Byron's Babbles

Telling Our Stories

Posted in 9/11, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Story, Story Telling, Storytelling by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 10, 2021

I am so loving The Bookshop At Water’s End by Patti Callahan Henry. Patti has done such an incredible job of developing the characters in this novel. It is yet another affirmation that we can learn so much from fictional characters. We get to know everything about these characters. In real-life and non-fiction we only get to know what is revealed, based on authenticity. In the book it was said that, “Some things can only be told by those living them.” This is why how we live, lead, serve, and tell the story is so important.

Another line in the book, “Sometimes we tell our stories, and sometimes our stories tell us.” If that statement doesn’t cause you to stop, think, and take stock, I’m not sure what will. As I have watched interviews, reflected, and remembered 9/11 today these quotes from the book are even more powerful. Every person who was living on that day experienced the event differently. Those stories can only be told by each of us in the context we lived it. And, for some the stories tell much about the person.

Additionally, I had the chance to eat dinner with my son on Thursday night and his sliders came in a basket lined with cool paper printed with actual news stories. His paper had an article about November 9, 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell and an article about when the Titanic was found. He wanted to talk about these two things. I was around for those events, but didn’t have much connection with the Titanic. I did, however, live through the Cold War and have stood where the Berlin Wall was and brought home pieces of the Berlin Wall.

As leaders we need to remember these statements. It is why relationships are job one. If we want to live by the Platinum Rule, “Do unto others as they would want to be done to them,” we must know the stories of those we serve. Notice the difference between the Platinum Rule and Golden Rule is only changing “you” to “they” and “them.” Now Jesus might not be happy with me promoting the platinum over the golden, but when we study the leadership of Jesus we find that he also took time to hear the stories and context of those he served. He met people where they were regardless of their story. One thing is for sure: we all have a story. We either tell that story, or it tells us.

The Whole Story

Another line in the great book I’m reading right now, Great Circle, by Maggie Shipstead had an impact on me this morning and caused me to reflect. The line was, “I didn’t need to know the whole story. No story is ever completely whole.” As a person who always says things like “That’s not my story to tell.” This reminded me that we don’t always know the whole story. In fact, rarely ever do we know the whole story; or need to know the whole story for that matter. I’ve actually blogged about this before in It’s Not My Story To Tell in a little different context. The problem seems to be that ,somehow, we learn to confuse complete with perfect. Complete comes to mean existing within a narrow scope of our human experience. It means having all of the light and none of the dark. Having flaws or struggles make us less than. Why do we do this? The more we hold on to these beliefs, whether about ourselves or others we serve, the more we are let down. We don’t feel successful, happy, or connected, and we sure aren’t confident. None of this hardness makes us stronger.

As I continued to reflect, I realized that we really aren’t completely ever whole because each continues to mold us into the sculpture we are becoming. The whole of us is not just the shiniest parts. We tend to only look at those parts, both in ourselves and others. Then, when we don’t find what we think should be there we consider ourselves and others incomplete. We make complete out to needing to find all the missing pieces and then becoming something. Instead, wholeness should have us being who we already are – realizing the story is never completely whole. Everything is part of our wholeness. Being whole means seeing perfection and imperfection, hurting and healing, fear and courage as one in the same. Remember, everyone does not need to see the whole story. Also, remember you don’t always need to know the whole story.

A Clouded Social Critique

Posted in Compassion, Freedom, Global Leadership, Honor, Leadership, Storytelling, The Warehouse by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 25, 2020

The WarehouseThe Warehouse by Rob Hart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is an absolute genius work of art. The story is told from the three main characters points of view. I believe the most innovative part of Hart’s writing in this novel is that one cannot distinguish between who is protagonist or antagonist. And, I was left still pondering this after I had read the last words. Additionally, all characters have internal and external conflicts. Two of the main characters, Paxton and Zinnia, are dynamic in their character development and again we are left wondering where this development will leave them. Gibson is the only, round, or fully developed main character. One finds him in the book for what he is, a person who talks great core values, but is caught up in ambition over purpose. I blogged about this in “It has been an Honor To Live This Life”: https://byronernest.blog/2020/01/23/i… The book gives us different versions of the same truth. This really reads as a social critique on America. The business, Cloud, that the novel is written around really almost becomes a character in and of itself. This book treads the blurred line very closely to what is real, not so far off in the future real, and still out there a ways – or at least so I hope. There are parts of this book that seem so real that they should worry us. I blogged about this in “Remember, Freedom Is Yours Until You Give It Up”: https://byronernest.blog/2020/01/25/r… This is a must read book because of the great literary art that it is, but also because of its thought provoking nature.

View all my reviews

Let’s Have Lunch Together!

Last night we started our third cohort of 3D Leadership in Indiana. Hard to believe we have started our third year. Just seems like yesterday that I began putting the curriculum together for this program. Last night as we were discussing relationship building as a function of leadership, one of our participants, Sarah Medve, shared a story that really touched me and the rest of the group.

Sarah said she realized that she needed to do a better job of building relationships. Sarah also realized that she was missing out on building work friendships and collaboration because instead of taking time to eat lunch with coworkers she was making copies, grading papers, or any of the many other tasks of the day. This great teacher leader explained she has begun making sure all her tasks are done at other times so she can stop and eat lunch with others. Then Sarah told us she had fun eating lunch with others and did not want to miss it. Wow! This is a big deal!

We all do it, though. Work through lunch or sit alone and check emails. Sharing meals together, however, builds relationships. Eating together provides time to get to know each other and encourage cooperation through informal communication. Eating lunch together also increases productivity because it widens our perspectives. Eating together is a powerful act.

Researchers at Cornell University argued that eating lunch together has a much more positive effect on organizational community than the artificial activities that many organizations use like rope courses and things we call team building activities. These things are sometimes offsite and require a lot of energy. The Cornell study showed that employees (in the case of this study – firefighters) make fun of and do not see any value in them (Kniffin, et al., 2015).

This insightful story from our teacher leader reminded us all of the benefits of commensality. Coworkers that eat lunch together feel more like family and build friendships. So, we need to learn from our teacher leader, Sarah Medve, and make time to eat together with fellow teachers and staff. Why? Because, as Sarah so insightfully told us, it is fun and she feels closer to her coworkers. The rest of us leaders need to think more about providing opportunities for employees to eat together and do away with the manufactured and trite team-building exercises.

You might be interested to know that after our gathering we all went to Jockamo’s and had dinner together. It was so much fun and we learned a lot about each other. It was nice to put into practice what we were learning in 3D Leadership. I know I left feeling much closer to the group.

REFERENCE

Kniffin, K.M., Wansink, B., Devine, C. M., & Sobal, J. (2015). Eating Together at the Firehouse: How Workplace Commensality Relates to the Performance of Firefighters, Human Performance, 28:4, 281-306,DOI: 10.1080/08959285.2015.1021049

It’s Not How You Talk, It’s HOW You Talk

I stepped in at the end of an interview this week and caught the last part of the conversation and had the chance to briefly meet the candidate. When the candidate left I said, “I know I was only in here for 10 minutes of that, but I’d hire that person.” The persons doing the interview said, “She’s awesome, we intend to.” They proceeded to call her back in and give her an offer and she accepted. After the now new hire left, the comment was made that “it is not how you talk, it’s HOW you talk. Her words meant something.” Bingo! That was a perfect description of what was just witnessed.

This candidate didn’t have things she was saying that we had never heard before, although she did have innovative ideas. So, her “what” wasn’t much different. Additionally, she had not chosen to be a career changer and go into teaching for reasons much different from others. So, her “why” wasn’t much different either. This person, however, had learned how to convey a more strategic voice.

If we want to establish credibility and influence people, it’s important to be concise and let individuals know clearly what role you want to play in the conversation. It is also important to demystify the content of the message and we deliver by eliminating jargon and being a person of few, but effective, words.

This is really about developing your voice, which is less about performance and more about your strategic instincts, understanding the context we are in, and an awareness of the signals we are sending. We all have different ways of communicating, but saying it in the correct context, or how we say it, is crucial. This “how” includes being visionary and developing the ability to convey our aspirations for the future. This then sets the stage for transformation to occur.

So, if you want to show up with a strong strategic voice and effectively connect the dots for those you are speaking to remember that the context matters, be clear, concise and jargon free, and paint the picture that bridges any distance between you and those you are speaking to. Sometimes finding the right words can be the biggest challenge of our day. Remember to make your words mean something because “it’s not how you talk, but HOW you talk.”

Scaling Partnerships In Education & Telling Our Story

D-BSkhhXsAIXDRGI’m so sad to be sitting at the airport because I hate leaving Harvard University. I always learn so much from my friends at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. As always, my thinking as stretched, what I thought I knew challenged, and new creative and innovative ideas developed. As Dr. Mandy Savitz-Romer said last Sunday, “You may not leave here with complete closure, but with new questions.” That is learning at its best! My description for my learning this week is that I have been “coached up!”

Screen Shot 2019-06-26 at 7.48.22 PMToday’s learning was just as great as the rest of the week. I loved doing a case study on a partnership with the Nike Innovation Fund for improving Oregon student success. Dr. Monica Higgins did a great job of facilitating the case study and I learned a great deal about scaling the impact of public private partnerships. This learning was followed up by a great session by Dr. Irvin Scott on story telling and its importance to teaching and leadership.

As I have done all week in Thriving Students, Developing & Supporting Our Students: Future Identity Versus No Future Identity, and Changing The Narrative For Our Students, I compiled a top 20 list of the things I learned today. Here is my list:

  1. It’s not just if we do partnerships, it’s how we do partnerships.
  2. Partnerships should match the core values or mission of the partners.
  3. Partnerships are great ways for industry to understand education and for education to understand industry.
  4. It is very important to analyze both sides of all partnerships.
  5. Partnerships are a psychological contract.
    1. Everything’s not always explicit (context, risks, et cetera).
    2. In partnerships everything is not always spelled out.
  6. Move partnerships from individual to individual to organization to organization. This plays to sustainability.
  7. Open communication is key to partnerships, even when things go wrong.
  8. Agenda items versus surface level just for show.
  9. Eliminate hidden targets in partnerships
  10. Partnerships need an exit strategy so the innovation can be sustained without the partner.
  11. Partnerships should be mutually beneficial, with beneficial up for debate.
  12. In partnerships:
    1. Make implicit explicit
    2. Have clarity of roles and limitations
    3. Have flexibility built in
    4. Have mutual goals, timelines, and milestones
  13. Is the voice of the student heard in the partnership?
  14. You never want to scale until you know you have something that works.
  15. Need to decide to scale deep or scale out.
  16. Everyone has a story of how they got where they are. What is your trajectory?
  17. We need to be warm demanders for our students.
  18. We need to give an academic press to our students.
  19. You can’t lead if you don’t read.
  20. Why story/narrative in leadership?
    1. Stories are fundamentally human…
    2. Stories build connection…critical for leaders…
    3. Stories bring data alive…
    4. Stories capture what is possible…