Are You Ready to Say Hello to New Growth?

For many of us, spring is just popping up, and old crabby winter has moved along. Spring is my favorite season. I continued to be enthralled by how life slowly unfolds and reaches up to the cloudless sky praising the sun. Small creatures start to rumble about and the insect's twirl by with ease and zest. There are so many fresh smells, and nothing beats hearing birds tweet just as the sun is rising. I am always mesmerized by the sound of croaking frogs in our woods even though our neighbors behind must beg for headphones to drown out the constant chatter.

I have a great friend that recently shared his video with me (above). Greg Heeres is a leadership aficionado and rascal with a passion for bringing out the best in others and sharing leadership lessons. He shares short snippets of video lasting only seconds but sharing what takes most several minutes to offer advice. Greg is a proponent for growth and walks the talk. His video connected with me because spring is such a season of newness, freshness, and growth. Spring is a better time to set new goals, make a change, and renew your life than New Years. What better time to grow and fertilize those around you than a time when you see and smell new growth every day.

As a gardener, I feel alive and ready to get outside planting, fertilizing, growing, and pruning. As Greg shared, it's a time to reflect on what kind of growth that we want to experience. It's looking at what tools we need to grow and what impacts others. Just like our plants, spring is also about fertilizing those around us according to their needs and what motivates them to grow. You just can't plant a cactus in the shade and expect growth when it craves the sunshine.

Moreover, pruning can be a painful process because we become accustomed to what we are comfortable with and like around us. The initial pruning is stark or painful, and we don't always know if our efforts are worth it. Isn't life like this? That to which we hold close to us is the hardest to let go. This includes behaviors, thoughts, and habits. 

I encourage you to make spring about you. Here are some ideas for bringing on some "newness" this season that will set you up for long-term growth and enable those around you to flourish.

·         What negative habits or thoughts are dragging you down? They are like diseases in the garden, and you need to address them to ensure your growth.

·         What needs pruning from your life right now? Maybe personal time is non-existent, and you are slowly sinking into the ground. Set your priorities and make a list of what you can minimize at work to maximize your personal life.

·         Who are you mentoring or coaching? You have the power to "fertilize" others, and it's amazing how you feel when you see someone grow in front of you.

·         Become more diverse. Beautiful gardens take time, planning, and patience. You need to bring in a variety of plants and have enough diversity in your yard for beauty and for the health of your plants. Are you engaging with diverse groups of people? Are you lifting others up and making efforts to expand your world? It takes time, and a concerted effort but the rewards are incredible.

·         How does it smell around you? Spring is a time for freshness. Are your ideas still fresh? Do you take the time to lighten up with those around you? Do you make a concerted effort to maintain a positive aura around you or lend positive words throughout your day?

·         Plan for future growth. Before you can plant a new garden, you need to prepare the soil. The same goes for growing new leaders. Are you purposeful in building others up so they can jump into your role some day? Are you purposefully looking to bring out the strengths in others?

·         Be the sunshine in someone's life every day. Smile, and you will light up those around you. Likewise, work the soil so that people have a strong foundation from which to sprout.

Breathe spring in and not only grow yourself this season but plant, fertilize, grow, and prune all around you!

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?

You've Got A Friend In Me

"Folks are like plants; We all lean toward the light" - Kris Carr

Photo courtesy of postbear via Compfight.com
Spring is such a delight for me. The sun is more vibrant, the clouds fluffy and trailing, and the clear gentle breezes go this way and that. Spring also brings a lot of work for me as I energetically go out to cut back all the dead growth in my beds - only to ramble hours later into the house moving slowly and with a marked soreness! This ritual continues for a few weeks until all my garden beds are clean, freshened with wood chips, and new "friends" join the plants from past seasons.
In a way, spring clean up at my house  is like Christmas. As I pull away all the dead growth not only am I greeted by fresh green growth,  but I discover plants springing out that I had forgotten were there. At times I can't remember exactly what some plants are until they put on more growth. All of  a sudden I have some "ah ha" moments and am delighted. This time of year reminds me so much of meeting new friends as I wander in my gardens. I haven't seen them for quite some time yet, I love "reacquainting" myself with each and everyone of them. Some plants were planted last season and are "new" friends. Others are established and never fail to disappoint me with their beauty and stature.
It's times in my garden like this that I really appreciate all that I have and the beauty springing forth around me. Indeed, I really like to think of some of my plants as old friends and it always puts a smile on my face as we meet again after a long, cold, harsh winter.
This spring is especially meaningful for me. I recently sprang into a new job opportunity and every day is full of new learning experiences and discovering new friends. It's a delight to go to work each day with a sense of discovery and wonder - just like wandering in a spring garden. Sadly, I just left some work friends goodbye however, my new venture offers new friendships ahead. How are your work friendships and what do you do to grow them?
"Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend" - Albert Camus
Photo courtesy of Seranyaphotography via Compfight.com
Some people don't want work friendships. They stay with old ways of  thinking that work and personal lives should be kept separate. Huh? Considering that we all spend 8-10 hours a day (at least) with people at work we really NEED to make friends at work. The benefits keep us healthy and engaged.
Why you need "work friends"
  • You spend more time at work than with your family. A healthy life means healthy relationships with those that you are around the most. Be healthy. Seek out some work friends.
  • You will want to go to work everyday and look forward to being with people that you like and understand you.
  • You will feel more motivated and engaged working with those that you like and respect.
  • Friends are a great support system. Who better to understand you then those that see you in your work role? Work friends understand your struggles and frustrations better than anyone.
  • Friends help bring about a sense of belonging and team.
  • You know what? You really will care more about your work because you know that what you do can impact those around you - your buds.
  • You will learn so much more from work friends. You feel more comfortable asking questions, sharing ideas, and asking for advice.
  • Sometimes work friendships grow into mentoring opportunities. Mentors get to know the "real" you and may see the gifts that can be unlocked inside.
  • Friends really do make us happy!

 Clearly work friendships can be the start of something new and open up opportunities. I'm eagerly looking forward to building more relationships and finding new friends in the weeks ahead. In large companies it's often easier said than done. People are busy, schedules are in conflict, there are often already a variety of friend groups. Remember high school? It never really leaves us.

Here are some suggestions for how to make new friends

  • Smile with all of your mind and body. Be genuine.
  • Take an interest in others. Be very curious.
  • Make others feel important and really listen.
  • Ask questions and be genuine in learning all that you can about others.
  • Admit any mistakes or misunderstanding right away. Be sincere.
  • Don't gossip!
  • As Dale Carnegie always said, "Don't criticize, condemn, or complain".
  • Don't stop trying to form relationships. Some people are shy and really need time to open up and connect with other people.
  • Be helpful and offer to shoulder more workload from others.
  • Jump into social opportunities and accept invitations to connect outside of work.
  • Volunteer with coworkers on projects or in the community.
  • Seek out other people outside of your department or even location.
  • Ask people to lunch or for coffee.
  • Bring in treats.
  • Be real and be a friend.
Do you have any other suggestions to make some friends at work? Relationships are what make us human and really help us grow. Go out and uncover some friends this week! I know that I will be uncovering some new opportunities to connect........