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!


Are You Crowding Out Your Team?

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some more ways that managers crowd out their people

·         Leaders may avoid challenging folks with new projects or opportunities

·         Neglect to offer vital resources or equipment

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

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

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

·         Neglect employee opinions and input

·         Refuse to listen to alternative options or points of view

·         Undermine employees to save face with other departments

·         Leaders who take credit for the achievements of their employees

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

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

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

Are you ready to give your people space?


Photo courtesy of Vlado at

A Halloween Leadership Challenge

Photo courtesy of Danny Chapman via

Happy Halloween! I’m not going to lie. Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday of the year. It even beats Christmas which is too busy, too hyped, and it drags on for months and months. Here in the Midwest the weather this time of year is relatively palatable and trick or treating is a great excuse to take a nice long night stroll.

I have fond memories of trick or treating from when I was young. I’m particularly proud of how cool I thought I was when I scored a huge bag of candy and ran home to change into another costume so that I could go for a second round. It was always enchanting to mingle with the neighbors and see the neighborhood light up into a fantasy world for one magical night. I loved being someone else for a few hours!

As an adult I love watching my kids enjoying the same adventures that I did. I enjoy combing through their candy and picking out my favorite chocolates. I always tell them to bring me back all the chocolate and Twizzlers that they can. Please don’t give them apples or healthy stuff in the pumpkin bag. I don’t like to eat those on Halloween! I will also admit what so many of you are thinking – it’s fun to look into people’s homes on Halloween when they answer the door to ghouls and princesses. Come on…..

My kids have always dreamed far in advance about what they want to be on October 31st. With 4 boys the planning certainly saved last minute panic and money. Thinking ahead about who they want to be has always been an interesting experience to watch as they toss out ideas, sketch pictures accenting details, and spending countless hours researching on the internet. I’ve relished hearing why they want to be a particular character and watching them act the part. For our family, Halloween has been about using our imaginations and putting ourselves into the shoes of someone else for one magical night.

This Halloween season I have a challenge for you. Consider it a leadership growth opportunity. One day a week for the next month pretend that it is Halloween. That’s right. Now, you don’t need to dress up unless you really want to but prepared for strange looks. For just one day place yourself into the shoes of someone else that you lead or work with. Become this person as they go about their day, manage teams, fight fires, and handle difficult clients. Learn what your people really do and how they feel as they go about their day. What challenges do they face? What frustrates them? What obstacles are in their way? How is the culture that they work in? What works for them and do they seem to enjoy their role? The questions are endless as you “trick or treat” in the shoes of another for a day.

Are you ready to up your leadership for the next month by pretending to be one of your staff for a day and utilize a “trick or treat” form of leadership? I would love to hear the results.

Feel That Sting?

“To me there is nothing more soothing than the song of a mosquito that can’t get through the mesh to bite you” – Madison Smartt Bell

The Labor Day holiday was incredible this past weekend in the Midwest with plenty of blue sky and sunshine. I was in my garden in the afternoon heat enjoying the fragrance and color when I felt an unexpected stabbing pain. You guessed it; the mosquitoes were in full force which was unusual during the day in my yard. They usually lurk safely in the shade. Ouch! By the time I felt the attack it was far too late – I had been stung!

If there is one bug that we all hate it’s the mosquito. Zika and West Nile cases are on the rise and leaders around the world are stepping up efforts to eradicate these nuisances. Despite the fact that they are pollinators, they have minimal residual value in nature. Mosquitoes are stealth, sneaky, and take no prisoners. They can ruin any outing and make some people puff up from allergic reactions – or worse. I have seen firsthand the ravages of mosquito born diseases. I have a friend that suffered with odd symptoms for years and it took 3 years before a specialist finally diagnosed her with West Nile Virus. Sadly, there is no cure, just symptom management.

Our mosquito explosion was the result of a very hot dry summer. Mosquito eggs and larva have been laying low waiting for some heavy rain so they could jump to life. That happened about two weeks ago. The mosquitoes all hatched at once forming a vortex of attacking swirling nuisances. Mosquitoes are one of the sneakiest bugs around. Even if you are lucky enough to hear one coming, you often can’t tell where it’s coming from.

Unfortunately, we all work with some mosquitoes. Work mosquitoes may be friendly and gently hover in groups or meetings however, they will bite you as soon as you turn your back. Work mosquitoes use words to bite. They talk about you behind your back. They gossip endlessly. These feisty creatures complain to anyone that listens. They slyly sabotage the team’s work. They may steal your ideas or plant accusations. They buzz around dive bombing into conversations that they aren’t invited to. Worse yet? Like a mosquito bite, you never see the work mosquito in action until it’s too late and you feel the sting.

So what can you do to avoid being stung at work? Here are some suggestions

  • Unfortunately, you can’t swat and kill work mosquitoes. What you can do is listen and watch to try and identify the culprits in your group so that you can be on your guard.
  •  Don’t be reactive. You don’t wait to put on repellent until after you are bit by a mosquito. Be proactive in your work and relationships at work so that you don’t get bit. 
  • Turn the tables. Biters prefer to put the attention on you to put you on the defense or point out your faults. Put the spotlight back on the troublemaker which may neutralize their behavior and catch them off guard. 
  • Use humor and show that bites don’t bother you. Allow things to roll off your back so that the biter is disarmed and flies after someone else.
  • You may need to run into the swarm and confront someone who is biting behind your back or stinging the team. Sometimes calling someone out on their behavior is all that it takes. 
  • If you manage a team with biters on it you need to address it immediately. These types of people can destroy a team, impact productivity, and kill projects.  Effective leaders set boundaries and need to throw a net over the team for protection by asserting consequences to stop biting behavior. 
  • Lead by example and don’t get sucked into the vortex. Sometimes when we see someone “getting away” with a behavior we decide that we should just jump in and emulate that behavior or attitude. Take the high road and remain above the conflict. Set an example and sometimes you may just need to take a few stings before behavior changes. 
  • Remain calm. I admit that when I walk into a swarm of mosquitoes my first instant is to wave my arms and freak out a bit. That may temporarily keep them at bay however; all your motions and exhaling excessive CO2 will only make the biting worse. Keep calm and remain in control. Get away calmly. 

Just like with nature’s pesky mosquitoes there are ways to prevent being bit by a work mosquito. It takes some vigilance, strong character, and willingness to take a stand. Think of your actions and reactions as a worker mosquito repellent. They can be controlled and if anyone invents an actual work repellent – throw some this way!

Be A Bullfrog! Just Say No!

"I'm not a diva. I'm a tadpole trying to be a frog" - Toni Braxton

I detest winter. I hate the cold, dark, snowy days and especially the quiet. Everything is eerily asleep. Spring is my favorite time of year because everything bounces back to life and the sounds of nature linger in the air. We have a relaxing pond with multiple waterfalls that trickle all summer long intermingling with the sounds of bees, birds and big ole bullfrogs.

As I’m writing, I am sitting by my pond right now with three massive bullfrogs staring me down huddled amongst the rocks. I know that there are many more which is rather creepy as we check one another out. Their throaty croaks echo around the breezy air while a fish or two jumps in competition.

 Over the years I have learned that each frog has its own personality. Some jump at the slightest sound, others are friendly and even tolerating playing dress up. The picture below was the handiwork of my son.  Harris easily caught a bullfrog and the frog patiently waited while Harris made him a little hat and he actually sat on the table for some time enjoying his new wardrobe! His older brothers were more interested in eating frog legs as a snack. I quickly shut that idea down!

As with everything in my garden, I was curious to learn more about my bullfrogs and their throaty croaks that sound like a drawn out “nooooooo”.

Just who is the bullfrog?

·         Bullfrogs are big. They can be 4-6 inches long and weigh up to 1 pound. They are native to North America living in lakes, ponds, marshes, woods, and slow waters. Yes, they probably would be a good light snack!
·         Bullfrogs live a long life. They can live up to 10 years in the wild and 16 years in captivity. They are true survivalists.
·         They can be fierce and are natural predators. Surprisingly, they are part of a group of the 100 most invasive species in the world.
·         They do have enemies (other than teenage boys wanting to eat their legs).  Raccoons, snakes, turtles, and large birds love them.
·         They don’t care much who they eat and will actually eat their own. They eat fish, mollusks, small birds, and mammals. Hmmm. Maybe I should shoo them away from my fully stocked fish pond?
·         Bullfrog has a very powerful body with a huge head and mouth.  They are designed for jumping and quickly glide through the water.
·         From where I am sitting now I can see hundreds of tiny tadpoles along the edge of the pond.  Females can lay up to 20,000 eggs however, I am sure that my Koi enjoy eating a large population of them. Luckily these little guys tend to eat algae and aquatic plants. It’s when they drop their tails that I will need to be concerned!
·         American bullfrogs are usually more active at night when they begin their deep throated croaking. Mine tend to like to vocalize in the early morning as well. Their “noooooo” vocals are very loud and can make me jump. Their croaking can be heard over a half mile away and they are very loud this time of year during mating season.

Bullfrogs add a glorious baritone to the high pitch singing of the birds and droning of the bumblebees. Unfortunately, they can’t drone out the annoying buzzing of mosquitoes in the dark of the night. As I listen to the low “nooooo” I am reminded just how hard the word “no” is for most of us to say – or say it with meaning! American Bullfrog Facts

As any parent knows, saying “no” to a young child isn’t always easy especially when they look so sweet with pleading eyes. Over time though you may find that it’s the only word that leaves your lips and you find  it’s all too easy to say “no” before the child is even done talking. So why do so many of us have such a hard time saying “no” at work to our boss or team?  If we are able to pull the word out of our lips we may very likely sound just like our friend the bullfrog. Our “no” comes out as a deep throaty drawn out “noooooo” making it hard to understand or hardly convincing. Why is saying “no” so difficult?

“A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better that a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble” – Gandhi

Can you remember the last time that you offered up a flat out “no” at work to your boss or a colleague? Most of us don’t and if we do, it was uncomfortable wasn’t it? You may have had to pry the word from your lips and may have even drawn out the “no” just like the croak of the bullfrog. There are good reasons that we can’t say no very easy and I bet these will hit home:

·         Most of us hate to disappoint our team and we want to be seen as a “team player”.
·         We have a reputation to keep and we don’t want anyone to think that we can’t handle more responsibility.
·         Some of us are just too nice to say no. We want to be liked and a part of the group.
·         Some people take receiving the word “no” personally and most of us avoid hurting the feelings of others.
·         If you hate conflict you will avoid the two letter word at all cost!
·         Few of us like offending anyone and that’s  what it feels like when we say “no” to an “opportunity” when it’s presented to us.
·         There have been times when I have been flattered to be invited to work on another project when I probably should have spoke up and said “no” knowing all the work that I had on my plate already.
·          Let’s face it. Sometimes people catch us in a weak moment and we cave in and say “yes”.

I bet that there has been more than one time where you couldn’t say no and you committed yourself to more work. You quickly regretted it however; it’s tough to undo a “sure” with a “no thanks”.  In reality, you aren’t doing anyone a favor, including yourself, if you commit to something that you can’t give 100% to and may actually end up disappointing someone or your team with incomplete work.  One of my weaknesses is my over exuberant enthusiasm for new projects and opportunities. I say “yes” and jump into new projects without thinking of my current capacity for taking on more. I‘ve learned that I need to pause and step back to examine what else I can take on before opening my mouth.

You can say “no”! Just put your bullfrog lenses on and Say “NOOOOOOOOOO”!  Here are some tips to help you morph into “no”:

·         Stall by responding that you need to check your calendar and current projects. This gives you time to think the request over.
·         Accept that you owe it to yourself to protect your time and sanity. Be realistic about what you can take on.
·         Remember that there is a difference between pleasing everyone and helping out. You just can’t please everyone and the word “no” gives you an out.
·         Be true to yourself first as well as your own priorities and life commitments.
·         White lies aren’t always bad you know…..
·         Saying “no” to someone gives you the chance to say “yes” when you need to down the road.
·         You don’t want to become the person on the team that becomes known for always saying “yes” to everything.
·         Respond by saying that you can’t help out this time, but please check in again when help is needed.
·         Don’t allow yourself to become someone else’s dumping ground for work. Some people are very sneaky at spreading their work around to avoid doing it themselves.
·         Don’t feel guilty about saying “no”.
·         You can be a resource instead of taking on more work. You can also offer the name of a colleague that may be better equipped to help. Everyone wins this way.
·         Don’t make excuses and be honest with people why you can’t pitch in.
·         Practice saying “no” over and over in front of a mirror and become more comfortable with the word

Hopefully I’ve convinced you that it IS acceptable to say “NO”! Remember the bullfrog and feel free to croak the word out!

Do You Work With A Mushroom?

Advice from a mushroom -
Be down to earth
Keep a low profile
Know when to show up
Start from the ground up
Be a fun guy! -

My son has been digging for gold the past two weeks spending time in the woods searching for treasure and dragging his older brother along. We are fortunate to have acreage and there are rumors that there is treasure on the land going way back to the Indians. Sadly, the gold he is looking for is mushrooms! Morel mushrooms to be exact. Now, as a non-mushroom eater I just don’t get it. To me eating a mushroom is a little bit like eating a worm.

I never knew that Morel mushrooms are such a hot commodity. People search for them as if they are truly gold. They spend hours just to find a handful of pitted looking little creatures. Once enthusiasts find some Morels they keep the location secret and protect it with their life so that they can go back the next year. My boys trudged into the wet woods creeping around decaying trees and looking under debris for mushrooms. Their find was a handful of mushrooms which they promptly decided to dehydrate to eat later. I decided it was time to see what is so special about an unsightly mushroom.

We have shady woods, spring moisture, and a lot of decaying trees. I discovered that Morels often grow near particular trees such as Sycamore, Hickory, Ash, and Elm. In the Mid-West they pop up in the late spring seemingly overnight and love warmer air, wet soil, and they are heavily dependent on the right weather conditions. These ugly little buggers are indeed a fungus and spread by spores. In fact, my son collected his in a mesh bad so that as he walked the spores could still be released to grow future generations. Morels are such a find because they cannot be commercially grown. Only Mother Nature can successfully grow them and hence, gold! Morel Mushrooms

Surprisingly mushrooms are very interesting, um, plants. They are indeed fungi and can only reproduce by spores – trillions of them. They are simple looking with just a stem and cap however, they are actually rather self-sufficient. They aren’t greedy about needing sunlight like other plants and thrive in the deep shade or dark. They only ask for moisture and love rainy days. In fact, mushrooms are made up of about 90% water. As ugly as they are, mushrooms have a ton of vitamins and they even have their own specialized immune system. Mushrooms love dead stuff and they spring quickly from decomposing matter. You could almost think of them as plant zombies rising from underground.  Not all mushrooms are ugly little fungi; some have beautiful coloration, glow in the dark, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. I was surprised how firm and strong the Morel mushroom felt when I had the courage to handle one. Mushroom facts

After my own mushroom information hunt I will admit that I have a better appreciation for mushrooms. They are rather fascinating and I can see why looking for Morel mushrooms is a quest because of how scarce they are. My boys came back from the woods with about 20 Morels and you would think that they found gold coins. As I examined a fat Morel in my palm I smiled as I thought about a coworker that I worked with early on in my banking days.  Mary was a stout woman and was referred to as “the mushroom”. She liked to rule the office and didn’t realize just how the “spores” she threw out impacted everyone around her.

“If you treat your employees like mushrooms (keep them in the dark and regularly throw crap on them) it’s entirely likely that you will get precisely the work you deserve in return” – Seth Godin

I have had the pleasure of working with several different organizations and have been blessed with so many learning opportunities and experiences. Conversely, I have met some interesting and even toxic characters along the way. Whereas the Morel mushroom is a treasure, some of the “mushrooms” that you may have worked belong in the dark and hidden out of reach!

How to identify a mushroom in your midst

·         The shroom in the cubicle near you enjoys keeping everyone in the dark. No genuine team player here. This person is sneaky and navigates underground and behind the scenes to get her way.
·         Surprising, most of the mushroom is actually below the ground. The roots are deep and go unnoticed. Watch out for those with hidden “roots”. They have their own agenda.
·         Morels know that they are rare, the best, and a catch. Sadly, a Morel in the cube has the same thoughts.
·         Know someone who hoards information and keeps people out of his territory? He thrives on power and hides data under things.
·         Mushrooms thrive off the debris of others. Every office has that one person who loves to see others take the blame or relishes in the mistakes or failures of others. It gives them power.
·         Morels love moisture and it feeds their growth. Your tears and misery are food and give strength to the office mushroom.
·         Some mushrooms are toxic – literally. They are poisonous for others to be around and their bad attitude spits out like trillions of tiny spores. Stay clear!
·         Your office mushroom is always hard to find. No one is ever sure where she went or what she is doing and a search finds nothing.
·         Many mushrooms smell - your adversary smells of trouble. Walk away quickly!
·         Mushrooms like Morels grow quickly given the right environment. Your old buddy the mushroom grows big and ugly overnight. He rises out of nowhere with a clear purpose.

Hopefully you work in a bright and positive environment that fosters growth and team cohesiveness. It wouldn’t hurt every now and then to open your eyes and go on a slow walk around to see if there are any “mushrooms” thriving in your midst that could drag you under into the dark…….

All It Takes Is Patience

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

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

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

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

How gardening helps us grow and become a little more patient

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

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

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

Are you ready to get your patience on?

A Letter From Santa

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“Santa Claus is anyone who loves another and seeks to make them happy” – Edwin Osgood Grover

Happy holidays my friend,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy and happiness,


Are You The Turkey?

“If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get” – Frank A. Clark
Photo courtesy of Tuomas_Lehtinen via

It’s that time of year again when Americans overindulge on one single day more than they probably do any other time of the year. We also take more naps, watch a lot of football, and probably shop until we drop. Yup. It’s Thanksgiving! The holiday that turkeys hate with a passion….. 

Our colonial ancestors probably never imagined that their holiday would eventually revolve around a bird. A bird, by the way, that isn’t particularly attractive looking and looks rather menacing.  Have you really ever looked closely at a turkey? Even the name denotes something negative to us. Merriam-Webster identifies a turkey as “A stupid, foolish, inept person”. Hmmm. Remind you of anyone that you know or maybe even work with?  
In honor of Thanksgiving and the almighty turkey that you will be munching on this week, I’m sharing some turkey facts. Not only am I sharing two legged facts but turkey facts about someone that you may work with.
Are You The Turkey?
Turkey Dinner Tidbits
Co-worker Tom Turkey Tidbits
Turkey gobbling can be heard up to 1 mile away
Tom’s gossip spreads among the team and breeds distrust
Turkeys roost every night high up in the trees
Office turkeys live and breathe a silo mentality. The higher the better!
Turkeys see in color and have daylight vision 3X stronger than humans. They have horrible night vision
Your turkey cube mate fails to see (or refuses) the facts and team vision in front of her face
Turkeys will attack and peck at their own reflection (ask any turkey farmer with a shiny car)
Tom sees himself as the center of attention and wants people to “see” him
A group of turkeys is called a gang or posse
Your fellow  turkeys try to lead the gang down a slippery slope when they feel threatened or powerless
Turkey heads turn from bluish to red when they are mad. Their feathers quickly become ruffled
Need I say more? We have all seen this turkey enraged and burnt red with temper!
Wild turkeys can run up to 25 MPH and fly up to 55 MPH
Tom the turkey loves to have his ideas, and only his ideas, heard. He quickly runs away with them at the expense of the team
Turkeys were almost extinct in the 1930s
Your co-worker has a leadership style from the 1930s. The word “teamwork” is a foreign bird
Wild Turkeys are only 5-20 LBS and we fatten them up fast to eat!
The turkey in your group has a fat head and tries to tell everyone else what to do and how to do it because she’s right
Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be our national bird
Tom turkey thinks that he’s the top bird!
I remember my few encounters with turkeys of the feathered kind. Years ago I was on a garden tour and found myself on a country farm with wild flower gardens and turkeys. The turkeys were massive and stalked people as they head butted us from behind. Worse yet, they quickly discovered my car and started pecking away at the mirror and anything else shinny.
I also saw turkeys in action by my Mom’s summer cottage a few years back. The town was under a turkey attack.  A gang (literally) of wild turkeys roamed the town chasing mailmen and terrorizing anyone on foot or bikes. They would even stop traffic daring anyone to interfere. They ruled!
Unfortunately, I have also worked with turkeys, for turkeys, and even managed a few. Their behavior was wild, puzzling, and disruptive. They really did resemble our feathered friends with their actions and behaviors. There may have even been times where I might have had visions of stuffed “turkey” on the table….
Happy Thanksgiving and I hope that this year YOU aren’t the turkey!



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
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”?