Byron's Babbles

My Labor Day 2020 Wish

Posted in Labor Day, Leadership, Servant Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 7, 2020

Today will mark the first time I have written a post specifically referencing or honoring Labor Day. Honestly, I believe this might be the first time I have even done anything other than work around the farm (which is always like a holiday for me) on Labor Day. This year, however, we decided to spend the long weekend with my son, Heath, in the Murray, Kentucky area near Murray State University, where he attends.

We have had an absolutely fabulous weekend of fishing on Kentucky Lake, exploring the Land Between The Lakes, attending Mayfield (KY) Trade Days, learning to make pork rinds, having a big fish fry with the Crappie we caught, and making lots of new friends. The best part has been spending time with family around the campfire every night reminiscing and telling stories. While talking late into the night last night, Heath and I got into a discussion over what Labor Day really was all about. Neither of us had really given little or no thought to the origin or intent of the holiday. Of course, we both ended up on our phones and commenced to having a history lesson.

National Postal Museum, Smithsonian Institution

In 1894 President Grover Cleveland signed S. 730 into law making Labor Day a national holiday. From what we could gather, individual states had been celebrating Labor Day in some form or another since 1882. Then between 1887 and 1894, 23 states enacted there own Labor Day holidays. During this time in our countries history we had been experiencing many labor relations issues. These issues culminated with the Pullman Strike that actually stopped traffic west of Chicago. The railway workers actions elevated awareness of a growing need for displaying greater appreciation for American workers. Since that time we have still had labor disputes and there continues, and probably always will, be the ebb and flow between business and labor. Since the first Labor Day, many elected officials have used this day to reach out and connect with the constituents she/he serves.

As a servant leader this day is meaningful in recognizing the incredible contributions of all who have worked very hard to make this country great. I certainly believe we have made great social and economic achievements. My Labor Day 2020 wish is that we would all dedicate ourselves to continue to study our history, not bash it or try to erase it, but learn from it for continued improvement. Today I honor all who have worked so hard making strength, prosperity, and well-being possible in our country.

Seeking Opportunities To Observe & Update Our 🌎Worldview🌍

We create our own beliefs, they don’t happen to us. We choose what and how we believe. As we grow up, we see the world and ourselves in a particular way. This “way” is based on environmental influences, our parents/families, and our peers. Whether we like it or not, we are responsible for developing our own belief system.

“To argue with someone else’s experience is futile. To add their experience to your own is possibly useful.”

One of my favorite quotes by an unknown author is, “To argue with someone else’s experience is futile. To add their experience to your own is possibly useful.” To me this is what empathy is about – understanding how another person’s experiences have shaped them. If we take time to truly study the experiences of others, those experiences can help give us information free of confirmation bias.

One Machiavelli principle I prescribe to is that we should always “declare” what we believe. This does not, however, mean that those beliefs can’t evolve and change. Thus, why declaring is important. In fact, sometimes we must grapple with contradictory evidence. As our society becomes more and more global, we have more and more of our own experiences and the experiences of others to process. This contemplation of dealing with opposing views and possibly believing parts of both has always intrigued me. F. Scott Fitzgerald taught us, “The rest of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” I see this as an ability of great empathy, openness, humility, and leadership.

“It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t so.” ~ Mark Twain

This trait of openness was reinforced in an awesome book I’m reading right now, Creative Confidence: Unleashing The Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom Kelley and David Kelley. In the book we are taught that building on the ideas of others requires humility. We must first acknowledge to ourselves the we don’t have all the answers. The upside to this is that it takes the pressure off of us to know we don’t have to generate all the ideas on our own.

Mark Twain taught us that, “It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t so.” We need to be diligent to not be fooled by what we “know for sure” about ourselves, our customers, our students, those we serve, our communities, or the world. We must seek out opportunities to observe and update our worldview.

Leading Like A Superhero

 

Ever since we were kids we’ve dreamed of becoming superheroes. During our first fall gathering of 3D Leadership, I used a superhero throughline and had participants research superheroes and pick one that best represented themselves; or they could create an all new one. As always, they were super creative (a superhero power) and as they shared out I asked them a few questions:

  1. What is your superpower?
  2. How did you get your powers?
  3. What’s something that your arch nemesis has?
  4. Where would you live when your not saving the world?
  5. If you were on a team of superheroes, what would your role be?
  6. What would you fight the enemy with?
  7. In addition to your powers, what weapon would you want?

A couple of these superheroes really jumped out at me: Wonder Lori and Glinda. Wonder Lori was a new and made up superhero and Glinda was based on the good witch in the Wizard of Oz. The superpowers for these two were empathy and serving. Pretty good superpowers for leading like a superhero, right? Really being a superhero is about tapping one’s ability to do extraordinary things; and, being able to help others doing extraordinary things.

I was really struck by the superhero Glinda from the Wizard of Oz. The participant picked Glinda because of her power of always showing up at just the right time. This blew my mind because I had never thought about this in all the times I have watched the Wizard of Oz. But, what a great superpower, right. All of us as leaders would love the superpower of showing up at the right time. Glinda really did show up at just the right time, every time.

Additionally, the participant quoted Glinda at the end of the movie when she said, “You had the power all along, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” This is such a powerful statement. Glinda was a great teacher—and this compliment is not undeserved. The first lesson she teaches is one of delegation. She tells Dorothy the Wizard might be able to help her get home, but that the journey to Oz is a long and treacherous one. Dorothy needs, as always seems to be the case, more information and asks for it (she’s very good at asking questions). Glinda tells Dorothy to follow the Yellow Brick Road and never take the ruby slippers off her feet. Of course, the Munchkins help her get started and find her way on the yellow brick road. Dorothy has more questions, but Glinda is a master delegator: she waves her wand and disappears! Remind you of any great leaders you have worked with?

Even though we don’t see Glinda very much in the movie, she’s clearly behind the scenes keeping watch, removing barriers, and doing things to help without desiring any recognition. We learn this in the scene in which Glinda sends snow to counteract the effects of the sleep-inducing poppies. Glinda never rushes in dramatically on a white horse (even thought there are really cool horses in the movie that change colors) to fix everything herself and, in the process, undermine Dorothy’s self-confidence as a leader. Even when Glinda reappears at the end of the movie, it is only to make sure that Dorothy has learned the lessons of the ruby slippers for herself – “You had the power all along, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”

Forever Young

Posted in Forever Young, Leadership, Rod Stewart, Servant Leadership, Wisdom by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 23, 2020

Yesterday I got to spend some quality time in one of my favorite places: a tractor cab. As I was working I was listening to 107.9 the MIX: The 80s to Now, on the cab stereo. I love this station because it takes me back to the great rock music of my college days in the early 80s. What memories!

A blast from the past song by Rod Stewart came on yesterday that I had not heard or thought about for a long time: Forever Young. I got to see him perform in Market Square Arena in 1982. As an older rock and roller, now, I pay more attention to the lyrics. Yesterday, I was struck by the lyrics and had to look them up and study them – pretty profound! Here they are:

May the good Lord be with you
Down every road you roam
And may sunshine and happiness
surround you when you’re far from home
And may you grow to be proud
Dignified and true
And do unto others
As you’d have done to you
Be courageous and be brave
And in my heart you’ll always stay
Forever Young, Forever Young
Forever Young, Forever Young

May good fortune be with you
May your guiding light be strong
Build a stairway to heaven
with a prince or a vagabond

And may you never love in vain
and in my heart you will remain
Forever Young, Forever Young
Forever Young, Forever Young
Forever Young
Forever Young

And when you finally fly away
I’ll be hoping that I served you well
For all the wisdom of a lifetime
No one can ever tell

But whatever road you choose
I’m right behind you, win or lose
Forever Young, Forever Young
Forever Young ,Forever Young
Forever Young, Forever Young
For, Forever Young, Forever Young ~ writers: Jim Cragan, Robert Dylan, Kevin Stuart, James Savigar, & Rod Stewart

Here is the official YouTube video:

There is a lot there and the lyrics are pretty deep. You agree? I am not going to attempt to digest it all in this post; you can do that for yourself in your own cox test.

For me, I think it struck a chord (pun intended) because on Friday I had a friend say to me, “Your just a big kid.” Guilty as charged! And proud of it! I don’t ever want to grow up, but I would like to think that I am putting the wisdom of a very blessed life full of lots of great experiences to a purposeful use. As the song says, however, “One can never tell.” Just like all humans, I’ve fallen short at times in the things the song talks about, but in the end I hope those I have served will say I’ve been right beside or behind them, win or lose. And…that I am a big kid that has stayed forever young.

Does Life Imitate Art, Or Art Imitate Life?

I have been spending some time contemplating Oscar Wilde‘s thoughts on art. I love all kinds of art and consider myself an artist in terms of being creative and imaginative. I am definitely more of an artist than technocrat. I always say there is no bad art. You can refute that if you like, but Wilde and I would have been in agreement that artists should not be interested in seeking approval or creating art for demand. The instant artists, or we artistic leaders, begin to seek others approval we lose our creative juices. Think about what it is like when you are working on something and have to keep getting approval. The idiot needing the approval command and control gratification is stifling your creativity and ability to innovate. I recently wrote about this is in Empowerment Triggers The Approach System.

“…the new work of art is beautiful by being what Art has never been.” ~ Oscar Wilde

If you think about it art really means new. To truly be artistic in whatever we do whether it is leading, teaching, building, et cetera, we must be creative and innovating; we need to practice some individualism. Wilde argued “Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.” I believe if we approach everything we do as art, we would probably reach our highest potential.

“Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” ~ Oscar Wilde

James Ensor (Belgian, 1860 – 1949) Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1889, 1888, Oil on canvas 252.7 × 430.5 cm (99 1/2 × 169 1/2 in.), 87.PA.96 The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

If you think about it, leadership and art both bring social encounters to life life. One of my favorite artworks that I believe intersects with leadership is James Ensor‘s painting Christ’s Entry Into Brussels in 1889. The painting, which began expressionism, has Jesus in the middle of a chaotic crowd of very real and very unreal characters. I was first introduced to this painting back in 2012 and then blogged about the inspiration in Rushmorean Servant Leadership. For me it was about Jesus leading from the middle, or amongst us. I do try to lead in that way while being creative. Which still begs the question of whether Wilde was right, does life imitate art or art imitate life?

“It Has Been An Honor To Live This Life”

Posted in Benevolent Leadership, Community, Compassion, Compassionate Leadership, Honor, Leadership, Servant Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 23, 2020

I just finished reading an awesome book: The Warehouse by Rob Hart. I was so blown away by this book that all I have done so far is give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. I will write a review, but really need to think about what I will say to give Hart the justice he deserves. When this book was recommended to me I was reluctant because it is a fiction novel and, as you know, I read non fiction. This book, however, had many great lessons and besides a few twists it could be non fiction. I’m not going to say much more; you can read the book description for yourself. I don’t want to reveal anything that would take away from you enjoying the book as much as I did. All I can say is, you need to read the book. I guarantee you, you will say, “Is this really happening in the world right now?”

There were things said by characters in the book that jumped out at me. I will be blogging about them. One phrase came from Gibson, the founder and CEO of Cloud, the focus of the entire plot. He said, “It has been an honor to live this life.” Because of his business practices this seemed like an odd comment because I found him to be very much like Machiavelli. While Gibson presents everything he does as putting others first and doing what’s best for the world, he also has rules by fear. He is promoting a very socialist/communist way of life by controlling the collective, but making millions and living a luxurious life for himself, while his employees just get by. He is Machiavellian in that he controls with low wages and the fear of employees losing their jobs.

Also, Gibson uses Machiavelli’s rule of “scorched earth”; completely eliminating any competition or potential competitor. He basically puts every other business out of business. No competition – complete control. So, I’m thinking “How can there be any honor in living that life?”

To be clear, Gibson was providing jobs and places to live, but there is clearly a conflict of whether he is doing this “for others” or “to others to make money.” Therefore the question becomes, “What does it mean to live with honor?”

To me, living with honor means living for a cause greater than yourself. It means really having a purpose; not just becoming CEO and making a bunch of money. In other words, am I making a difference? Really that is only a question we can answer for ourself. For me it comes down to the question of, “Are you contributing to the success and happiness of others?” In the case of Gibson I would say “no.” All he did was contribute to his own ego and bank account.

“If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.” ~ Former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson

For it to be an honor to live a life I believe there also needs to be honesty and transparency. If that happens the right things will probably be done. We need to be concerned where life is taking us, but we also need to be as concerned, or even more concerned, about how we are getting there. If we truly want to live with honor.

As you can see, this book had a profound impact on me and caused a great deal of reflection. We never know who is watching us or considering as a role model. What do you want them to see. Rather than saying, “It was an honor to live this life.” I would rather someone say of me, “He lived his life with honor.”

Leading With Compassionate Solutions

One of the driving forces of exceptional leadership is compassion. I am working through a situation right now that prompted the much appreciated text pictured above from a staff member and thought partner I am working on the situation with. Usually I pride myself on being very creative and innovative, but to be credited for finding a compassionate solution made me feel good and made me reflect on whether I was consistently a compassionate leader.

To be great, leaders must have the necessary empathy to inspire understanding and knowledge in team members. I teach about this in the leadership trainings I do. Empathy begins with taking an understanding from the experience and perception of another. Empathy, however, is just about understanding. Empathy is about opening doors and removing confusion. Compassion is the action step; compassion is about actually doing something.

The compassionate leader can then be creative in solving situations, problems, and opportunities. Looking for compassionate solutions allows the leader to look past “the easy way out” referenced in the text pictured above. This allows the team to look at challenges as opportunities to be dealt with as obstacles, not barriers. Barriers stop completely and obstacles can be removed, gone around, over, or under. I blogged about this in Obstacles Vs. Barriers. Actually, I said to the author of the above text, “Let’s make sure we look at any challenges as obstacles and not barriers. We are not allowing any barriers.” The compassionate leader seeks to understand people, families, and communities; knowing that understanding is the gateway to having the greatest influence as a leader.

Manatee Leadership Lessons

 

Yesterday, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to learn leadership lessons from the West Indian Manatee. Our Central Florida/Tampa 3D Leadership Program participants decided that we would start our gathering at the Tampa Electric Company Manatee Viewing Center. The Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach delivers reliable electricity to the community. When the Tampa Bay water temperature reaches 68ºF or colder, the Manatees gather in large numbers in the power station’s discharge canal, where saltwater – taken from Tampa Bay to cool Unit 4 flows, clean and warm, back to the bay. The discharge canal is a state and federally designated Manatee sanctuary that provides critical protection from the cold for these unique, gentle animals. It has also been developed into an incredible education center dedicated to the Manatee, Sting Ray, birds, butterflies, and other wildlife and plant life indigenous to the area. I even got to smell the breath of a Manatee. For the farm kid from Indiana this was an incredible experience.

Prior to arriving for the experience I did a a little studying and learned how the Manatee handle thermoregulation by doing central-place grazing. In other words, they go out into the cold bay water to graze on plant life (they are herbivores) and then come back to the warm water near the power plant to get warmed up. I was also able to study the migratory maps of these amazing mammals.

The objective of participants was to come up with the leadership lessons learned from our Manatee experience. Here is what we came up:

  1. Must be caring
  2. Adaptive to change
  3. Lead by example
  4. Able to function alone
  5. Still move forward through the unknown

As you can see there are so many great leadership lessons to be learned from studying and observing these wonderful animals. I have done other blog posts with lessons from animals, such as Pelican Leadership Lessons, Living and Leading Like A Lobster, and Leading Like A Platypus. Using animals as metaphors for great leadership is a great way to learn and teach leadership. Do you have any examples? Share them by replying to my post.

Toy Story 4 Leadership

Don’t laugh, but as I flew across our awesome country yesterday to Palm Springs, California for the 2019 iNACOL (now named the Aurora Institute) Symposium, I was excited to get to watch Toy Story 4. I’m a fan of Toy Story; not just because they are great movies, but also because of the Pixar story and the lessons in the movies. I was certainly not disappointed by the gang of toys getting back together with the addition of new toys. There were so many great connections to the leadership lessons I facilitate in our 3D Leadership program. I even took notes on a napkin.

There were six big standout lessons in the movie:

1. From Forky I was reminded that we need to understand our value and the value others bring to our teams and organizations.

It is so important we know and understand our strengths. Then, it is crucial we have people working to their strengths. Too many times we move people and change roles, sometimes in an attempt to promote, without any regard to whether it is the “right” role based on strengths. Remember, you bring value. Forky needed to realize he was a toy even though not in the traditional sense. He brought value to Bonnie. Let’s not forget, she created Forky.

2. Great leaders are not always seen. Woody was helping Bonnie through her first day of school without her even knowing it. Without being seen Woody got her crayons for her and got her the materials to make Forky. He was helping her, being a servant leader, without her knowing it.

It’s easy to think leaders must be front and center and seen. Leaders don’t have to be seen, though. Leaders can do great work from the background. Great leaders gently guide people without them knowing you were there or were leading them.

3. The toys practiced adaptive leadership. Throughout the entire show, strategy was agile and constantly changing. Interestingly, all the toys led from where they were. Several times during the movie I heard toys say, “I have an idea, let’s do this.” The other toys would then team up and carry it out.

4. Buzz Lightyear led from where he was. Buzz had not really been a leader in the other three Toy Story movies, but he had to step up in this one because Woody wasn’t present. Buzz stepped up and filled the leadership void.

5. At one point in the film, Bo Peep exclaimed to Woody, “Look around, nobody’s with you.” We must remember that leadership is influence and if no one is with us when we turn around we are not having an influence.

6. At one point Woody said, “Because it’s the only thing I have to do.” Woody was resisting transition into another role, or in other words, he was resisting change. Know times of transition are not easy. Yet, to grow, there will always be transitions. Change is a good thing. Don’t let the pain of transitions stop them from happening.

There are so many more lessons in Toy Story 4 to be dissected, but those are my big takeaways for now. If you have watched the film, I would love to hear your takeaways. Let’s keep leading to “infinity and beyond”!

Leadership Dominoes

IMG_7220

“Everything affects everything else in one way or another. Whether you are aware of that or not does not change the fact that this is what is happening. That’s why I say a business is a system. This systems perspective reminds us that this is what is going on. And when you see it this way, you can manage your business better. You appreciate, for example, that any action will reverberate throughout the entire company. This causes you to pay more attention to what you do, and learn the right lessons from your experience.” – John Woods

I use the metaphor of dominoes falling all the time and was reminded that everything affects everything last night at our Tampa, Florida area gathering of 3D Leadership. We did an activity carving pumpkins in the theme of “truths that frustrate me”. As a story was being told about how a Curriculum Resource Teacher (CRT) was covering classes that didn’t have a teacher, because of the teacher shortage, she stated that she loved covering the class and teaching. The problem, however, was that she was very frustrated she was not able to support the teachers that she was responsible for coaching. This really made me think about how this was really two rows of dominoes put in play. I did my best to graphically represent it (shown here in the post). The first row of dominoes was put in play when there was a teacher not available for a class. The second row of dominoes was put in play when the CRT covered the class, even though she loved doing that, and she couldn’t work with the teachers on her coaching load.

IMG_7218Dominoes are actually a learning lesson when it comes to leadership. Up until the time I heard this story originating with a pumpkin carving I had thought of the domino effect in a very linear view. this caused me to think about all the other rows of dominoes that get put into play with just one decision, event, action, or mistake. Regardless of the catalyst that sets the dominoes in motion, it is some type of change. Leaders and organizations need to navigate these changes carefully and be sure the changes, or the people making the changes, aren’t like a bull in a china shop. Sorry for the use of another metaphor. We need to lead with a systemic focus. We need to take into consideration all the interconnected parts of our organizations that could set the domino effect into motion, impacting the success of the change, productivity, effectiveness and lives of those we serve.

Even though all the people and parts of your organization are not dominoes, we would be well served to treat them as such. Our organizations are interconnected systems. Changes in on area have a direct impact on changes in other areas. We need to remember that once dominoes start to topple over, it will take time to get them put back up.