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”?

It's OK To Be Bare

"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

Photo courtesy of EJP via Compfight

The howling Halloween winds last week snaked through our trees quickly and with force last week.The scenic color palette of yellows, reds, and orange went down without a fight. The result was a scenery of colorless brown trees with a colorful crunching skirting of leaves. Yup. It really is fall now in the Midwest. As sad as I am to see my gardens go to sleep and the trees baring all, it really is a great feat of Mother Nature.

Trees are a lot like us when it comes to the seasons. Their alarm clock to start shutting down is the failing light as the days shorten and the air is colder. Their chlorophyll stops flowing and the leaves slowly change color. Despite what you think, the winds don't grab the leaves off the trees. The trees themselves throw off their leaves like a winter coat. As the days shorten, trees send a signal to the spot where the leaves are attached. The spot where the leaves are attached to the branches are sealed. No fluid can get in or out and the leaves are dropped by the tree. Result? Naked trees.

This whole magical process doesn't happen just so that you can venture out on color tours. The tree instinctively knows that it needs to protect itself in order to battle the cold and snow. The chemicals that were flowing to the leaves are diverted to the tree roots to fortify the entire root system and in the spring, the tree. The bottom line? Being bare is a good thing!

Photo courtesy of Theen via Compfight

I LOVE how the face of leadership has evolved over the years. I remember years ago when I joined a management training program with a local bank right out of college. Back then leaders thought that they needed to act "leaderly". They were more stoic, more commanding, and everyone was expected to follow them (plus most were men!). Input wasn't generally solicited or wanted. They had the final word. Times have changed. Leaders today seek input, show empathy, are more servant leaders than commanders. They see the benefits of empathy. In short, our leaders today are human. We all want to work with or for people who act like us. No matter where you lead from or whom you lead - Don't be afraid to "bare" yourself to people and act human.

What does it mean to be a "bare leader"? It means NOT being afraid to show empathy and emotion. It means being authentic and "you". It means being a servant leader rather than a commander. It means being yourself while earning your leadership title. It means encouraging and empowering people to grow and want to follow you. In short:

Don't be afraid to bare yourself!

  • Don't think that hiding emotion is what leaders do. Bottling feelings up and acting stoic doesn't make anyone a hero. It makes you look weak and pushes people away.
  • People smell fake a mile away. Too much sugar coating and BS WILL be evident. Is it worth it?
  • People want the bare truth. They don't want weak answers or any beating around the bush tactics. You end up clouding situations and making rash decisions in the long run. Being authentic and true eliminates issues that you can avoid.
  • In connecting, speaking, writing, life, HOW you say something if far more important than what you say. How many times have you written or read an email and it's how the information was relayed? It threw you into an emotional tail spin, not what was said. I just had this last week!  
  • Baring your true self really does build trust, strengthen relationships, and help others relate to you.
  • Leaders build vision. Vision takes skill and really jumping into the minds of your people. You can't do that without getting to know them and gaining joint trust.
  • Sharing emotions really goes a long way towards influencing how people think, behave, and react. This also intertwines with your vision creating.
  • Show your passion. Share your frustrations. People want to know that you too have doubts, fears, ideas, and don't know everything.
  • Strong leaders know that showing their real self will help groups bond together to find solutions or make change. You don't want to provide all the answers. Truthfully, you need your people more than they need you. Without them, there is no growth or passion to push on to grow and achieve.
Don't try to go it alone in life. Rely on others and "bare" your authentic self. When you show those Cub Scouts how passionate you are about climbing an obstacle wall but confident in them and that YOU are scared, they will relate and try harder. They will feed on your passion and confidence in them to scrabble right up that wall. When tough department choices have to be made, be truthful and share your indecisiveness to allow your team to give input and work through it. They are closest to the situation. 

Be human. Bare yourself. It's OK

Got Your Scared On This Week?

"I think on some level, you do your best things when you're a little off balance, a little scared. You've got to work from mystery, from wonder, from not knowing" - Willem Dafoe
Photo courtesy of Electricity Mule via Compfight
Photo courtesy of Samlavi via Compfight
Photo courtesy of Michel Taggart via Compfight

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays of the year. The season is still colorful, the snow hasn't hit, the spooky shows are all on, and I love seeing people dress up for fun and adventure. Halloween brings out the creativity and inner child in most people. I also love chocolate which I can conveniently pull out of my kid's trick-or-treat bags, and drinking warm spiced wine.

In the Midwest we love to decorate the outside of our homes with corn stalks (we have a lot at our disposal!), mums, pumpkins, grapevines, and colored corn cobs. Some people take it a step further and add graveyards, spider webs, and ghosts. Turn on the Travel Channel this time of year and see what outlandish creations that people have come up with. This is the season for all things scary! This is the perfect time of year to introduce you to some of the "scariest" and oddest plants around. Perhaps you will choose to add them to the exterior of your home this season or invite them inside......

Plants that dare you to bring them home

  • Venus Flytrap: Many of us had these vultures as kids and read scary books about them. They quickly close and trap bugs to digest them with powerful enzymes. Imagine the stories that you can tell your kids!
  • Pitcher Plants and Monkey Cups: These are equally as frightening because they also eat bugs live. Some of these plants are blood red or almost black. They are sure to ward off .. your bug problem.
  • Black Bat Flower: This gem is tropical and near black. It has "ears" and "whiskers" sure to intrigue.
  • Chinese Lanterns: These perennials are available at nurseries and resemble actual orange lanterns or tiny pumpkins. Beware.... they will pop up where you least expect them!
  • Black Mondo Grass: This is an awesome all black perennial that adds drama and mystery to your gardens. You can cut some and bring it inside to add fright.
  • Milkweed pods burst outside this time of year and resemble tiny ghosts floating through the air.
  • Many of us plant Cockscomb in our annual gardens every year. These plants come in different colors and resemble fuzzy, odd shaped brains.
  •  Amaranth: These annuals come in a variety of tones and sizes. They can often be found dried for inside decoration. They have a unique fuzzy texture and resemble long pulsing blood vessels.
  • Tropical Orchids: Orchids come in so many sizes, colors, and shapes. The spookiest ones are black with white tendrils like the Octopus Orchid. Some Orchids prefer to grow without soils and have creepy thick fleshy roots. Yuck!

The list of spooky plants go on and on - just use your imagination! For more ideas and pictures go to Vegetable Gardener.com or Sunset Freaky Plants. View at your own risk!

"It is not what we know that scares us, it is what we do not" - A.G. Phillips

Scary plants are unique, unusual, and fun. Fearing leadership isn't. Everyone has their fears, some people just excel at covering them up. At one time or another we have all been scared to death when we started new job, been promoted, or been thrust into a management or leadership role that we just didn't feel ready for. We are all human and there's no harm in admitting that you have your scared on! In fact, admitting that you are scared and looking at why is a healthy and natural thing to do. What scares you?

Let's get it out in the open. This is what scares us when we think "Leadership":
  • I'm just not ready! Most of us ever are. For instance, did you feel ready to be a parent? Really?
  • I don't have enough experience. No one knows everything. Leaders lead - they aren't the know it all.
  • Lack of confidence. We all feel deflated at one time or another. Trust me. A lot of people fake confidence. A lot.
  • What if I fail? You earned your spot. Keep showing 'em what you've got!
  • Public speaking and addressing groups scares me! Practice, practice, join Toastmasters.
  •  What if my people are smarter than me? Leading isn't just about smarts. It's about connecting people, empowering them, and encouraging people to achieve.
  • It's a lot of responsibility. 
  • Forming the right team and a strong team. How do I that that? 
  • Will I make the right decisions? We all make mistakes and can learn from them. Publicly learning from your mistakes is one of the best leadership traits.
  • It's scary managing people older than me. Been there and done that. That's YOUR problem, not your team's. Not everyone wants a leadership position and some peeps are content just doing what they love in their job. 
  • I'm not good with criticism. You have been dealing with it your entire life. You've survived and will persevere. 

Being scared is healthy and human. It's what has kept us alive and thriving going back to the caveman days. Being scared keeps us on our toes, propels us forward, and forces us to look at why we are scared. Being scared makes us deal with what we don't know or can't control. Being scared can be a leaders best friend!
Photo courtesy of Husband Unit via Compfight

How do you deal with your fears?

How Are You Preparing For A New "Season"?

"Love the trees until their leaves fall off, then encourage them to try again next year" - Chad Sugg

The first trees of fall to color
Confession. Autumn is my 3rd favorite season. As a gardener I bask in the spring and summer months when life flourishes in a kaleidoscope of color. It's amazing how quickly the ground is enveloped with color and people are so much more agreeable and carefree after a long frustrating winter. Fall is like a big resounding gong reminding me that the snow will soon be here. Admittedly, the fall colors are beautiful and bring in some fun activities. The air becomes crisp smothering the humidity. Wine tasting and apple picking are in full swing. I love bonfires, donuts, cider, Halloween and sweatshirts. Then I'm ready for spring again. White really isn't a color to me and cold is a mean trick of nature. I know - I should move south.

Fall is a great time to get the garden cleaned up and ready for everything to pop in the spring. The more tidying up that you do now means less work in the spring when everything comes back to life. The obvious chores are raking leaves (or wait until they blow away which is my method) and packing away things that may be damaged over the winter. Most importantly, fall is the best time to plant new plants - one of my top priorities. Fall means a change of season and a change of focus. Here's an easy way to remember the key fall chores that you should do.

F - Find those plant sales and plant now! Prices are slashed 70-90%. You want healthy roots in the pot, not perfect foliage on top. Plants installed in the fall are less stressed, have more water, and have time to spread their roots before the ground freezes.

A - Annuals and tender perennials come out. Clean up all the debris and cut down what you can now. Leaving this step until the spring may only encourage bugs and diseases. You will pay for it when everything grows and becomes a food source for critters. Also, the more that you leave laying around, the more that there is to blow around where you don't want it.

L - Leaves, straw, or wood chips should be placed over tender plants or those being grown at the tip of your planting zone. This will give them a nice winter coat for protection. I'm in zone 6 and cut my Musa Basjoo Banana trees to the ground every fall. I liberally place wood chips on top of them for the winter. They even grew back after our harsh winter last year.

L- Lift and divide perennials. This is the best time to dig up your perennials and divide them with a shovel or knife. You can see the best place to relocate them where there is room for them to spread. They love the cool temps and moisture.

Sound easy? It is! Do these garden chores now and you will be rewarded next year. It's a breeze  to prepare for a new season!

"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall" - F. Scott Fitzgerald

How are you going to prepare yourself for next season?

Like a garden, you need to change with the seasons and grow as well - no matter what level you are at. The best leaders eat up every book that they can and are always open to growing. They seek out a mentor, take a new class, ask to learn from someone they manage, they volunteer, or take up a side hobby/job.  They plan for the season ahead!

Here's an easy way to remember your fall plan:

F - Focus on where you are and where you want to be. What steps do you need to take to progress?

A - Accept your weaknesses and focus on your strengths.

L - Learn what you can from a variety of media. Grow a bit every day. Set aside just 30 minutes a day to learn what you need to focus on and to keep current.

L - Lead by example by asking others for insight and knowledge. Show your passion for learning and openness to growing. Be a stronger "tree" by spring.

Prepare now for the season ahead and reap the growth and rewards! What 1 step will you take this fall? I have committed to working on my public speaking skills and advancing my project management knowledge. This will be a busy season!

Some plants shine in the cool fall!

It's Never Too Late to Plant the Seeds of Leadership

"Every gardener knows under the cloak of winter lies a miracle.....
a seed waiting to sprout,
a bulb opening to light,
a bud straining to unfurl,
And the anticipation nurtures our dreams" - Barbara Winkler

Photo courtesy of Shotaku
Anyone ever ask you the annoying question of  "Which came first - the chicken or the egg?".  I tend to ask "Which came first - the seed or the plant ?". Few of us ever think about the history of seeds and their importance to our food system or the continued existence of our environment. Every seed contains a mini nursery that supplies everything a plant needs to start life. In 2005 scientists were able to germinate a seed that was 2000 years old! Wikipeida.

We don't think much about planting seeds but we should. The seeds that we plant today will grow into something magnificent tomorrow. Seeds don't have to be in the form of seeds that we plant in the dirt. Many of us have grown beautiful children, ideas, and discoveries. Someone has to plant the seeds of leadership as well. Have you tried that yet?

Even though the early signs of winter are appearing in the colder parts of the country, it's not too late to plant flower bulbs and seeds. In fact, many seeds have to be planted in the cold or they won't grow. Cold is a friend to a lot of seeds - even seeds that may not normally grow in your region. For instance, one of my favorite butterfly flowers is Verbena Bonariensis. Technically it's an annual in my area, yet it thrives through the cold and plants pop up all over in the spring. A variety of seeds need prechilling and/or stratification (nick them with a file or knife) prior to germinating. On the flip side, some seeds need to be burned before they will sprout. Hence, the benefits of freezing winters or hot wildfires!

Seeds to plant at this time of year can usually be scattered on the soil surface or buried just under the dirt. To discover seeds that love a cold planting look for seeds that require the following:

  • Self sow
  • Sow outside in early Autumn
  • Sow outside in early Spring
  • Hardy seeds
  • Environments such as : Plains, Prairie, Desert, Swamp, Field
  • Temperate Climates like: Siberian, Chinese, Alpine, Polar, Russian

My sister lives in Chicago and forgot to plant  her bulbs one Fall. Fortunately for her, there was a thaw late in January. She planted the bulbs and they all popped up in the Spring! Normally, hardy bulbs should be planted before the ground completely freezes. Flowers such as Tulips, Hyacinths, Crocus, and Daffodils need about 16-18 weeks of very cold temperatures in order to grow. Those people in the warmer parts of the country can't grow hardy bulbs outside and have to be content with storing the bulbs in the fridge for a period of time before planting the bulbs inside. This is called "forcing" and is what growers do in order bring you baskets of flowers in the Spring. Bottom line? Get out there now and scatter those seeds or plants those bulbs!

What does all this have to do with leadership?
Seeds have to be planted to grow new leaders!
Do you lead a book club or a football team? Manage a team of call center reps? Guess what? Whether you realize it or not, you need to always be on the ball planting new seeds for developing future leaders. You might be already be doing so without knowing it! Coaches are always looking for certain traits in new players. Managers look for the next rising star or their replacement (something great leaders do!!).  School administrators are eyeing future Principals and grounds keepers are looking for their next shift leader. No matter what your position, you need to always be looking for new leaders and planting the seeds to bring on their growth!
So. Where do we dig up new leaders? How to plant those seeds?
It's an easy 3 step process - on paper at least!
  1. Decide what attributes make an effective leader in your world
  2. Look for people who naturally exhibit the traits you want
  3. Develop and coach those traits. Plants the seeds and nurture the growth
First and foremost you need to interact and work with your team members on a regular basis so that you can learn who your most authentic, dedicated, and value oriented people are. Be wary of those that are "faking" leadership skills. They are easy to spot. If you aren't good at unearthing who these people are, ask someone else - everyone always knows who the fakers are! If you are a baseball coach you know who your leaders and best players are. You probably also know how the team feels about them. Go with your gut. Observe with your senses.

 A few years ago I had a new boss that our incoming CEO promoted into a leadership position. His primary criteria was that she had been at the company the longest. What a mistake! She lacked effective leadership or people skills. She alienated people and pitted teams against each other. Several people left the company, myself included, to find a company with authentic leadership. Pick your criteria carefully and act like a leader when sowing seeds.

Not sure what you are looking for in newbie leaders? Here's some ideas:

      • Visionary
      • Coalition and team builder
      • Quick learner with a high emotional IQ
      • Intelligent
      • Experienced with a strong track record
      • Humble and "real"
      • Confident - but not cocky!
      • Servitude attitude with a willingness to ask others what they need
      • Creative, innovative, and open minded
      • Open to change and an effective change agent
      • Initiative
      • Strong communication and interpersonal skills
      • Exhibits values and ethics
      • Able to put themselves in another's place
      • Patient

Everyone has their favorite traits. I look for people who are authentic and have initiative, don't fear change, and have an eagerness to learn and grow. I want people who are creative and have the ability to think ahead and understand how their actions affect others. Moreover, I look for people who have interpersonal skills as well as a high emotional IQ. I really want people that truly want to make a difference and aren't in their job for sole personal gain. Skills in a job can be taught. Some of these traits can't!

Now that you have discovered what you want and identified some leadership "seeds" in your organization or group, it's time to get planting and fostering some growth. We all have our own style when mentoring people. Just don't think that it's going to happen in a classroom or at the hands of someone else. You need to be the head gardener here and dig in for the long haul.

Here's some ideas for getting those seeds to grow:
      • Create a personal program and custom plan
      • Give them time, time, time, and attention
      • Make a strong verbal commitment to your protege. Follow with action
      • Use frequent and regular coaching and ongoing evaluations
      • Help identify strengths and work towards honing those skills
      • Mentoring programs using strong leaders (not just positional!) throughout the organization
      • Rotate people through different areas so they develop a broad view
      • Challenge with new tasks and ideas. Force them to develop their own processes
      • Tap past and current veteran "leaders" for advice
      • Let people make mistakes so they learn. Don't punish learning this way
      • Nurture as you would a tender seedling
      • Have fun and enjoy growing people! 

There is nothing more challenging, fun, and rewarding than watching something grow. If you are a parent, you understand. Prepare the soil, sprinkle the seeds, and grow a leader this season. Good luck and most of all have fun!


Are You Masking Your Leadership?

"As an actor, we spend so much time putting the mask on and trying to be someone you're not" - Russell Hornsby

I must admit that Halloween is my favorite holiday! My boys have a blast picking out costumes and accessorizing as if they are going to the prom. I think it's the only time that they ever care how they are dressed! I have a chocolate addiction, so I love snatching all the good stuff when they aren't looking. There's plenty to go around! Kids love fantasizing and pretending that they are someone else- even if it's just for the night. By the looks of it, there are a lot of adults that never quite outgrow their love of pretend either...You know who you are!
Halloween has to be the most creative holiday of all. Some people really go nuts with the lights and decorations - all for one night. Others relish trying to scare the wits out of kids. Moreover, it amazes me how creative and zany people become in decorating their pumpkins. Some of them are literally works of art. It's obvious  that a lot of time and planning went into what seems to me is an impossible feat! I usually end up "over" carving my pumpkin faces and they cave within 2 days! I can grow them - I just can't carve or cook them. Some pumpkins depict flamboyant faces while others come to life with realistic scenery's that tell a story. Incredible!

The tradition of pumpkin carving goes way back to Europe in the Middle Ages. People carried around gourds with candles in them with the belief that evil spirits would be scared away. When our ancestors landed here, there was a lack of gourds so pumpkins were used instead. Pumpkins are squashes from the Cucurbita family which are native to North America. Technically they are fruits that love warmer weather. Most people plant the seeds in June when summer is heating up. Pumpkins love rich well drained soil and a lot of sun. They refuse to grow until the air temps are 65 degrees or higher. Plant the seeds in hills with plenty of room for them to grow. Pumpkin vines will quickly take over your yard so beware! There are over 82 varieties of pumpkins in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Pumpkins come in red, green, white, pink, striped, and even blue! As people have become more accepting, these unusual colors can be picked up at markets Wikipedia.
Fantasizing and pretending is what Halloween is all about. Masks, pumpkins, candy, and cavities. What more could a kid want? When Halloween is over though... we need to set aside the masks and pumpkin faces and show our "real" face. I ask you this - Are you masking yourself ? Are you pretending to be someone you're not? 
Beware! Wearing a "leadership" mask can be detrimental to yourself and those around you!
I don't know about you, but I have worked with a lot of people who wear masks. They feel that the only way to get ahead or fit in is to be someone that they aren't. They try to act and react according to how they think others want them to. They mimic their boss and take on his mannerisms. Suddenly, they turn into a "Mini Me". They often  have an air about them that is fake or they act like they are on a stage. Do you know someone like this?? Is it you?
In my first "real" job out of college I joined a management training program. There were 11 of us and we rotated in different areas of the company to gain exposure and experience. We formed some strong friendships and frequently hung out together after work. As time went on, some of the people in our group changed. They became more aloof and acted like they were "better" than us. They hung out with people that they felt could further their careers. They had changed and acted like the herd that they had joined to get ahead. What infuriated us the most was that they were promoted faster. The fake face and persona that they had adapted rewarded them in kind. Have you been in the same boat? It doesn't sit well when "fake" people move ahead for their own gain while relationships suffer. 

People take on a false facade for a variety of reasons. For some, it's a way to hide their flaws and weaknesses. For others, it's a lack of self confidence. Some people are promoted and don't feel that they "deserve" it so they lead with a false pretense. Fear, insecurity, a lack of self worth, and lack of trust force people to act in ways that aren't true to who they really are. They put on "airs", they act like the boss because they can't be themselves, they aren't good at showing feelings so they mask them. When you hide who you are, it causes internal conflict. You may have trouble connecting or being honest with people. People who don't think that they are deserving won't develop into strong leaders. They are so busy trying to prove themselves (internally and externally) or pretending, that they fail to break through.
To lead you must be authentic and have a sincere interest in helping others. You should be passionate about making a difference and not hide behind any doubts or internal struggles. You need to address these key areas if you are going to throw the mask off and lead:
  • Insecurity : Shed any thoughts of not being good enough or that you aren't deserving. You have the skills and drive to make a difference. Don't allow yourself to feel powerless or helpless. Write down all your strengths or ask those that you trust what they think. Acknowledge your strengths and build on them every day. Tell yourself that you are a strong and deserving leader. You become what you think. Knock those negative thoughts out of your head.
  • Fear: Don't fixate on saying or doing the "right" things. Everyone makes errors and YOU are the only one who will really ever notice. If you avoid mistakes, you will never learn or grow. You will lose your "influence". Embrace dealing with difficult situations or conflicts with people. Face your fears head on. They won't unmask until you do. No one is perfect.
  • Lack of trust: You need to learn to trust yourself and others. Don't hide from leaning on others. We are social beings and need each other. People love being asked for help or support. Do it until it feels natural. Give back your trust as well in your people. Great leaders MUST trust. You need  to have faith in other's talents, abilities, and gifts.

You will lose out as an effective leader if you don't look beneath your mask and unleash your fears, address your lack of self confidence, and learn to trust . Companies are finally recognizing the value of "soft skills" Clomedia.com and it's more vital than ever that you  develop authentic and unmasked leadership skills. If you don't - BOO! It will catch up to you! Are you prepared?

Fall into some learning!

Arum bulb blooming in the Spring

"When planning for a year, plant corn. When planning for a decade, plant trees. When planning for life, train and educate people" - Chinese Proverb

The one thing that I enjoy most about fall is - back to school!! By early September, my boys are so bored and tired of each other that the only time they use their creativity is in finding unique ways to annoy and torture each other - without getting caught! They dread returning to the classroom and don't quite buy the idea that learning is fun and crucial to their future. 

Fall brings cooler weather and my grass actually turns green again as the trees slowly begin their color dance! It's nice to have bonfires in the chilled air and fewer bugs to fight with. In the garden, plants and trees start to wind down for the winter (sigh) and it's seems like the garden is dying back. In reality, your garden is actually doing the opposite - you just can't see it.

Fall is the best time to plant new plants and trees.  It's also a prime time to move plants that have outgrown their space or would flourish in a better spot in the yard. They have a chance to get established before the ground freezes. The plants may die back on the top and trees may loose their leaves however, a lot of growth is occurring under the ground. Roots will expand and strengthen until the ground is completely frozen which in many areas is in late December. Even better is the fact that you can get great steals on plants and expensive trees because nurseries are eager to deplete their stock before the winter. Even if plants look yellowed and worn in the nursery, their roots are healthy and ready to grow (with the exception of evergreens. If they are yellow - they are dying). Some of my best plant bargains have been in the fall. Just plant your deals and keep them watered until the ground freezes. Fall is less stressful on new plantings because they usually tend to receive a lot more rainfall, aren't stressed by the hot blazing sun, and pests have died back. By late Spring next year, your new plants will be well established and ready to spring forward with lush growth.

After a relaxing summer it's time for us all to jump right back into a routine and fall into some learning! We too need to strengthen our roots and grow our minds. Learning doesn't stop when we walk over the stage to get that diploma. If you are dedicated to personal growth and advancing or changing your career, you need to become a life long learner. You can't keep preaching training and education to your teams if you aren't jumping right in there as well. Effective managers are continuously learning and dedicated to developing new skills. There are so many new choices and vehicles in which to learn new things - many without ever leaving your house or changing out of your Pj's!

Unless you have been living under a rock, you've probably noticed that there are sweeping changes happening in the education system within the US. More schools have issued students a lap top for electronic learning. Students are participating in video learning and conferences, teachers have taken on the concept of "flipped" learning, schools are finally realizing that kids aren't benefiting from sitting in a chair all day spitting back information. Learning is interactive and  students are working more in groups to problem solve and collaborate. Several of these new learning concepts are spilling over into the business sector. Companies are making more use of in house self learning computer modeled classes. These classes are more interactive and demand more participation. The Internet has opened up a whole new way of sharing and learning new information. Take advantage of technology and learn!

I love learning! I am a readaholic and I love sapping up new information. I can't fall asleep at night  unless I read beforehand. I'm stupefied when I hear people say that they haven't read a book in a year (sorry if you are a guilty one!). If I become a Web Designer (never going to happen, trust me!) , I want to be the best one out there. I  would read every web designing book on Amazon. Self learning takes patience and drive - you have to be proactive because no one will do it for you.

This past year I was introduced to MOOCS and it has been a great learning resource for me. A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. They are courses offered by top colleges including  Stanford, Georgetown, University of Michigan, and University of Washington to name a few. Classes are taught by distinguished university professors and offer readings, lectures, video, tests, user forums etc. The variety of classes available is phenomenal! You can learn anything from coding to anthropology to exploring quantum physics. The best part is that most of these classes are FREE!! They run anywhere from 4-16 weeks and the choices are endless.

Here are some of my favorite MOOCS that I have personally tried and love!

These programs offer an awesome and credible array of classes. Some of them offer certification certificates that many employers will accept for learning requirements. They give you a chance to dip your toes into learning something new without spending a dime. They may lead to a promotion or a new career path. All you need is a thirst for learning and dedication to achieve.

Here are some benefits of MOOCS:

  • You can become more marketable because you have developed new or advanced skills.
  • Proactively developing yourself may lead to a promotion within your current career.
  • Classes can assist you in making a complete career change vastly different from the field that you are in.
  • More money and flexibility.
  • More education = more leadership opportunities.
  • Small business owners with few financial resources can use these classes as training tools for their people.
  • You can even craft your own "program" by mixing and matching classes.
  • Improve or develop tech skills. One of the sites above offers coding for kids - I may sign up!
  • You can learn at your own pace without pressure. You use the learning style that best suits YOU.
  • Classes allow you to explore areas that you have never heard of before.
  • Develop better problem solving and creativity skills.
  • Satisfy outside "passions" that you have always had.
  • Exposure to thought provoking ideas, new thoughts, new connections.
MOOCS are one of the best opportunities that have emerged in some time for adult learning. They open a whole new world up for all of us and the benefits are enormous. As your garden dies down to prepare for the winter, don't let your brain die as well. Use the quiet of winter to open your mind to new learning and watch the growth that happens within you!

If you have taken some great online classes please share any of your favorites!
Happy learning!

Going to bed for the Winter