Byron's Babbles

Love In Action

Today officially marks the start of the 26th week of the year. We are at the halfway point. It also means I am halfway through the great book Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice, Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley. I am reading the book one simple truth at a time and writing a reflective post each week. This week’s post reflects on Simple Truth #26: “Great Leaders SERVE.” In this simple truth the elements of the SERVE model from The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do, by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller were introduced. Two things jumped out at me. First, the idea of “reinventing continuously,” and second, the statement at the end of the simple truth: “…servant leadership is love in action” (p. 69). Let’s look at reinventing continuously.

As a person who loves learning and experiencing new things, I believe In the idea that what we know today will probably not make us successful even in the near future. We must be constantly reinventing ourselves. This does not mean we are giving up or changing core values, but means we are iterating. In fact, iteration, might be a better way to look at this than reinventing. By its very nature iteration is about learning and progressing to the next level – what great leaders do. For every new iteration, feedback must occur so that the next iteration is better and moving in the right direction.

Besides the personal reinvention there are two other parts to the Blanchard and Miller model of reinventing continuously: reinventing systems and processes and structural reinvention. Now more than ever, there is rapid and continual change all around us. Just think of the supply-chain for one. There is a great need to develop an iterative mentality and create a culture of learning. Therefore, if we want to practice “love in action,” we must not wait or hope that those we serve will somehow learn all of the needed skills that make them great. We must deliberately lead and model the reinvention/iteration process for all.

Your Unique Reason

Posted in Ken Blanchard, Leadership, Leadership Development, Randy Conley, Simple Truths of Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on June 20, 2022

I believe each and every one of us has a purpose. We each have a unique reason for being here on planet Earth. We are not here to only stroke our own egos and be interested in our superficial selves and obsess over what we want, what we have and what other people think of us. I learned a long time ago that others don’t think of us as often as we sometimes think they do and are usually so self-consumed with themselves that most of their time is spent thinking about themselves instead of us. This was the subject of Simple Truth #25, “It’s Not About You” of Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice, Ken Blanchardand Randy Conley. In today’s world, it’s easy to get off track or focus on the wrong things, leading to dissatisfaction and not taking good care of those we serve.

Great leaders bring out the best in others. Those we serve need to hear that we believe in them. Once those we serve recognize that we genuinely want to see them do well and are committed to helping them, they will begin to believe they can accomplish their purpose in the organization. By realizing it is not about us, we can bring out the best in others.

Getting A Helper’s High

“People who feel good about the work they do are always looking for ways to contribute to the success of your organization.” When I read this tonight in Simple Truth #24, “People Who Produce Good Results Feel Good About Themselves” of Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice, Ken Blanchardand Randy Conley I thought to myself, “Drop the mic!” Then at about that same moment I got this text from a client I had just facilitated an important event for tonight: “That was really neat and very special tonight. Thanks for all of your intentional work and planning to make such an awesome event!” That really made me feel good. I had produced the results they wanted.

I think they call this a “helper’s high.” As a person who considers himself a helper this is awesome. The brain released those feel-good chemicals called endorphins. I also felt gratitude which makes me want to do even better work for the organization, proving Blanchard’s and Conley’s points. We human beings have a basic need to know that we contribute, create value and can make a difference and effect change in our environment.

The Gift Of Feedback

You all know how the children’s fairytale The Emperor’s New Clothes ends…the emperor goes out with his new clothes which were allegedly invisible, and, of course, is naked. No one has the courage to tell the emperor he is naked until he comes to a little boy who says, “But he doesn’t have anything on!” It took the innocence of a child to make the emperor realize he had no clothes. In Simple Truth #23, “Servant Leaders Love Feedback” of Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice, Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley told us the feedback is a gift and that servant leaders love feedback.

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

~ Rick Tate

It’s curious to me that a lot of development and coaching centers around getting better at giving feedback to others, but we rarely focus on how to attract, receive, and use actionable feedback about ourselves; even though it’s in our own best interest to do so. The top performing people I know always ask for feedback. Getting actionable feedback is a skill, and the top performers excel because they are continually honing that skill. Feedback is data and when we have more data, we’re better positioned to respond to the world around us. In a culture where leaders ask for feedback there are broad practical and interpersonal benefits, including relationship building and employee engagement.

Hatching Change

One of the things I am always saying is that I do not like the words, “buy-in.” It has been my experience that if you have to go get buy-in for some new initiative or change, you have already failed. Done correctly, the buy-in should happen organically as the change or initiative is being planned. As Ken Blanchard said in Simple Truth #22, “People Who Plan The Battle Rarely Battle The Plan” of 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, “…people have a hard time getting behind an organizational change effort they have had no part in creating” (p. 61). That’s why I am such a believer in the Vantage Points Model (MG Taylor Corporation). The Vantage Point Model reminds us that we should gather as many stakeholders from different points of view as possible (philosophy, culture, policy, strategy, tactics, logistics, and tasks). Blanchard went on to tell us that, “When they [people] can play a part in implementing the plan and are allowed to express their concerns and contribute their ideas and feedback, they are more likely to align behind the plan and help accomplish it” (p. 61). Thus my point about “buy-in.”

If we have been inclusive during incubation phase of the change process or initiative building, then there should already be buy-in because it was the group’s initiative to start with. If all those with a stake in the change or new initiative have been represented this will get us to a better product in the end. I have witnessed initiatives in schools fail, that were good ideas, because teachers and/or students were left out of the incubation phase. After the hatching the change or initiative I heard, “That was a good idea, but failed because no-one asked the ones (teachers) that would be implementing it. We could have told them to do x, y, and z and it would have worked.” There were so many times when I was a teacher or principal that we had some school process we needed to correct or create and almost every time that we got stuck trying to figure it out, it was the students who would come up with the solution that actually worked.

So next time you need to hatch change, don’t forget to gather representatives from all groups that will be affected by the change.

Inviting Instead Of Commanding

Ken Blanchard said, “Servant leaders know people want to be part of the team. They invite their people to follow them in a side-by-side working relationship that the people have had a part in creating” (p. 59) in Simple Truth #21, “Servant Leaders Don’t Command People To Obey; They Invite People To Follow” of Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practiceby Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley. We know that leading by title does not work. We also know that command and control does not work.

Relationships, walking the talk, skills, and results make you a leader. Titles should confirm leadership but they can never bestow it. The weight of many leaders I have encountered titles has made them forget that those titles do not account for the wisdom to evolve. It’s like the principal who forgets what it was like to be a teacher. Or, the person leading principals who was never a principal. Leadership should be about inspiring people to believe in themselves, to believe in their gifts, to believe in their potential, and to believe in something much greater than their own self-preservation.

The essence of the great servant leaders I’ve witnessed has been a positive team environment, honest/transparent communication, helps, engages, and appreciates. Remember, leadership is earned through behavior.

Leading With Love

“I believe servant leadership is love in action” (p. 55). Ken Blanchard said this in Simple Truth #20, “Love Is The Answer. What is The Question?” of Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practiceby Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley. For the last couple of years I’ve been thinking about and discussing love as the key to best serve those in our lives. The Bible verse Blanchard chose to reference here written by Paul the Apostle to Corinth, Greece is a great. Check it out:

4. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 | NIV

Regardless of your beliefs, that’s a pretty good, what I would call “Leading With Love” statement. Think about the self-serving leader(s), the antithesis of servant leaders, that you have worked with. Blanchard told us they are envious, brag a lot, and certainly aren’t very patient. My experience is they are the ones that continually tell you how they are not all those things. We all have pieces of Paul’s call to serving with love that we need to work on, or at least I do. Are you leading with love?

From Subordinary To Partner

Ken Blanchard said, “Face the fact that your people already understand that you don’t know everything.” (p. 53) in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practiceby Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley. I could name you a handful of people who call themselves leaders who have not faced that fact. In fact, I’m not sure they know they don’t know everything. As a person who is comfortable being the dumbest person in the room, Simple Truth #19, “No one of us is as smart as all of us,” reminded me how important it is to surround ourselves with great and creative minds and then actually listen and appreciate their input.

When we work alongside each other, recognize each other’s strengths, and hear each other ideas evolve and progress ensues that would be tenuous when done alone. Blanchard pointed out that there are self-serving leaders who have no idea what their people are capable of and that they are capable of much more. Or, as I have experienced in the past, won’t turn you loose to do the things that play to your strengths. We must remember that “everyone’s contribution is needed and appreciated” (p. 53). Don’t let your best people leave because they want to be a partner and not a subordinary person.

Working Smarter

Ken Blanchard said, “It’s about preparing and training their people to do their own work, then getting out of their way so they can achieve their goals” (p. 51) in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practiceby Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley. In Simple Truth #18, “Don’t work harder; work smarter,” we are reminded that delegation after we have developed the right people is the smart play. It’s important to find efficient ways to help those we serve tackle their tasks and achieve their goals.

If you’ve ever tried to put “Don’t work harder; work smarter” into action for yourself or others, you know it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Finding ways to get more done while keeping our owner and those we serve stress levels low often proves to be more difficult than it seems. One thing I believe leaders need to do is reduce the to-do list noise will provide a laser-focused team the energy and creativity needed to produce the best results.

Then it becomes about optimizing how projects are approached. We are empowered when we are given the appropriate autonomy to make decisions and get the wrk done on our own and even have the space to make mistakes and learn from them. We must not forget, however, that we must take the time to build up our team’s strength and morale. This must be true development, not just a motivational video clip played at the end of a Friday staff meeting. In order for all this to work, teams must be fully developed and have the technical skills/knowledge to do the job. Are you working smarter?

We Should Not Need Trumpet Lessons

We were taught to catch ourselves doing things right in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practiceby Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley. In Simple Truth #17, “It’s Okay To Toot Your Own Horn,” we we given two really good points:

  • “When people appreciate what you’re doing, don’t say, ‘Yes, but…’ Instead tell them you appreciate their noticing” (p. 49).
  • “Along the same lines, when someone pays you a compliment, simply smile and say, ‘Thank you.’ Don’t disagree with them – that’s like telling the person they don’t have good judgement or aren’t very smart” (p. 49).

Those two points are great personal growth reminders and things I need to continually work on. These remind us to not be modest to a fault. If we underrate your own abilities, it’ll be hard for anyone else to recognize them. We need to give ourselves credit for our expertise.

When reflecting on the metaphor of tooting your own horn, however, I believe it is a leaders responsibility make sure those they serve do not need to take trumpet lessons. Instead we need to development a community where everyone is noticed for their contributions. We all know people who get ahead because they are gifted artists at the practice of getting the boss’ recognition—even if others have done most of the work. And we’ve seen the boss’s that don’t have the awareness to see through this. Then, in many organizations, those with their heads down doing the work are overlooked. It is a leaders responsibility to find these people. It is about awareness. Great teams shine the light on each other when they deserve it.