Leadership Management Change

Guest Post from Ken Blanchard


Servant leadership has been around for decades, however, for many it is just becoming mainstream. It's leadership that focuses serving people not standing on a pedestal asking to be served. I'm please to host a guest post from Ken Blanchard who just happens to know a thing or two about leadership! Enjoy.

Servant Leadership: A Model for Leading in Today’s World

By Ken Blanchard

When I first began to teach managers back in the late 1960s, I met Bob Greenleaf, who was just retiring as a top AT&T executive. Bob talked about servant leadership—the concept that effective leaders and managers need to serve their people, not be served by them. It was entirely new thinking then, and in many ways Bob is considered the father of that term.

Today, it is much easier for people to see the importance and relevance of servant leadership. There seems to be general agreement that leaders have two basic roles in business: one of vision and the other of implementation.

In the visionary role, leaders are the definer of direction. They must communicate the mission, values and beliefs the organization aspires to for its people. They need to communicate what the organization stands for and how organizational values encompass the individual values of its members.

I once asked Max Dupree, who wrote a fabulous book entitled Leadership Is an Art, what he felt was the most important role of a leader. He compared the role to that of a third-grade teacher who keeps repeating the basics. "When it comes to vision and values, you have to say it over and over and over again until people get it right, right, right!"

Once people are clear on where they are going, an effective leader’s role switches to the task of implementation. How do you make the dream happen? This is where servant leadership comes into play. The traditional way of managing people is to direct, control and supervise their activities and to play the role of judge, critic and evaluator of their efforts. In a traditional organization, managers are thought of as responsible and their people are taught to be responsive to their boss.

We’re finding that kind of leadership isn’t as effective as it once was. Today when people see you as a judge and critic, they spend most of their time trying to please you rather than to accomplish the organization’s goals and move in the direction of the desired vision. "Boss watching" becomes a popular sport and people get promoted on their upward influencing skills. That role doesn’t do much for accomplishing a clear vision. All people try to do is protect themselves rather than to help move the organization in its desired direction.

The servant leader is constantly trying to find out what his or her people need to be successful. Rather than wanting them to please him or her, they are interested in making a difference in the lives of their people and, in the process, impacting the organization.

More about Ken Blanchard

Ken Blanchard is a best-selling business author with over 21 million books sold. His newest book, Servant Leadership in Action, is being released on March 6. Ken is also hosting a free Servant Leadership in Action Livecast on February 28 featuring more than 20 authors, CEOs, and thought leaders speaking on the topic.  Learn more here!


Women Need to Break a Few of Their Usual Rules - Jill Flynn


Women continue to drop out of the workforce in large numbers because of the barriers that we face. Unfortunately, we don't help ourselves any because we are often our own worst enemy. We need to collectively take back control of our careers and use our strengths to become the influential leaders that we really are deep inside. Here is a guest post from Jill Flynn one of the authors of the new book The Influence Effect. 

There is almost nothing more crucial to success in any organization than developing excellent leaders. It is a no-brainer. But, although there’s no shortage of ambitious people with executive aspirations, what threatens the strength of your leadership pipeline may be a scarcity of senior-level women.

You may have seen the stats: Women are entering the global labor force in greater numbers than ever before; they earn more undergraduate and graduate degrees than men in many countries; yet, just 13 of 500 CEOs running Fortune 500 Global companies are women. In addition, the gender wage gap across the world remains significant. Some of this can be attributed to the type of age-old gender stereotypes and traditions that take generations to eliminate. But there are other culprits to consider—ones that are within our control to address right now that will significantly strengthen women’s chances of rising to the top of organizations.

Over the past decade, my colleagues and I have coached and trained over 7,000 professional women, traveled across the globe and to Africa to speak with women, and interviewed over 3,200 senior executives to find out how they believe women can be more successful. What we’ve found is that for women in middle management, and particularly those approaching the top, continued career momentum is not about adding technical skills. Many women are taught as children to behave in certain ways that don’t help them succeed as executives. What women need to do in order to succeed at higher levels in global business is to think differently.

The New Rules

In essence, we’ve found that women need to rethink the conversations they are having in their heads and tell themselves a new story. They need to challenge some of their outdated expectations and attitudes about themselves and the workplace. These are the rules women need to break:

1. Take Center Stage (Instead of focusing on others):  Many of the smartest women around the conference table focus too much of their attention on other people’s needs. They are assisting others, pitching-in and volunteering to pick-up other people’s slack. This leaves precious little time and energy to allow themselves to thrive professionally and personally. The instinct to put others first can work against women by keeping them from focusing on their own career goals.  The result is that too many women let their careers “happen to them” rather than putting themselves in the driver’s seat. We tell women to invest in themselves and have a written plan for their career. Women who have a clear vision for what they want to achieve are much more likely to own their ambition and work in ways that allow them to succeed.

2. Proceed Until Apprehended (Instead of seeking approval): In our coaching sessions we’ve worked with countless women executives who are exceptionally collaborative leaders. They like to be liked, but the desire for consensus can slow them down. In order to succeed, women need to retain that core strength of collaboration while at the same time acting creatively and decisively to make things happen. They need to stop “asking for permission” and instead demonstrate behaviors that exhibit leadership. In terms of career success, we tell women that remaining silently behind the scenes is much riskier than putting forward bold ideas and proactively campaigning for the big assignments.

3. Project Personal Power (Instead of modesty): We’ve found that many women who are motivated to move into leadership positions are ambivalent about projecting power. Modesty and self-deprecation come more naturally. In fact, some women act downright apologetic in the face of success—as if it doesn’t suit them or they don’t deserve it. To exude confidence and power, women need to pay attention to their non-verbal messaging. Stance, eye contact, tone of voice, and facial expressions all send a message to others about confidence. In addition, women need to take credit for their many ideas and accomplishments. Taking credit for their success and being assertive will help women move more quickly into the jobs they want.

4. Be Politically Savvy (Instead of working harder): Many women are disappointed when their hard work and long hours don’t seem to pay-off in terms of career advancement. They dislike politics and try to remain above the fray. Yet, being politically savvy is actually about building relationships, achieving consensus and networking—women are great at these things. We coach women to build their careers as if they are running for office: create a platform of ideas, line up sponsors, put together a coalition – and then do it over and over again as their agenda and goals change.

5. Play to Win  (Instead of playing it safe): We hear in our interviews with senior executives that women need to get out of their comfort zones, be bold and take risks. Women can make themselves visible in this way by taking the lead on high-stakes projects and bringing in new business. Putting themselves out there means getting comfortable with risk and the possibility of failure. It may seem safer to let someone at a higher pay grade take the risks, but it is the major decisions that offer women the best opportunities to establish their credibility as leaders.

6. Have a Both/And Perspective (Instead of all-or-nothing thinking):  One phrase that has crept into dozens of our coaching files over the years is the notion of having it all. It’s no coincidence that many of the women who are trying to have it all are also the ones who get burned out. There’s no one right way to succeed, but avoiding black and white thinking – and remaining flexible – can help women establish leadership credibility. Because complexity and constant change are everywhere today, dealing with ambiguity has become skill that all of us (not only women) need to master.

As these new rules illustrate, we’ve found that most high-performing women don’t need to make major changes in order to give themselves a better chance to succeed. Small adjustments in how they think about themselves can have a big impact on their everyday behaviors and lead to visibility and continued career momentum. And that outcome will be good for everyone.

From a bottom line perspective, paving the way for more women at the highest levels in leadership is a net positive for business. Women are natural consensus builders and collaborators, so they are well suited for the nimble, less hierarchical workplace of the future. And research proves that companies with more women leaders have a higher return on equity and a better return on sales. There’s no doubt about it: when women get ahead it is good for business.

About Jill Flynn

Jill Flynn is a founding partner at FHHL and a co-author of Break Your Own Rules and her latest co-authored book, The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders. Jill previously served as Senior Vice President at the nation’s fourth largest bank, First Union (now Wells Fargo), where she established their leadership development, diversity, organizational consulting and employee satisfaction initiatives. As the corporation grew exponentially during her tenure, Jill and her team prepared a cadre of high-potential leaders to assume senior positions. Within a three-year timeframe, the number of women in these roles increased from 9% to 26%.


Get Busting!

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are You "Rooting" For The Underdog?

"If there's one cultural quality we have, it's that we always see ourselves as an underdog" - Bill Gates

Photo courtesy of Powerhouse Museum via Compfight

How many of you have ever had a "runt" of some kind? When I was young, we had a little poodle puppy named Inky that was literally the "runt" of the litter. She was so tiny and rather pathetic looking compared to her siblings. She wobbled and was shy. She couldn't keep up with the litter, but it was the runt in her that attracted us. She was tiny, helpless, but she had so much potential and we could see the determination in her eyes. It was like she willed us to choose her. Inky grew up into a strong full sized dog and lived life to the end. She was well worth "rooting" for.

As Americans, we have a tendency of cheering for the little guy to win. We love to hear stories about people who came to this country and achieved success. Likewise, we love to hear when people overcome an immense hardship and persevere despite insurmountable obstacles. It's just our way. On the outside "runts' may not look like much, but inside? There's a strong determined will to succeed and make a mark in the world. I bet that you know someone like this!

In the plant world I liken the Charlie Brown Christmas tree to one of the underdogs. It was small in size but had a huge impact. Magical. Fall is a great time to find plants at fire sale prices. Growers need to move everything out. Often, sale plants can look pretty pathetic this time of year. They have been sitting outside in some fairly nasty weather and show it. They are the "forgotten" at this time of year.  It's not what's on top that is important when you look at some of these plants, it's what's underneath.

There are some clear advantages to buying Charlie Brown plants right now. Forget how they look - imagine what they can be. They have more potential than bigger, showy plants!

The advantages of underdogs:
  • Smaller root systems mean  healthier growth when they get in the ground.
  • Underdogs will experience less transplant shock. They will settle in more easily.
  • Budding or flowering plants have more shock than a twig with healthy roots. The little guy can concentrate on internal growth rather than preserving flowers.
  • They are cheaper! 
  • Little = easier to plant.
  • Some little plants are often more rare and harder to find. For instance, many trees are grafted and therefore grow slower but are worth more in so many ways.
  • A bigger canopy on a shrub or tree means  more stress and potentially more damage after it's planted.
  • If you want to train and nurture a plant for a space it's easier when it's young, smaller, and pliable. I love to train my weeping conifers into artistic forms, but they have to be young to work with.

In short? I would rather grow and coax a smaller runt than a larger establish plant. It's more flexible and gives me a lot more satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment!

People really are a lot like plants. As a leader it makes more sense to "root" for the underdog on your team. Trust me, it's well worth the adventure and can be the most satisfying experience of your life.

As a manager, one of my passions is looking for the gifts in people and bringing them to light. I love seeing someone find their strength and surprise others by giving the performance of their life. Often the perceived "underdog" will become your top performer and have the most immense impact. The lesson? Look for your underdogs and root for them with all that you have!

Rooting for the "little guy" grows your people, your team, and YOU!

  • Again, rooting for the little guy is our American way. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and become a success.
  • Developing others allows you to develop your own talent and help them mesh with your various teams.
  • Underdogs want to grow and develop. Give them a change to have a more vested interest in your group.
  • Developing others is a gift and becomes a true mission in life. Personally, it's one of the most rewarding things that you can do.
  • The underdogs are our future. Don't leave it to someone else to shape the future and grow new leaders.
  • Mentor and introduce your little guys to various groups within your company and upper leaders. Give them exposure and encourage them to become more involved.
  • Expose people to newer projects and ideas. Little guys may need more coaxing and mentoring.
  • Offer more training and learning opportunities. Invest in people.
  • Give everyone room to make mistakes, grow, and learn. Underdogs may need more space to feel comfortable spreading their wings.
  • Make it your mission to become known for "rooting" for your people. You will be amazed at the talent that will want to work for and with you.
  • Remember the roots from which you came and give someone else a chance to grow.
Get your head out of the dirt and grow your own roots. Your leadership will impact those around you and help "grow" the underdogs. Do you know who will really grow the most? YOU! Get out there and get growing!

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!

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

Got Transplant Shock?

Photo Courtesy of davidwhitedesigns via Compfight
"Grow Where You Are Planted"?

Gardening is a lot like life. You get tossed a few curve balls at the most unexpected times. Just when your garden is rolling along flourishing and throwing out color, it throws you a surprise. It's in the dead of the heat during the summer and you need to move a few plants or a tree. Even a novice gardener knows that moving plants is nuts in 90 degrees but it can't be avoided. Time to slip out an  get moving. The question is "Will it grow where it's planted next?"

There are numerous reasons that you may need to move plants or trees in August. Crazy gardeners like myself may have an epiphany to suddenly move a plant because I have  a new design in mind, a plant is overwhelming it's neighbors, or I have a new plant I want in it's plant. Out I go with my shovel. Most people only move plants when they need to. A prime example is when someone is moving to a new house and they want to bring some prized plants or trees with them. In this case, you just can't wait. Plants can be moved with a little prep and tender care.

Plants and trees will not appreciate being moved when the sun is intense, the heat is wet, and they will be "naked" for a bit with their roots exposed. They are flourishing where they are and up you pop with a shovel (or two!) and a few buddies to dig them up and turn their world upside down - sometimes literally. If they could talk they may ask you "Will I really grow where I am replanted?"

Here's some tips to help pave the way for your new plants and trees to adjust to their new home and grow:
  • Water the plant really well the day before the big move. Soak tree root balls generously.
  • Aim to make the move on an overcast or late day time frame.
  • Remove 1/3 of the plant stems to help prevent shock. Do not prune trees.
  • Trees have "drip lines". This is where the canopy of the tree grows out horizontally. The tree roots will extend this far and it's where you should try and dig around the tree to get as many roots as possible.
  • Make clean sharp cuts around the root ball of the plant or tree. Avoid ripping out the roots.
  • Aim to keep the root ball as large and intact as possible to protect the roots.
  • Move your jewel into it's new pre-dug hole immediately and partially fill with water.
  • Cover the plants with soil, mulch, and water well.
  • Shade the plant for at least 3-5 days. Depending on the size of the plant or tree, cover with an umbrella or tarp to keep it shaded so that it can recover.
  • DO NOT fertilize the plant after moving. It's not established enough to take up the nutrients and you may kill it.
  • Water the plant every day for a few weeks.
  • Don't be surprised if your plants or tress drop leaves. This is a survival mechanism and the plant will recover. Evergreens may develop brown tips which is normal.
  • If you are moving plants to a new home, place them in plastic bags so that only their roots are covered. Keep them in the shade and keep the roots moist.
  • Set us a shaded temporary nursery at your new home and "heel" the plants in until you are ready to plant. Heeling plants in means placing hem in temporary holes similar to what you see in nurseries. Keep them shaded and well watered. Try and protect them from wind on their trip to your house and in their nursery.
Don't be surprised if your plants and trees look, well, sick for awhile. They have experienced a huge shock and need time to adjust to their new home before they can begin growing. Give them continuous care and nurture them and you will be well rewarded! This change for them came out of nowhere in the dead of summer and they have a road of recovery ahead!

Have you ever had transplant shock?

Photo Courtesy of t3mujin via Compfight

"People are disturbed not by a thing, but by their perception of a thing" - Epictetus

We've all had an unexpected shock of some type in our lives. Perhaps when we look back we may have seen signs or had some intuition. Something happens in our lives and we are thrown upside down for a time. The best part of life's little surprises? We grow, we learn, and we become only stronger as we move on. A few weeks  ago I felt like a soon to be transplanted tree in my garden. I learned that my company will be merging. Our tranquil "garden" at work will become part of a larger flourishing landscape. You know what? Once planted, we will all begin to grow and become part of something better. The key is surviving the "transplant shock" and remaining open and positive!
Humans generally hate change. It's new, it can be scary, and we like to feel in control. Like trees, we don't want to moved and are stubborn to grow in our new spot.

Let Your Creativity Lead you!


"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things" - Steve Jobs

One of my favorite things to learn more about is the power of creativity. Creativity is the core of new ideas, inventions, artistic careers, openness, and happiness. I love to try and keep the creativity spark alive in my boys and I shutter at how both schools and society shun "dreamers". We are all creative, we just have to open ourselves up to what is around us and allow what we see, touch, hear, and smell to create new ideas and thoughts. Yes, even YOU are creative. It's hogwash that there are people out there without a creative bone in their body You just need to seek it out a bit harder.

Last week I talked about "repurposing" junk into garden art and people whom we can create anew with a fresh look. What they both have in common is the fact that it takes some creativity and a fresh way of looking at things to bring new life to either one. A garden is a fresh palate from which we can personalize and transfer our dreams onto. The same applies to us as people. We are unique slates that are open to evolving and taking on new colors.

Gardening and arts of different genres are a great way to discover and expand your creativity. It means taking snippets of things that you have seen and heard and putting them together in a unique way. Even if you love and excel at fixing things, building engines, or computing, you ARE using your creativity. You don't need to be a painter or sculptor in order to be an "artist" or creative. I consider myself pretty high on the creativity meter because I risk placing different colors, textures, and different plants together. I'm willing to build a wacky piece of garden art out of junk. I would love to get my hands on a life size mannequin because I have some unique ideas that I could build a garden around with it.

Creativity is what you want and feel is truly "creative", not others. It's what makes you an individual and builds your unique gifts. Sharing your creativity can be a bit more tricky. You need to have conviction, yet be open to other ideas or to tweaking your suggestions. If we keep our creativity bottled up and stay with the status quo, we would never have any of the technology or breakthroughs that happen every day at today's immense pace. Pick a hobby or something that you are passionate about and open your mind and eyes to what you can do differently. Take risks, be bold, and be willing to take a stab at changing the world.

Creatives are abound in all business sectors and companies, large and small. The key is that some industries and companies are more open to new ideas and encourage creativity and collaboration for growth and innovation. People tend to grow and enjoy their work more when they feel valued and encouraged to share their ideas. They thrive and feel a part of something bigger than them. We all want to feel like we are making a difference and that someone cares what we think and accepts what we can offer. Is your company a "Creatives" focused company? If not - find one that is or be active in changing the norms.

Photo Courtesy of Cayusa via Compfight.com

 Even if you aren't a leader in title where you work, you can still be an influencer and  have an impact. There are a lot of things that you or your team can do to encourage creativity and the open sharing of ideas. Here are some suggestions:

  • Search out new opportunities, experiences, and see things with a different perspective
  • Challenge yourself by setting higher personal goals, brainstorm more, and really focus on developing new ideas
  • Hang out with a different crowd of people. You will be surprised what you learn! You become who you are with
  • Find a department or manager that truly appreciates your efforts and sees failures as lessons
  • Look beyond what something is and imagine what it could be
  • Read read read read read!
  • Redefine problems in a new way or try to solve them backwards
  • Experience everything new in life that you can. You will trigger new connections in your brain and open up your mind
  • Look for new patterns, try to reinvent the status quo or envision it in a new view
  • Don't try to be someone else or turn your team into a group mini "You's"
  • Ask a lot of questions all the time. Don't be afraid of looking stupid. You want to learn and understand all that you can
  • See if you can be given some resources to focus on ideas outside of your realm at work. Great companies encourage pet projects and have seen some unique innovations
  • Be you. Love you. Grow you!

I'm so excited to see that companies are finally seeing the value of encouraging creativity and innovation in their people. In many companies , the value of creativity is ranked higher than intelligence, a global mindset, and experience.

How can you breath some creativity into your career or those that you lead?

Hey! Thaw Out Your Style!

"A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water" - Carl Reiner

Spring is officially 5 days away but you would never know it! Across the country there is a roller coaster of temperatures and a flux between snow flakes and rain. In many cities, the dress code is shorts one day and earmuffs the next. It's a constant  tease of things to come. We can almost smell, taste, and see Spring but we are tortured by the frost and snow that continues to nip away....
The dirty cycle of freezing and thaw
The beauty of consistency!



Where I live, I have never seen snowbanks piled so high and in so many contorted shapes. It could be May before the 15 foot high snow piles are mere puddles. I planted some new 3-4 foot weeping pines last Fall and I can't find them under the snow! The picture above in the left is what I see every morning when I leave for work. I hope that there are trees under there! I'm curious to see what they look like when the snow washes away. The picture on the upper right is a summer view - frost and snow free! I yearn for those days.....
This has been a rough winter on all of us. Extraordinarily low temps may bring some big surprises when Spring whisks away the snow. Some more volatile days are ahead as temperatures move 30-40 degrees within a 12 hour period. In milder areas, the damage to plants and crops will be more of an issue as vegetation tends to come out of dormancy more quickly and can succumb just as quickly. Depending on the temps, water inside emerging plants can freeze and plant cells burst. Some plants can take it, others plummet to death.The inconsistency of Spring is  tougher on plants then us.
Plants are a lot like people. They are unique and each have their strengths and weaknesses. They all have a particular purpose or use. Some are strong, some not so much. When the snow does have a chance to melt, we are faced with 3 types of frosts to contend with. Todays Homeowner
  1. Hoar Frost: This is a rather light and "feathery" frost that so many of us see on chilly days. There is an abundance of water in the air that turns into ice crystals. It may be 28 degrees for a few hours and only real tender plants will be damaged.
  2. Rime Frost: Water is deposited onto plants from the dew and it freezes. Plants have a glazed or wet look in the glistening sun. Rime frost is more harsh then Hoar frost and may kill some blossoms and foliage.
  3. Black Frost: You guessed it. Black frost isn't good and plants are blackened. It will kill tender plants. The water is sucked right out of the plant and it isn't pretty!
You can't win against Mother Nature and most of us have no choice but to stay along for the ride. For farmers and growers the inconsistency and dips can be stressful and directly hit their pocketbook. We all pray for the best and hope the ride slows!
Working for someone that seems to be in a constant frost and thaw cycle takes it's toll. We become like plants in the path of destruction! 
A few years back I worked for a boss that was like a cold Spring storm. Her management style was inconsistent and I never knew what was coming from one day to the next. Her micromanaging was smothering us all to the point where we braced ourselves for the next frost. She would ask for a project one way and the next week the work was all wrong. She would nod in agreement in meetings but turned around and chastised one of us afterwards. She favored those that agreed with her and worshipped her every word. Not so with the rest of us. It made for a difficult and unhappy culture. people either went along with everything she said, shut down, or left. It was ugly. We just never knew what the "temperature" would be from day to day.
Don't be that leader that freezes and thaws day by day!
We have all heard that "people are our best asset". Too bad so many companies are just mouthpieces and don't really believe in the investment and power of people. Many times I have been a part of an organization that says one thing, but does a complete 360 in action. Too many companies allow toxic leaders to continue to "lead" even though the culture is slowly being frozen to the ground by their behavior and actions. Don't passively plant yourself in the ground and let it happen.
How "leaders" can be a breath of cold frigid blast.....freezing everything in their path:
  • They seem to thrive on destroying employee trust with inconsistent behaviors.
  • They ignore the direction that the team has been successfully moving along.
  • They nod their head in meetings in agreement but privately attack ideas, plans, projects.
  • They spend more time stewing, criticizing, and complaining.
  • They act like their opinion is the only one that matters and act difficult when things don't go their way.
  • They are emotional time bombs. People tip toe around them trying to avoid the frost.
  • They are ethically inconsistent. They will use anyone as their scapegoat.
  • They are "change" junkies. They love to stir things up because it "keeps" people on their toes.
  • They preach accountability but don't practise what they preach.
  • They love to favor those that are like them.
  • They praise one hour and criticize the next.
  • Their team is the "best" and then the worse in the organization (when things fall apart).
  • They are proactive and excited about new projects or initiatives and quickly lose steam. Their negativity "kills" morale.
Sound familiar? I hope not! Unfortunately, I'm sure that you see a "leader" like this somewhere in the mix at your company. If it's you - look in the mirror and do a 360! My experience has been that this type of manager won't change. They refuse to recognize how their temperature damages the team. They always think that it's "other" people that are the problem - not them. Even more disturbing is when companies allow these "leaders" to remain in place.This is sadly often the case. Either no one sees it or upper management refuses to rock the boat and make changes. For the rest of us that means either staying frozen in place or moving on to warmer pastures.
How was your last frost cycle and how did you survive?
Photo courtesy of Marko via Compfight