Byron's Babbles

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.

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Welcome To Your New Addiction

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What’s At Your Core (Value)?

Where to begin? There is so much I want to say! Yesterday we had a great gathering of our Florida 3D Leadership group outside Orlando at Renaissance Charter School at Boggy Creek. I love going there and spending time with this group. Yesterday’s topic was core values. We spent the morning setting the stage with some cool activities (Emoji tattoos, making graphic mantras) and discussions around core values and what they wanted to do with their lives and what they wanted their legacy to be.

Then, the coolest thing happened – Lunch!

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Our lunch was delivered and catered from Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. First of all, as the truck, bright yellow, pulled up, it caught my eye out the window I had immediately seen the shiny object and was off topic. Check out the picture of the truck and you will understand what I am talking about. So, as they were setting up at one end of the room we were in, I asked one of the workers, Mariah Miller, whether she liked working at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and if she did, why? Well, let me tell you, she jumped right into our core values discussion and said that she liked it because her boss did not act like a boss and did not want to be called a boss. He wanted to be considered a coworker.

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Graphic Recording by Amy Reynolds

Then her coworker (boss), or leader, as he likes to be called came in, not having heard me ask the question. I called him over and asked him what his workers would say his mantra was (this was a core values discussion from the morning). He then basically reinforced everything Mariah had told us. We were amazed by the message that David Morales had for us in what became an outstanding extemporaneous luncheon keynote, literally.

IMG_8404David explained he had ended up in Florida, via Texas, because he quit his job, and I quote, “because my core values did not match those of the company I was working for at the time.” Of course I am beaming at this point and everyone was looking at me like I had set this up, which I had not. We had discussed how individual and organization core values needed to match. I had said earlier in the day that is was just a fact that if at any point your own core values become much different from the organization you work for, that it was time to quit. He was affirming everything we had talked about earlier in the day, but with the flare of personal experience and a lot of passion.

IMG_5535He then told us about looking for a job and finding Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. He told us how he cut the deal for Fuzzy’s Taco Shop to cater for the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers. He told us about how he has opened 29 businesses. Finally, he explained how core values build communities of commitment. We had been discussing how core values communicate what is important, influence behavior, and inspire people to action. We had also talked about how core values enhance credible leadership. David Morales from Fuzzy’s Taco Shop had become our exemplar. We did not need to spend very much time with his employees to know he was credible.

…it is clearly necessary to invent organizational structures appropriate to the multicultural age. But such efforts are doomed to failure if they do not grow out of something deeper; out of generally held values.” ~Vaclav Havel

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Graphic Recording by Amy Reynolds

Core values are what support the vision, shape the culture and reflect what an organization values. They are the essence of the organization’s identity – the principles, beliefs or philosophy of values. Many organizations focus mostly on the technical competencies but often forget what are the underlying competencies that make their organizations run smoothly — core values. Establishing strong core values provides both internal and external advantages to the organization. Clearly, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and David Morales have mastered this.

Needless to say, we were amazed at this outstanding example of a company and it’s employees living out shared core values. Would you, your organization, or school have been able to extemporaneously keynoted our lunch today with the same level of authenticity related to core values as David Morales, Mariah Miller, and Fuzzy’s Taco Shop were able to?

Angry Teachers

AngryTeachersIf you follow my blog you know that I am a fan of Angry Birds; both the game and the movies. I have blogged about Angry Birds on four different occasions: Teaching Like Angry Birds, Angry Birds University, The Angry Birds Effect, and “I’m Not A Leader!” ~ Red. Now I am adding a fifth post about this Rovio Entertainment created phenomenon that I love to use as a guide to great teaching and leadership.

This week I did a professional development for Mevers School of Excellence on student engagement. I have been working with this school’s teachers on professional development by customizing a series of professional development units using teacher walk through data and student data. These teachers are phenomenal and deserved a great finale to the year long work we have been doing. So, this professional development unit was titled “Angry Teachers.” Catchy, don’t you think? We certainly don’t want our teachers to be angry, but we do want them teaching using the principles employed by Rovio that have made this game such a phenomenon. The only homework prior to the evening’s professional development was to have the Angry Birds Classic game downloaded on one of their devices.

I led off with the statement, “Everything you need to know about teaching you can learn from Angry Birds.” I think some were skeptical, but I really do believe this statement. Then, of course, I had them play the game with the volume turned up and take notes about what they learned. Needless to say, they had so much fun. I had them take notes on what they were learning that could be applied to great facilitation of learning. Here is what we talked about:

  1. Make it easy to start the task.
  2. Show, don’t tell.
  3. Give useful and immediate feedback.
  4. Make it easy to recover from failure.
  5. Complicate the task gradually.

Think about it; if a teacher is getting just those five things done he or she is on the way to providing great facilitation of learning. Then after playing a little more I broke them into groups and had them develop the learning even further. Here are the graphic representations of their learning the 10 groups came up with:

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Pretty amazing work! Now, consider the following:
1. Angry Birds involves practice without penalty.
2. Angry Birds offers the opportunity to constant feedback.
3. Angry Birds inherently teaches that different tools have different purposes.
4. Angry Birds has a built in mechanism for knowledge transfer.
5. Angry Birds rewards perseverance.
6. Angry Birds gives no time limit.

No wonder we are all addicted to this game! Now if only we could ensure that our
classrooms are always safe spaces to practice new strategies, offer students a range of possibilities for how to succeed in their learning, give our students constant feedback, and support knowledge transfer within and among our courses. So, do you agree? “Everything you need to know about teaching you can learn from Angry Birds.” Our students deserve us to be “Angry Teachers!”

Play Chess, Not Checkers

IMG_5092Good Leaders Play Checkers.

Great Leaders Play Chess!

Great leaders recognize that each piece on the chess board is different. You cannot play the game (lead), much less win the game, if you do not appreciate, leverage, and deploy each of the pieces in their own unique and individual way.

So today, I facilitated a professional development session for Georgia and Florida principals that I title “Play Chess, Not Checkers.” I started off by asking two questions:

  1. What are the differences between checkers and chess?
  2. What must you be able to do to win at chess?

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is a picture of the notes we took during discussion:IMG_5468

Here are some quotes from the day that stood out:

“What can I attack now, and what can wait.”

“Do You have the skills to pivot?”

“We need big vision protectors.”

“The wrong player changes the entire game.”

“What happens when you hire a leader who runs it like a checker game, instead of chess?”

For this next quote I need to put up the graphic I drew:

This was such a great discussion. And, of course, we could not move on without having them create their own model the ideal leadership chess game. Check out this video of their creation:

As you can see this was a very inspirational and meaningful discussion. We gave a lot of thought to how we lead and the environment we create by using the context of playing chess. How about you? Do you lead like a chess or checkers player?

 

 

You’re Not a Fraud!

IMG_5200Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. This definition came from Wikipedia (retrieved 4/6/2019). To start this post I needed a definition to frame the discussion. The context for this post came from a discussion during one of our Indiana 3D Leadership sessions last year and I am just getting to it on the list of topics I want to blog about. We were discussing how sometimes individuals move quickly to different positions in schools for doing good work. These aspiring leaders were concerned, however, that sometimes they have some imposter syndrome symptoms and believe they might not be as good as others think they are. At first I wasn’t sure I was catching what they were pitching, but then in studying this I have found this really is real.

For example, a perfectionist sometimes falls into this trap. Think about it. The perfectionist sets lofty goals for themselves, tend to be micromanagers, or won’t delegate at all. Then, when things aren’t perfect, he is super hard on himself. This is also the person who had to have straight A’s and the highest scores in the class. I never needed to worry about this and am certainly not a perfectionist. My dad, conversely, was a perfectionist and actually it would keep him from getting things accomplished at times. I remember when he passed away back in 1988 I found several projects not completed around the farm because he was constantly working to make whatever it was perfect. I always said it was like the old adage “measure twice, cut once.” The problem was he kept measuring to try to get it perfect and never got the board cut. Make no mistake, I loved my dad and I respect him more than anyone, but we were very different on the trait of being a perfectionist. I’m not sure I have ever worried about being perfect a minute in my life and have certainly never worried if someone didn’t think I was perfect.

Sometimes people with this syndrome want to know it all. She never believes she will know enough. Remember, to lead a highly effective group or organization you do not want to be the smartest person in the room. Learning has to be agile. There are things we will need to know tomorrow that we don’t know today. Don’t worry about trying to second guess, just be ready to learn when the need arises (which will be always).

If you’ve ever experienced imposter syndrome you need to realize that you have gotten where you are for a reason. It may have been because of your ability to produce, chance, connections, or some other factor, and that is great. Go ahead and embrace your abilities, embrace what makes you different from everyone else, and play off of your own strengths and capabilities. You are not a fraud.

 

 

As Leaders, We Create The Weather

How do you show up? Think about this: do you show up sunny and bright or stormy and cloudy? Bottom line: if you show up as sunshine it will be a shiny happy day for the team. If you show up as a thunderstorm, however, it will be a rough ride. Either way, unlike the weather outside, you have the ability to influence the weather of your organization.

If you don’t believe this think about if you have ever worked with someone who you need to ask others what kind of mood he or she is in before talking to him or her. If you’ve experienced this then you have experienced leaders controlling the weather.

Therefore, we need to be intentional about the weather systems we create. Think about about the extremes: blizzards, hurricanes, extreme heat, or tornadoes. Then think about that sunny day with a calm breeze and moderate temperatures. Which of these weather patterns would you want to be creating?

Your teams and organizations will take their cues from you and whatever weather pattern you are projecting. If your outlook is sunny and bright, the organization is sunny and bright. If your outlook is full of storm clouds, the weather in the organization will be pretty much the same.

Next time you are with your team or people, imagine you are the weather map behind the meteorologist on television and she is about to give the weather report. If you take this moment of being mindful, it will help you to calm any storm fronts and bring sunshine and calm breezes to your organization.

Don’t forget, you are your organization’s meteorologist. As leaders, we create the weather. What kind of impacts do your weather systems have on your organization?

Hailey’s Energy Bus

Several years ago I read the great book, The Energy Bus, by Jon Gordon. It is an outstanding book written as a fable. The book is written from the perspective of a middle manager (George)  who is leading a team heading nowhere. Through a series of events he ends up riding a city bus with a positive motivation guru at the helm and a group of “energy” converts in the seats. After riding the bus for two weeks he has learned 10 lessons.

I was reminded of this book this past Thursday night while working with our Carolinas 3D Leadership participants in Kannapolis, North Carolina. The participants were working on a creative activity of putting 10 of the top influencers of leadership in their lives into a collage. Low and behold as I’m circulating I find Hailey’s Energy Bus. It immediately took me back to The Energy Bus book. Hailey Wade Odum realized that these leaders who influenced her, gave her energy. The energy to be a great teacher leader and K-5 STEM Lab instructor at Cabarrus Charter Academy Elementary School. She even tweeted, “Hop aboard the #Leadership #EnergyBus.” Jon Gordon would have been proud!

This really made me think about the ten lessons in The Energy Bus. They all applied to Hailey’s picks of her top ten influencers. Here’s the ten lessons (rules):

  1. You’re the driver of your bus.
  2. Desire, vision, and focus move your bus in the right direction.
  3. Fuel your ride with positive energy.
  4. Invite people on your bus and share your vision for the road ahead.
  5. Don’t waste your energy on those who don’t get on your bus.
  6. Post a sign that says, “No Energy Vampires Allowed” on your bus.
  7. Enthusiasm attracts more passengers and energizes them during the ride.
  8. Love your passengers.
  9. Drive with purpose.
  10. Have fun and enjoy the ride.

All of these rules I’m sure went into Hailey’s picks of her influencers, but in listening to her report out I believe that rules 2, 3, and 9 were pretty important in the decision. It’s all about personal responsibility. We are each responsible for the direction of our lives. And the direction of our lives is shaped by each day, each thought, and each person we use as a mentor or exemplar. If we are complacent in our lives we let others drive for us. We need to be driving our own energy bus. Have you ever felt out of control? Well, it’s time to take charge and drive your own bus. In my experience, the realization that my efforts now can reap big rewards in the future has always been very empowering.

The other thing we spent time visiting about is that people are constantly being added to our bus. As our lives evolve and we continue to iterate and reinvent ourselves, some of our influencers will change. Unlike like the real Mount Rushmore that is literally carved in stone, our personal Mount Rushmorean leaders should be molded such to be constantly evolving. Who’s on your ENERGY BUS?

Be You!

Last night at our Carolinas 3D Leadership gathering I was struck by a phrase that Stephanie Klingler, the Assistant Principal at Cardinal Charter Academy, put on one of the projects we were working on. The project was identifying Mount Rushmorean leaders and the influence other leaders have on us. Her statement was:

“Be You! Stay strong. Get up! Be the example to others.” ~ Stephanie Klingler

Super powerful, don’t you agree? If Leadership is about influence then this is the example we want to be and what we want modeled for us. It’s about being authentic and doing what Machiavelli taught us: to declare. Who we are is how we lead, pure and simple. Being a great leader is really the simple act of being you. It’s about putting your experiences and what you believe into a package that guides how you lead and the example you are. Stephanie’s statement says it all: be you, be strong, be an example, and keep getting up. It is who she is.

Stephanie is on the left with her mobile office for being a leader of learning!

If we want to lead and be a Rushmorean (yes, I made that word up) leader, then we must know ourself. Being ourself means being authentic. It is okay to be you. It’s really the only person we can be. As my friend Sally Hogshead teaches us, you need to be the best you you can be. The fascinating you! The best way to become an effective leader is to find congruence between what you think, say and do. That said, in order to become an effective leader you have to know who you are: your values, your strengths, what you stand for, why you stand for it, and what your ethics are. Then act on them with conviction and without apology. This is what I believe Machiavelli meant when he says we must “declare.”

Are you being YOU?

Durability of Expectations

IMG_5030In a meeting I was a part of this week we developed a phrase that has caused me to do a lot of thinking: “Durability of expectations.” Our work was in the context of thinking about student success, outcomes, and what the profile of an Indiana high school graduate should look like. I like to combine all of this and talk about student success outcomes. Success looks different for all students and some students have not really had an opportunity to have success modeled for them or even know what success can look like. I have often said that it is ludicrous, in some cases, to ask our students what they want to be or do in life because they have not had the opportunity learn what all is out there. That is why I believe it is so important to make sure we are doing a great job of career exposure, career exploration, and career navigation for all students. We need to career coach our kids.

Success: “Knowing what one wants in the world and knowing how to get it.” ~ Dr. Felice Kaufman

We must make sure we are giving our students the opportunity to innovate, be creative, and take risks. This will help them to persevere, adapt, and develop a growth mindset and begin to understand lifelong learning. We need to help our kids understand what is out there and that getting where they want to go will be a non-linear process in many cases. Most of the career paths those of us in the baby boomer age are characterized of having relative stability. The career paths for today’s students are now times of discovery, restlessness, and exploration. The last I read, boomers will switch jobs 11 times during our lifetime, but millenials and younger will not only switch careers but change entire career trajectories. Therefore, the modern career trajectory isn’t necessarily a climb to a destination, but rather a continuum.

illustration-playground-climber_superdomeWe will need to offer solutions to our students that help them understand and give them the opportunity to skill, re-skill, and up-skill as they embark on their non-linear career paths. This is why I am such a believer that we must begin to identify the transferable skills our students. These skills, according to employers, hold much more weight than the traditional way of looking at academic records or even work history. Life is not linear, it is more like a Jungle Jim, so we need to make sure we are facilitating learning for our students that gives them the transferable skills to have durable expectations of what they can do. In other words, our students can have a lasting expectation that they have the skills to start and understand how to stay skilled to make the desired career moves that become available. Even if our students take a non-linear path in life, if they have credentials and transferable skills they will have what is needed to provide the on and off ramps to whatever career moves come available. This will give durability to the expectations our students have as they move through life and professional careers.

The old adage that you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards is true, but we need to give our students the ability to zigzag. By preparing students through career coaching, exploration, work based learning, and transferable skills and credentials we will add durability to the expectations of our students and their parents. We have an obligation to make sure our students are prepared to see and be prepared to seize the opportunities no matter how unconventional or surprising.

 

What’s In Your Leadership Toy Box?

IMG_4980A week ago I facilitated one of our 3D Leadership gatherings in Florida. We used a Leadership Toy Box through line and had the participants pick a toy at the beginning and describe what leadership traits the toy possessed and how they could use the toy for great leadership. From that discussion we came up with a great list of leadership traits to focus on:

  1. IMG_4978Flexible
  2. Big
  3. Supportive
  4. Balanced
  5. Resourceful
  6. Wise risk taking
  7. Celebrate
  8. Confident
  9. Results driven
  10. Perspective
  11. Approachable
  12. Resilient
  13. Humble
  14. SynergisticIMG_4979
  15. Listens
  16. Caring
  17. Vulnerable
  18. Encouraging
  19. Purposeful
  20. Empathetic

Pretty incredible list, don’t you think? If you aspire to lead, but fill effective leadership roles whose vision will inspire, these are the leadership skills to answer. There are many other leadership traits that could be listed here, but these are certainly traits that, if mastered, would make a pretty effective leader.

The trait that came up the most in all our discussions was flexibility. Flexible leaders are those who can modify their style or approach to leadership in response to uncertain or unpredictable circumstances. Flexible leaders have the ability to change their plans to match the reality of the situation. This flexibility can be helpful when pushing through change. Dr. Ron Heifetz, Harvard University, was the first to define the distinctive theory of adaptive leadership. Adaptive leadership is about mobilizing others to make progress addressing the gap between the way things currently are and the desired state you are striving toward. Additionally, adaptive leadership is a way of reading the situation and understanding what is needed to work with others.

To fully get our minds wrapped around this we need to recognize there are two types of opportunities (challenges): technical and adaptive. With a technical opportunity there is an exact answer that is already known. Adaptive opportunities involve a human component and multiple viewpoints, opinions, attitudes, or diverse set of stakeholders. I believe if a leader takes the 20 items from above and applies them to an adaptive challenge she would be well served and in a position to lead effectively. This is why I am such a believer in creating an open environment for learning about leadership. It enabled the discussions, which started with toys, to get to learning about 20 skills for developing as a leader. What traits/skills would you add to the list?