Byron's Babbles

King For A Day!

IMG_2544Those that know me well, know that something I love to do during meetings or interacting with others is to declare a participant(s) “King For A Day.” I love to do this because by saying, “If you were king for a day, what would you do?” I have fully empowered that person to tell me what she or he is thinking. Furthermore, I am going to get to hear one person’s creative ideas given in a way that also involves implementation. Some people kid me and say I am wanting to change our democracy to a monarchy; not at all. What I am really doing is giving a voice to those who have knowledge and skills in the area being discussed. Many times I will make multiple people “King For A Day.” Let me tell you, it is fun to do ad provides a very safe place to lay out plans and ideas.

Sometimes, when I have have ideas I will say, “If I could be king for a day…” People laugh, and it has become a trademark of mine during meetings, but it is a great chance and way to throw out an idea(s) for critical review. I truly want the criticism and critical review. I honestly want to understand why my idea might or might not work, or better yet, what might make it a great idea. I have some that even kid me and call me the “Emperor,” when I walk in the room,

Really, by making individuals “King For A Day” I am creating a very democratic environment. My reformist idol, Martin Luther, would be proud of me because I am actually giving others and all a voice. And…I am letting whoever is designated as “king” to fully develop and lay out an idea/plan. More importantly, this gives individuals the opportunity to oppose ideas that have been proposed. We need to give those in our gathered communities the opportunity to emphasize contrary and less popular opinions.

img_1749-4In Lesson #24, entitled “Assign Someone To Play The Fool” of the book, 52 Leadership Gems: Practical and Quick Insights For Leading Others by John Parker Stewart, I learned that it is also valuable to assign someone the role of being “the fool.” In the European middle ages the only person that could criticize the king was the “Court Jester,” or also called “The Fool.” In the King’s court, the Jester/Fool played the important role of providing the king with valuable insight. Opposing ideas are essential for innovation and wise decisions. We need to make sure we are creating environments where voices are openly heard from all sides. In other words allowing some “foolish” behavior.

I am going to start allowing someone to be the “Fool,” or maybe I better position it as “Court Jester,” for a day as well as assigning “Kings For A Day.” How about you? Do you rely on others for input? Do you express your views? Are you willing to let someone. be “King” or “Jester/Fool” for a day?

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Making Your Conversations Count!

Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful EngagementConversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement by Jackie Stavros

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anyone involved in leadership or in education needs to read this book. I love the fact that it has education examples with actual stories from teacher and student interactions. This books helps the reader to better understand how appreciation and inquiry enhance relationships as well as productivity and performance. After reading this book I realize how important it is to bring an appreciative dimension to conversations and add value. We have all been involved in conversations where someone is bringing the depreciative dimension and devaluing the conversation. In this book we are given the guide to be generative in our conversations. Our community, whether an organization, school, classroom, or business is defined by the conversations we have. If we want our conversations to be meaningful in shaping and defining the future of those we serve then we need to use appreciative inquiry and make those conversations generate greatness. Find out how in this book!

Dr. Byron L. Ernest

View all my reviews

Conversational Leadership

IMG_2903Guest post by Cheri Torres.

Conversation. It’s what we do almost all-day long. Everything we accomplish in organizations and communities depends upon conversations.

How does your leadership show up in your conversations? Are you adding value in the way you talk and engage others? Are you maximizing your value-add by focusing on possibilities and opportunities? Are you helping to create a culture of positivity and engagement in your interactions?

If not, here are some ways you can begin to do so:

  1. Enter conversations with an open mind, heart, and will.
  2. Ask questions, and make sure they are questions for which you don’t know the answers. The best questions:
  • Generate new knowledge or perspectives
  • Help people connect ideas and possibilities
  • Disrupt old and current ways of thinking and doing
  • Inspire innovation and novelty
  • Help people access their creativity and wisdom
  • Invite engagement
  1. Learn to focus questions, conversations, and problem-solving efforts on desired outcomes. What do you want, instead of what don’t you want.
  2. Create a culture of engagement and possibility by making sure you have conversations worth having 75-80% of the time. A conversation worth having moves towards desired outcomes and energizes people to go with you.
  3. Take your ego by the hand, let it know it will be okay, and then shine the spotlight on others. Your organization is filled with wisdom, creativity, and willingness to make a difference. Make room for that to emerge by leading true collaboration, ensuring full inclusion, and engaging stakeholders in planning, decisions, and innovation.
  4. Realize that culture is created and recreated every day by having the same kinds of conversations with the same assumptions and limitations. If the current culture isn’t serving you, figure out what kind of conversations would happen in the culture you want. Then start having those kinds of conversations.
  5. Realize also that your organizational design and structure was created through conversation. If your systems and structure, policies, and processes no longer support your ability to adapt and innovate in today’s fast-paced environment, have a conversation about redesigning your systems to support the kind of organization you want.

img_2901We don’t think about it often, but we swim in the world our conversations create. As a leader, take responsibility for your conversations and create the organization or community you want.  There is nothing stopping you but your willingness to have a different kind of conversation: a conversation worth having!

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About Cheri Torres:

Cheri Torres, Ph.D. brings the practice of Appreciative Inquiry, design thinking, and an ecological worldview to communities and organizations striving for sustainable growth. Her work facilitates learning, innovation, and dynamic interpersonal relationships capable of achieving remarkable outcomes. Cheri has worked with diverse communities across the globe, from public schools and community organizations to corporations and government entities, to elevate their strengths and broaden their capacity for collaboration and collective intelligence. She has trained thousands of trainers and teachers in the use and practice of Appreciative Inquiry and Experiential Learning, with a particular focus on leadership development, teamwork, creativity, and sustainable collaboration.

She has authored or co-authored numerous books and articles, the newest of which is Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement co-authored with Jackie Stavros.

 

You Can’t Know It All So You Might As Well Be Curious!

This guest post originally appeared on the Conversations Worth Having Blog

You Can’t Know It All So You Might As Well Be Curious!

By Cheri Torres

Adopt an attitude of curiosity about life. When we are genuinely curious, we naturally ask generative questions. Such questions:

• Make room for diverse and different perspectives. How do you see it?

• Surface new information and knowledge. How did they manage this process at your previous place of work?

• Stimulate creativity and innovation. What might be possible if we . . .?

When dealing with any issue, even difficult issues, generative questions make unseen information visible and result in conversations that create trust, positive energy, and the transformative power to move the system forward in a desired direction. The result: new ways for solving complex problems and compelling images for collective action.  Here is a table from our book, Conversations Worth Having.

Here’s an example that parents of teenagers will easily relate to. Monica, mother of a teenage boy, uses generative questions to change the conversational dynamic with her son. Monica had been in the midst of a recurring argument with her son, Aiden. She was tired of the same old interaction that never produced a way forward. Aiden wanted to borrow the car over the weekend to go ‘do things’ with his friends, and Monica didn’t like the idea of him joyriding with the possibility of getting into trouble. Their critical conversations had created a rift between them, which saddened Monica, but she didn’t know what else to do. Suddenly, in mid-conversation, it occurred to her she could use the practice she’s learned at work for shifting the tone and direction of a conversation. When Aiden started to reiterate the argument, Monica held up her hand, paused and said, “I really do understand why you want the car, and I hope you understand why I’m worried for your safety and well-being. So, how can we have a more productive conversation? How can we come to some agreement that allows you to get the car and me to feel comfortable that you’ll make good decisions, even if your friends are pressuring you?”

Aiden was stopped in his tracks. This time it was his turn to pause, and then they began a brand new conversation that promised to be worthwhile . . . and it was. Monica’s question allowed Aiden to let his mom know he did understand. He shared that sometimes he was glad he hadn’t been allowed to have the car because of where his friends ended up. But other times, he’d missed out on experiences he wanted to have and at those times, he felt she was being over protective. Upon hearing that, she realized she hadn’t even considered that part of the stalemate might be her own refusal to let go. They eventually arrived at an agreement to start small and keep expanding car privileges as trust and confidence grew between them.

Monica shifted the conversation out of critical debate and into a conversation worth having by reframing the situation and asking a generative question. This simple action shifted the tone and direction of the conversation. It allowed both of them to step back, reflect for a moment, and be more open and honest, and this shifted the outcome of their interaction.  [To read more stories like this, order Conversations Worth Having today.]

This is one of the most valuable practices you can develop for building strong relationships, expanding the potential of a group, surfacing possibilities in the face of challenges, and rapidly moving towards desired goals.

Generative questions often arise naturally when we frame a conversation around what we want but don’t currently have. For example, “I don’t have the money to buy a new car” to “I do have the money to buy a new car.” It’s as if the second statement primes our question generator automatically:

• “Where did the money come from?”

• “What did I do to earn, find, or save it?”

• “What miracle might occur to support that?”

• “I wonder how I could ask for a raise, it’s been six years, and they tell me I’m a real asset.” What if I frame it as an adjustment in pay?

• “What if I offered a workshop and had just enough people coming to pay for the car?”

Take the opportunity now to try this little miracle maker with your own problems or “don’t wants”.  Flip it, and then let the generative questions flow. Let your curiosity and imagination help you turn the flip into your future reality. You can download the Executive Summary for an overview of the practices and principles.

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About Cheri Torres:

Cheri Torres, Ph.D. brings the practice of Appreciative Inquiry, design thinking, and an ecological worldview to communities and organizations striving for sustainable growth. Her work facilitates learning, innovation, and dynamic interpersonal relationships capable of achieving remarkable outcomes. Cheri has worked with diverse communities across the globe, from public schools and community organizations to corporations and government entities, to elevate their strengths and broaden their capacity for collaboration and collective intelligence. She has trained thousands of trainers and teachers in the use and practice of Appreciative Inquiry and Experiential Learning, with a particular focus on leadership development, teamwork, creativity, and sustainable collaboration.

She has authored or co-authored numerous books and articles, the newest of which is Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement co-authored with Jackie Stavros.

What’s Your Leadership Mantra?

The Oxford Dictionary gives us the late 18th century origin of the word “mantra” as: “Sanskrit, literally ‘a thought, thought behind speech or action’, from man- ‘think’, related to mind.” We all have mantras. When working with groups of up and coming leaders I describe it as how others see us or how we see ourselves. Sometimes I even introduce it as what others say about us when we are not there. Yesterday in our 3D Leadership training for North and South Carolina we did a reflection exercise where participants got to do a graphic representation of their mantra and leadership legacy. I was blown away by the great work they did. Honestly, they speak for themselves, so I am going to post them all as the content of this post. Here they are, enjoy:

Hopefully you found these to be as inspiring as I did. So, if we think of mantra as something that is often repeated and expresses a particular strong belief or action, then we can be assured these up and coming leaders will be walking the walk. What’s your leadership mantra?

What Do You Want To Do With Your Life?

Last week I finished reading an incredible book by our former Vice President Joe Biden. Ever since I had the opportunity to meet and spend time with him and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, back in 2010, I was impressed. As Indiana Teacher of the Year, I spent an afternoon at the residence of Joe and Jill Biden. Number One Observatory Circle is the official residence of the Vice President of the United States. Located on the northeast grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., the house was built in 1893 for its superintendent. I just remember thinking how real and genuine the Vice President and Dr. Biden were. They cared about our country, our kids, and the world.

In the book, Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose. Vice President Biden opens up and allows himself to be vulnerable. The throughline of the book is about his son’s battle with brain cancer. Vice President Biden recounts in vivid, heart-wrenching detail what it was like for him and his family from the time his eldest son, Beau, a rising star in the Democratic Party, was diagnosed with brain cancer, to his death less than two years later and the aftermath. The Vice President spoke of his son being like him but better. He said, “Beau Biden, at age 45, was Joe Biden 2.0,” Biden writes. “He had all the best of me, but with the bugs and flaws engineered out.” What a great reflection to be able to have about one’s son.

The book was also an awesome recount of the history and what was going on in our country and the world at the time. The Vice President opened up about his weekly lunches with President Obama and the tremendous friendship that developed. Having spent time with the President on the same trip I met Vice President Biden I can understand how that friendship could happen. Both are guys that you would want to be friends with and hang out with.

Probably, the story that most resonated with me in the book was when President Obama, at lunch, asked the Vice President, “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” This question really caused me to reflect. I believe that it caused Joe Biden to reflect as well. This wasn’t about success, being President of the United States, or some job; it was about being significant. I thought the Vice President summed it up nicely in the epilogue of the book when he said, “So how do I want to spend the rest of my life? I want to spend as much time with my family, and I want to help change the country and the world for the better. That duty does much more than give me purpose; it gives me something to hope for. It makes me nostalgic for the future.” How can we argue with duty giving us purpose and hope.

“Rules for happiness: something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.”~ Immanuel Kant

The question of “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” caused such great reflection in me that I decided to use it as the inspiration for a session at our Indiana Cohort training of our Noble Education Initiative 3D Leadership Program. Participants were asked to think about the question, “What do you want to do with your life?” They were to list these things out and then determine what they would like their legacy to be.

This was the catalyst for an incredible discussion. The comment and part of the discussion that most excited me was when one of our very talented young aspiring leaders said, “You know, before you told us not to think in terms of jobs, promotions, or titles, that is where I was headed. This is the first time I’ve really thought in terms of being significant and having a purpose.” Mission accomplished! The graphic recordings each participant made on the tables during this session say it all. Here are a few samples:

So, I leave you with this thought: “What do you want to do with your life?”

Reaching For New Heights In Talent Development

IMG_2592

Bern Switzerland

Because my job now involves talent identification, training, retention and helping educators discover, develop, and distribute skills in leadership and their craft (what we at Noble Education Initiative call 3D Leadership™), I have been thinking about this a great deal the past few days while in Germany and Switzerland. While our Indiana delegation organized by Horizon Education Alliance has been focusing on educating students in the 10-18 year old space (high school for Indiana), many of the principles apply to any age or experience group. The application to any age group is important because of the number of incumbent workers, those adults already in the workforce who need training or retraining, in Indiana (I am sure this is the same for many other states, industries, or countries). I really like the idea of a dual track approach to learning in Switzerland. Students are in class one to two days per week, depending on their program of study and then three to four days per week in meaningful employment (apprenticeship).

IMG_1537 Yesterday, our Indiana delegation spent time with CSL Behring in Bern Switzerland studying their talent development. Talent development for this great company includes upskilling current and new employees, soft skill development training, leadership training, and apprenticeships. It impresses me that this company takes a holistic approach to being a talent magnet.

CSL Behring‘s vision for talent development says it all:

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The pillars are the most important part here in my view:

  • Pioneering
  • Reliability
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit
  • Passion

CSL Behring is committed to working on these pillars with not only young apprentices, but with all employees. Let me dig a little deeper and give you my take on the four pillars.

Pioneering

Pioneering leaders are adventurous — driven to keep seeking bigger and better roles, products, and experiences. They inspire a team to venture into uncharted territory. We get caught up in their passion to grow, expand, and explore. Pioneers have a high need for freedom and see opportunities where others don’t. The pioneering leader reminds us that innovation doesn’t happen without active exploration.

Reliability

Reliability means that you do what you promised to do and that others can count on you. It is a positive social character trait. People don’t like to deal with those who are unreliable. They’d rather give their business and rewards to someone they can count on. Being considered reliable means that you are conscientious and keep your promises. A reliable person does not make excuses. A reliable worker will be trusted to do the job as promised and can reap the rewards of raises and promotions. A business that has a reputation of being reliable or making reliable products will get repeat and new business, as well as reducing costs of rework or repair.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

This is about employees thinking like owners. This entrepreneurial spirit is really an attitude and approach to thinking that actively seeks out change, rather than waiting to adapt to change. It’s a mindset that embraces critical questioning, innovation, service and continuous improvement. It really boils down to taking ownership and pride in one’s organization.

Passion

Passion, without compromise, is the fuel behind all great leaders. If we want outstanding employee engagement, then we must help those in our organizations find their passion. This is particularly true with young apprentices. I don’t think we are even scratching the service on what needs to be done to help our young scholars find their passion. Leadership is the passion toward each team member, pushing them toward a higher level of accomplishment. Leadership is the passion for continuous and deliberate self-improvement.

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Noble Education Initiative’s 3D Leadership™ Approach

Here’s what I’ve learned, we must be providing practical know-how and the skills needed for all occupation. Incumbent workers and young apprentice scholars need to have an active part in the production process of the industry he or she is studying to be a part of. In the classroom we must be developing technical, methodological and social skills, theoretical, and general principles. I have been calling these the core competencies and transferable skills. We also need to figure out how to leverage our third party providers of technical skills and knowledge for our students. We owe it to all our learners to provide high quality training that is delivered through state-of-the-art teaching and efficient transfer into practice™.

Leadership To Tear Down Walls

IMG_2465Today, I had the opportunity to stand in Berlin, Germany where President Ronald Reagan stood in 1987 behind two panes of bulletproof glass 100 yards from the Berlin Wall at the Brandenberg Gate and called on the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev to dismantle it. I can remember that speech like it was yesterday and to then be standing there, was awe inspiring.

Think about it, at that time it was a very powerful stage: a United States president in front of the Brandenburg Gate at the height of the Cold War, with an East Berlin security post visible behind him. President Reagan firmly said, “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” That is audacious leadership, and why President Reagan is at the top of my most admired Presidents list.IMG_2452

The effects of the speech have been debated by historians, but I will always believe it was an important part to the wall coming down and the freedom and unification of Germany. President Reagan’s speech emphasized freedom and reunification, and then ingeniously and deliberately asked for more than Gorbachev would stretch to. President Reagan saw an opportunity to undercut Europe’s perception of the Russian leader as a leader of peace. A little more than two years later, on Nov. 9, 1989, East and West Germans converged on the wall and began dismantling it after East Germany lifted travel restrictions. The country was reunified less than a year later in 1990. The wall had been in place from 1961-1989.

As a leader, President Reagan was showing us his resilience to continue working with the Soviet Union to end the Cold War. Most who listened at the time viewed Reagan’s speech as a dramatic appeal to Gorbachev to renew negotiations on nuclear arms reductions. eight months before, a summit between Reagan and Gorbachev had ended unsatisfactorily, with both sides charging the other with bad faith in talks aimed at reducing nuclear arsenals. Reagan, who had formed a personal closeness to Gorbachev during their previous meetings, obviously wanted to move those negotiations forward. In December 1987, the two met once again and signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which eliminated an entire class of nuclear missiles from Europe.

IMG_2463President Reagan was a great leader because of his vision. He said, “America is too great for small dreams.” I believe this is true of every organization we lead. We need to dream big. My favorite President certainly did. Great leaders are not satisfied with small dreams. Rather than trying to just gain an edge over the Soviet Union, Reagan totally dismantled the “Evil Empire”, where he succeeded. The dismantling of the Berlin Wall was just one part of that vision.

Here is what former President George Bush had to say about President Reagan, “Our friend was strong and gentle. Once he called America hopeful, big hearted, idealistic, daring, decent and fair. That was America and, yes, our friend. And next, Ronald Reagan was beloved because of what he believed. He believed in America so he made it his shining city on a hill. He believed in freedom so he acted on behalf of its values and ideals. He believed in tomorrow so the great communicator became the great liberator.” President Reagan had a huge vision and had the audacity to go after it. Because of that the world is a better place and more nations are free because of him. Do you have an an uplifting and positive vision for your organization and our country and their future. Let’s get out there and tear down the walls.