Byron's Babbles

Leading Like WD-40

Sometimes it really is “rocket science.” Pretty much everyone knows WD-40® is the go-to product for silencing squeaks, displacing moisture, preventing rust, and loosening stuck parts. You probably have a can sitting in your house, garage, or bike toolkit right now. You can find several cans in multiple locations here on our farm. Back in the day we even used more cans than now when we had to regularly pop distributor caps off and spray in WD-40® to displace condensation. In fact, WD-40’s nickname is “toolkit in a can.” What a great product!

The product itself was invented in San Diego back in 1953 to stop corrosion in the umbilical cord of the Atlas space rockets, so the product actually came out of the space era. So, yes, it is rocket science. It’s called WD-40® because there were 39 formulas that didn’t work and the 40th one did, so that’s why it’s called water displacing 40 formula. A few years ago at a leadership development gathering I was doing where participants were to bring pictures of leaders who had influenced them, we had a participant bring a picture of a can of WD-40. I loved it! What a great leadership metaphor.

The participant explained how WD-40® could help you solve almost any issue around the house. Great leaders help us and stand with us on all the everyday issues. Also, the product has stayed consistent over the years with improvements and innovations on how to best deliver, such as the Smart Straw™️ (so you don’t lose the little red straw) and No-Mess WD-40 pen. Or, my personal favorite: WD-40 EZ Reach™️ (check out the featured picture in this post). Remind you of any great leaders you’ve been associated with?

Do you have sticky sticky/rusty/inactive levers or individuals in your organization. Consider leading like WD-40® and help disperse the distractions keeping those you serve from achieving greatness.

Every Little Detail Matters

Walt Disney World EPCOT World Showcase Lagoon

In a planning meeting for a future gathering yesterday I was reminded of two very important words: “everything speaks”. Two simple words, but huge implications. It’s all about impact and we need to remember that everything speaks, always! I’m pretty sure Walt Disney gets credit for the “everything speaks” philosophy. And, you don’t have to spend very much time at a Walt Disney World theme park to figure it out. Just like trash cans every so many steps and the fact that Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the Hall of Presidents wears polio braces under his trousers. The details matter! My wife and I experienced a Disney Resort and the Disney Theme Parks for the first time past fall and we both commented on the fact that it was not just the big “wows”, but all the little things that added up. For example, I was amazed at how any time there was a question, someone just happened to be there to answer it.

I have friends who are Disney fanatics and I understand that for Disney the return trip is key. Therefore, they have truly empower their team to make decisions and be servant leaders to enhance the guest experience to the fullest. If you noticed that the word “truly” was in bold, that was no accident. I experienced organization where empowerment is talked about a lot, but never really practiced. Your empowered to do what your told. Have you noticed, places like that don’t retain their employees either? What’s interesting is that if we’re doing the right things we don’t need to talk about it, why? Because everything speaks! Most people don’t even notice all the little things at Disney, but we would if they were not there – so, we don’t need to be told they are there because those little things are speaking. Those we serve only notice what we do when we don’t do it.

Every detail of the experience with you or your organization is saying something about you and your organization. Those you are serving may not consciously know or understand every detail, but subconsciously clues to our culture and the community we have formed are being communicated. One of the key points from my planning meeting that I leave you with is that for the work we do in developing and serving others we need to have an experience mindset, not a task mindset. It is important that we actualize everything so none of the little things get missed. Remember, everything speaks.

Different Strokes For Different Folks

I love the phrase “different strokes for different folks.” I’m such a believer and advocate for individualization, personalization, and differentiation for everyone. We work at this in education for all scholars, but we need to be diligent about doing this for those adults we serve as well. Here we are in the ninth week of the year and in Simple Truth #9, “Effective Servant Leaders Realize They Have To Use Different Strokes For Different Folks”, in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice by Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley we are told that the best leaders use different strokes (leadership styles) for different folks. To be flexible and differentiate for those we serve we must, “Determine whether they are generally an Enthusiastic Beginner; a Disillusioned Learner; a Capable, but Cautious, Contributor; or a Self-Reliant Achiever” (p. 29). I’m going to make you read this great book to get all the details.

Furthermore, I believe this flexibility is part of loving those we serve. When we really take the time to understand and build relationships with others, whether our students or those we work with, we can help to individualize and differentiate for what styles and support will enable them to thrive.

Side By Side Leadership

I’m glad I hadn’t written this post reflecting on Simple Truth #7, “When People Are Off Track, Don’t Reprimand Them – Redirect Them”, in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice by Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley before a leadership development gathering I facilitated last night because a conversation added value to the book content. We discussed how important it is to show grace, have empathy, and practice compassion. One leader asked, “What happens when the person you are showing grace to just isn’t getting the job done?” A great discussion ensued. Many even shared their stories of being on both sides of that question. Long story short, where we landed was that there has to be grace with accountability. If we really love those we serve this is the right thing to do. So, for example, if a person has had some change that causes him to be a little late to work, then there can be the accountability of, “what’s our goal of when we can get back to being on time?” Or, even better, could there be some adjustment made for that person to work later in the day that would help out someone needing to leave earlier? This is what loving those we serve is all about. We say it can’t be one size fits all for students, why does it have to be one size fits all for adults? I don’t think it does.

This all caused me to reflect even more on what Blanchard called “side-by-side leadership.” He stressed that we are almost always in learning mode and “Punishing a learner is never appropriate…” (p. 23). Ever had that boss that liked to reprimand? You know, the one you only heard from when we made a mistake – in today’s world usually in the form of a text or email. Not real helpful, right? Blanchard said, and I believe this goes right along with our grace with accountability discussion last night that, “When people are clear on the goal and still learning but their performance isn’t up to standard, redirection is far more effective than a reprimand. The aim is to BUILD (emphasis added by me) people up so they will continue to move toward improved performance” (p. 23). So, let’s all get side-by-side with those we serve and build, build, build!

Approximately Right To Exactly Right

It’s funny; we all have that word when we are learning to talk that our parents told the story about. Mine was calling candles at Christmas time “nandles.” By my birthday I had perfected my speaking and called them candles on my birthday cake. For my son it was “corn on the bob” instead of “corn on the cob.” The point of the story is that we both eventually got it right. As an educator, I’ve always understood the power of praising progress and growth to proficiency. Somehow, though, many leaders forget this with adults.

This week in Simple Truth #6, “Praise Progress!”, in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice we are told by Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley that “Good performance is a moving target, not a final destination” (p. 21). Their point is that if we are serving correctly as a leader we will be coaching, developing, and cheerleading along the way – not just waiting to see if there is success or failure. As we’re told by Ken and Randy, “Exactly right behavior is made up of a series of approximately right behaviors” (p. 21). Nandles became candles and corn on the bob became corn on the cob. What was your word you had approximately right?

Seagull Management

This week’s Simple Truth #5, The Key To Developing People Is To Catch Them Doing Something Right, in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice by Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley really resonated with me. Last week I had made the comment that right now everyone seems to be looking over their shoulder waiting for someone to catch them doing something wrong, saying something wrong, or making some kind of mistake. My experience with those kind of cultures of fear of making mistakes is that we are going to, you guessed it, make mistakes. So, how do we change this? It is actually pretty easy, shift to “…catching people doing things right and praising them” (Blanchard & Conley, 2022, p. 19). They tell us it really is common sense.

“Seagull management, where managers set goals with people and then disappear until something else goes wrong. Then they fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everybody, and fly out.”

Blanchard & Conley, 2022. Simple Truths of Leadership. p. 19.

But really, how do you change that? I loved the term Blanchard used to describe how we are missing the mark. He called it “seagull management.” I am sure after many of you read the quote above defining seagull management you were saying, “Yes! I have totally experienced this.” It may be that person that only texts, calls, or emails when something is wrong or it is perceived we’ve made a mistake. I’ll also relate this to society in general right now to the people who only post mistakes or quote people on social media who have misspoke (not really intending to say what they said). Again, my experience has been that when we are in environments like that we tend to make more mistakes.

We are all going to make mistakes. Remember, the only people who don’t are the ones not doing anything (sometimes the seagulls). So, let’s use the common sense practices from Blanchard and Conley and catch people doing great things, praise them and “Make it clear you have confidence in them and support their future success” (p. 19). Key word there is “support.”

Don’t Get Caught In The Activity Trap

Goals are very important. I don’t think anyone will argue that. Even just starting meetings by reminding everyone the goal to be accomplished is important to keeping us from going down rabbit holes. Having said that, I have always been fascinated to watch how leaders use goals – or not. In Simple Truth #4, All Good Performance Starts With Clear Goals, in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice we are told by Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley that great leaders help those they serve to “…establish observable and measurable goals around their key areas of responsibility” (p. 17). I have witnessed leaders who are all about setting the SMART (see picture) goals, but then do not give the support needed for those they serve to accomplish the goals.

The authors called this out with what they called the “activity trap.” Blanchard and Conley said, “As a result, people tend to get caught in an activity trap where they are busy doing tasks – but not necessarily the right tasks” (p. 17). For some leaders it almost seems like they believe it is an honor to have their people, and even themselves, overloaded with the trivial issues, irritations, requests, and routine activities that eat up our time and resources. If we really want to shape the future, see around the corners, and look into the future we must use our goals and then set the strategy to achieve them. Getting caught up in the activity trap keeps leaders and their organizations from fulfilling their strategic mission.

Remember, activities completed do not necessarily equal desired outputs or worthwhile outcomes. This activity trap also kills innovation. Doing a bunch of activities prescribed by someone else does not mean that we have achieved the desired output or outcome, or set up other dependent activities for success. I believe this is a real problem in the area of education, where I spend a lot of time. Many times teachers are given many prescribed activities that are not really driving student achievement. The moral of this story is that we need to set the right SMART goals for outcomes and then support those we serve to achieve them with them using their own data to make decisions and adjustments.

Results & Relationships

You all know how I love books that are split up into 52 distinct chapters/lessons. Well, here in the first week of 2022 I have been blessed with starting a new one, by an author who I greatly respect, have read all his books, and heard him speak several times. That author is Dr. Ken Blanchard. I’m sure you recognize that name. I am on the launch team for Dr. Blanchard’s new book that he wrote with Randy Conley, Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice. I was so excited to get an advance copy of the book and to make this the book that I commit to doing one of the lessons each week and writing a blog post about in 2022. The book releases on February 1st. You need to go ahead and get your pre-order done.

I had to chuckle when I first started reading this book and came across, “When it comes to servant leadership and trust, we both wonder why the principles we see as common sense are so seldom used in common practice” in the introduction of the book. Ken went on to say, “If today’s leaders had a more commonsense approach to leadership, we’d venture to say that 65 to 70 percent of the workforce would not be considered disengaged.” This is such a timely book because a common theme keeps coming up in my leadership development work – we are forgetting the simple things. In fact, I blogged about Simple Things in one of my last posts of 2021 before I’d even started this book. I am super excited to dig in and unpack the learning of this great book. The book is divided into two parts. The first part is on servant leadership and written by Ken Blanchard. Randy Conley wrote the second part on building trust. So, let’s dive right in with lesson #1.

Simple Truth #1 – Servant Leadership is the best way to achieve both great results and great relationships.

We are reminded that we all need to feel connected and have a shared sense of what is valued. “Results” and “people” are not mutually exclusive. Vision and direction are leadership responsibilities, but cannot be a top-down function. As I always say, if you have included everyone on the front end, you don’t have to worry about buy in on the back end, because it will already be there. And, if we are truly servant leaders we will be shoulder to shoulder with those we serve providing personal and professional growth opportunities, actionable feedback, listening, and communication. We can have our cake and eat it too when it comes to results and relationships.

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?

Catch Me and Prop Me Up!

In Chapter 11 of Mindset Mondays with DTK, David Taylor-Klaus used the analogy of a fitness class and wearing a weighted vest to discuss “Reclaim Your Brain.” This got me to thinking that athletes are the perfect examples of reclaiming your brain. Let’s use football as the example. When a quarterback throws an interception, they must immediately get their mind back on track and tell themselves the next pass will be caught. Otherwise the mindset of throwing another interception will take over. For the quarterback it becomes about taking a deep breath and the reminder of all the work in practice that has gone into being on the same page that ensures success on the next pass.

Then, during a post-game interview following the New Orleans Saints huge 38-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Drew Brees (Pride of Purdue University and greatest quarterback of all time) reminded us that we also need to be propped up by others to help us see the things that will keep our mindset focused in the the right direction. Here’s an excerpt from Brees’ inspiring comments:

“It was funny, I got hit and I was going down and Terron Armstead caught me and propped me up and said, ‘I just wanted you to see this touchdown.’ So, it’s funny how often the offensive linemen catch that stuff; You know, their blocking, their blocking {and} the minute their guy sees the balls been thrown, the lineman is able to look down the field…So, it’s funny, he caught me, propped me up and said, ‘I just wanted you to see this touchdown.’

Drew Brees is post-game interview

Is that the coolest story or what? It really got me thinking about how many times others have propped me up, even at times when I probably didn’t deserve it. In listening to the interview, this propping up of Drew Brees had a profound impact on him. He was also very complimentary Terron Armstead’s awareness of what was going happening on the whole field. This big picture vision and propping up I’m sure plays a huge role in the team community of the Saints. Armstead saw a need for leadership and seized the moment. I touched on this in Spreading The Wealth. Everyone is a leader and everyone has the responsibility to lead from wherever they are whenever necessary. Period.

Leadership is crucial to setting others up to become successful. By really understanding and paying attention to the needs of those on our teams we can help provide for other to become the “best self” they can be. In our example here, Armstead became a servant leader by being there for Brees. Sometimes we need a cheerleader, other times a champion, and other times a blocker. Through our own curiosity and vision we can help others reflect on their own work and mindset, which helps them be successful the next time around. Don’t think for a minute that Drew Brees won’t be thinking about being propped up and watching that touchdown for some time to come. And, that seeing that touchdown first hand while being propped up hasn’t added to a positive mindset. Success breeds success and the more we learn from what others do right, the more we all grow.

What have great leaders in your life done lately to prop you up and help you reclaim your brain with the right mindset?