Byron's Babbles

Collaborate Instead of Coercing

The face of a man, David Marquet, who believes we need to get rid of the old definition of leadership.

During my morning study time today I finished reading the great book Into The Raging Sea: Thirty Three Mariners, One Megastorm, And The Sinking of El Faro by Rachel Slade. Because of my belief that everyone is a leader, everyone needs to read this book. Slade did an amazing job of chronicling the October 1, 2015 loss of the 790 ft U.S. Flagged container ship El Faro in Hurricane Joaquin. The 33 on board all lost their lives and the loss sent shock-waves through the marine industry. I don’t want to spoil the inspiration of reading the book, but Slade explains in detail what happened plus a great many other details and history of the merchant marine industry. Her research included the many conversations on the bridge from the last 26 hours prior to the sinking of the El Faro from the NTSB Voice Data Recorder (VDR) transcripts. Those conversations on the bridge illuminate what went on in the last hours. Slade described in detail how the recovery of the VDR from the 15,000′ ocean floor of water was a major accomplishment.

So why should every leader read this book? The ship’s master, Captain Davidson, had a lot of experience but was known for not listening to the officers and crew. Never forget, it is important for leaders to listen more than they talk. In the transcripts of conversations on the ship’s bridge the officers seemed afraid or, at the very least, reluctant to challenge the route of the captain and a glaring lack of a culture for obtaining important feedback from the officers and crew. The captain had clearly not cultivated a culture that the officers felt safe to give feedback on any items they were concerned about. The transcripts showed that the officers had opinions on safer routes to take, but were never able or comfortable enough to communicate these in a way to make them so. Thus, the ship sailed right into the eye of the hurricane and its ultimate fate. Please note that I have way over simplified this story, but you need to read the book.

As I read Slade’s great book I was reminded of my friend and mentor David Marquet’s great leadership acumen and his incredible book, Leadership Is Language. In his book, Marquet uses the sinking of the El Faro as an example of leadership gone bad. David taught us that outdated top-down language from the Industrial Age playbook of leadership probably played into the terrible tragedy of the El Faro. This is another book every leader must read. Without spoiling all the content let me just say that Marquet argued that once we commit to a small step, we humans can’t help ourselves but to continue to commit in that decision. It’s just the way our brain works. We become stubborn and stick to it, even in the face of evidence that the course of action is failing. He taught us to build in pause and reflect stops. Think about it. If the crew had felt safe in a culture designed as a safe place to speak up, the alternative safer routes would have probably been chosen. Leaders must collaborate instead of coercing.

Finally, when we, as leaders, can admit we don’t know, we allow the team to admit that they don’t know. It also allows a team member to admit they DO know. Leaders must be looking for and encouraging divergent thinking. Remember, trust must be a verb before it can be a noun. I just blogged about this in Trust Is A Verb. Are you trusting your team and encouraging curiosity from everyone? To use one of David’s questions, “How can we make it better?” I had the opportunity this past week to be with David on a webinar with teachers from Canada and was reminded how important it is to move from the old definition of leadership that involves directing the thoughts, plans, and actions of others (see featured picture) to what he describes as “embedding the capacity for greatness in the people and practices of an organization, and decoupling it from the personality of the leader.” Lets get to decoupling.

Top 10 Books Of 2020

2020 was an incredible year of reading. I finished reading 119 books this year. I was an extremely tough chore to pick my top 10 and then put them in order. I love books because for a brief moment in time, books release us from the constraints of our own reality. They take us beyond our own small place in the world and into another person’s real or imaginary one. Each of us has a unique and valuable role in life. When experiencing life through the eyes of another, we encounter diverse angles on life’s most common situations. I have read such great books this year by very talented writers. Finally, I am a better person and understand many more diverse perspectives from reading 119 books this year.

Here are the posts that give the posts influenced by books I read in 2020 by each quarter:

The First Quarter Of An Incredible Year Of Reading

Second Quarter 2020 Book Inspired Posts

2020 Third Quarter Book Inspired Posts

The Books That Opened My Eyes In The Fourth Quarter Of 2020

Here is my video revealing my Top 10 Books Of 2020:

Hearing Every Leader

Posted in Intent Based Leadership, Leadership, Radical Candor, Turn The Ship Around by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 28, 2020

Yesterday I blogged Arguing The Value Of Our Experiences Is Futile as the result of inspiration from rereading Kim Scott’s Radical Candor: Be A Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humility. Today’s post is a result of more notes taken while reading. The phrase “listen, challenge, commit” really stuck with me for further reflection.

We need to listen to understand. We need to challenge with respect. We need to then commit ourselves to the decision and the team. If you think about, if we could always get these three things right we would have happy and engaged employees and teammates. Not to mention be successful at carrying out our missions.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ~ Stephen R. Covey

We need to listen without agreeing, disagreeing, or interrupting. Just listen intently to understand. When a culture of being able to challenge is developed, the team will always grow. This will create trust and cohesion. We need to explain objections clearly and succinctly. The challenge is about us getting it right; not about someone being right.

If everyone has fully been heard for understanding and differences sorted out, then a commitment can be reached. Everyone has been heard and understood. The important thing here is for everyone to have their voice heard and be valued.

I hear leaders talk about lack of ownership or buy-in. I’m always amazed when I hear “we now need to go get buy-in.” If you are saying that, you have already lost. Team members will be committed when their voices are heard and their ideas used. I’m also amazed at how leaders think they know better than the people closest to the day to day execution. This is what my good friend David Marquet calls “leader-leader” or “intent-based” leadership as opposed to “leader-follower” in his great book Turn The Ship Around: A True Story Of Turning Followers Into Leaders. Marquet argues that decisions need to be made where the data is created. He believes, as do I, everyone is a leader. This is why teacher led schools are so important and why I am so committed to developing teacher leaders.

If this enthuses you, you need to get his latest great book, Leadership Is Language: The Hidden Power Of What You Say And What You Don’t. Bottom line: decisions must be made where they will be executed.

I have blogged about Marquet’s work before in Everyone Is A Leader and Imagine A Place Where Everyone Is A Leader. I so respect David as a friend and great leader who has, like Kim Scott, actually practiced what what what he teaches. I consider the three books referred to in this post as must reads for everyone – since everyone is a leader. In Scott’s book she challenges using the word leadership because we say things like “leadership teams” which gives the appearance that others somehow aren’t leaders or haven’t “arrived” yet as leaders. But, if we go with everyone is a leader, we probably take care of this.

We must involve all team members in decisions, listen to each other, challenge, and then commit. If we believe everyone is a leader, then we need to let every leader be heard. This makes everyone mutually accountable. No more worrying about buy in.

Less “Why” and More “How To”

IMG_6531Recently, I was sitting in on some teacher professional development sessions and I looked over at a teacher’s notes and saw that he had written, “I need less ‘why’, and more ‘how to”. This really struck me because I had just interrupted an earlier session to see how many really thought they would be able to jump right in and do the task being trained on – some thought they could, but many wanted to try it and then have someone ready to help them. Having spent most of my career in the classroom I knew it was thing to have been shown how to do something, and then actually doing it when there were 30+ young scholars staring you in the face.

After seeing this note, I began to think about whether we had become so enamored with always explaining the “why” that we were missing the mark on the “how”. Clearly in these trainings we were for at least one participant. This struck home with me because I believe in my own world I get a lot of “why”, and then there are very few who really understand the “how”. As you will find later in this post, we need both.

I told the teacher after the session that I had seen his note and was interested. He told me it was not being critical, but he needed more time on how to do some of the tasks than so much time on why. I told him this made total sense. Really, the why should be about the vision in a quick statement of the importance and not a dissertation, or what turns into a chance for the presenter to pontificate and gain self gratification. Many times, I have found, this is because the person presenting does not understand how to do the task very well themselves.

The more I thought about this, I realized we have become very “into” talking about the “why” of everything. I get it! I really do, but because of all the writing about the “why” I believe we are forgetting to develop the “how” to the same extent. Even though the title of Simon Sinek’s great book Start With Why focuses on the “why,” he still told us that there must be those doing the “how.” For example, without Roy Disney, Walt Disney’s vision would never have been carried out. Thinking about all this brought to mind one of my favorite parts of L. David Marquet’s great book Turn The Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders. Marquet explained to us in the book that when practicing intent-based leadership, where everyone is a leader, we must provide the needed technical training or it will be chaos. Genius, right! I might know “why” I need to put a fire out on a submarine, but if I don’t know “how” it becomes a bigger problem. So I might add to Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, “Finish With How”.

Think about it from a school perspective; if I spend an hour telling you how important taking accurate attendance is each period for high school students and why each period will be analyzed and rolled into the daily attendance, but then don’t spend the majority of the time making sure you understand the management program (technology) and how to use it, I have failed you. Also, we would need to make sure you understand the best practices of taking proper attendance at the beginning of the period and then updating for individual circumstances that happen during the period. I believe you get the idea, but it has become to easy and “cool” to just spend time on the “why” because that is the latest buzz phrase – “gotta tell them the why.” I’m cool with that, but make sure I understand “how to” too!

How about you? Do you need less “why”, and more “how to”?