Human Emotion

How Is Your Drainage?

"A fresh mind keeps the body fresh. Take in the ideas of the day, drain off those of yesterday. As to the morrow, time enough to consider it when it becomes today: - Edward G Bulwer-Lytton

This summer has dumped numerous areas in the country with record rainfall and unfortunately, flooding. Who would think that Las Vegas or Phoenix would have jet skiers and canoes  rippling through flooded streets? Highways caving in? Houses becoming lonely islands? Where does that water all go? If you think that you have drainage problems, just watch the daily news!

A persistent water drainage problem will take it's toll on your home's foundation, your yard, your plants, and may impact your next door neighbor. I had a drainage problem on the side of our house a few years back. The water ran out of our gutters so quickly that it eroded the immediate landscaping and the lawn. My solution was to install a dry creek bed  with rocks that winded gently through my ornamental grass garden. It was both functional and beautiful. It helped for a time until the gutters became cluttered and the rains hit harder. I still had some runoff and my wood chips took a swim throughout my grass garden. Irritating! Last weekend I implemented phase 2 - this week calls for more record rains so my new area will be put to the test. I placed a dry "pond" bed in front of the existing creek bed (see pics). Filled with about 7 inches of rock by the plastic drain pipe, I am hoping that some of the water will be caught and slowly drain before the water rolls through the creek bed. No one can see that the rocks are hiding landscape fabric and a pipe that allows water to sink in and allow the necessary drainage that is so critical to preserving my landscaping.

Drainage issues are the result of poor soil, poor construction, bad location, working against mother nature.. the list goes on. To test if there are issues with your soil try this test at Soil Basics. You can either work against the issue or work with it. Of course nothing will help when flood waters unexpectedly hit. My suggestion? Work with the drainage problem and look at it as an opportunity!
How to let it flow in your garden:
  • Make sure that your issue isn't due to clogged gutters or roof issues.
  • Plant a bog with rocks and blog plants in wet areas where water collects.
  • Put in a dry river stream with rocks and make it look natural as it weaves through your yard.
  •  Add copious amounts of compost to wet soil if you have a small area where drainage is poor. This will improve the soil texture and help with drainage.
  • Install a rain barrel to collect water. Divert roof water into a barrel so it doesn't drain into the yard. Check out this site for tips on how to Make a rain barrel.
  • Put in raised beds over a site with poor drainage. I actually did this in an area where the roots are so thick the water can't drain nor can I grow anything. I put in metal fire rings, filled them with soil, and I have gorgeous planters overflowing with color - not water!
  • Dig a ditch to divert the water if it will be someone hidden - and safe.
  • If the problem is serious, get professional guidance on installing tiles or drainage pipes under your soil.
"No one loves the messenger who brings bad news" - Sophocles

Drainage doesn't just apply to our yards. Sometimes we are put in the tough position of delivering bad news. It's critical that we allow negative information to seep in and drain through the heads of our teams. It's not easy and can cause "erosion" with people. I have been through a few mergers and it's a process that takes days or weeks to filter and categorize. I liken it to the death of someone. First you are shocked. You don't believe it. People around you are zombies. Then you slowly feel the words sink in. Next, you accept that someone died. The process goes on until you allow it to infiltrate your mind and jump out of a fog to move on.

 What if YOU are the one that has to break bad news? How do you help it filter and drain to your teams without cutting morale or drowning them? How do you prevent a flood of emotions and chaos? It starts with the delivery.....

How to keep information filtering without draining your team:
  • Be honest and open. Don't try to make news "better" by leaving out facts or dancing over them. People will catch on quickly and you will lose credibility. 
  • Be accurate, straight forward, and speak with empathy.
  • Don't apologize. You can't control things. Apologizing may make you look guilty or weak. 
  • Be willing to listen. Say what you need to and be quiet. Respond to questions and don't be afraid to admit that you don't have all the answers.
  • Give people time to reflect on information. Reconvene later when they have had time to process.
  • Check in periodically with your team to feel their pulse and let them know that you are available.
  • Communication frequently and relay the same message. Be consistent.
  • Don't deliver news and then act as if nothing has changed. In the minds of others, A LOT has changed and they are probably thinking about it constantly.
  • Encourage people to talk to one another. Whether news affects one person or a whole company, people need each other and need to communicate as a community.
  • Let people grieve individually or as a group. However, don't allow it to persist or it will spread negativity.
  • Offer solutions whenever possible. Offer timing for further communications and stick to it.
  • Take about next steps and what you see the future holding in a bright light - but be honest and don't embellish!
  • Remind people that problems, failures, negative situations help us to all grow and together we will all get thorough some tough times.

When you lead, no matter what your role, you are in the drivers seat and set the tone, pace, environment, and maybe even the outcome of delivering negative information. Put yourself in the place of the person on the other end and think about how you would want to hear information. I know that I want the truth up front and want to know my options and how I will be affected. I also want to know how my inner circle will be affected as well. After all, teams support each other!

What will you do to change how you deliver negative information going forward? How will you take the lead in controlling the "drainage"?

Dry creek bed to combat poor drainage

"When a tree falls it resounds with a thundering crash; and yet a whole forest grows in silence" - Jocelyn Murray

"Lab You"

"While you are experimenting, do not remain content with the surface of things" - Ivan Pavlov

Photo courtesy of JD Hancock via Compfight
I have always felt that none of us should ever be willing to settle or allow the little kid in us to completely grow up. We should be willing to try new things and jump out of the box that we have placed ourselves in. For some, it may take several baby steps. For others, jumping out is a regular event. Be open and always willing to experiment in the many facets of your life. Experiment on YOU!

I love trying new things and opening up my mind to new possibilities. It's keeps my brain wires twirling and prevents boredom. I particularly love trying novel things out in my garden. I've had a lot of fails and each one gives me a different perspective, chance to recalibrate, and ideas as to how to change my methods. My experiment a few years back  with Windmill Palm trees outside for a Michigan winter didn't end so well.They were too much work because I had to wrap and protect them. The season end crispness on the fronds just wasn't a selling point to keep them. On the other hand, my cactus garden thrives and I continue to experiment with new varieties. You win some and lose some (literally in my case).

Experimenting is how we grow and become better humans. Failing enables us to learn and make new discoveries. This past weekend I decided to set up a little outdoor lab of sorts. I want to have a specific area in my yard where I can try out new plants or techniques, but have some more control over the environment. We have a septic drain field in our lawn where I can't plant anything. The dirt is fairly sandy so the grass bakes quite well in the sun and it produces great colonies of grubs for the moles. My "lab" consists of 3 large metal fire rings in an area over the drain field filled with rich soil. It will be a perfect spot for growing new species from seed or as a "nursery" for young plants. The raised beds will allow earlier planting, reduce weeds, and the moles will have a tough time tunneling in my plants. Adorned with annuals around it, I know that it will become an art piece in the yard.

This weekend I was very excited when my "lab" was born and I already have plans for next Spring. It will be fun to try unusual plants, learn new things, and challenge my existing ways of gardening. To top it all off, the area offers an aesthetic look to my garden rather than just plopping some plants in an area of ground. It will be fun to grow and stretch my personal limits.

"I'm still experimenting" - Stevie Wonder

Are you experimenting with ways to enlighten yourself or tap your toes out testing new waters? Have you set up a "Lab You" to help yourself grow and challenge who you are? Do you tend to try new ways of working or leading others? What goals have you set for yourself to try something new or work on one of your weaknesses? Are you open to experimenting? Growing? Perhaps it's time! Time to set up "your" lab to grow and experiment on "you".

Setting up your "Lab You":

  • Take a class in an area that you never thought of - Art? Coding? Dance?
  • Learn a new language - use it with your bilingual folks and ask for their help.
  • Pick a new habit and stick with it for 21 days. No excuses to stop. Perhaps just waking up 15 minutes early and trying yoga every day.
  • Emulate one trait of a leader that you admire for 3 months. See what happens!
  • Ask your team for ideas on one way that you can be a better leader. Try what they chirp up with even if it's uncomfortable.
  • Job shadow one of your people to learn what their day is like- Let them in on what you are doing!
  • Look at your past reviews. Pick out one key painful weakness that you have ignored and experiment o improve.
  • Read at least one book every week that you would never have picked up before. Guys? Try a romance novel. Ladies? How about some Sci Fi or a Western?
  •  Stop planning so much or letting others schedule you. Experiment.
  • Take a brain training seminar, there are so many new options out there.
  • Pick the one thing that scares you and just do it! I don't enjoy networking, but I have been forcing myself and actually enjoy it more.
  • Be patient - embrace failure. It's healthy for you.
  • Crap happens. Take it in, spit it out, and move on.

There is only one "you" and you have but one crack at life. You need to be president of  YOU and only you can take control of personal growth. This may indeed require a bit of experimentation. 

 When will you set up your own "Lab You" and what will be your first steps? I would love to hear from you! Good luck and happy experimenting!

Next Spring this lab will be lush with growth and surrounded with annuals

Dig In And Be Ready For Opportunities!

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work" - Thomas A. Edison

Opportunity - "A favorable juncture of circumstances" - Merriam-Webster. I love this word. It brings up an array of positive and powerful thoughts. Unfortunately, so many of us are oblivious to the many opportunities that are presented to us daily. We are so busy and over focused on the next thing that we need to do or where we have to be next. We need to learn how to slow down and open our eyes to what is in front of us, and what can be. It's not that hard to do!

Living in the country means that we have a well and septic system. Living with 4 boys means that we need to have it cleaned out every 3 years. Or else. This is the year for our cleaning so my husband sent out my son to dig two holes down about 2-3 feet to expose the tank doors. Simple. Dig the holes and call the septic company. Not so fast. He told him to dig one hole in the wrong place so we now have 3 holes, and piles of dirt on the "good" grass. That was in June! Fast forward to this week when the septic company was called to come out to do their "duty". I now have holes and 3 foot piles of dirt strewn all along on the side of the house. The entire north side of the house is a sad site. I hate planting grass seed and babying it along. The moles seem to enjoy the process though......

As I stood looking at the mess earlier this week (the picture is a small portion and the better looking portion of the devastation) I had a lightning bolt moment. O-P-P-O-R-T-U-N-I-T-Y !!!! Grasp it now! Forget the grass! It's a great spot for a new garden! Mark where the septic tank doors are, cover it up, and plant away! Once the husband rolled his eyes , I knew that it was a done deal! I have a whole lotta work ahead of me! When opportunity knocks? See it, taste it, take it!

Life frequently drops surprises in our laps when we least expect it. We can choose to make the best out of those gifts or wallow in self pity. Often what seems to be a negative thing is indeed an opportunity. We just need to change our view. The same can be said for leadership opportunities. When they pop up, many of us weren't looking for them, didn't want them, or maybe missed seeing them. Remember, you don't need a title or huge paycheck to be a leader.

You can't predict what life will bring, but you can be ready to jump up and grasp an opportunity....

  • Decide today what kind of leader you want to be. How involved? How public?
  • Start small. Find ways to lead by learning your style and temperament.
  • Get that intuition revved up every day. Train yourself to look for patterns, trends, opportunities.
  • Develop patience. Opportunity seeks out the patient ones.
  • Push fear aside and out of your vocabulary.
  • Live with an open mind. Be open to new ideas, opinions, and judge less.
  • Master the bad into good in every way possible. Ignoring the bad may mean missing a life opportunity.
  • Don't let the regret bug bite you. You can't regret what you don't try.
  • Invest in relationships, form a network. You may need the support when opportunity comes a knocking!
  • Be social. Connect in person and online. Make yourself open to opportunity.
  • Become involved with volunteering or social groups to promote good. The skills that you use today may become opportunities tomorrow.
  • DARE to jump and grasp a gift thrown into your lap.

Be confident in yourself. Be open to new things. Grasp those OPPORTUNITIES when they present themselves. You just never know where they will take you!

Over the holiday weekend, I jumped on the opportunity to turn our "septic war zone" into a new garden. It was a lot of work carting away the dirt and pulling up a mammoth amount of grass. I can barely move and I think that my eyebrows are even sore.

It was well worth it! I now have a tranquil and serene shade garden in the midst of all of the hot blazing sun that the rest of the yard basks in. Once it fills in, it will be lush and colorful - a rare place to escape the heat. Next time the septic needs cleaning I have a fool proof plan. Each septic tank door 3 feet down has pavers arranged within the dimensions where the dirt needs to be removed. The stones just have to be moved and the dirt thrown on a tarp. No more septic war zones for me!

 Now how to stop my husband from running the lawn mower over my cactus garden......

To Lead With Or Without Tears?

"We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear" - Martin Luther King, Jr

Photo via Giovanni John Orlando from Compfight
Although Spring arrived this week, in many areas you would never know it! In Michigan, Detroit had more than 90 inches of snow and had 27 days below 0 degrees. Our Great Lakes had 92% ice coverage ( no small lake - 94,250 sq miles). Too many cold records were set and at some point all that snow and ice will melt. The time has come and the Southern Great Lakes are expected to experience some heavy flooding. USA Today.

Unfortunately, floods may be a hot topic in many areas around the country this Spring. Spring rains have increased in the past decade except out West where they really need some rain.The unprecedented snow volume will melt - too quickly - and the water will flow out of bounds. In the Midwest we normally have thaws throughout the season to melt some of our snow. That didn't happen this Winter and we have 15 foot snow piles in some areas. Ice jams will be the biggest problem when everything melts at once. The snow has an unusually high water content in it this year and with soggy ground, it will have nowhere to go. In some areas the water is already a soaked sponge and the ground just can't keep up. Once the Spring rains hit, the flood threat will be amplified. Floods aren't just a threat to our homes and infrastructure. They can have long term effects on our ecosystem and food production. The tears of Spring can bring a flood of problems.
  • Well water can become contaminated and affected
  • Fields will flood and some crops planted last Fall will wash away (Winter Wheat, Hay)
  • Orchards may flood damaging fruit trees
  • Beneficial nutrients like Nitrogen will be washed away in the soil
  • Sandy soils will run like rivers collecting all in one area
  • Plants/shrubs/trees are already stressed by a rough winter and may be further weakened and die by heavy flooding
  • Tress with shallow roots will fall damaging homes and property
  • The lack of drainage in clay soils can be catastrophic
Flooding can happen so unexpectedly. We may not have time to plan or react in the way that we hope to. We have floods in business too - TEARS...........They creep up on us or flow out of nowhere. Often, too many of us don't know how to handle our own tears or those of our teams. Tears make everyone uncomfortable. How do YOU feel about tears?

In her book "Bossypants" Tina Fey said that "Some people say 'never let them see you cry', I say if you're so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone". For the most part I think people feel that tears are a sign of weakness or a form of manipulation. Not so fast. I hope that times are finally changing as we enter the age of "Emotional IQ" and we want our leaders to be more human while connecting through emotions. We want our teams to do the same. Tears are what make us human and help us to connect. They have their place as long as they are genuine and shown in an appropriate situation NOT being used to get our own way.

Years ago I the small company that I worked for was bought out. It was an ugly merger from our side. Over 100 people were losing their jobs including one of our senior leaders. I will never forget the day that he was talking to a few of us about the merger. He had tears in his eyes as he talked about all the opportunities for us that were ahead and the growth that we would be a part of. His emotion was raw and his tears were a strength. Although he was losing his job, he was concerned for us and genuinely pleased that we had jobs and some great opportunities ahead. Those were tears of strength and true emotion. I admired him even more that day. His tears encouraged me to make the best of our situation and to make him proud.

I think that we are finally moving forward in business because leaders are finally acknowledging the existence of, and place for, Emotional IQ. We can't just shut off our emotions at 7:30 am when we arrive at work only to turn them back on when we arrive home. We are  human and shouldn't have shame in showing our emotions. Tears, grief, frustration, happiness,and joy make us who we are. We want to work with people who care and share their emotions. We want people to understand us and to empathize.

Grow your leadership through your emotions
  • Don't fear opening up. Let people see and experience your feelings. Use the words "I feel"
  • Tears make you human. Be who you are. Don't be so scared of what others think of you
  • Tears aren't a sign of weakness - they allow us to be candid and authentic
  • Work on being comfortable with emotion. Rely on emotional strength and control
  • Study some of our greatest leaders. They lead with strength and emotion. They self regulate and know how to connect with others on an emotional level
  • Showing authentic emotions validates that you are approachable
  • People will drop everything and follow a leader who understand them and has conviction
  • Emotions say far more than words
  • What's so horrible about letting your guard down once in awhile? Your people know that you aren't always in control. Be real and acknowledge it!
  • Bring your entire self to work and don't hide behind a fake or emotionless face
  • Natural tears have their place. Tears show that it's OK for your teams to show emotion
  • Tears help open dialogue and show who we are and what we care about
  • Tears can help reinforce peer relationships  and strengthen bonds
  • Tears may bring issues up to the surface and issues can be addressed

Now, obviously we don't all want to walk around with our heart on our sleeves and bawling at every little thing. What I am saying is that tears can have their place in our work lives. I'm also vehemently encouraging both men AND women to be authentic in sharing emotion through leadership. Some male leaders refuse to show their true emotions for fear of being "weak". Some female leaders go to the opposite extreme with their emotions and are labeled a "cold bitch". What I am advocating is that we act like what we are - human. Be authentic. Share your true emotions. Don't pretend that you don't care or aren't fully and emotionally engaged. You will push people away. You won't form true and strong relationships. People follow people who are like them or those that they look up to. You are human. Show it.

I have been encouraged in the past few years with more leaders showing their emotions and tears. Some politicians and business leaders have been very forthright with their emotions and I admire them. John Boehner cried after winning. Some of our past presidents have cried. The Pope has cried. I just saw Jimmy Carter with tears this morning talking about making a difference. Are they faking it? Probably not. It's a risk showing your emotions and a gamble more of us need to make.

Are you willing to be human and risk leading with tears once in awhile?

Photo courtesy of Franco Folini via Compfight