Byron's Babbles

Natural Curiosity

Posted in Curiosity, Education, Global Education, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 10, 2021

Curiosity. Everyone is born with it; it’s innate and natural to every child. But somewhere along the way, many lose their sense of how to use curiosity to expand their minds. I would even argue that there are things we do in education that cause our young people to lose or give up on their curiosity. When we reach school age, answers become more important than curious thought. Today, I had a person in a meeting describe me as being open to my natural curiosity. I’ve got to admit, I took it as a compliment to be described as curious. I am a very curious person and try to be curious every day.

Curiosity helps us to discover new ideas and open up new avenues and possibilities. Additionally, curiosity brings excitement into our lives. So, how do we stay open to our natural curiosity? We need to make time for curiosity. Part of that time needs to be for play. This gives us the opportunity to explore. Curious people can always find something interesting to explore. Being curious can help us be less judgmental. Curious people as focused on exploring options rather than just trying to be right and have someone else be wrong.

We also need to ask lots of questions. We need to channel our innate child-like curiosity and do more asking of what, why, who, when, where, and how to get at the big-time secrets of the world. Those that are curious are not afraid of questions and being wrong. Finally, the curious never stop learning.


Posted in DTK, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Machiavelli, Mindset Mondays by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 8, 2021

This week in Chapter 24 of Mindset Mondays With DTK, David Taylor-Klaus taught us that the only way to avoid criticism was to do, say, and be nothing. Since that won’t work for me and I hope it won’t work for those of you reading this post, let’s explore this a little. We learned from DTK in this chapter that Winston Churchill had a deep confidence in his own vision. We must have a strong point of view in order to avoid being nothing.

Again, the only way to avoid any criticism is to do, say, or be nothing. I recognize that I can be polarizing at times, but the one thing that everyone knows is where I stand on issues. Agree or disagree, you don’t have to wonder where I stand. Machiavelli told us to “declare.” I do not prescribe much of Machiavelli’s teaching, but I do believe in “declaring.” In other words, a strong and informed point of view, belief, or set of core values. Keep in mind, however, declaring a strong point of view does not mean that those beliefs can’t evolve and change. We need to be constantly evolving, learning, and growing.

DTK said, “…if we choose to share a perspective that will offend no one, it will also touch no one” (p. 183). Criticism can be painful, but if we take an attitude of learning from it we can turn it into a gift. What do you need to declare and turn into a strong point of view?

Lift Every Voice

Posted in Equity, Excellance, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, NFL, Super Bowl LV by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 7, 2021
Coach Bruce Arians

Happy Super Bowl Sunday. As I settled in for Super Bowl LV. I loved this statement by Bruce Arians, Head Coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, when being interviewed by Bill Cowher for the Super Bowl Today Show: “If you are going to make me better, I am going to listen to you.” Having just gotten home this morning from facilitating a bunch of leadership development this past week and weekend, I was reflecting on how much time we had spent discussing that people will follow you because they want to (relationship) and people will follow you because you get results (production). Coach Arians was making this comment in response to continued praise for giving minority coaches opportunities. Additionally, the Buccaneers are the first NFL team to have two female coaches on staff in a Super Bowl. He reflected on his own experience being overlooked that made him want to help others get recognized. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the only team in the NFL with all Black coordinators.

In a great story by ESPN Staff Writer, Jenna Laine (she has awesome journalistic talent, by the way), Coach Arians said “A player is gonna ask the coach, ‘How are you gonna make me better?'” “He doesn’t really care if the answer comes from a male or female, Black, white, brown, yellow, who — just ‘help me be better,’ Arians said. “The best teachers I had were all different races, all different ethnic groups, male and female. If you can teach, you can coach.” It impressed me that Arians deflected a little of the praise saying, “That was not by design. Those are the best coaches I know.” Here’s the deal, great leaders recognize potential and then act on that by providing opportunities. It’s the most important thing we do as leaders.

Another thing Coach Arians said to Laine that really stuck with me was “To hear voices in a staff meeting that aren’t the same, don’t look alike, but they all have input — you get better output.” This is so true! It’s why in education we need to continue to work extremely hard in diversifying our teaching staffs. As we continue to work for excellence and equity, we must continue to tap the shoulders of ALL with potential – that’s what great leaders do.

Informed Procrastination

Yet another phrase used by Joseph J. Ellis in Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation has caused me to ponder and think about the merits of what he called “enlightened procrastination.” He used this phrase to describe how our second President, John Adams, kept our infant country from going to war with France by not revealing a series of insults from the French government until time and diplomacy could resolve the issues. It worked for President Adams in this scenario and I am pondering about the merits of this as a leadership tool. I am going to guess that many of you are already saying, “You’re crazy!” Hear me out and feel free to comment.

If you have ever responded too quickly to an email, phone call, face to face, or now, Zoom interaction when you were upset and then regretted it this could be a place to use procrastination as a leadership tool. Take time to ponder and think. This will give you a chance to respond as opposed to reacting. I have people I work with regularly kid me about always waiting till the end of a meeting or conversation to ask a question or make a comment – just when they think it is about to end. This is because I’m a slow processor. I actually continue to work at honing this as a positive skill. It allows me to hear all sides and again, process.

Another thing is, we don’t have to solve every issue. Providing time for others to weigh in or solve themselves can be both healthy and many times bring about a better solution. I’m now thinking it should be called “informed procrastination.” Informed procrastination can help us, as leaders, make better decisions. Taking the time to ponder on answers to problems you are striving to find a solution for can help us better understand different perspectives and angles. To be clear, I am not suggesting we all become procrastinators. I am suggesting, however, that when we are informed, we can use it as a leadership tool.

Leading The Michelli Way

I am a huge believer in intersectional learning. This is the learning that can be accomplished from the commonalities and complexities of different industries, businesses, and organizations. I have always been a fan of Dr. Joseph Michelli’s work and books. He has knocked it out of the park with his latest book, Stronger Through Adversity: World-Class Leaders Share Pandemic-Tested Lessons On Thriving During The Toughest Challenges. This book is the encyclopedia of intersectional learning. I am only about 25% through the book, but have learned and reflected on so many things. I have read all of his books, and I have to attribute many of the ideas I have implemented over the years started from the learning I have done from his books.

My goal with this post is to pay it forward and invite all of you to learn from Dr. Michelli. If you are one who likes to learn from others and then apply that learning to your own context, then his work is for you. He has studied and chronicled, in-depth, the many companies he has worked with, improved, consulted, and learned from. Let me just give you one example from the book. Let’s begin with this quote:

“a responsibility alongside other hospitality brands to ensure all travelers who decide to book an all-inclusive getaway will feel confident that they’ll have a safe, comfortable, and memorable experience. Each and every resort or hotel brand needs to stay true to its unique value proposition in the market, yet abide by a common denominator of strict hygiene and safety protocols. Health and safety have always been top priorities among travelers, and now they are key determining factors in a consumer’s decisions to travel.”

Carolyne Doyon, President and CEO of North America and the Caribbean at Club Med

I don’t care what industry you are involved in, the learning here applies. Take the words “hotel or resort,” “traveler,” “travel,” or “hospitality” and change them to those that apply to your organization and the statement applies. When I think of both my policy making and leadership roles in education this statement really applies.

I talk about the value proposition that Doyon speaks of in my leadership training all the time. As a believer in school choice, I believe every school must have a unique value proposition. In other words, why should families choose your school to attend? No doubt, the pandemic has even created new, what I call, competitive advantages.

We have had to contemplate bringing students back and opening schools, keeping students and teachers safe, how to do virtual education or some combination of virtual and in person education effectively, and how to still hold ourselves accountable for the learning and outcomes ALL students we serve deserve.

Dr. Michelli’s book is so timely because we are still working on all this. I was just in a briefing today on the Biden administration’s priorities in education and these items are being contemplated. We need to use the learning from all sectors to help us learn and navigate our course. Stronger Through Adversity gives us the actions of many great leaders. I wish we could have a summit of all the leaders to create action plans for all of us. Maybe he’ll let me pick a couple of leaders and invite me to do one of his podcasts with him. I can dream, can’t I?

As I said at the beginning, this post is intended to serve as my paying it forward for you to check out this great book and the learning that can be gained from Dr. Michelli’s work. Check it out!

Sharing Smiles Even If They Are A Little Harder To See

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Smile by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 4, 2021

“Sharing smiles even if they are a little harder to see.” I heard this yesterday on the video that was shown prior to taking off on my flight to Atlanta. If you watch closely you can tell when someone is smiling. I was reminded this morning how important it is to still smile, even when our mask makes them a little harder to see. I walked into a school in Georgia this morning that I have not been in since last summer and a teacher I know said, “I would know that smile anywhere.” I said, “How do you know I was smiling?” She said, “You can always tell; you just have to pay attention.”

I started paying attention and you can tell. In fact the person’s whole face changes and their eyes light up. So, don’t forget: keep sharing smiles even if they are a little harder to see.

Great Collaboration or Great Competition

I am reading the great book Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis right now and he spoke of the “odd couple” of the revolution being Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Both were very different in their tactics and personalities, and were unlikely friends. Before Washington’s presidency, they collaborated to solve multiple political issues. Then, as Ellis put it, the “great collaboration” turned into the “great competition” because the two intimate friends soon found themselves running for the presidency against each other. Probably no relationship in this country’s history carries as much baggage as that of John Adams of Massachusetts and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia.

This got me to thinking about the age old topic of how much competition is healthy. Pursuing individual goals alongside others can, at times, lead to counterproductive behaviors that can be harmful to both sides. This sense of competition can shift teammates (let’s consider Jefferson and Adams teammates of our democracy) focus from improving themselves or the vision of the organization to defeating a pseudo-opponent, which can lead to sabotaging behaviors. We saw these sabotaging behaviors in the case of Adams an Jefferson and I’ll bet you have seen this happen to others or yourself.

In a work setting, having read extensively about this topic, I believe in providing individualized performance statistics can help reduce competitiveness as well as its negative consequences. Competition at its best helps us to be better. At its worst, it can create unhealthy self-comparison or judgment. I am not advocating for doing away with competition. I am, however, advocating for us to not let collaborators becoming competitors stifle progress, both for the individual and the organization. Competition can actually change our world view. Never forget, everybody in an organization has something to say and undoubtedly has some value to contribute. Do we see the world as a place to grow and collaborate with others?

Where Do You Want To Rise Up Next?

The title of Chapter 23 in Mindset Mondays With DTK by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK) is “Rise Up.” This caught my attention and immediately made my mind go to my friends in Alter Bridge and their great song “Rise Today.” When the first sentence in the chapter was “In our house, we like to use rock & roll life style as a metaphor,” I knew we had serendipity.

DTK told us in this chapter that no matter what happens we must step up and put on the best show possible. This made me reflect on the fact that we have the opportunity to change the world every day. As it says in “Rise Today,” “Yeah, oh yeah; I want to rise today; And change this world; Yeah, oh yeah; Oh, won’t you rise today; And change this world?”

I blogged about this song before in “How Do We Change This World?” DTK told us in this chapter there are so many opportunities when things are far from perfect and that every obstacle is an opportunity. So let’s choose to show up and step up! “Oh won’t you rise today
And change this world?”

Somebody Did It For Me

Leaders motivate us to go places that we would never otherwise go. They are needed both to change organizations and to produce results. In any organizational climate, good leadership is perhaps the most important competitive advantage an organization can have. Amazingly, followers of leaders are just as powerfully driven to follow as leaders are to lead. Great leaders have a way of supporting others to grow and become more productive. Great leadership means putting people in the right place at the right time and then letting them thrive there.

Mr. Combrinck & Ms. Figueroa’s Potato Heads

Yesterday, during our south Florida gathering of 3D Leadership participants, we did an activity that I love to do called “Who Am I As A Leader Now?” We use Mr. and Mrs. Potato Heads to do this and participants build their Potato Head to represent themselves, at that moment, as a leader. It becomes such a powerful reflective time. Then, we gathered in a big circle and shared out. All of the share-outs were so meaningful, but one phrase really caught my attention that a participant ended with, represented by a Potato Head arm placed backward, “Somebody did it for me.” This really struck me because it is so true. Everyone has a “somebody did it for me” story. And this fit so nicely with the work we were going to do later around John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership. Helping others develop into all they can be are those “People Development” and “Pinnacle” levels of great leadership.

Alexis Prieto’s Potato Head

It’s always inspiring to be in a room of educators because developing young women and men into all they can be is what we do. We get to provide that “somebody did it for me” story for many. But, let’s not forget that as leaders we have an obligation to be finding ways to provide those “somebody did it for me” stories for those in our organizational communities. It really comes down to being a servant leader. As I listened to all the stories and reasons for the Potato Head designs I was in awe of all the collective expertise in the room. This group of leaders truly wanted to be the best at serving others. Now, as I write this post I am reflecting on those in my life that have been that “somebody that did it for me” person. There have been a lot, and I would even say this group of south Florida educators “did it for me” yesterday. All of this reflection made me go back and reflect on a blog post I did back in 2013 where I reflected on those who had been a servant leader to me along the way and, in some cases, throughout my entire life. Check out my post, Matthew 20:26 on Being A Servant Leader to learn more about my journey and those who have “been there” along the way.

As we try to make some sense in this pandemic stricken world, I, and I believe all the other participants, needed to hear the stories of others – how they got where they are and how they are dealing with all things related to the global pandemic. We really developed a bonded sense of we are in this together, and while we all may be separated by only a few miles, or hundreds of miles we can all be kindred spirits and part of something bigger than ourselves to into great leaders providing “somebody did it for me” moments.

How about you? Who has provided those “somebody did it for me” moments in your life? And, who are you providing “somebody did it for me” moments for?

Into The Wild Blue Yonder

Here we are on day 323 of the global pandemic. It is also a monumental day in that I am flying for the first time in 328 days. The last time I was on an airplane was March 7, 2020. As I write this I am looking out the window from seat 16A on an Airbus A321 watching the plane be de-iced. Then, it is on to Atlanta to catch a connecting flight to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to facilitate an in person teacher leadership gathering; March 7, 2021 was the last time I did that and it was in Kissimmee, Florida, so I flew into and out of Orlando, Florida. Seems like forever ago. I am still having conflicted thoughts about whether going live is the right thing to do. I get that it’s just hard to beat live presentations as that is where my passion really comes through, but is it safe for me, my family when I come home, or the attendees? And, I’ve gotten pretty good at facilitating gatherings virtually. Time will tell us the answer. Rest assured I am a stickler for masks, physical distancing, and lots of hand sanitizer.

It was important for me to blog about this first time back in the air because I am doing this with a certain amount of anxiety – and I’m usually not someone who has anxiety. Also, I want to chronicle as many of my global pandemic experiences as possible. Last night as I packed I had to think about things I hadn’t thought about for almost a year. Things that were second nature to a person who was flying at least once a week in the past were not routine any longer. Then there were questions:

  • Did I still need 2 hours at the airport before the flight?
  • Would my TSA Pre check still work?
  • What would it be like at the airport?
  • Would I be able to get a Starbucks?
  • Would others really actually be wearing masks?

There were other things running through my mind, but you get the idea with those five examples. I am now in the air and I can tell you that so far the experience hasn’t been too bad. The worst part so far was a month ago just picking the flights. With reduced trips it’s almost impossible to get a direct flight anywhere (I used to be able to fly direct to Ft. Lauderdale from Indianapolis). It is taking me eight plus hours to get from Indianapolis to Ft. Lauderdale today. I did find that, at least right now, arriving two hours prior to the flight is not necessary. There are a lot less people at the airport. I even had my choice of parking places in the parking garage this morning. My TSA Pre worked flawlessly, and that process has even been streamlined to inserting your drivers license into a machine and the machine taking your picture – no one touches anything. Everyone was wearing masks, and yes I got my Starbucks.

With so few people traveling, what normally is a frenetic and sometimes stressful process felt downright relaxed. I got hand sanitizer when I got on the plane and just now was given a baggie containing water, cookies, and more hand sanitizer. I’m going to sit back, relax, and have a cookie. I’ll start writing again when I’m on the connecting flight from Atlanta to Ft. Lauderdale. The only thing that causes me worry right now is that you don’t get your seat assignment till you get to the gate. But, I love having no one in the seat next to me!!!

One major improvement that COVID-19 has prompted is the loading of planes from the rear forward. I’ve always wondered why we didn’t do that. Wow, what an improvement. Hey airlines! Let’s keep doing that in the post COVID-19 world. Also, I must throw in that it would be wonderful if you would always leave the seat next to us empty. Again airlines, could you implement that forever? Somehow I don’t think you’ll operationalize my request for that post COVID-19. It was worth asking, nonetheless. Check out this text I got as we landed in Atlanta:

Now I am sitting in seat 44D on a Boeing B757 on the way to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I must say I am a little over the smell of hand sanitizer. It wouldn’t be so bad if there wasn’t a gazillion different scents of hand sanitizers. But, I’m glad everyone is using it, so no more complaining from me. The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was much more crowded than in Indianapolis, but we are now midday as opposed to early morning. I walked around the terminal for a little while, still marveling at the fact that I was inside an airport terminal again after so long.

As I look out the window I’m reflecting on all that the last year has brought to us. Today, I had the experience of flying again. It has been great to witness and experience adjustments that have been made to the airline travel business. My flying experience was remarkably less stressful than I anticipated. The airports and planes themselves were the cleanest I’ve ever seen them. Delta did a really good job of managing the risks associated with flying and, in my opinion, it appeared like the airline had things under control. I loved it when the flight attendant said, “We must do everything we can and take every precaution to care for one another.” Amazing it took a pandemic for us to begin to really think and act this way.

How about you? Have you flown since the global pandemic started? What has been your experience?