Botanical Garden

The Best Leaders Cultivate Butterflies!

"We are all butterflies. Earth is our chrysalis" - LeeAnn Taylor

Photo Courtesy of Stephen Poff via

The cold and snow have not let up one bit in the last week. Twice, we were stuck in our driveway in ice or slush. More than twice I was cursing up at the sky. I threw up my hands and took off for our local botanical garden. I needed to sweat a little and play with some butterflies. I love watching them glide through the air without a care in the world enjoying their short lives and serving out their purpose - in this case? To wow and inspire me!

We smartly visited Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park a week before their official grand opening of the "Butterflies are Blooming" annual exhibit. There were very few people there, but numerous  breeds and colors of beautiful butterflies. We were awed watching awkward butterflies slowly climbing out of their hanging chrysalises to begin a new life as soaring, free, gracious creatures. It took my breath away to think about the growth and changes that the caterpillars endured in order  to become such beautiful transformed creatures.

Watching new life break out in the butterfly bungalow
Meijer Gardens receives shipments of new chrysalises every week over a 8 week period. The chrysalises start life in the "bungalow" above. After they have adjusted to their new body they are released into a tropical oasis where it's a consistent balmy 85 degrees. There will be over 7000 butterflies during the exhibit soaring in the 5 story conservatory. It's like being in a Disney movie with them fluttering all around at different heights and in so many colors and sizes. The butterflies hail from places like Africa, Asia, South and Central America. There are species like Long Wing Heliconius, Common Morpho, Scarlet Mormon, and streaked Tree Nymph butterflies. They sip on fresh fruit and sweet water while enjoying flight above Orange Jasmine, Bahama Buttercup, and Mexican Honeysuckle. It's breath taking and so tranquil! Imagine becoming a butterfly.....Meijer Gardens

Why are we so fascinated by butterflies?

  • They have unattainable freedom, grace, independence, and seem invincible.
  • They are spectacular with unique colors or different wing spans and shapes.
  • Butterflies glide through the air without any care in the world. They enjoy life and get to visit so many beautiful flowers.
  • Each butterfly is so unique. You can be the ugliest caterpillar on earth and morph into a colorful, powerful butterfly.
  • Butterflies seem to have a purpose. They essentially start life as "worms" and live in order to change themselves into something new.
  • Butterflies inspire us. We are all fascinated by them. As kids, almost all of us captured a caterpillar and nurtured it to see what it can become. Monarchs were my favorites!
  • Butterflies tease us into imagining how it feels to become something else. Something better then before.
  • Butterflies represent life or a new beginning. Don't we all dream of that at some point in our lives?
  • Butterflies urge me to be the best that I can be so that I can grow and serve out my own purpose.
Leadership and butterflies are alike!

I have managed people for over 25 years. My favorite part has always been mentoring people while watching them grow and develop. I likened my new team members to young caterpillars. They were inexperience or lacked knowledge in a variety of areas. We worked together to develop new skills and gave them a shot at new experiences. Over time, they grew and became increasingly more independent. Like butterflies, there came a time when my people were "released" out into the world bound for new ventures. It didn't matter if they moved up in our company or left us for a better opportunity. I was always so proud . I love to see people grow and advance. They took up the challenge and strived to grow and develop. They spread their wings and were ready to glide off into the world. My butterflies were "free".

Effective leaders mentor butterflies. Bad leaders are left with caterpillars!
We all come into this world out of a cocoon, young and naive. We learn, grow, experience failures and rewards, and we strive to strike out on our own into the world. We take flight and 1.2.3. Go! It's up to each of us to decide how far we dare to spread our wings and where we are willing to fly. Some of us are more successful than others. Many of us are fortunate to have support during our growth and we are pushed to spread those beautiful wings a bit wider and to soar much higher. Perhaps we had a leader that influenced our growth and our flight out into the world. As a leader, you may have the opportunity and gifts to guide someone's growth. Help them morph and spread their wings. Are you up to the challenge?
How to guide others to grow and take flight:
  • Let people make mistakes and don't hold it against them. Allow them to mature, grow, and learn from them.
  • Don't mother someone or over protect them. They will fear change and striking out on their own.
  • Don't fix everything. Force people to detect and solve problems independently.
  • Show trust, win trust.
  • Show respect, win respect. Not hard is it? 
  • Listen, listen, listen. Talk less. Sit back and allow others to find solutions, create, and bring new ideas to the table.
  • Don't criticize or belittle new ideas or ways of doing things. See #1 for guidance.
  • Search for ways to bring out the potential in others. Get to know your people and what makes them tick.
  • Focus on someone's strengths, not their weaknesses. Other team members can compensate for weak areas.
  • Reflect and encourage a positive attitude. It's contagious. A positive attitude spurs people to do their best. They feel less fear and apprehension.
  • Be enthusiastic so that others can internalize and use it to take bigger steps towards success.
  • Share your weaknesses, mistakes, lessons learned. Be human. With an experienced role model, people feel more steady and will take on bigger challenges and new projects.
  • Teach through story telling. A part of all of our childhoods were great books and stories. They grew with us and enabled us to see the "bigger" world. Your stories will do the same. People respond to stories and can see themselves in them.
  • Challenge people. Don't let them retreat back into their cocoon or fold in their wings. We all need to be forced to take steps that frighten or intimidate us. Push people in little ways to open those wings.
  • Stay curious and innovative. Live it every day. It shows people what you value and that it's important to you. People are like kids and model what they see. You want them  to model what will grow and challenge them.
  • Truly be authentic and believe in others. Close your ears to rumors or the past. Allow each person to start anew so that YOU can see what their "stage" is and how you can help them grow into their first "flight". Let them prove themselves to you first so that you can see firsthand the path they are choosing.

What are YOU going to do today to start cultivating butterflies?


Photo Courtesy of Wolfpix vai Compfight

Is Patience Your Virtue?

"It is not necessary for all men to be great in action. The greatest and sublimest power is often simple patience" - Horace Bushnell

Photo Courtesy of Kew on Flickr via Compfight

One of the largest and weirdest flowers in the world is the Titan Arum (Amorphophallus Titanum) or Corpse Flower shown in the picture above. Why is it called a Corpse Flower? Because it literally smells like rotting human flesh when it blooms for a few short days. The real story behind the Corpse Flower is in the power and patience that the plant has before it blooms.

Titan Arum hails from hot and tropical Indonesia. It's the largest unbranched inflorescence in the plant kingdom ( which means the floral structure is composed of many smaller individual flowers). It's umbrella sized petals open to 3-4 feet and it produces the largest leaves in the world - up to 15-20 feet! It loves hot warm day temperatures and high night humidity. The Corpse Flower is very patient and determined. It can take 10 or more years to bloom and demands particular growing conditions. One plant in Switzerland took over 75 years to bloom!The largest plant at Kew Gardens in England weighs over 200 pounds and grows 1/4 inch an hour! It only blooms after it has stored enough energy within it's underground stem. The Corpse Flower is highest on the smell-o-meter at night when it's very humid and it begins pollinating. Pollination releases a strong potent scent that is the result of 2 sulfur producing chemicals. The smell can be detected from 1/2 mile away! The smell does have a positive.It attracts pollinators such as the Dung and Carrion Beetles (shocking huh?).

Photo via Wild Sumatra at Compfight
Photo via Wild Sumatra via Compfight
Photo via wlculter via Compflight

This incredible creepy sci-fi plant draws crowds to botanical gardens all over the world when it blooms. It generates more press than a sitting President while blooming. People literally spend hours just watching the plant come into bloom and quickly grab nose protection when it does. It's so creepy that it's mesmerizing. The patience and long term focus of the Titan Arum is really admirable. Nothing can hurry it's growth, no one can influence it to bloom bigger, brighter, or faster. The Corpse Flower develops at it's own pace and inherently knows that patience pays off when it pops out in all it's blooming glory. How patient are you?

"He that can have patience, can have what he will" - Ben Franklin
Patience is NOT one of my virtues. It's something that I really need to work at and focus on. I get really enthusiastic about new ideas and projects and want to jump right in. I want to make things happen and bring about change. I hate waiting on other people in order to get things moving. It's hard for me to understand why some people work so slow, precise, and lethargic. Not the best traits for developing and growing my leadership skills over time right? Leadership is one area  where I have had to learn to pace myself and force myself to set long term goals on gaining more knowledge, experiences, and education.
 Like the Corpse Flower, leadership can't be forced. You must have patience and focus on the end goal : strong and everlasting leadership. 
If you are lucky enough to be a seasoned patient leader here is what your arch nemesis acts like:
  • He won't make time or have an interest in hearing other's concerns.
  • Lack of listening skills.
  • Results oriented to the determent of other teams/projects.
  • Perfectionist.
  • Little empathy or no Emotional IQ.
  • Persistent yelling or sarcasm.
  • Unreasonable goals or deadlines.
  • No tolerance for delay or failure.
  • Teams are a second thought. Get out of  the way of this leader!
  • One way communication - hers.
  • Leader feels that the marketplace demands this method of leadership.
  • No focus on the long term or the need for looking that far ahead. Just go!
Sound like anyone that you know? I bet that it does! Our fast moving world doesn't reward patience and long term thinking. Everything has to happen now, be now, and then it's on to the next thing. As a result, we are all pressured to produce now, act now, and hope that it all works out. Not conducive to personal long term growth nor the health of  individuals or companies.
 Leadership is a long term personal development process focused on experience, mistakes, education, and life lessons. Learn patience and practise patience.

 Why IS patience a virtue? How can you use it?
  1. When you take the time to see things through the eyes of other's you see the bigger picture and what other's are experiencing or noticing. Step back and focus. Take time to learn.
  2. Patience allows you to evaluate tension within a group and without bias. You avoid taking sides, can remain open minded, and be patient under pressure. This gift may take years to develop.
  3. Listen. Really listen. Ask questions in a patient voice and have an open positive attitude. This too is a hard skill.
  4. Be willing to seek a new perspective from someone else. Have your own mentor who can guide you with patience to resolve issues and strengthen your leadership.
  5. Be a role model. Don't runaway from being responsible yourself. Responsibility and patience often go hand in hand.
  6. Some things just take a long time. You need to be consistent and focused. For instance, building a strong company culture won't happen overnight. Like our flower, it happens on it's own timeline and you need to nurture it.
  7. Mastering patience and building skills over time, even decades, build your brand and reputation. Patience is the foundation of so many regarded skills. It's your foundation and base.
  8. Patience brings results. It rewards with growth, sales, service, and even personal recognition.
  9. Learning patience bring you the gift of suspending judgement or making decisions long enough to consider the best avenues to take. This is critical when your decisions have an impact on the lives of others. Be patient. Be focused. Be responsible.
  10. Patience helps build strong character in both yourself and others. You learn the ability to step back and look at every aspect of a situation with calm and reason. This enables you to truly make clear, fair, and just decisions. Patience brings a sense of peace.
Patience really is a vital virtue for everyone to develop.Think what would happen if we had a world full of patient parents, teachers, politicians, coaches, CEO's, leaders at every level. We are all leaders in what we do in our own lives. Some of us are more patient then others in learning patience in the game of life. Some of us need to remember that patience takes time to develop in others over time.

Like the Corpse Flower, patience can't be rushed. We all bloom when it's our time. Make the time to learn patience and put it to use. Bloom when YOU  are ready, not when others want you too!

Photo via The Rocketeer via Compfight

Plant Yourself Somewhere Else and Thrive!

"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant".
~Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672, Colonial American poet)

Photo Courtesy of AV Design via Compfight

Earlier this week, I threw in the towel and admitted to myself that Spring is still a long way off. I took some defensive action. I renewed my lapsed membership to our local botanical and sculpture park garden in West Michigan. I need to feel some moist humidity and light on my face. I want to smell some clean, moist dirt. I want to bask in the various flower smells. It revitalizes me and really gets my creative juices flowing. When I'm in a peaceful place with the sights and smells of plants, I begin to feel renewed and relaxed. Maybe I will make it until Spring!

I'm fortunate to live near one of the top 10 botanical gardens in the United States. Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is one of hundreds of unique and esteemed gardens available to visit. These parks offer more than just plants and a winter escape. Each one is unique in it's offerings and no two are exactly alike. Even people who don't dig gardening will find something to appreciate. Specifically, Meijer Gardens regularly hosts unique and worldly sculpture and art exhibits both inside and out. They can be appreciated while walking through winding trails and flowing gardens. Next month brings our annual "Butterflies are Blooming" exhibit. Starting next week visitors can literally sit and watch a variety of tropical butterflies slowly climb out of their delicate cocoons.The real magic is experiencing hundreds of butterflies floating in the air. It's magical and such a delight when one lands on your hand. The Chicago Botanical Gardens is famous for their plant trials. They put new cultivers through some tough trials to see which ones come out on top according to their criteria. The winners are then introduced to the public for sale. You can be assured that if a plant has passed their test, it's a winner and should be in your garden.

Here's what else you can experience at the various botanical gardens around the country:
  • Garden education and horticultural certification
  • Annual plant sales with new and recently introduced plants
  • Volunteer opportunities 
  • World renowned speakers and lectures (not just about plants!)
  • Children's gardens that offer hands on learning and activities
  • Art exhibitions
  • Outside summer concerts
  • Sustainable farming techniques and organic gardens
  • Test gardens 
  • Showcasing  tree varieties and bonsai  that are hundreds of years old
  • Koi water gardens
  • Holiday light and tree displays
  • Beautiful venues for wedding and corporate events
  • Research
  • Butterflies and bugs
The list goes on and on. Google your state and you may be surprised how many gardens there are near you. They are jewels tucked away that you never knew existed. A visit to any of these gardens is guaranteed to lighten your mood, clear your mind, and give you a fresh perspective. All near your own backyard. If you need a change and a quick getaway - run to the nearest botanical garden!

Photo Courtesy of Tony Hall via Compfight

For those of us in cold states, this hasn't been an easy winter. It seems like the snow will never melt and the sun is playing hide and seek. Driving has been a nightmare and the cold is taxing. Multiply this energy zapper with the stress of work and family responsibilities and you may feel like a tightly bound ball of yarn. The human mind is a special, wondrous organ. It can make us feel drained and stressed out or relaxed and carefree. In times of stress your mind becomes tense and may tend to blank out. It needs something to spark creativity and get the juices flowing. It needs YOU to escape and bring it somewhere else so that it can relax, open up, and reboot. 

If you can't take off and go to a botanical garden to rejuvenate and flex your mind, perhaps just leaving work and landing anywhere else will. Get away from work distractions and the same old routine. Forge out for some new scenery and wake up your brain. How about working at a coffee shop for a bit? Experience a new place, new faces, great coffee with snacks, and free Internet.You may be surprised what a difference this will make when you need to concentrate or innovate.

Coffee shops are interesting places. Aside from the fun in watching people, these shops allow you to take in new sights, sounds, and scents. Your mind rewinds itself and reboots. It loves all the new stimuli that you are offering up. None of your coworkers will barge in unannounced. Your boss can't find you (or your spouse if you are self employed!). The hum of the background conversations is relaxing. OK, so is listening in on the conversations of others but I digress. A lot of entrepreneurs and sales people find solace and relaxation working out of coffee houses and many even build lasting work relationships with each other. 

Here's why you occasionally  need to plant yourself somewhere else other than your desk to work:

  • A change of environment is emotionally healthy. We know that a change in sights and sounds is music to your brain. Feed it with new tunes!
  • Just plunking yourself down in a sea of new colors and textures to work will make a difference. Most coffee shops know the value of a warming fireplace and leather chairs for customers.
  • You will be more relaxed jumping out of your usual element.
  • Fewer distractions. Being anonymous means people will generally leave you alone. Avoiding eye contact will lower your chances of being bothered.
  • You can meet new people and may even find some new opportunities!
  • Your mind will welcome the opportunity to boost it's memory capacity. It will reward you with more creativity and your thoughts will have fewer constraints and rules.
  • As we said earlier, new background noise will help you focus and block panicky thoughts or hectic feelings.
  • You will be more energized just being away from structure and the drone of meetings.
  • Your attitude will completely change and you will have a badly needed attitude adjustment. 
  • You will look at things with a new perspective and be more appreciative of your colleagues and work when you return to the office.
I work in an open office environment and I love it! After years in my own solo office, it's a refreshing change and I love the hum of activity and voices around me. Sometimes though, I do need to get away somewhere quiet to think and organize my thoughts. Even just trotting to a conference room makes a world of difference. A change in the environment sparks the wires in my brain and I'm off and thinking. I have some self employed friends that literally spend half of their working time in a coffee shop. They need the noise and camaraderie that they just can't get from working at home. They feel vitalized and connected. They have strengthened some friendships and brought in new business. The coffee house breathes life into their work and helps them to succeed.

Where do you plant yourself to get your brain thinking and to revitalize yourself??? 
Photo Courtesy of AV Design via Compfight