Byron's Babbles

Get People Talking, Not Just Walking!

Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That SparklesKaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles by Chip R. Bell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

By using the metaphor of the working end of a Kaleidoscope, this book teaches us about the core characters of value-unique service: enchantment, mercy, grace, trust, generosity, ease, truth, alliance, and passion. Just like the colorful glass pieces in the end of a Kaleidoscope, the core characters don’t change, but can be moved around to fit the needs and personal development of team members in order to deliver great service experience.

~Dr. Byron L. Ernest

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Delivering a Sparkly Lake Lure Experience

Guest post by Chip R. Bell

We checked into the Lake Lure Inn. Built in 1927, the antique North Carolina hotel served as command central for the making of the movie Dirty Dancing. You now can stay in the Patrick Swayze Suite or the Jennifer Grey Suite. Furnished with exquisite period furniture and meticulous attention to detail, the surroundings make guests feel elevated, enchanted, and enriched. If the experience were an object it would be a kaleidoscope!

We had dinner in their Veranda Restaurant overlooking the lake, only a stone’s throw away from our table. The staff was all locals from the small mountain town. They reached way beyond their plain heritage in a noticeable effort to create a sense of elegance and worth. After seating us at our reserved table, the maitre d’ presented the menus and wine list, and then graciously said, “Hope ya’ll enjoy”––not a phrase you’d hear at a five-star restaurant in Boston or San Francisco. There was an earnest effort to take the experience much, much higher than you would get at Nettie’s Diner down the street where the wait staff simply performs their tasks.

The difference between the Lake Lure Inn and Nettie’s Diner came primarily from a deliberate attempt to not take the customer for granted. Someone decided that this classy hotel setting should come with an equally classy guest experience. Knowing they could not afford to import a Ritz-Carlton Hotel–trained wait staff, they entrusted their valuable reputation to young people recruited from the local Burgers and More. Then they trained them to not take the guest for granted but make their experience consistently and perpetually as elegant as the old hotel.  

The next morning we were in too much of a hurry to wait for the hotel’s Sunday brunch, featuring eggs Florentine and fresh mountain trout. So, we stopped at Nettie’s for scrambled eggs, bacon, grits, and biscuits. The food was just as we expected—completely routine, plain vanilla, nothing out of the ordinary. As we looked at the Lake Lure Inn in the distance, we suddenly realized that, had we stopped at Nettie’s first when we came to town, the diner might not have seemed so plain vanilla. The Lake Lure Inn had altered our service expectations and Nettie’s would never be the same again—nor, would any other service provider for that matter.

Do all customers want every service experience be a Lake Lure Inn moment? Maybe not, but most customer definitely want something special. Give your customers a Lake Lure experience and watch them “check-in” with you again!

Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several national best-selling books. His newest book is the just-released Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles. He can be reached at chipbell.com.

Leaders Doodle

My Doodles From A Task Force Meeting

We need to see doodling for the remarkable tool it is and learn to use it to its full advantage. Doodling allows us to access parts of our minds that are not available otherwise, and that leads to insight. There is research that shows that children who are presented with visual information have a better understanding of the subject matter. Furthermore, these kids showed more of an understanding when they actually create their own visualizations of what they learned. We are all better at connecting the dots when they literally take a pencil and connect dots, or doodle whatever comes to mind when thinking about a topic.

Drawing with pencil, pen, or brush on paper isn’t just for artists. For anyone who actively exercises the brain, doodling and drawing are ideal for making ideas tangible. In order to encourage doodling in meetings, retreats, and professional development events I put white butcher paper sheets on the tables, a box of crayons, and a small container of colored markers to use for doodling. Then there other details, like getting small flower vases and the flowers. These may seem like little things, but you have to understand that creating the perfect environment is crucial to convening great conversations. 

Recall a time when you had a great conversation where real learning or new insight occurred—what enabled that to happen? In this way, participants have the opportunity to participate in an environment where the emotional context and framework support innovative thinking. If you can design the physical space, the social space, and the information space together to enhance collaborative learning, then that whole system turns into a learning system.

As a side note, many of our presidents, like the rest of us, doodle. Dwight Eisenhower drew images of tables, pencils, and nuclear weapons. A Herbert Hoover doodle provided the pattern for a line of rompers. Ronald Reagan dispensed cheery cartoons to aides. John F. Kennedy reportedly doodled the word poverty at the last cabinet meeting before his assassanation. 

Are you encouraging your team to doodle?

Blooming Leadership: Got Flowers?

When planning big events, retreats, or task force meetings flowers should always be on the table. Flowers are every table conversation’s must-have accessory. Flowers have a place as the focal point in the middle of the table. According to a study conducted by Harvard Medical School, the right blooms may offer the perfect pick-me-up for attendees who don’t consider themselves morning people. So when you’re putting together your plans for the workshop, professional development, task force setting, be sure to include bright blooms front and center — it could have a big impact on the outcome of your meeting. 
Why Flowers?
Now when you think of putting flowers on tables you may think that it is a crazy idea and no one will really pay attention to the flowers in the meeting, but it has been proven that flowers can help the mood of the meeting and add a cheerful tone to any type of meeting. Just by adding flowers to your meeting tables can help you to make a long lasting impression on your clients and anyone else that might come to a conversation hosted by you.
For a team meeting, a floral arrangement put in the middle of the table can make the atmosphere more friendly and welcoming. Choose bright colors for the flowers and types of flowers that are cheerful, such as tulips. If the arrangement is to be placed in the middle of a meeting table, keep the height of the arrangement low enough that the participants can easily see each other around the table and conversation is not hindered by the flowers.
Conversational leadership is an art, not a science. Use your own creativity when setting up the room. In addition to flowers, I like to put butcher paper on the tables and provide crayons and markers for doodling, taking notes, and graphic recording. Be sure to encourage people to write, draw, or doodle on the tablecloths in the midst of their conversations. Often these tablecloth drawings will contain remarkable notes, and they help visual learners link ideas. 
The flowers on the tables creates a special ambiance. They provide a focal point. Rigid positions seem to drop away as people listen together in order to discover creative connections. The flowers give everyone at the table something in common. At a task force meeting I hosted yesterday, I asked participants to comment during our +/^ session on the flowers. Everyone had actually thought about the flowers. Thoughts like, “I wonder when the Lilly’s will bloom,” to “I’m going to match my crayon color to the flowers,” to “Im glad the flowers are not blocking my view to the person on the other side.” Bottom line is they noticed and likened the flowers and they had served as a focal point. Flowers help us focus when you’re not talking and are listening together with others focused on the ideas in the middle of the table.

I believe flowers help us focus on opportunity and fuel energy. What do your tables look like?

Listening as a Principle for Authentic Community Engagement

Lead with Listening Listening is a neglected skill, especially in change efforts.  Often the leaders’ emphasis is on communicating a decision to stakeholders. When listening campaigns are con…

Source: Listening as a Principle for Authentic Community Engagement

Leading Conversations 

I continue to be amazed at how many people espouse to want to have great conversations and be a conversational leader, but really can’t help themselves from becoming a pontificator and problem solver. So many leaders leap right to answering the questions themselves. There are many reasons for this, but I believe for many it is just ego of hierarchy – he wants to be seen as the smartest or person who solved the problem. Authentic conversation that deepens a group’s thinking and evokes collaborative intelligence is less likely to occur in a climate of fear, mistrust, and hierarchical control.

I believe everyone is a leader. Everyone has the right, responsibility, and ability to be a leader. In fact, I believe everyone has the obligation to be a leader. We all need to lead from where we are. How we define leadership influences how people will participate. In my world with educators, teacher leaders yearn to be more fully who they are—purposeful, professional human beings. Leadership is an essential aspect of an educator’s professional life. This is why I spend a great deal of time working directly with our rising teacher leaders in our Focused Leader Academy. 

We are building an organizational community for thinking more deeply together about key strategic questions. It has been my experience that results do come from the questions. The results lie in the personal relationships, the knowledge, and the mutual caring that gets strengthened in people’s conversations together about the questions, along with the discovery of their own answers.

What kind of conversations are you leading?

The Paradox of Staying In Your Lane

Mike Fleisch Graphic Recording of Our Discussion

Have you ever been challenged or, as a leader, challenged someone else to stay in their own lane? Whether your mind conjured up a football analogy or lanes on an interstate, you got the message: Quit trying to lead everyone else’s area, and focus on yours. This really is a paradox, though.

Think about it, because perhaps you heard or have given a different message in a different meeting when the leader, or you, told the team, “Everyone must help get this done. We all must own this.” So, as leaders, what is the right message or best practice? I would argue, we must do both. 

This past weekend at one of our task force meetings we got into a lengthy discussion about this paradox. While we know that it is the most efficient thing to have everyone in their own lane, we know that somtimes this just doesn’t work. Here are reasons it doesn’t always eke to stay in our own lanes:

  • Individuals have not been trained properly to do the work of his lane.
  • Individuals do not have the resources to do the scope of the work of her lane.
  • Individuals do not have team to do the work of her lane.
  • Individuals become overly concerned with everyone else’s position, you may jeopardize playing well in your own lane. 
  • Individualized become overly dependent on others to the point that they do your work for you. Then, you are not serving the whole well.

I believe we must own our own areas, including your realm of responsibility. If you are a leader, you have been given responsibility for a team, and no one should outpace you in passion or concern for the area you lead and steward. If we want to lead the whole, we first lead and be a steward of our lane exceedingly well. Then we will have the respect and be invited into other lanes. 

But, let’s not forget the paradox, a great team pulls together in the same direction and shoulders these initiatives together. Therefore, the answer here is to spend most of our time in our own lane, but when needed we can visit other lanes. For this to work, though, we need to make sure our team members are trained properly, have the skills necessary, and understand the nuances of working in other lanes. 

Do you and your team understand how to navigate the paradox of staying in your lane?

Building S’more Leadership

Yesterday our Focused Leader Academy (FLA), aspiring teacher leaders, came into our commons area to find tables coevered in butcher paper with crayons (we’ll cover that in another post) and marshmallow manufacturing machines. Also on the tables were marshmallows, liquid chocolate, liquid caramel, strawberry sauce, chocolate sprinkles, chocolate chips, and sugar sprinkles. The title of our agenda for the day was “Building S’more Leadership.” The through line for the day was, of course, marshmallows.

Here Is What The Agenda For Our Day Looked Like

Participants were told upon arriving to make marshmallow creation that depicted their journey as a leader. This was a lot of fun to watch the creation begin. They were essentially building a model of their leadership journey. This gave us a chance to discuss where they were presently as a leader and what gifts and contributions they can bring to the table, as well as think futuristically about his/her personal direction as a leader. 

Mike Fleisch Graphic Of Our Discussion


In normal fashion, we circled our chairs and shared out upon completion of the creations. I was struck by the trust and openness we have developed in this community. Here are a couple of their stories that we live tweeted during the sharing:

https://www.periscope.tv/w/a1OJXDFlUkt4cVptcmRXand8MU93eFduUU9lUnFKUcSSjGb_qR4YH2oBtgn7aC2MFWd_Q-3h_A-Pf9pxtlnL

https://www.periscope.tv/w/a1OOqDFlUkt4cVptcmRXand8MWxQS3FSVm9FWlBHYmGFTZqVvCgrO6drSwwV-rdCp0drp54HGo6k3wiBUPWl

Leading A Community of Experimentation

Mike Fleisch Graphic of Our Marshmallow Challenge Discussion

Imagine a room with 15 aspiring teacher leaders, divided into five teams. Each team gets 20 sticks of spaghetti, a yard of string, a yard of masking tape, and a single marshmallow. They have 18 minutes to build a free-standing structure that will enable the marshmallow to rest on top. This is the so-called “marshmallow challenge”, a staple of many leadership trainings and design schools. It’s a great way to teach the benefits of rapid model-building and prototyping. Our team at Hoosier Academies used it in our January leadership development retreat yesterday of our Focused Leader Academy.

So, here is a generalization of what happened: They spent the first few minutes with someone establishing the leadership role, dominance, or trying really hard to be super collaborative. In a few teams’ cases one emergee as a leader. The next few minutes were devoted to planning. Construction began, usually with less than eight minutes left on the clock. Then, with about a minute to go, someone placed the marshmallow on top of the beautiful tower, and….it collapsed – failure. 

Kindergarteners and engineers do the best on this activity (see graph above). We decided that the kindergarteners win because kids don’t vacillate; they simply try something, and if it doesn’t work, they try again, and again, and again. Think about it… young children love to iterate. They are very curious. 

We concluded, in our post-challenge discussion (see picture for our Mike Fleisch graphic of the discussion), that engineers are good a this because they plan, build things, and are resourceful every day. In other words, engineers are quicker to understand how the spaghetti, tape, string, and marshmallow become a system together.

The big takeaway from our teams yesterday, however, was the idea of “failing quickly.” We are all familiar with the phrase “fail fast”, but what does that really mean? And how do you put it into practice? Failing fast isn’t about the big issues, it’s about the little ones. It’s an approach development and creation that embraces lots of little experiments and iterations with the mindset that some will work and grow and others will fail and die. And, that’s okay. 

Develop a community of experimentation, be willing to try stuff, do it quickly. But if it’s not working, be willing to fail fast and pivot.

I Promise

A signed copy of the promise pictured here sits in the locker of each Florida State player. After an awful start to Florida State’s season this past year, head coach Jimbo Fisher took an unprecedented step and presented his team with a promise and challenged them to sign it and live up to it.

As I read it I was struck by the simplistic way coach Fisher presented powerful points. It is really a well written combination of a mission and core values to follow. Here are the main points I take away:

  • The commitment of “I promise to”
  • No loafing
  • Effort
  • Trust the process
  • Preparation
  • Effort and enthusiasm in every play, every day
  • Pride
  • Allow myself to be corrected and coached

Just eight powerful points, but what a change in the season this battle cry brought about. The next game after the players signed the promise was a win against in-state rival Miami Hurricanes. Florida State won 20-19. “You cannot say that they did not play hard, that they did not play with fight, that they did not play with guts,” Jimbo Fisher said after the win. “We’re a work in progress but at least that heart and soul is there.” I am particularly struck by the point of “Allowing myself to be corrected and coached.” This is so important to all of us. We must continue to grow and develop each and every day. 

On a day when everyone make New Year’a resolutions, I wander what would happen if we all just adjusted the promise to our own lives and then actually kept it; just like the Florida State Seminoles. Would you be willing to sign and hang in your locker?

Happy New Year!