Are You Crowding Out Your Team?

Like so many of you, I spent the holiday weekend planting flowers.  A lot of flowers. Before planting my annual flowers I had already renovated some garden beds and moved shrubs around. As I planted flat after flat of flowers I resisted the urge to revert to my past gardening habits.  I have a habit of filling in every empty spot in my garden with a plant. I hate empty spaces and holes. On the plus side, my garden is lush and full by summer’s end. The negative? Some of my plants don’t appreciate being crowded out and can’t flourish in their spot.

You don’t need to have a green thumb to know that cramming anything into a constricted place won’t work.  Plants, animals, and people need their space and room to grow. We have seen the results of overcrowding in so many areas of the world. Why do so many leaders still try to “plant” people so close without a second thought or neglect them and expect them to grow?

Have you ever had a manager that micromanaged you day in and day out? Perhaps they had sound intentions, however; their actions were stifling and wore you down every day until your passion was crushed. You dragged your feet to work feeling like you were crowded out.

A few years ago I had a manager that was obsessed with controlling everything that our team worked on. She went as far as standing over our shoulders when we wrote critical emails. She "coached" us on what to say and when in presentations. We had a difficult client at the time, and in her mind, she was protecting us to keep the customer calm. Needless to say, her actions had the opposite impact, and our group was being crowded out.

Micromanaging isn’t the only way that leaders crush growth. Unfortunately, the result is the same. People grow weary, lose their confidence and purpose, and end up leaving where they know they will have a chance to grow.

Here are some more ways that managers crowd out their people

·         Leaders may avoid challenging folks with new projects or opportunities

·         Neglect to offer vital resources or equipment

·         Provide minimal if any, guidance or critical information to assist in work

·         Fail to build strong teams that work together and support shared goals

·         Lead in front, not from behind. This pushes teams and clouds results

·         Neglect employee opinions and input

·         Refuse to listen to alternative options or points of view

·         Undermine employees to save face with other departments

·         Leaders who take credit for the achievements of their employees

·         Managers who refuse to support and back employees when crises arise

·         Weak leaders hold their employees to higher standards than for other teams

If you have ever felt crowded out or demoralized in your career, you probably have some more suggestions. As a leader, look at your "garden" of employees to verify that everyone has the resources and space to grow in their spot. Offer them the resources, support, and leadership that they deserve to sustain and grow those around them.

Are you ready to give your people space?


Photo courtesy of Vlado at freedigitalphotos.com

Do You Need to be Clipped For Growth?

Summer is far from ended but perhaps some of your flowers don’t quite agree. This is frequently the time of year where pots and window boxes look sad with browning leaves and flowers. Your flower beds are likely looking the same and sympathetic to those planted around them. As hard as it is, the best tactic that you can use is to clip them and you don’t necessarily need to be gentle.

For most flowers, especially annuals, their goal is to sprout new life and ultimately set seed (or throw seeds!) before dying. Like all species, they aim to maintain the existence of their species by reproducing. When your flowers, and even some shrubs, look haggard and seem to be drying up you need to deadhead them to give them new life. Deadheading sounds like a drastic measure and it doesn’t mean that you yank them out of the ground. Deadheading entails clipping off the dead or browning flowers and often a sizable chunk of the leaves to jump start your garden into growing profusely and flowering again.

There are numerous benefits to deadheading the flowers and some shrubs in your garden. As tough as it is you are doing them, and yourself, a favor by encouraging growth.

  • Deadheading refreshes the look and lushness of your flowers. Plants improve their health and beauty.
  • When you clip off dead flowers it halts the production of seeds because plants redirect their energy from seed production to root, leaf, and flower growth
  • Clipping plants triggers chemical processes in plants or shrubs that tell them to produce flowers not set seeds.
  • Some plants are notorious self- seeders and clipping off the dead flowers, the vessel for seeds, prevents a mass of baby sprouts the next year
Clearly, you need to be strong, pickup your garden clippers, and cut away. It can be very rewarding as you clip your frustrations away and even more so when your garden springs back to life.

I always say that humans aren’t all that different than the plant and animal life around us. That’s why I started this blog. Sure, we are more complex but we are so similar in many ways. As professionals there are times that we feel like a browning flower in late August. We may feel like we are mentally shriveling up and not producing like we once did. We may lose our purpose or reason to bloom. We aren’t as strong or committed as we once were. We long for the days where each morning we jumped up out of bed fresh and ready to blossom with growth. We may no longer bloom for others or even care about their growth. In short, you feel and maybe even look, like a dead flower head. Sound familiar?

When you feel like this there is only one solution – you need some clipping in order to grow and bloom again. You need to acknowledge that you are in a rut and need a restart. Your mind must change focus from spewing out seeds to growing from the roots and flowering again. So how do you do this?

  • Make a list of what attracted you to your career/job in the first place. Are you doing those things or has your role changed over time without you realizing how far you have drifted from what drew you to it in the first place?
  • What factors with your job, team, or boss have stunted your growth? Is it time to ask for new responsibilities or a change to a new area?
  • Sometimes you just need to admit that it’s you, not “them” or vise-versa. If so, what changes can be made or is it time to clip yourself out of your current job?
  • It may not be your job that is the problem. Maybe you need some growth and to take a class to put some spark back into your field. You may even meet some new people and grow your circle of friends.
  • Teach a class in your field to empower others to grow. You can impact young leaders and I guarantee that you will feel renewed again just helping others learn and flourish.
  • Join a Meetup group in your field or better yet, in a different field. Likewise you can jump back into various associations in your area. You will meet like minded people and you may find that you have something to offer. This may be the new start that you need.
  • Sometimes we get planted in the wrong spot. You can’t grow cactus in the shade and perhaps you do need a change before you shrivel up from being in the wrong place or from a lack of growth. Find a trusted mentor or look into a career coach to guide you to give you a little fertilizer.

I know that there have been times where I have over identified myself with my job. That’s not healthy and there is more to you than a job. Have you noticed that the first thing people ask is what you do or where you work? I found that by volunteering or lifting others up I felt a renewed sense of being and growth. Focusing on the growth of others and trying to have an impact have grown me far more than I could have ever imagined.

As drastic as it sounds you have one life and sometimes you need to either clip yourself or wait for someone else to do it - which may not be pleasant. Many people need to hit bottom first before we take steps to cut off the old in order to grow again. Do you need to be clipped for growth?

Leadership is Like a Kitten

Just call me Kitty!
“A kitten is in the animal world what a rosebud is in the garden” – Robert Southey

Three years ago my sons brought home two adorable kittens. They talked us into keeping them. A year later another one showed up conveniently hidden in a box in the arms of one of my twins. Both sets of eyes had a pleading look. Reluctant at first, they became a part of our family. The only problem was that we are all allergic to cats and they couldn’t live in the house. Rather quickly a miniature door was cut out leading into the heated garage; they received canned cat food and treats daily like it was Christmas. They roamed all over our land and lazily come home to their castle. Spoiled rotten kitties!

They were very handy to have around. They were sneaky predators that stalked field mice and my favorite, moles. They loved staring into our pond watching our fish whip and splash about knowing that catching one was hopeless. They befriended the fish that would swim up to nibble on their paws. In short, they were the perfect low maintenance lovable pets.  They eagerly purred for attention and loved to sit and watch us work outside while just enjoying nature.

Unfortunately, two of our cats passed away this year but not before leaving a legacy of 4 tiny kittens. Mama cat wanted nothing to do with us and quickly passed this attitude along to her kids. The family would sneak into the garage for food and water but vanished when we came close. This continued for two months until one day we were able to get close to one of the kittens, close being 6 feet away.

The kitten came to visit for food every night and she must have been setting her watch to be on time. She would linger under the car and the kids would sit there every night on the floor throwing her treats trying to coax her closer.  As the trust built we could touch her head with one finger, then two. She slowly moved closer to us but fled at the slightest loud noise or quick movement.

Another few weeks passed and our relationship strengthened. Kitty rubbed up against everything and came closer. Soon she rubbed up against our hand. We were able to pet her and she would rub up against us for attention. Bingo! The kitten adopted us. Her name is Kitty because that’s what we kept calling her and she knows no other name. Now, she hangs out on our deck craving attention for hours on end. She stares into the window waiting for someone to pet her and play. She quickly runs to us when she hears her name. She trusts us and her eyes beg to be with us. She’s quickly become spoiled and turns her nose up at hard cat food. She wants the best. It has taken time, but we have developed a relationship and trust - there is no better gift.

At this point you are probably wondering what a kitten has to do with leadership. It’s simple.  We started from scratch with Kitty and had to slowly engage with her by being gentle and understanding. We had to earn her trust, not thrust ourselves onto her and demand that she come to us. We had to “earn” our title as her pet partner which took time, patience, and commitment. Once the bond was formed, she adopted us.

Leadership is no different. Just because you have a leadership title or are in a particular position does not make you a leader. I have worked with numerous “leaders” and there was not a single leadership bone in their body. They used their title to force change and it only alienated people and hampered results. No, real leaders come in all shapes and from diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Real leaders are humble and really interested in people. They want to empower and make change through people and give teams a voice. True leaders will invite others to sit at the table for conversation and decisions. They earn the trust of others through their actions and willingness to serve rather than direct. True leaders know that trust and openness take time. It can’t be rushed or respect demanded from teams. Real leaders really know how to lead because they take the time to get to know people and genuinely invest in them.

Now get out there and tame some “kittens”. Be humble and willing to serve. Build trust and encourage them to trust you. Be the leader that you know you can be! Who says that leadership isn’t like a kitten?

What is Your Less?

I caved in... Less IS more!
"Sometimes it's about less is more. It's about the seed. Thinking about this gigantic tree that you think is so beautiful but it started with this just seed" - Fred Durst
 If you know anyone passionate about a hobby you probably know how easy it is to go overboard. Think about all the golfers who have every gadget out there along with a shirt and hat collection that rivals the Queen of England. Not to mention that they can gleefully play 36 holes a day. Fishermen have gadgets galore as well and having seasonal fishing outfits isn’t unusual. Folks who love to design and sew have rooms full of material and gear yet keep shopping for more. Me? Obviously I have a gardening fascination and collect plants like some people collect shoes! Over the years I have filled my yard with plants and packed it full as if  there was no room – but I still have acres left that I can dig into.

I hate to admit that this year I actual heeded my husband’s advice. Less is more. I took a look at my garden beds, beautiful are they were, and started pulling plants out. I redesigned several areas leaving more space to showcase some of my unusual trees and plants (and added more of course). As I dug, I actually chanted to myself that indeed, less is more. Guess what? The result is stunning and well worth the intense labor involved. It didn’t hurt that I lost 5 pounds digging and hauling word chips either!

I admit that I am a classic example of a hobbyist gone mad. I’m in no way reformed however; I am trying to become more comfortable with spaces in my garden beds and trying to resist the urge to fill gaps with plants. It will be interesting to see if I can hold out! As any die hard gardener will tell you, it’s important to leave space in the garden and think about how big newbie plants will become or how far they will spread.

Why less is more in the garden:

  • Having less in the garden means that you can actually see some of your prized plants or unusual trees.
  • Plants will be healthier because they have air movement so plant diseases are less likely to flare up.
  • Insects love places to hide and a full garden is like a vacation bonanza for bugs that love eating your foliage.
  • Weeds always find a way to grow with minimal water and no sunlight. It amazes me. This spring I found a 3 foot tree growing in my raspberry patch. More room around plants means fewer weeds can grow out of control.
  • We all need room to stretch and grow. Plants are no exception and really need room to spread out.
  • Sound garden design incorporates space with the plants as the stars as they flow in the wind or sparkle with color.
  • Fewer plants can mean less work. I love an interactive landscape where weeping or slender trees are the main attraction and the other plants play a duet playing off of the uniqueness of the trees.  I love weeping pines for their character and uniqueness.
  • Most people are not aware of how invasive some plants can be. They start out playing nice and before you know it, they have outgrown their place. Suddenly they are far more than you bargained for so read tags carefully so you have less work down the road.
  • People like consistency and for some, a full and abundant garden is too much for the senses. Less is more can be more relaxing particularly if you jump in and plant like crazy then realize you may not have the time to manage the area.

What I love about gardening is that my mind can freely wander. I often have my best ideas jump into my head and inspiration hits me like lightning. As I was renovating my gardens the past month with less is more in mind, I thought about how we really need to step back and apply this methodology more to our everyday lives. Since so many of us spend the majority of time at work, it’s the best place to start. As my thoughts wandered I thought about some of my experiences with teams where more actually delivered us less success.

Why less is more around the water cooler

  • Perfection isn’t worth it. Peers seldom acknowledge it and often the quality of your work actually declines. I worked with a team that seemed to think that life depended on perfect Power Points for our client. There were sometimes 6 revisions and countless late nights. I can tell you that the client didn’t notice or care. Less is more.
  • Fewer management layers often result in increased empowerment and productivity.
  • People shut down with too much information. Presenting them with less will have more of an impact and they will remember your point.
  • How you say something will have more of an impact than repeating yourself and throwing out facts.
  • Complexity loses people. Less techno talk and details will bring more understanding and agreement.
  • Let’s face it; humans can only manage so much. The less that is thrown at us the more successful our output will be.
  • Too many choices baffle people. Some folks are even stressed with multiple choices. Fewer choices win every time.
  • Less can mean more clarity in a crisis. When there is a fire to put out in your area you only need the imperative facts to act. Clarity is vital.
  • Listen more and talk less. You will glean more information and have all the information. Our Mom’s would be proud as well. Courtesy is important in working with people. Don’t be an interrupter.
  • Checking your email constantly will only make you less productive. Schedule times to check it and respond. I worked with a team that had an email reading contest I was never clued in about. They would read every email as it rolled in and answer  immediately.  Valuable time was wasted.
  • Fewer appointments or spreading them out is more productive and a courtesy for those that you meet with. Have you ever been chatting with someone only to watch them spend half the time checking their watch or phone? You feel like you are a bother.
  • Clear the clutter to free up more of your space to work productively. Focus on what is in front of you.
  • Bring less work home and you will find that you are more productive at work and your relationships will be stronger.

Pick just one thing this week where you can do less but have more!

All It Takes Is Patience

Photo courtesy of amenic181 via FreeDigitalPhotos.net
"A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness, it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust" - Gertrude Jekyll

We have all heard the expression “Good things come to those who wait”. Although it may be true, I hate that line. I admit it – I can be an impatient person. I hide it well however, I want things to move at a fast pace, my pace. If things don’t move fast enough I tend to take over. I easily become bored and I don’t have time to wait on others. For the impatient crowd, life and technology have only caused many of us to push the envelope. We try to do more because we can. Technology and the expectations of others pushes us to go more and strive faster. It’s become an epidemic in our society and it’s not healthy.

Gardening has been a wonderful outlet for me in so many ways. In addition to connecting me with nature, encouraging my curiosity, and giving me a sense of purpose, I have willed myself to become more patient. Life is unpredictable and you can’t force things to grow or change. Some seeds take 20 years to sprout (I do not have that much patience). I have trees that I have mail ordered that arrived 2 feet tall. It takes several years before they resemble what my plant catalog illustrated.  I have learned to look at what will be, not at the current state. I have had to force myself to step back and allow nature to guide my garden, not my will.

There are many hobbies that help us grow, develop skills, and build character. Painting, music, and gardening are those that are often encouraged to help build you up. Over the years gardening has helped me grow and become stronger in so many ways. It has changed me and prodded me have a fresh outlook on life. Yes, it has even helped me become a bit more patient.

How gardening helps us grow and become a little more patient

·        You learn you can’t rush growth. You can dump all the water, sunlight, fertilizer, and care on a plant and you will only kill it. Patience brings you to the finish line.
·       You better understand that you can’t control anything. A plant will grow when it wants. You have no say in the matter.
·        Gardening helps you bond and become one with plants. You learn quiet patience as the garden grows. You are rewarded only when you are patient.
·      Your patience is tested every season. I’ve killed many plants and some have been devastating. I’ve learned to jump back up and patiently try again. I’ve killed the same species of tree twice and yes, I bought and planted another. Fingers crossed.
·       Apply your patience from the garden to other areas in your life. At times when your patience is tapped close your eyes and remember the garden.
·        You learn change. You find out the patience that it takes to change and how it impacts others.
·        Your patience will create some of your best memories. Take them all in and enjoy.
·      As you learn positive patience you will grow as a person just as your garden does. Your trust in yourself flourishes and one day you will look back and realize just how far your patience has come. Embrace it!
“A man who is master of patience is master of everything else” – George Savile

I’m sure that you work with impatient people. Heck, you may even be one. Impatient people are quick on their feet to rally the troops to get everything done. They move ahead often too fast, not always acknowledging details. They want things done yesterday to move onto the next thing. They can be very disconcerting to organized and methodical team mates. Sound familiar?  Here are some thoughts to help you become more patient or help those that you are around every day:

·         Step back and look at your team. Remind yourself that people react differently, grow differently, and can’t change at your pace. Don’t expect change overnight.
·         Like plants, people grow at their own rate. You can offer them opportunities, training, or pressure but you can’t force them.
·         Practice patience every day. Pick the one thing that really annoys you and face it. Put it in front of you to test yourself. You will face what bothers you and grow.
·         Quit expecting everyone to see things from your viewpoint. Your vision is not the vision. Don’t allow yourself to become restless listening to the ideas of others.
·         Take the time to really get to know the people that you work with. Understand what drives people and what annoys them. This will aid you in learning how people work and help you to become more patient.
·         In times of stress because you want to forge ahead, step back and breathe a few times or sigh. It really works.
·         Create a personal mantra when you find yourself frustrated. Mine is “I am a leader, I am strong, and I’ve got this”. It helps!
·         Become more compassionate. Put yourself in the place of others.
·         Write in a journal when you feel frustrated. Writing it down will help even if you never look at it again. If journaling isn’t your thing then use sticky notes. Write down what is annoying you then toss it. It will be out of your mind.
·         Take the time to figure out what triggers your impatience. This will take time and focus. When and why are you impatient? Are you more on edge when you are stressed? Angry? Tired? Hangry?  You need to label it to fix it.
·         Be an active listener, focus on others, appreciate others, and force yourself to slow down and enjoy others.
·         Practice, practice, practice!

Are you ready to get your patience on?

A Letter From Santa

Photo courtesy of  stockimages via Freedigitalphotos.net
“Santa Claus is anyone who loves another and seeks to make them happy” – Edwin Osgood Grover

Happy holidays my friend,

Christmas is just days away and I hope that you have joy in your heart, you remember what Christmas is really all about, and that you are ready to share yourself with others this season. My hope is that a part of you still remembers the magic of this season and that you carry it with you until the next time we meet. I ask that you let your inner child come out this week and that you allow your eyes to sparkle, your actions empower others, and you give the best present of all – yourself.

It’s not always easy being Santa Claus. My spirit lives to give others hope and to help spread cheer and love. I glow from the love of children, yet my heart hurts when they stop believing. I represent a special magic to some, yet I am commercialized by too many. All I ever really wanted is what I want from you this season – give of yourself. Giving means different things to many people. It can be time, money, sharing your unique gifts, charity, empowerment, or love. Giving is meant to be personalized and unique.

I am more than just a symbol or character this season. I ache to bring meaning to others and to lift them up. I can’t do it alone and I need your help this coming year. Preparing for the holidays is a year long process in my business. Unfortunately, my team needs assistance with carrying the spirit of the holiday all year. We need you. I ask that in my absence, you be a leader for the season all year. Impact those around you and be “Santa” after next week….

At this point you may be wondering what I’ve been drinking in my milk or mixing in with my cookies. My friend let me demonstrate what I mean by sharing my own holiday leadership advice. Then I ask that you be Santa in my absence.

·         Keep a twinkle in your eye. Remain genuine and show an interest in others. Let your eyes show them that they are the most important person in the room when you are engaging.
·         Be jolly. Laugh and have fun. Make fun wherever you go and encourage others to join in. Laughter builds relationships and relieves stress.
·         Look out for the little people. My elves are my business. They are the foundation of my success and both the drivers and glue in our teams. Treat everyone equally and remember that your most important people aren’t your management team – it’s the people behind them!
·         Create magic when you enter a room. There are some people in the world that walk into a room and make everyone feel special and worthy. They remember names and families. They know the work and contributions of their people. Be that person. Bring magic into every interaction that you have.
·         Christmas is my favorite day of the year AND every day is Christmas for me. Bring this spirit with you every day. Bring joy to your work and if you don’t find that every day is Christmas – find your purpose elsewhere.
·         Decorate for the season. “Decorate” your people with praise, kindness, and thanks every day. Catch them doing things right and spread the word.
·         Believe. Genuinely believe in others and they will astound you with their efforts. We all ache to perform and make a difference. Give people the chance.
·         Hope. Hope is one of my favorite gifts during the holidays. When times are tough or things look bleak, give hope. Be a leader that inspires people and instills hope. Show them what can be and how important that they are to change.
·         Be yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I was ridiculed by others because of my bright red suit and snow white beard. Guess what? It’s who I am and what I represent. I don’t care what others think of me or that I’m being judged. I’m comfortable with myself and know there is so much more below the surface. Be confident in yourself. Be authentic and real. Know that you are special and it’s the inside that counts.

My friend, I could go on and on about how you can be “Santa” all year long. I’m not saying that I’m perfect or haven’t made mistakes. I have had centuries of experience, failings, and made unpopular life choices. I have learned what works my friend and encourage you to look deep inside yourself, learn from failure, and keep the spirit going next year.

May the joy of the holiday season inspire you to be the joy in the life of others. My hope is that kindness, love, and an interest in those around you encourages you to empower and bring gifts to those that you serve.

Joy and happiness,


How strong is Your Trunk?

Photo courtesy of Chrisroll via Freedigitalphotos.net
"Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing" - Abraham Lincoln

This past week I experienced  a seemingly endless stream of cars topped with fresh cut Christmas trees on the roads. The weather in the Midwest continues to be in the 50-60s without a flake of snow in sight. Although people may not feel like its Christmas, the trees driving around tell a different story.

I must confess that as much of an avid gardener that I am, we have a fake tree.  I love the beauty, structure, and scent of real trees however, I’ve always had a hard time taking a beautiful, green, fresh tree and cutting it off at its knees. I prefer to plant my trees root intact. That being said, there is so much beauty, tradition, and fun in cutting down a holiday tree and bringing it into your home.
Christmas tree fields are a magical place to visit during the holiday season. They are full of some of the most popular trees for celebrating during December. You can choose from so many varieties:

·         White spruce
·         White Pine
·         Fraser Fir
·         Colorado Blue Spruce
·         Douglas Fir
·         Balsam  Fir
·         Scotch Pine

While growing, these trees absorb CO2, support wildlife, protect soil from erosion, and are biodegradable after they are done with the season.  Growers religiously plant 3 new trees for every tree that is cut down. If you really want to be green this Christmas you can purchase a live tree in a pot and then transfer it out into your landscape after Santa Claus visits. What these gems need is to have a pre-dug hole to be housed in and they cannot be placed in the house longer than 7-10 days. If they remain inside too long, they will dry out and have a hard time adjusting to the great outdoors. Christmas tree facts

As I’ve watched trees wiz by this past week one thought kept popping into my head “Why are potted trees double the price of cut trees even though they are half the size and not as commercialized”? Simple – the sum of the whole is worth far more than the parts – and so are you.  You see, humans aren’t really worth much if we don’t have strong “trunks” or our “roots” aren’t intact. In fact, without these natural attributes, we are just disjointed and trunked like a Christmas tree. We shine for a bit but in the end, the sparkle dims. There is so much more to us.

What makes us whole is our “roots”. Our roots make us who we are, help us grow, and are our life force. Your “trunk’ is your core and your values are your roots – a critical part that makes us human.  According to Dictionary.com values are the “fundamental beliefs of a person or organization. The guiding principles that dictate behavior and action”.  Your core values keep you on the right path and are your guiding force. They monitor your beliefs which impact your internal conduct. In short, they are our foundation just as the roots are to our Christmas trees.

Core values are different for everyone. They range from empathy to empowerment, honesty to accountability, or humble to courtesy. Only you can decide which values will ground and guide you. Values enable your “trunk” to remain strong and vibrant. Without them, you may weaken and become disjointed from your purpose or lose focus of your dreams. The big question that you need to ask of yourself is “what ARE my core values”?

I hate to tell you but your values aren’t going to knock you on the side of the head to let you know they are there. You need to go looking for them. Now, friends may be able to help because they often see what drives you or they know what you value. Ask them. You can also check in with your significant other – although be prepared for some bad with the good. Ultimately you need to rely on yourself for value identification and to learn what makes you tick. You need to become your own private shrink and look deep inside to pull out your top values. You also need to allow yourself time to quietly think about YOU.

Here’s how to find the values that make up YOU and ground you each and every day:

·         Find a comfy place to write and reflect. Write down every value that is a part of you, you admire in others, and really resonate with you. Write the first words that pop into your mind and don’t over think it.
·         As you write think about why what you are writing down has meaning. Make sure that you don’t write down who you want to be, but who you really are.
·         Look at your list and pick out the top 3-5 values that jump out. Again, don’t over think this. Write them down on a separate piece of paper and look at them. Put them in your phone, on a sticky note, in your planner. Become comfortable with them. Have them visually follow you.
·         Breathe your “new” values, live them, they are natural and they are YOU.
·         Whenever you have choices to make or a path to choose, ask yourself if your core values will be supported and your core will remain strong. If you have doubts, pull back and reflect.

Like a potted Christmas tree with a strong truck and healthy roots, you are more than just a tree this holiday season and beyond.  You are a complex miracle whose values make your core strong and keep you rooted where you belong, help you have an impact on your environment, and are the essence of you.

So. Just how strong is your trunk?

Shake It Off!

“But I keep cruising
Can’t stop, won’t stop moving
It’s like I got this music
 In my mind
Saying, “It’s gonna be alright” - Taylor Swift

Photo courtesy of Tina Phillips via FreeDigitalPhotos.net
OK. The truth is out. This past year, I became a Taylor Swift fan. I love songs that not only get you moving, but that throw you into action. When times are tough you need to pull your boot straps up and “Shake it Off”! If our gardens had brains they too would need to heed this advice. The autumn weather has been anything but normal in many parts of the country.

Today in the Midwest was an incredible day – particularly for the middle of November. Last year at this time we had a record breaking 31 inches of snow in 4 days! Today I was out and about with holiday music blaring and lights twinkling. It was 61 degrees and sunny. Our fall has been one of the most beautiful that I can remember. We still have green grass and some autumn color. There are even trees still adorned with leaves. Wait! Did I mention leaves on the trees? That’s NOT a good thing in the snow

The cooler temperatures and waning daylight are triggers for your garden to slowly slumber. Some trees start turning color as early as late August. Dropping foliage and needles prepare our plants for a long nap. It’s their way of sheltering themselves from the cold. Like people, trees have chemicals and enzymes that move throughout their body. This process slows down as winter approaches. When Mother Nature plays a hoax on plants this time of year it can quickly damage and kill.

When the warmth continues and nature remains active our gardens get confused. They are impacted by light frosts but when the warmth hits again, some of them start to slowly grow. I cut down my hardy Banana trees to the ground for winter and they started sprouting again with our consistent warmth. Guess what impact pending snow will have? Plants don’t have the ability to just Shake it Off.

In the bright sun today I saw a lot of large ornamental trees smothered in leaves. Even after some 50 MPH winds last week they stood proud and strong. Not willing to quite give up their leaves. If the trees are root strong and healthy they should be able to shake off any snow that comes their way. Unfortunately, if the swirling snow drops fast the weight may be too much to bear and the tree branches may dangerously sever. Sudden and unexpected breakage can cause irreversible harm. What is the key to thriving in these conditions? Strong roots, sturdy stature, future growth, and the ability to Shake it Off.

In many ways people are just like plants in a garden. Give us “healthy soil” when we start off, offer us tender care, provide nutrients and “brain food” and encourage our growth. This is what develops our roots so that we can grow strong and bloom. Like some of the leafy trees outside my window we may be thrown some curveballs during our cycle of life when the snow hits. Life, like Mother Nature, is effective at blindsiding us even when we know better and should be prepared. We don’t hold all the cards and can’t control our garden path. What we can do when we are hit by life is heed Taylor Swift and Shake it Off.

How to Shake it Off when the going gets tough

·         Focus on being healthy. Get some sleep. Strong roots need nutrients and food in order to make it through the tough “winds” of life that try to topple us.
·         Acknowledge your feelings and accept your situation. You can’t shake off what you can’t accept.
·         Interact with your community. Talk to people. Ask for advice. You may be amazed at how many people have gone through the same circumstances as you. They survived and can share how they coped and survived.
·         Try to look past your hardship in the moment. If our gardens had our intelligence they would look past the perils of winter and envision the spring ahead. Do the same.
·         Don’t over magnify a situation. Perhaps things aren’t as bad as they seem. Look around you. Other people are probably moving through deeper issues than you. Put things in perspective.
·         Ask for help. Sometimes you can’t make it on your own. Needing help is a sign of strength, not a weakness.
·         You are not your problem or crises. Your true self is at your roots where your strength is. You will grow and survive to flourish again.
·         Everyone deals differently. Stop comparing yourself to others assuming everyone “Shakes it Off” better than you. YOU are unique and need to do things your own way.
·         Take action. Life throws us rain, snow, wind, and fire. You can choose to plant yourself in one place or face the elements by shrugging them off and growing. What will you do?

How are you going to put your Taylor Swift on and “Shake it Off”?

Dance The Dimensions of Leadership

"Leaders are those who are responsible for their world" - Co-Active Leadership

The most effective leaders aren’t those that are loud, extroverted, and attention seeking at every turn. Diverse leaders come in all shapes, sizes, background, and experience. I’ve always thought that we are all leaders, it just depends on our role in the moment or perhaps what we are passionate about in our stage of life. I know that I can be an effective leader in one group yet, I may glide to the background in another group. That’s what’s so magical about true leadership. Just because someone is “in” a leadership position a leader they may not be!

I was thrilled to read the book Co-Active Leadership – Five Ways To Lead by Karen and Henry Kimsey-House. They approach leadership from a different angle. A modern angle with a realistic view. Leadership is not static but moves as we move to different situations or groups. We are all leaders but we aren’t always “The” leader. Life changes as we do and sometimes we all need to change our leadership style or role.

Co-Active Leadership is unique even by its title alone. The “Co” refers to a shared relationship. The ‘Active” is action oriented. Together they become a new powerful leadership style. The authors have had years of experience working with leaders and found that leadership is a choice.  Moreover, leadership is all about being responsible which breeds creativity and freedom. Becoming a Co-Active Leader means taking control of your own leadership and being responsible while doing so. It enables you to see the world in a different way and become passionate about how you impact your world. Co-Active Leadership enables us all to play different leadership roles as we shift from situation to situation. It’s all about being flexible, not static and rigid.

Karen and Henry offer up 5 different “dimensions” within their Co-Active Leadership Model. As you read each one, try to think of a time when you played each role. Think about the setting that you were in and the players around you. How did you feel? How did you react? Were you comfortable in your role? Did it feel right? Which one is your favorite?

·         Co-Active Leader Within – Self Acceptance and Self Authority: This is leadership from the inside out. You are striving to be the best every day by taking responsibility and fully accepting yourself while living with integrity. You don’t feel the need to “fix” yourself. You are whole.
·         Co-Active Leader in Front – Connection and Direction: It’s not all about being the boss for you. You prefer to grow connections with people. You choose to inspire and engage people. You know that you need others to achieve yet, you can step aside to let others glide into the spotlight.
·         Co-Active Leader Behind – Serving and Coaching: This is the role where you are the glue that holds everyone together. You love serving others and give it your all every day to help others grow. You love to be the coach and cheerleader.
·         Co-Active Leadership Beside - Partnership and Synergy: This is where you become the catalyst to partner. You design a bond around shared visions and work with the strengths of others. Likewise, you strive for balanced relationships and are committed to growing synergy within a group.
·         Co-Active Leader in the Field – Intuition and Innovation: This style is a “quiet” internal leadership. You are in this role when you still yourself and use your senses to see the big picture and how you can have an impact. You put your best foot forward with creativity and contribute by slowing down. You strategically use your intuition to bring out your own personal strengths to bring out the best in those around you. You are using your insight and are really being present.

No doubt that as you reviewed these unique leadership roles you saw yourself in each one. Humans are always changing and our leadership must move with us. At times I prefer to sit back and observe while I savor the big picture. I’m in a new job and really feel that before I can step out in front, I need to feel comfortable and really hone in on my inner creativity and intuition first.  As a committee leader in the community I slide more into the role of the “leader in front” or the even being the “leader from behind” as I encourage and empower others.

See how easy it is to switch roles and feel comfortable in all of these leadership roles? Karen and Henry refer to this dynamic as the “Dance of the Dimensions”. Life is a dance as we smoothly move from role to role and as we grow and change. You should never be satisfied with being stagnant in your leadership and you can’t always be the one in the “spotlight”.  You need to partner with others from time to time to share or flip roles. This will help you to grow as a person, leader, and as a member in your community.

Because I subscribe to the rule that anyone can be a leader I really enjoyed “Co-Active Leadership: Five Ways to Lead. It’s a quick easy read with actionable lessons. It reminded me that it’s okay to not always be an “out there” leader. I can be effective from a variety of directions and I may be at my best when I “Dance the Dimensions”. If you feel stagnant in your leadership or want a modern view into the variety of leadership styles, pick up this book today and start your own dance.

Are you ready to Dare To Serve? Is Your Garden?

"A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them" - Liberty Hyde Bailey

Photo courtesy of Barrett Discovery via Compfight.com
Spring is almost here which means that my weak winterized body is going to be mighty sore once I get outside working in my garden. All the pulling, cutting beds, and spreading mulch is like a landscape triathlon. If you don't believe  me just pop over and see. Springtime literally means that I'm out there serving my gardens and preparing my plants for growth. My legs will be like jelly and I'm hoping that there's some weight loss involved!

Whenever I have visitors to my garden the first thing that they always state is "Wow! This is a lot of work! How do you do it?". It is work this time of year, but I LOVE it! I know what my work will bring and it's well worth it. Once spring cleaning is done there is little labor in the garden other than some weeding and deadheading of my flowers. Gardening has never been a chore because I love it and I become completely immersed in what I'm doing. I bet that anyone who has a hobby gets a bit obsessed at times and really understands where I'm coming from. It's a labor of love and I'm happy to serve my plants to "plant the seeds" for growth.

I can't repeat myself enough in my blog. I love finding the special gifts in people and bringing them out to help with personal growth and impacting others. Like gardening, it's one of the most rewarding experiences that I am privileged to experience. I've done this as a manager and continue to have an impact even without a supervisory title. We should all be committed to serving others and bringing out the best in those that we work with. Think of the changes that we could collectively bring about.

For the past few years I've really focused on my leadership style and through some soul searching,  I've  been able to define who I am, what I stand for,  my values, and how I can help others. Serving others as a leader is like serving my gardens this time of year. Preparing for growth and seeing how I can serve to do so. I have found some powerful books and articles on the "new" leadership style  which has really impacted me - Servant Leadership.

"There's nothing fundamentally wrong with our country except that the leaders of all our major organizations are operating on the wrong assumptions" - Robert Townsend

I couldn't agree more with this quote. I just finished an incredible new book that has really impacted my leadership growth. The book is Dare To Serve: How To Drive Superior Results By Serving Others by Cheryl Bachelder the CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc. Cheryl enthusiastically shares how serving others as a leader ultimately impacts the bottom line but most importantly, serving influences people. People are the key to a company's success and servant leadership is rewarding for everyone. I've finally been able to define my own leadership style and Cheryl offers some sound advice on how to Dare To Serve. 

Dare To Serve is divided into 3 parts. Cheryl explains the Popeye story of rising from the ashes to financial success AND how her people grew as well through the transformation. She shows how to drive superior results. She shares how to become a Dare To Serve leader. Lastly, she offers a strong call to action. Throughout the book she shares 40 Dare To Serve reflections for the reader to think about or share with teams. They are guaranteed to get you thinking! I really enjoyed Cheryl's journey of clearly defining the issues at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and in particular, the relationships between franchisees and Popeyes employees. She doesn't hold back and is very transparent. Moreover, she is very quick to admit that they still have a lot of work to accomplish as a company and they still experience rocky times. Also? This book is written for you and me - not leaders of major high profile companies. We can make a difference.

Cheryl begins our journey by pointing out that most people (including most leaders) expect leaders to be in the spotlight. Too many  leaders work for, live, crave, and love the spotlight. To them it means that they have "made it". Wrong! Servant leaders willingly step out of the spotlight and shift the light from themselves to their people. They focus on their people. They listen. They involve others in decisions and continually empower. They are humble and courageous. They aspire and serve over self interest. They help others pursue dreams. They serve others and bring superior results. So, move that spotlight. 

There are clear benefits to becoming a Dare To Serve Leader and you will want to dig in deep within this book to learn. They include "gold" that every leader wants.

  • People will tell you the truth and what you need to know.
  • Your bold vision is more likely to have followers.
  • Teams will perform without being reminded or pushed.
  • People perform at a superior level.
  • People are more likely to have your back and will even protect you from yourself.

A key to being a true servant leader is bringing the best out of your people. It's fun. It's challenging. You find gifts and skill gaps. You learn and respect different team talents. You grow people and the bottom line. You bring purpose and let people know that they their work has meaning. Getting to know what drives people and motivates them goes a long way towards success. Cheryl shares her "Journey to Personal Purpose". This is a plan to help people determine their purpose because no one  can do it for them. The keys to the plan include: 

  • What are an individuals life experiences?
  • Establish your personal values. Live them.
  • Strength identification. Grow them and use them to serve.
  • Personal purpose for leadership.
  • Asking "My purpose can serve the organization for ______"

After we live Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen's 6 year journey from  financial and franchise troubles to average restaurant sales increases up 25%, market share increases from 14 to 21 percent, and an impressive improvement of 40% profitability, we get to learn how to become a Dare To Serve leader . This is where the magic really happens because this is your chance to learn what is takes to be a servant leader and how you can make a real difference. 

What does it take to become a Dare To Serve Leader? Are you ready?
  • Choose to serve. Be a servant leader and avoid these traps - Power, achievement for yourself, too much personal ambition. Know any of these leaders stuck in the trap?  Don't be a self centered leader.
  • Be bold and brave. Have the courage to serve and be willing to accept failure. I love how Cheryl compares servant leadership to extreme sports. You need to "go big or go home". Stretch yourself and others. 
  • Have clarity of purpose. You need to find your purpose before you can help others do the same. Sit down and do it today. Examine your life. Choose your key 3 values. Know your gifts and use them. Write your purpose. Test your purpose and ask are you true to it?
  • Avoid the spotlight. Remember. Jump out of the spotlight and move it onto others. Do this while following these core beliefs: Practice the golden rule, have personal responsibility, and be humble every day.
  • Call to action.  As a leader you have influence and are a steward to others. Stand up with a call to action and find a way to spread the Dare To Serve word.
Perhaps your leadership style has become outdated. Maybe you are realizing that you are acting like a leader back in the 1980s or 1990s. New leaders need guidance and role models. We really are all leaders in some form or another and we need to be authentic - not a copy cat. Becoming a servant leader will transform your life and your career. Dare To Serve: How To Drive Superior Results By Serving Others by Cheryl Bachelder really has influenced my leadership growth. I feel like I have a clearer plan to guide my walk down the path to success. I want to continually personally grow and really positively impact others. I am a servant leader and I Dare To Serve. How about you?

I sincerely encourage you to pick up Cheryl's book today to begin your journey in becoming  a servant leader. If you are interested,  you can learn more about the book “Dare to Serve” and download a free sample chapter  here Dare To Serve