Branch forcing

Fresh Start Leadership

"Life stands before me like an eternal spring with new and brilliant clothes" - Carl Friedrich Gauss

Photo courtesy of Diane Cordell via Compfight

Once the holidays are over I'm ready for Spring. A white Christmas was pretty, but I really need to feel the sun on my face and long to walk outside without bundling up. That won't be happening for a long time! I'm keeping warm inside in Western Michigan holding out during a snow storm warning. The snow is starting to pile up and the temperatures will hit record lows. The Chicago schools have already closed for two days because of the snow and cold. I think that my kids will have an extended vacation as well!

This is a tough time of year because I'm not a fan of the cold and am itching to get out gardening again. Long ago, I learned to bring the spring inside because I can't trust Mother Nature! If you need a jump start on spring here are some "fresh starts" to get you thinking green!

  1. The birds are still outside in mass. They are hiding in the evergreens and searching for food. Hang bird feeders outside your window and keep them filled. Better yet, put a feeder on your window to enjoy them up close. Their happy chatter and fluttering will remind you that spring isn't far off!
  2. In late Spring, buy a butterfly house kit for your family. You will receive caterpillars via the mail and it's amazing to watch the little critters thrive and turn into beautiful butterflies. It's a beautiful sight to see them float away into the wind when you release them in late Spring.
  3. Buy fresh flowers from the grocery store every week and place them where you will smell them frequently. It will conjure up thoughts of the beauty to come.
  4. Sign up online to receive some garden catalogs if you don't already receive any. They will put a smile on your face and prompt you to start planning for Spring! Lay the catalogs on a nearby table so they catch your eye.
  5. Hang a silk flower wreath with bright spring blooms on the door where it will greet you every time you come home.
  6. Place spring blossom air fresheners strategically throughout the house so that it always smells fresh and alluring.
  7. If you didn't plant bulbs in pots in the autumn to enjoy now - no problem. Grocery and home improvement stores sell forced bulb plants to enjoy. It's breath taking to watch tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths force themselves up through the dirt and perfume your home. A single hyacinth will scent an entire room with it's alluring fragrance. I love enjoying hyacinths for weeks on end.
  8. A real luxury for bringing Spring to you is signing up for a mail service that ships you a new fresh flowering bouquet or plant every month. You have the chance to explore new exotic blooms and scents. 
  9. If you are a little more ambitious then bring spring in by "forcing" branches from outside. There are a lot of beautiful spring shrubs and trees that have vibrant colors or smells. You can manipulate them into blooming early just for you! Here's how:
By mid January or early February most branches on shrubs/trees such as Crab Apple, Beauty Bush, Magnolia, Red Bud, Forsythia, and Pussy Willows will bloom if you bring them inside and "force" them to do so. The branches will have both swollen leaf nodes and flower buds on them. The flower buds will be larger and more pronounced. Cut the branches on a warmer day (if possible) or cut them when they are real frozen. Submerged the branches in warm water for a few hours. Next, pull the entire branch out of the water and fill a vase with warm water so that the ends of the branches are submerged. Initially covering the branches with plastic wrap or misting them daily will encourage them to bloom more quickly however, it's not necessary. The branches will begin to bloom within 1-6 weeks. Try it! It's a great way to "force" Spring!

Photo courtesy of Woodley Wonder Works via Compfight

Leaders need a "Fresh Start" too!

New Year's aside, you really need to periodically examine your strengths and weaknesses with honesty and clarity. In order to grow, you need parameters and guidance. No one can do that but YOU. Give your self a fresh start this year by jotting down just one or two growth "nodes" to focus on this year. That may not seem like a lot but it takes time and dedication to genuinely make a new habit stick and a permanent part of you. It can take 80 years for a tree to grow and reach maturity - you are no different. 

Here are some "Fresh Start" ideas to get you thinking:

  1. Focus on the long term. This may not sound like a jumping pad to new growth but it is. Our society has a short term focus and it's human nature to follow. Skip short term - go long term.
  2. Think globally (even if you are a small business) BUT act locally. Look outside your bubble and see things from a new perspective.
  3. Develop an open mind. To many leaders, their view is the ONLY one and being open is an open shut case. Don't go there. Open up and welcome ideas that make you uncomfortable.
  4. Have fun. Lighten up, and live. Cast aside your "leadership persona". It may be what's holding you back. A while back, I remember reading about Pepsico's Indra Nooy. She regularly walks around the halls barefoot and sings! She's comfortable in her own skin and knows how to chill!
  5. Learn what emotional intelligence is and don't assume that you have it! Learn it and make it a part of you.
  6. Develop an agility to learn one new thing every day. Read one book a week. No excuses.
  7. Ask, ask, ask, questions of everyone. Vow to ask a certain number every day to learn, learn, learn.
  8. Become an entrepreneur so that you can spread and welcome a "intrepreneurial" spirit within your team. This is difficult and may be the one fresh thing to focus on.
  9. Become known as a collaborator. Don't kid yourself - this isn't easy and takes patience and focus.
  10. Develop energy through love of life, exercise, healthy eating, and hobbies. It's easy to fake this one for awhile but it needs to be authentic and naturally projected with consistency and transparency;
I could go on and on with ideas because there are so many areas that I want to jump start in my life and with my leadership. I love a "fresh start" every year and the hardest part is staying on my game and making it happen.

This year I am committed on focusing on always portraying a genuine positive outlook with energy from within. This will impact my team building and collaboration skills. Also, I need to step back and shut up. I will listen more and focus while doing so!

What will your fresh start be?