You Want to do What??

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“Calmness is the cradle of power” – Josiah Gilbert Holland

Last week at work I received an odd text from my son asking if he could cut down one of the beautiful River Birch trees in my garden. He wanted the wood for some carving projects. You can guess what my response was – no one messes with my garden! Little did I know why he was asking and how my week would go…….

Our local power company came for a neighborhood visit, which happens once every 15 years, looking for trees and foliage that may interfere with power lines. You guessed it, they decided that 13 of my trees had to be removed because they were within a 15 foot easement they have. Mind you that even though we have 6 acres, 15 feet is into my garden because our acreage runs lengthwise.  You guessed it – I flipped out. The trees that they were referencing were at the most 10 feet tall, a long way from growing into our 25 foot high power line. I plant with a purpose and am always precise in what I plant and where knowing that eventually everything gets moved in my yard. I planted for privacy and beauty. I just didn’t see how my 3 foot Colorado Blue Spruce is an issue now. 

You may not be a gardener however, envision your favorite hobby and how you would react if someone came in to put the brakes on enjoying your passion. Love riding motorcycles? Sorry, you can only ride between 2 pm and 6 pm. Enjoy running? Sorry, you can’t run on the road and have to stay 8 feet off the sidewalks – those are for walkers. You get my point.

It’s probably a good thing that I wasn’t home when Dan from the power company dropped in last week. In fact, the holiday weekend offered me a chance to cool off to plot my next steps. After a few days of phone tag we set up a meeting in my garden so that I could talk him out of being the Hachette Man in 2 short weeks. I even went so far as to move three 5 foot conifers in the dead of winter. That was not an easy task in the Midwest.

Dan I met and toured the yard. My immediate aim was to have a collaborative working relationship. It was tough, but I wanted to hear his viewpoint knowing that going off on the electric guy wouldn’t help me any. I explained the passion for my garden, my reasons for intentionally planting what I did where, and my habit of always moving plants around in my garden.  He in turn explained his thoughts and we really collaborated on how we could come to an agreement. Dan gave me until June to move some of my treasures and gave me some tips. 

Dan the electric guy and I learned a lot from each other in our 40 minutes. He learned about new tree species and had a glimpse into the mind of a zany gardener.  Here’s what I learned:

·         When you are angry keep your mouth zipped. Give yourself time for information to sink in, to reflect, and think of your next steps. How many times have you neglected to do this and regretted it? I waited a day to call Dan back and I’m glad that I did.
·         Really get to know others in every interaction. Start with building dialog and a relationship. It will even the playing field and help set the tone for future interactions. I saw an opportunity to ask Dan for advice on getting into the forestry industry because my son loves the woods and nature. Dan’s passion for his job quickly kicked in.
·         Always place your views on the back burner and really put yourself in someone else’s place. Don’t always make everything about you. Listen to others, grasp their main points, and be willing to openly discuss your differences. It’s not easy to do particularly if you tend to be strong willed.
·         Offer solutions where you will both win. Dan extended the time that my trees will be removed from 2 weeks to June. That’s a win for me. In the end we agreed that the power company will remove all the tagged trees (about 8 now) and I will move 3 more of them in spring.
·         Assume positive intent on behalf of others. I love this phrase and have tried to burn it into my mind. Years ago I would not have always given others the benefit of the doubt. When negative events popped up I would too often think negatively. It’s not easy to do!
·         Be positive and optimistic even when you don’t feel like it. Once you start thinking positive you believe it. Once you believe it you radiate positivity to others and conversations change.
·         Respect the position of others.  I was initially steamed at Dan. To me he WAS the power company. We are all in the “position” of delivering unpopular news at one time or another. Remember to separate the person from their job. Treat people how you would like to be treated. Far too often I have been yelled at because of my job and it does hurt.
·         Be human.  Is it that hard?

Despite my fiasco with the power company it turned into a positive experience. Am I upset that my trees are being taken out when they really don’t need to yet? Yes!  But guess what? I have an opportunity to start fresh and bring some new life into my garden. I love change and can’t wait until the snow melts to get started.

What have you learned lately from an every day interaction?

Get Busting!

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller

As an avid gardener whenever I drive around neighborhoods I scope out the landscape in yards. It’s interesting to see the variety of styles, textures, and lack thereof. It amazes me when I see lines of beautiful homes on a street and invariably there are a few with minimal landscaping – like maybe a tree (dead) or two. There’s no cohesiveness between the landscape and home. The scene is disjointed. Now, I get that a lot of people don’t like to garden or feel that it’s a lot of work. However, any appraiser or real estate agent will tell you that a well planed and planted landscape can increase the value of a home by 10-15%. The home and landscape work together as a team – collaboration at its finest.

Fall is a great time to be outside. The heat and humidly of summer is gone and in many parts of the country the colors are incredible. Wander around your yard a bit with a new set of eyes. Imagine that you are a buyer looking to buy your house. What do you see? Is there a seamless collaboration between the style of your home and the landscape? Do your gardens, even if minimal, blend and flow with your home? The neighborhood? Does your house reflect your taste and the yard? Does the landscape support and enhance your home? If not, winter is coming and it is the perfect time to get busy on paper and plan some changes for next year.

Think how your home and landscape can complement one another. How can they better collaborate together to reflect your taste or that of your neighborhood? Pick up some books or magazines from the library for ideas. Landscapers are typically slow in the cold months and most will happily assist you with planning, often at reasonable prices. Ask your garden friends for their thoughts and ideas. In short, collaborate to make change and enhance your yard.

Collaboration is key in many areas of our lives. We see it in our gardens, neighborhoods, relationships, and our jobs. Take some time this week to take notice of how collaboration is all around us, or not. I’m guessing that many of us love the idea of collaboration, but see it lacking where we work. The concept is great in theory but tough to carry out in most organizations. There are often too many individual agendas or a focus on who contributes the most and can climb the ladder the quickest. Some companies reward these behaviors through their reward system or management style. Guess what? Collaboration begins with you! We can’t count on our employers to create collaboration; we need to step up as individuals.

I just finished the new book Collaboration Begins With You Be A Silo Buster by Ken Blanchard, Jane Ripley, and Eunice Parisi-Carew. In the usual Blanchard style this book is written in a story format which makes it an easy and memorable read. This book is perfect for anyone. It’s a reminder that we all have a responsibility to create and promote a special culture of collaboration in everything we do. We can’t rely on our employers to do this. We all need to take the leap to act in order to have an impact. Individually we can bring people together with our own style to make a difference and produce results.

I love the simplistic and memorable process the authors introduce to bust silos and bring people together. It’s easy and a 3 prong approach: The heart, the head, and the hands.

·         The Heart: This is who you are as a person and leader. It involves your character and intentions. It makes sense doesn’t it? You bring the inside out and impact others. We all do this every day. We show our love to our family. We nurture safety and trust.
·         The Head: This is what you know. It’s your knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes particularly about collaboration. This is where you involve others to create a clear purpose with sound values and goals.
·         The Hands: This is what you do. It’s your actions and behaviors. It’s what you do to empower others and build collaboration. Empowerment begins with you before it can be given to others. This is where you talk with others to build consensus.

Clearly none of these “parts” can function without the other. You need your heart, head, and hands to bring about change and build collaboration with others. Collaboration Begins with You effectively leads us down the path of collaboration with a variety of interesting characters. We see their insecurities and struggles. We earn how they change inside and effectively reflect that change onto others. We quickly see how the efforts of the whole are greater than the one. We see growth that brings about a collaborative culture, empowers others, uses differences to share a vision, and turns everyone into an empowered leader. Collaboration truly starts from within and emerges to destroy silos and build consensus.

Blanchard’s new book is well worth the reading journey. You will learn about yourself and others as you learn how to better collaborate. The book is an easy journey and offers a collaboration self assessment and best practices to lead you down the path. Stop bemoaning silos and begin change with a first step towards collaboration. 

Please get that landscape in shape next spring too! You never know who will be driving by………

Can You Handle Your Opposite?

"To know one thing, you must know the opposite" - Henry Moore
Not only do opposites attract but they make each other brighter!

I love having friends over in the summer for a drink by my garden pond. It’s so relaxing and I enjoy sharing the colors and textures in my yard.  The question usually surfaces pretty quickly as to whether or not my husband and I garden together. That’s an easy question – NO! Don’t get me wrong, he helps a lot when I need it. He has built me some incredible arbors and he built our peaceful multi-stream waterfall that is the centerpiece of our yard. To be honest, I’m glad that he isn’t a crazy gardener like me – our tastes are opposite and well, I don’t think that our ideas would mesh.  I’m a bit of a control freak and he isn’t. It’s great for a marriage! 

There’s a house a few miles from us that is absolutely stunning with puffs of color everywhere. It’s a beautiful kaleidoscope of flowers standing to attention arranged as if a painter staged a set. I regularly see an older couple outside tending to the garden in harmony. They both wander about doing their own thing and seem so peaceful and diligent in trimming and watering. I always think of how the scene would be at our house if my husband and I gardened together. My vision involves me chasing him with a hose or shovel for moving something or clipping a bush that I don’t want touched. Good thing he doesn’t like to garden….. 

Numerous people share hobbies and it really strengthens their relationship. On the flip side, not all couples enjoy the same things. At the very least, we all need to try something once to see what will bring us together. I quickly learned that I don’t share my husband’s passion for jet skiing and snow skiing. Instead, we play off of each other and follow our own hobbies, yet share our love of other mutual social activities. Our opposite interests work well together and keep us happy while our marriage grows. We need to respect each other and understand what drives us. Likewise, we need to understand what drives us nuts about each other. Like a plant in the garden playing off one another, one person’s strength is another’s weakness and we can learn so much from each other.  

“If everybody is doing it one way, there’s a good chance you can find your niche by going exactly in the opposite direction” – Sam Walton

There’s no doubt that I am an extrovert - no to the extent that my husband is – but an extrovert through and through. I admit that it has taken years for me to understand and have patience with introverts.  A few years ago I worked with another manager who was a thinker and very much an introvert. It was unnerving. I clearly remember a lunch meeting when we were tossing ideas around and she just stared at me. Thinking. And thinking. Thinking. I thought that I would lose it. I did what all extroverts do – I began chatting away to fill the silence and I’m sure that she wanted to tape my mouth shut because she still wanted to think.  That day haunts me and it was at that point I committed to trying to understand and accept introverts. 

Personal and business relationships are so important. Not enough of us take a step back to try and understand one another. Most of us are fast paced and steam ahead without considering how our style may turn off (or scare!) a partner or colleague. My commitment to building relationships with the “aliens” (introverts) led me to the new book by Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, PHD  The Genius of Opposites – How introverts and extroverts achieve extraordinary results together.  

In her book, Jennifer not only shares her own clashes with introvert and extrovert relationships, she outlines a 5 step process to help us in our own lives. She shares a 5 step process with an ABCDE approach which really leads the reader through an eye opening experience. She offers great chapter summaries and stories. After reading this book you will walk away agreeing that “Opposites are most successful when they stop focusing on the differences and use approaches that move them towards results”.

Here are the ABCDE’s that will help you move towards results with those that your work with: 

·         Accept the alien: You can’t change people but you can try to understand them better. Focus more on how you can partner than on how your opposite drives you nuts.

·         Bring on the battles:  Start seeing disagreements as a necessity and as a positive to find effective solutions. Challenge your opposite in a healthy way and watch the growth and collaboration.

·         Cast the character: Quickly ascertain each other’s role and “cast” him or her to work on bringing out the best in that person’s role. If you understand your characters you can help orchestrate success.

·         Destroy the dislike: Above all else, respect each other and don’t let the opposite style annoy you or cause issues. Act like friends on the outset and you will be.  Accept that we are all different stop fighting it.

·         Each can’t offer everything: You can’t personally offer everything and we all offer something. Accept and embrace diversity. Look at differences as a positive and play off each other’s strengths. Don’t fight it and become respectful partners.

As you read this book I encourage you to take the time to really think about someone who your opposite is and how you can partner with them for results. Try to understand them and learn what each of you can bring to the table.  Answer the questions at the end of each chapter to influence your relationships to bring about effective solutions, new ideas, and really bring out the best in others.

As you share hobbies or daringly garden with your partner, be open and accepting. You just never know what you can grow together!