Byron's Babbles

Experiencing, Not Attending For Learning

As I travel home this evening from what was an incredible journey to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, I am reflecting on all that my family and I saw and experienced, all that I learned at the 2019 International Research Conference, and can’t help but reflect on yesterday’s 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. A week ago yesterday we began this excursion and a week ago today attended the Calgary Stampede. What we found is that one does not attend the Stampede, one experiences the Stampede. Through this experience I learned about invented traditions. These Invented traditions are activities that are actually recent but are accepted by the public as having a particularly long and resonant history and as representing something essential about a nation’s character, values, and identity–arose from a widespread effort to justify the nation state, royal dynasties, and national boundaries by linking them, often tenuously and sometimes even falsely, with the past. These invented traditions spring from the need to reconcile constant change in the modern world with the desire for stability and traditional understandings about society.

We found that the Calgary Stampede has evolved over the decades in response to economic and political dynamics and the perceived need to maintain a vibrant balance between nostalgia for the past and celebration of the economic and ideological promise of the future. Successful cities have managed to brand themselves through identification with their annual festivals. We found that the brand lived up to the hype. One of the things I learned from experiencing and studying the Calgary Stampede is Americans cherish individualism and individuality above community. Canadians have exactly the reverse set of political priorities. This is not to say one is right and one is wrong; it is just to say that I learned some cultural differences along the way. We made some great friends while at the Stampede.

I can’t help but also reflect on all the great scenery, nature, and natural beauty we had the opportunity to see and experience as well. The Canadian Rockies are awesome, and we had the opportunity to experience them from as far south as Waterton Lakes National Park and as far north as Lake Louise in Banff National Park. This all reminded us, as a family, of how important sustainable development is to making sure future generations will be able to enjoy and learn from these natural beauties like we did. We must work hard to meet the needs of our present generation without compromising future generations ability to meet their own needs.

This was also discussed during the 2019 International Research Conference. Dr. Gerald Farthing, Former Deputy Minister Of Education Manitoba Department Of Education reminded us to act locally, while knowing what’s going on globally. I was honored to speak at the conference on discovering, developing, and distributing great leadership. It was awesome to visit from individuals from around the world to discuss current education issues and the innovative solutions to opportunities. We must find ways to end our preoccupation with the industrial and factory models of just “doing school”. The gap between what we call education in schools and learning that happens from being a part of society is widening. We must redesign our learning environments if we want to engage our students in the learning process. Learning needs to be 24/7, and not confined to a physical space we call school.

Yesterday, as I reflected throughout the day on the 50th Anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon, and those first steps, I was struck by all the ways we could relive the history. For example, Neil Armstrong’s Spacesuit was at the Smithsonian Castle yesterday and I was in Canada, but I took an in-depth 3D tour of the suit using Smithsonian’s new 3D Digitization site for doing interactive tours. You can also take an up close and in-depth 3D look at the 1903 Wright Flyer. It is such a great thing that the Smithsonian is doing. Every person can learn from and take part in Smithsonian exhibits without physically being on site. Think of the possibilities of this. I can remember saying, “Wow, everyone should experience the great learning that goes on at the Smithsonian’s many museums.” They can! Opportunities like this begin to take away the effects of zip code or socioeconomic status. Every child really can experience the Smithsonian. By leveraging the technology the Smithsonian is able to let their researchers tell their stories to the world and allow students to take a quest of discovery.

For me, I am going home with a renewed commitment that we must quit just having students attend and “doing school”. We must enable them to experience learning and go on a quest of discovery.

Advertisements

Teachers As Designers

IMG_6433Yesterday, I started my day by spending time at Fort Calgary. Fort Calgary is the exact location where the city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada started. The fort, originally name Fort Briseboise, was built as the post for the North-West Mounted Police in 1875. Then when the railroad came west, Calgary began to grow and the rest is history.

The location was chosen because of of the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers. In fact Calgary got its name because of being a location of a great water source. Calgary is named after Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. It was originally thought to mean “clear running water” but has since been defined as “bay farm,”

After this learning time, I was back over at the 2019 International Research Conference discussing teachers as designers and leaders at Mount Royal University. We were discussing the Double Diamond Design Approach pictured here:IMG_6393With this model we must first find the right problem or topic. Then we use convergence to bring the topics, partners, and education entities together to decide subject matter and activities and then divergence to get the day-to-day pedagogy developed. As we discussed the model, I got to thinking about Fort Calgary and what a great tool this historic site could be for education. The site certainly has needs for support and volunteerism. Therefore, the schools could:

  1. Determine needs of Fort Calgary
  2. Determine what needs could be supported by the education entity
  3. Use convergence to bring all parties in the partnership to determine the scope of the project and learning
  4. Finally, use divergence to break the learning and work down into the day-to-day bites

IMG_6432We don’t want people who just do school. We must figure out how we teach and facilitate learning with our students by radically collaborating in our communities. Additionally, we must make sure our very traditional school leaders recognize the great facilitation of learning this radical collaboration creates. We must shift from the compliance factory model of school to education as facilitation of learning. We do this by connecting and collaborating, which enables us to be adaptive, intertwined, interactive, and diverse. How about you? Are you leading learning, or just doing school?

 

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.”

Leading Without Kitschy Trinkets

Many times, as you know, my blog posts come from words or phrases that I hear that inspire me to dig deeper and study. This post is no exception. Yesterday, I heard someone say, and I am paraphrasing,not quoting, here, “I don’t need the kitschy trinkets when morale gets low, just treat us with respect all the time.” This was a pretty powerful statement when you think about employee retention, satisfaction, and the climate and culture of an organization.

Also, I was captured by the word “kitschy”. Of course we had to immediately look it up. What we found was that, first, the person used the word correctly; second, we found that the definition was: something to that appeals to popular or lowbrow taste and is often of poor quality. Sound familiar? Now, you will also find the term “kitsch” used in the art world. Since I believe there is no such thing as bad art, art is beyond taste. Therefore, you can leave your prejudices behind and just be uplifted by art. I’ll bet, however, you have been given things that fit the category of being kitschy.

This really got me to thinking, though, about how we really feel about our employees. Does giving trinkets get us to the level of community we desire. I think not. We must remember it is all about trust. Trust is earned; it is not a transaction. If we want those in our organizations to trust us and we want to inspire commitment, we must make the first move. We want employees to be committed to what we are doing and the mission and vision, but employees many times get the message we aren’t really that committed to them. Kitschy gifts probably exacerbate this belief.

According to Gallup, only 32 percent of employees in the United States are engaged. Now engaged to Gallup means involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace. Expand this data analysis worldwide and the number drops to 13 percent. Think about that. 87 percent of employees are unengaged. Pretty sure a kitschy gift won’t change that.

So, what will help us change these numbers? I don’t believe there is a silver bullet here, but I do believe there are some thing central to how leaders can truly become committed to their teams. First, we need to make continuous feedback and coaching central to performance and continuous improvement. This is true whether we are talking a school or manufacturing. I just finished reading a great book on feedback from M. Tamra Chandler entitled Feedback (and other dirty words). It was such an honor to get an advance copy to read. One of my favorite feedback tips in the book is, “Kick Some Ask”. I’ll let you read the book and find out what that is.

Additionally, we need to create and commit to providing development opportunities for both skill and role development. This plays to succession management and employees see you are serious about, and committed to, preparing team members for advancement from within. This also means we need to empower employee connection and collaboration.

I believe if we get these things right and couple this with compensation strategies that are aligned with today’s hyper competitive market, we can begin to chip away at the low employee engagement numbers. So, how about we drop the kitschy trinkets and just treat employees with the respect they deserve and provide the development, space for collaboration, opportunities for advancement, and compensation they deserve?

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…

Changing The Narrative For Our Students

Yesterday was another powerful day of learning at Harvard University. It started out with Liya Escalera walking us through changing the narrative, valuing the cultural wealth of our underrepresented students in order to achieve equity. Additionally, she taught some great asset-based approaches to leading for student success. The best part was how she had us start this session. She had us reflect on situations in an educational setting that made us feel unwelcome and then reflect on a situation that made us feel welcome. This was a great way to get us in a mode of thinking about changing the narrative for our students. Liya also worked us through asset based communication. Below is a slide that does a great job of showing what our discussion included: IMG_6148Then we spent time digging into family engagement and making families true partners with Stephany Cuevas of Harvard University. We know that students with engaged families:

  • Exhibit faster rates of literacy acquisition
  • Earn higher grades and test scores
  • Enroll in higher level programs
  • Are promoted more and earn more credits
  • Adapt better to school and attend more regularly
  • Have better social skills and behaviors
  • Graduate and go on to higher education

IMG_6149The learning did not stop here. We then spent time with Daren Graves diving into issues of race with intentionality. This was very powerful learning. We discussed how racism can happen without it being intentional. In education we must be diligent in monitoring the areas where we see disparate racial outcomes or impact:

  • Curriculum
  • Groupings
  • Assessment
  • Relationships with students and faculty
  • Relationships with the community
  • Recruitment/Retention

IMG_6157Just like in Thriving Students and Developing & Supporting Our Students: Future Identity Versus No Future Identity here is the top 30 list from our Tuesday learning:

  1. Reflect on a situation in an educational setting that made you feel unwelcome.
  2. Reflect on a situation that made you feel welcome.
  3. Asset-Based versus Deficit-Based Communication
  4. It is a bad habit to not look at all our communication through a critical lens.
  5. What is the problem? The problem is not our students.
  6. Is the problem that our students aren’t post-secondary ready, or that our education system is not student ready?
  7. Cultural competence will not cut it. We need to be highly skilled, not just competent.
  8. We need to make sure all schools are student ready.
  9. Google Translate™ is a good thing, but must be edited, or those reading will feel disrespected.
  10. We need information to go to parents as well as the students.
  11. We need to offer parents parents questions to ask their students.
  12. Our families are collaborators.
  13. We need to have parents presenting to parents.
  14. Have parents talk to each other.
  15. Students need to be thought of as part of a family, and then the family as part of all the practices of the school.
  16. Staff needs to view families as collaborators and partners.
  17. Staff Relationships With Parents + School Knowledge = Family Engagement As Confident Partner
  18. Staff needs to think of themselves as mentors to their parents.
  19. Family engagement is a way of thinking, not a practice.
  20. Family engagement is a value, not just a practice.
  21. There is no gene for race. Science saved the day!
  22. Race is an idea.
  23. Race is not culture.
  24. Race is something that happens, not something we are.
  25. It’s not about doing well in school, it’s about doing school well.
  26. Racism is usually pretty mundane.
  27. A system that confers privilege and produces disparate outcomes on the basis of race.
    1. historically-based systems
    2. actions/beliefs/policies/practices/conceptions
    3. confers visible and unacknowledged privilege
  28. Sometimes we set students up for failure by trying to not set them up for failure.
  29. Start with implicit biases, then move to structural biases.
  30. Racism can happen without anyone intentionally wanting it to happen.

 

Developing & Supporting Our Students: Future Identity Versus No Future Identity

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On Monday I had the opportunity to dig deep into adolescent development and how this plays into future aspirations, beliefs, and behaviors of our students. I was introduced to identity development by Dr. Mandy Savitz-Romer of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She advocates that articulating aspirations and expectations, forming and maintaining strong peer and adult relationships, motivation, and goal setting should become a part of our DNA in education.

Mandy has so much knowledge in adolescent development and how to advance student success. In fact, she has quite literally written the book on it. We were given her new book this week, Fulfilling The Promise: Reimagining School Counseling to Advance Student Success. I am almost done with it and have to say it is awesome. I am sure you will be seeing blog post from me about the book in the near future.

9780520287266There was also the opportunity on Monday for learning from Roberto Gonzales who is the preeminent academic expert on undocumented immigrant youth and the struggles they face. It was great to spend time with him because he has spent time with these youth getting, as he called it, “a worm’s eye view.” He understands how these issues play out in real-life. Most powerful for me was the idea of our undocumented immigrant youth straddling two worlds: neither from here or there. No one should have to live like that. Additionally, it was so powerful to gain an understanding, and I still have a huge amount to learn and understand, of the undocumented youth’s transition to “illegality.” As Roberto taught, illegality is not a noun but a verb as undocumented students move from protected to unprotected. I really needed this learning and can’t wait to read his book, Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America (University of California Press).

9780674976894-lgThen, if that was not already a lot of learning in one day, there was Dr. Anthony Abraham Jack. He wrote the book, The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Poor Students. Our interactions with students matter. I was struck thinking about how some of our engagement strategies favor a selected few – the students we like, that impress us, and we know. What about making sure we have the chance to know all students, not just the ones that are inherently comfortable interacting with teachers. We need to help all understand how to do that. One way he advocates for is office hours. But not like we have always done office hours. Office hours need to be collaboratively with students understanding exactly how they work. Students also need to be comfortable in asking questions and bringing anything to office hours.

As I did for Sunday’s learning this week in Thriving Students, here is my top 30 list of takeaways from the day of learning:

  1. Information ≠ Action
  2. A college going future identity
  3. Dimensions of identity: groups, roles, self concept.
  4. Marshaling: how do we use our resources.
  5. Throwing forward: seeing oneself in the future.
  6. Self-efficacy is the belief in the ability to accomplish a specific task.
  7. Self-efficacy is domain specific.
  8. We all have the ability to build self-efficacy.
  9. What shapes self-efficacy?
    1. Mastery of experience
    2. Vicarious learning
    3. Social persuasion
    4. Affect
  10. The “why” students go to college is very important.
  11. There is a big difference between wanting to go to college and someone telling you they want you to go to college.
  12. Motivation = Goals + Beliefs
  13. Students need to be better planners for obstacles. We need to be their GPS and give them three different routes.
  14. Control of Thoughts + Control of Emotions + Control of Behaviors = Self Regulation To Attain Goals
  15. Many students straddle two worlds; they are neither from here or there.
  16. We need to pay attention to how issues play out in real life.
  17. We forget how powerful having an I.D. card is to a person.
  18. Access is not inclusion.
  19. Beware of unwritten curriculum – the unwritten rules of getting along in an institution.
  20. We need to teach students how to interact with teachers and faculty.
  21. Doubly disadvantaged = Lower Income + Attended Public School
  22. Privileged Poor = Lower Income + Attended Private School
  23. Secondary school and college officials disproportionately reward proactive engagement strategies. Instead of who deserves reward, it becomes who we like, who we know, and who impresses us most – not necessarily the deserving students.
  24. Impress upon students it is more than normal to ask for help.
    1. It is smart
    2. It is expected
    3. It is rewarded
  25. We must inspire students to build an inter-generational support network.
  26. There is a difference between building a network and networking.
  27. Language matters.
  28. We need to make explicit what is now hidden to our students.
  29. We need to make basic things accessible and digestible for our students.
  30. We need to partner with families and promote our parents as super heroes.

Think about how great our country’s education system would be if we were able to make all 30 items above values that were in the DNA of our system and not just desired practices or boxes to check?

Thriving Students

IMG_6110I have been learning at Harvard University this week on post-secondary success. As an exercise to help myself digest all of the information and make some sense of the learning, I like to come up with a top list from each day. This day’s (Sunday, June 23rd) learning came from Mandy Savitz-Romer and Francesca Purcell, and included learning about post-secondary gaps and opportunities and the data and trends behind public policies to increase post-secondary success.

One of the things that really jumped out at me from the reading and learning was the introduction of the Thriving Quotient. I was very interested in the thought and reality is that we always want to measure student success primarily in terms of academic performance and persistence to graduation. I became enthralled when reading “The “Thriving Quotient”: A New Vision for Student Success” by Laurie A. Schreiner, where she introduced this assessment tool. Thriving students are academically successful and also believe themselves to be part of a community and psychological well-being. These things make it possible for the student to get the most out of their educational experience. The thing I like about Academic Thriving is that it goes beyond what I call compliance – attending class, doing homework – going through the motions. In the Thriving Quotient, Academic Thriving students are psychologically engaged in the learning process. What really resonated with me about this was that the idea of making a connection between what the student already knows or is interested in. This connection to relevant contexts helps the student be an engaged learner and THRIVE.

The Thriving Quotient also includes Intrapersonal Thriving. This thriving is about the student having a healthy attitude toward themselves and the learning process. Additionally included is Interpersonal Thriving. We can’t truly thrive without relationships. So, time spent on the Thriving Quotient and so much other discussion on Sunday led to the following top 20 list of things learned:

  1. Learning with and from each other from different sectors.
  2. Pull don the walls and step outside our lanes.
  3. We have to get the singular narrative out of our mind.
  4. Sometimes we are creating a narrative for students that does not fit their why, or what is best for them.
  5. Actions of students do not match their aspirations.
  6. Only 10% of students that drop out of college had below a “C” average.
  7. Student problems vs. institutional problems
  8. We highlight student problems, but sometimes instead of highlighting problems, we need to change the process.
  9. With multiple pathways available to students, we need to make sure we are sorting in a way that is about best fit, not about other factors.
  10. We need to get better at moving from thinking about student success in terms of just quantitative box checking like graduation rates, number of applying or accepted to college, and test scores by moving to the idea of students THRIVING!
  11. We can’t think of college as just one singular thing because there are many different outcomes from many different types of colleges.
  12. The highest stakes tests students take are the placement tests once in college. Then, in some cases, we waste the students’ time in developmental education.
  13. We must find a way to scale up the things that work!
  14. A college credential is a solid investment that will pay off over time.
    1. More likely to give back to the community and vote
    2. Higher levels of personal well-being (health, et cetera)
    3. Higher earnings and tax payments
  15. What is it that the adult wants, versus what the student wants.
  16. Adults always think we know best, but many times we don’t know all the options, or nor does the student know all the options.
  17. “College is not for everyone, but it is for everyone that looks like you when you are a school.”
  18. We maybe need to think about amending the 14th amendment of our constitution to include higher education.
  19. We are nearing universal enrollment in college. What does this mean?
  20. A college going future identity.

As you can see, there was a lot to digest after a single afternoon of work. If any of these statements resonated or made you think, please comment here on this post.

Where Is Your Leadership Engine Order Telegraph Set?

I had the opportunity this past week to visit and tour the SS American Victory Ship and Museum in Tampa, Florida. It is an outstanding icon of America during times of war. I particularly learned a lot from the museum and the person there who answered all my questions and took the time to have a lengthy conversation with me. Before that day I really did not know much about Merchant Marine ships, how they were operated, and the relationship to the US Navy. I’m still pretty ignorant, but I am learning.

The SS American Victory was a Merchant Marine cargo ship that supplied our troops at the end of World War II, and then in the Korean Conflict and Vietnam. This ship hauled ammunition, cargo, and troops. The ship was run by the Merchant Marines, but of the crew of 62 part were US Navy personnel who manned the weapons in case of attack. This ship was launched 74 years to the day (May 24) I was there, in 1945. It only took our patriotic citizens 55 days to build the ship.

The exhibits in the museum are awesome and I had the chance to explore the entire ship. I was especially inspired in the wheel house, or bridge, as I looked out the port hole windows and thought about the decisions leaders had to make on this very deck. Then when I went above to the outdoor wheelhouse deck I studied the Engine Order Telegraph (the featured picture of this post). I immediately realized I had found another great metaphor that I believe represents the ways many organizations, leaders, associations, and governments work. Earlier last week I blogged about metaphors in Leading By Metaphor.

The Engine Order Telegraph, also known as an EOT, is a device that transmitted the orders from the pilot to the engine room. It has slow, half, and full for both ahead and astern (reverse). Also, it has stop, stand by, and finished with engine. As I stood there studying the EOT on a beautiful sunny day in beautiful Tampa Ybor Channel and thought about how these are incredible metaphors for leadership.

On these older style ships the captain didn’t physically control the ship like on today’s ships. On this ship the EOT would telegraph what the captain needed and engineer in the engine room made the adjustments – slow down, open up the throttle, et cetera. I thought about how this ship would have been like an orchestra with the captain as the conductor and the deck and engine crew playing the instruments.

As leaders we have the opportunity be a part of telegraphing full speed ahead, reversing the engines, slowing down, or stand by which I believe is analogous to status quo. I chuckled to myself that the EOT was set to stand by because I am such a status quo hater. If I was captain of a ship it would probably be hard to order stand by. I’m kind of a Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut kind of guy – “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” We all have to make decisions using the best intel available at the time from collaboration with our teams to enter the correct decisions into our metaphorical EOTs. We work in such a high speed environment! Therefore, we must figure out ways for professional growth of our leaders and teams on how to achieve organizational goals in the shortest time possible. We must then also find ways to provide maximum professional growth in the shortest time possible.

Therefore, we need to be ready to ring the bells for full speed ahead, just as Rear Admiral Farragut did in Mobile Bay in 1864. Had those ships not been willing to go ahead full, they probably would not be successful. I can tell you that the SS American Victory Ship and Museum team have their EOT set on full speed ahead for telling the story of the important work of Merchant Marine ships. How about you and your organization? Are you stuck in the status quo of stand by? Or will you make the call for full speed ahead?

Leading With Extreme Axe Throwing Finesse

 

IMG_5674There are so many formulas that have been written about as best pathways toward great leadership. I have tried to write a few of those myself. Yesterday, our professional development team went on a team building excursion to Extreme Axe Throwing in Hollywood, Florida. Needless to say, it was a great time, but there were moments when I was struggling just to get the axe to stick. I kept getting told, “Finesse, Byron, finesse!” I had to think about what the heck “finesse” even was. So, off to Merriam Webster dictionary:

  1. refinement or delicacy of workmanship, structure, or texture
  2. skillful handling of a situation: adroit maneuvering
  3. the withholding of one’s highest card or trump in hope that a lower card will take the trick because the only opposing higher card is in the hand of an opponent who has already played

IMG_5676As I familiarized myself with what “finesse” really meant, I began to think about how this related to my current situation at the time of throwing an axe at a target. I believe last night’s situation relates to #2. I needed to be skillful and use the techniques our axe throwing coach instructed us with. Then, as I began throwing I needed to get clever and maneuver to make it all work for me. Sometimes I threw too hard, others I was releasing early, others I kept getting told I was flicking my wrists. We can certainly relate this to leadership, don’t you think?

Check out my axe throwing prowess in this video:

Leadership, then, is an art of finesse. It’s being able to adjust and communicate in different ways, specific to each person. I don’t mean being “everything to everyone.” I just mean having enough self-awareness to know what is going to yield the best response from each person–and then having the patience to execute with that behavior in mind. What makes this mentality so difficult is that, in every capacity, it asks that you, as a leader, put yourself in a serving others mode. We must finesse away ego. We can’t just rage out of impatience, or get upset because other people aren’t working the way we want them to work. We can’t show your frustration–even if everyone else is. We can’t sit back and complain when times get tough. We must be the positive force that leads change. This art of finesse is learned through diligent self-inquiry, and constantly practicing the art of finesse and being flexible in the way you communicate and lead others.

IMG_5675Leadership finesse requires that we, as leaders, constantly identify barriers and causes of struggles. Then, with relentless determination, make the best of the current reality we are in. Using my axe throwing metaphor, one barrier we have is fear of failure. Fear of failure holds us back from our dreams more than anything. The thing I was reminded from axe throwing is that we are going to fail over and over and over. During one round of throwing (10 throws) last night I did not get the axe to stick in the wood once. That’s right; my score was 0 at the end of the round. To handle this with finesse, I was reminded that if you’re, you’ll be rejected too. The key is to fail forward, where the pain of the failure is reduced by the benefit of the lessons it brings.