best intel available at the time from collaboration with our teams to enter the correct decisions into our metaphorical EOTs. We work in such a high speed environment! Therefore, we must figure out ways for professional growth of our leaders and teams on how to achieve organizational goals in the shortest time possible. We must then also find ways to provide maximum professional growth in the shortest time possible.

Therefore, we need to be ready to ring the bells for full speed ahead, just as Rear Admiral Farragut did in Mobile Bay in 1864. Had those ships not been willing to go ahead full, they probably would not be successful. I can tell you that the SS American Victory Ship and Museum team have their EOT set on full speed ahead for telling the story of the important work of Merchant Marine ships. How about you and your organization? Are you stuck in the status quo of stand by? Or will you make the call for full speed ahead?

Advertisements

Stand Your Ground & Be The Example

IMG_5702Setting an example through your own practice illustrates to others that change is a shared endeavor. True leaders are the pinnacle of what they expect from the people around them. And by setting an example, true leaders encourage their people to aim for that. By walking your talk, you become a person others want to follow. When leaders say one thing, but do another, they erode trust–a critical element of productive leadership.

Great leaders are persistent. Try, try again. Go over, under or around any hurdles to show that obstacles, what I like to call opportunities, don’t define your company or team. This will allow you to create solutions. Don’t dwell on problems; instead be the first to offer solutions and then ask your team for more. 

Furthermore, being the first to change can be challenging. As a pioneer, you have to overcome resistance to the status quo. We humans get used to the way things are. Yet those who dare to rock the boat are in a position of tremendous power, and can send ripples of inspiration out to the world. Lead by example because others will become curious. Remember, our actions are much more persuasive than than our words.

Leading With Extreme Axe Throwing Finesse

 

IMG_5674There are so many formulas that have been written about as best pathways toward great leadership. I have tried to write a few of those myself. Yesterday, our professional development team went on a team building excursion to Extreme Axe Throwing in Hollywood, Florida. Needless to say, it was a great time, but there were moments when I was struggling just to get the axe to stick. I kept getting told, “Finesse, Byron, finesse!” I had to think about what the heck “finesse” even was. So, off to Merriam Webster dictionary:

  1. refinement or delicacy of workmanship, structure, or texture
  2. skillful handling of a situation: adroit maneuvering
  3. the withholding of one’s highest card or trump in hope that a lower card will take the trick because the only opposing higher card is in the hand of an opponent who has already played

IMG_5676As I familiarized myself with what “finesse” really meant, I began to think about how this related to my current situation at the time of throwing an axe at a target. I believe last night’s situation relates to #2. I needed to be skillful and use the techniques our axe throwing coach instructed us with. Then, as I began throwing I needed to get clever and maneuver to make it all work for me. Sometimes I threw too hard, others I was releasing early, others I kept getting told I was flicking my wrists. We can certainly relate this to leadership, don’t you think?

Check out my axe throwing prowess in this video:

Leadership, then, is an art of finesse. It’s being able to adjust and communicate in different ways, specific to each person. I don’t mean being “everything to everyone.” I just mean having enough self-awareness to know what is going to yield the best response from each person–and then having the patience to execute with that behavior in mind. What makes this mentality so difficult is that, in every capacity, it asks that you, as a leader, put yourself in a serving others mode. We must finesse away ego. We can’t just rage out of impatience, or get upset because other people aren’t working the way we want them to work. We can’t show your frustration–even if everyone else is. We can’t sit back and complain when times get tough. We must be the positive force that leads change. This art of finesse is learned through diligent self-inquiry, and constantly practicing the art of finesse and being flexible in the way you communicate and lead others.

IMG_5675Leadership finesse requires that we, as leaders, constantly identify barriers and causes of struggles. Then, with relentless determination, make the best of the current reality we are in. Using my axe throwing metaphor, one barrier we have is fear of failure. Fear of failure holds us back from our dreams more than anything. The thing I was reminded from axe throwing is that we are going to fail over and over and over. During one round of throwing (10 throws) last night I did not get the axe to stick in the wood once. That’s right; my score was 0 at the end of the round. To handle this with finesse, I was reminded that if you’re, you’ll be rejected too. The key is to fail forward, where the pain of the failure is reduced by the benefit of the lessons it brings.

Welcome To Your New Addiction

IMG_5567

What’s At Your Core (Value)?

Where to begin? There is so much I want to say! Yesterday we had a great gathering of our Florida 3D Leadership group outside Orlando at Renaissance Charter School at Boggy Creek. I love going there and spending time with this group. Yesterday’s topic was core values. We spent the morning setting the stage with some cool activities (Emoji tattoos, making graphic mantras) and discussions around core values and what they wanted to do with their lives and what they wanted their legacy to be.

Then, the coolest thing happened – Lunch!

IMG_8418

 

Our lunch was delivered and catered from Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. First of all, as the truck, bright yellow, pulled up, it caught my eye out the window I had immediately seen the shiny object and was off topic. Check out the picture of the truck and you will understand what I am talking about. So, as they were setting up at one end of the room we were in, I asked one of the workers, Mariah Miller, whether she liked working at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and if she did, why? Well, let me tell you, she jumped right into our core values discussion and said that she liked it because her boss did not act like a boss and did not want to be called a boss. He wanted to be considered a coworker.

IMG_5566

Graphic Recording by Amy Reynolds

Then her coworker (boss), or leader, as he likes to be called came in, not having heard me ask the question. I called him over and asked him what his workers would say his mantra was (this was a core values discussion from the morning). He then basically reinforced everything Mariah had told us. We were amazed by the message that David Morales had for us in what became an outstanding extemporaneous luncheon keynote, literally.

IMG_8404David explained he had ended up in Florida, via Texas, because he quit his job, and I quote, “because my core values did not match those of the company I was working for at the time.” Of course I am beaming at this point and everyone was looking at me like I had set this up, which I had not. We had discussed how individual and organization core values needed to match. I had said earlier in the day that is was just a fact that if at any point your own core values become much different from the organization you work for, that it was time to quit. He was affirming everything we had talked about earlier in the day, but with the flare of personal experience and a lot of passion.

IMG_5535He then told us about looking for a job and finding Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. He told us how he cut the deal for Fuzzy’s Taco Shop to cater for the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers. He told us about how he has opened 29 businesses. Finally, he explained how core values build communities of commitment. We had been discussing how core values communicate what is important, influence behavior, and inspire people to action. We had also talked about how core values enhance credible leadership. David Morales from Fuzzy’s Taco Shop had become our exemplar. We did not need to spend very much time with his employees to know he was credible.

…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

IMG_5562

Graphic Recording by Amy Reynolds

Core values are what support the vision, shape the culture and reflect what an organization values. They are the essence of the organization’s identity – the principles, beliefs or philosophy of values. Many organizations focus mostly on the technical competencies but often forget what are the underlying competencies that make their organizations run smoothly — core values. Establishing strong core values provides both internal and external advantages to the organization. Clearly, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and David Morales have mastered this.

Needless to say, we were amazed at this outstanding example of a company and it’s employees living out shared core values. Would you, your organization, or school have been able to extemporaneously keynoted our lunch today with the same level of authenticity related to core values as David Morales, Mariah Miller, and Fuzzy’s Taco Shop were able to?

Play Chess, Not Checkers

IMG_5092Good Leaders Play Checkers.

Great Leaders Play Chess!

Great leaders recognize that each piece on the chess board is different. You cannot play the game (lead), much less win the game, if you do not appreciate, leverage, and deploy each of the pieces in their own unique and individual way.

So today, I facilitated a professional development session for Georgia and Florida principals that I title “Play Chess, Not Checkers.” I started off by asking two questions:

  1. What are the differences between checkers and chess?
  2. What must you be able to do to win at chess?

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is a picture of the notes we took during discussion:IMG_5468

Here are some quotes from the day that stood out:

“What can I attack now, and what can wait.”

“Do You have the skills to pivot?”

“We need big vision protectors.”

“The wrong player changes the entire game.”

“What happens when you hire a leader who runs it like a checker game, instead of chess?”

For this next quote I need to put up the graphic I drew:

This was such a great discussion. And, of course, we could not move on without having them create their own model the ideal leadership chess game. Check out this video of their creation:

As you can see this was a very inspirational and meaningful discussion. We gave a lot of thought to how we lead and the environment we create by using the context of playing chess. How about you? Do you lead like a chess or checkers player?

 

 

Leadership Influence Formula

The ability to influence others is crucial to a person’s success as a leader. Let’s face it, leadership is influence. All of the successful and effective leaders I have encountered developed the way they communicate and influence. After activities involving identifying Mount Rushmorean leadership influencers in their life yesterday, our 3D Leadership participants in Georgia set out to develop the top 5 list of leadership influence. This very creative group went a step further and invented a leadership influence formula.

This happened because of a lively discussion while trying to narrow the list down to five. This had taken place using one of my typical strategies of having participants fly airplanes with their personal top three influencer traits. They then glided their airplane to someone else and so on. We then compiled the list and got down to eight. As you can imagine, it got lively at this point.

The beauty of our 3D Leadership Program is that our participants come from all positions. We have teachers, facilities professionals, principals, and many others represented. This gives us the unique ability to have all vantage points represented in a discussion. This affords us what Dr. Nicky Howe and Alicia Curtis call “diversity of thought” in their great book, Difference Makers: A Leader’s Guide To Championing Diversity On Boards. They contend that what really matters are not the visible differences between people but their unique perspectives on the world.

What I believe we are creating through our cohorts of 3D Leadership participants is an organizational culture that is committed to fostering open-ended, inclusive dialogue. It is about recognizing that every person is a rich tapestry woven together from a million threads. Participants’ age, background, experiences, abilities, job responsibilities, gender, race, family story, and many other things all matter. There is a fallacy that people who look alike have the same views. Nothing could be further from the truth, though.

Bottom line is, this “diversity of thought” enabled us to develop a pretty cool leadership influence formula. Here it is: Innovative + Integrity + Compassion/Caring + Listen + Inspire = Leading By Example. Pretty powerful, don’t you think? As we decided, even you wanted to switch some traits out, if you were doing all the parts of this formula, you would be getting along pretty well.

Do you follow the additive value of this formula? If you follow these traits you will stack things in your favor to quickly become a key person of influence.

Leading With No Brown M&Ms

Posted in Global Leadership, Leadership, leadership mantra, Servant Leadership, Talk Triggers by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on April 8, 2019

IMG_5234I had the chance over the weekend to live out a rock and roll legend first hand. When I got to Washington D.C. on Saturday for the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) Legislative Conference I checked into my hotel, The Madison Hotel. When I got to my room I was pleasantly surprised by a bowl of M&Ms®, a bowl of peanuts, and a bottle of wine. To me the best part was the M&Ms®. As I was getting settled in I got the text below from Mizane at the hotel:

IMG_5258

I had already tweeted a fun message and then promptly texted a response to Mizane. Check these out here:

IMG_5259

Here is the response I got back, now from Jarro who was ensuring customer care:

IMG_5260

The story goes, and it is true, that the 1980s superstar rock band Van Halen (I went to many of their concerts, by the way) demanded, via a clause embedded in their tour contract that the dressing rooms would have bowls of M&Ms® with all the brown ones removed. This was not as David Lee Roth (band front man) described it, “a simple rock star misdemeanor excess,” but an ingenious way to know that all the details of a very complex contract were followed. The clause was buried deep in the contract and it would need to be read and followed carefully to catch it.

So now the rest of the story back at The Madison Hotel and their attention to detail. Yesterday I got, you guessed it, a bowl of M&Ms® with the brown ones removed. Of course I tweeted about it. Here is the tweet:

IMG_5235

The staff of The Madison Hotel certainly understand the importance of talk triggers. You know I have been telling the story all over the place to my fellow state board of education members from all around the country. Therefore, what would my talk trigger look like? First, I was texted as to how I was doing and if I needed anything. What I found was, the staff cared what I said and really was listening on the other end. How do I know this? Because even having fun and asking for another bowl of M&Ms® with the brown ones removed – I received it!

IMG_5270

Paolo Pedrazzini, Me, Jarro

This reflects the hotel and staff’s attitude of care and commitment to meet every need a customer puts forth. When we pay attention to the little concerns of customers, it is unlikely that many major concerns will occur. Then, at a reception this evening lo and behold Jarro came to a reception we were having to meet me. I had the opportunity to publicly thank Jarro and the General Manager of The Madison, Paolo Pedrazzini. I believe this is a great example of customer relations and care at its best.

This is not a matter of perception, but is a reality, and one with which we, as leaders, and our organizations should make peace with and do. Here is my question for you. Are you willing to remove all the brown M&Ms® for those you serve?

Are You Setting Precedent?

This week while reading On Grand Strategy by John Lewis Gaddis I came across a phrase from Queen Elizabeth I. She was reported to have said: “It is much better to set precedent than to have to live by it.” I loved this. To me it meant that she understood the importance of being an innovative leader and the power leaders have for setting the course for the future. One precedent she set was to rule by good counsel and trusted advisors. Many times I hear people in meetings saying that we don’t want to set precedent. Well, I say if it is a good thing then we probably should set a precedent. We basically have three choices: sit back and accept the status quo, let someone else lead, or we can lead by setting new precedents.

A great example of the latter was George Washington. Washington was well aware that he had been given the power to shape the American presidency. He believed that the precedents he set must make the presidency powerful enough to function effectively in the national government, but at the same time these practices could not show any tendency toward monarchy or dictatorship. He was said to have commented frequently that, “I walk on untrodden ground.” There are many things that Washington set the precedent for during his presidency that are still in place today. A few include:

  • Being called “President”
  • Presented the State Of Union as a speech (Thomas Jefferson broke the tradition, but Woodrow Wilson started again)
  • The White House protocol still used today of mornings and daytime for business and afternoons and evenings to entertain visitors
  • Because of Washington’s love for being at Mount Vernon, he set the precedent of presidents retreating to their homes or other places.
  • He set the precedent of a maximum of eight years in office (FDR broke that precedent, but in 1951 we made the constitutional amendment for a two term limit)

Never forget, great leadership is about standing for something bigger than yourself, and setting a precedent where it is needed. After all, an organization’s culture, or country’s culture for that matter, is a reflection of its leaders. Which means it all starts with you.

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?

What’s In Your Leadership Toy Box?

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

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

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

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

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