Mentoring

How Are You Growing Your New People?

Spring has arrived in the Mid-West, and people are scurrying around plant nurseries like frenzied squirrels preparing for winter. The sun and warmer temps along with a wave of nursery ads have convinced many of us to fill our carts with an array of colorful perennials, annuals, and fragrant shrubs.  Yes, I have been right in the middle of the chaos because gardening is in my blood. My reaction has been a bit different than my fellow shoppers. I’ve wanted to throw my hands up in the air and yell “No! They aren’t ready yet”!

Mother Nature has a way of getting even with us. Just because it looks and feels like spring, we need to wait until we know that the season is ready for planting. It was 29 degrees here last night and promises to be another cold one tonight. My fellow gardening aficionados that bought colorful plants and welcomed them into their gardens may have tears running as we speak. The plants that they bought can't take cold temperatures and are probably a lifeless brown color by now. Our actual frost date in Michigan is at the end of May. Trust me; I learned early on that you never put a plant in the ground until the plant and the environment are ready.

In many ways, our new team members are like a young plant. You are both eager to plant them where they will flourish. However, new people need some gentle babying similar to a young flower. New employees need to learn and become accustomed to your culture. Like plants, you can’t just pull them out of a warm greenhouse, plop them into the 50-degree soil and expect them to grow. You need to immerse them in the area with some dedicated mentoring until they adjust and are raring to go.

New employees should be planted in the right spot within your organization. You can’t plunk a Hosta in the middle of a hot spot in the yard in the midst of a cactus garden and expect results. Likewise, be cognoscente of your new player’s skills and strengths and place them where they can contribute and thrive.

Leadership responsibility doesn't end after your new team member is planted. They need periodic touch bases with you to learn how they feel in their new role and what support they require along the way. Periodically, you need to fertilize your people and nourish their growth and progress. Checking in with people should be planned, consistent, and heartfelt. You've invested a lot in your members, and you don't want to wake up some day learning that they are listless and leaving the organization.

Seedlings are fragile and small in the spring, yet they can outgrow their space in a matter of months and become overly crowded and no longer thriving. Perhaps they are shaded by other companions or being choked out by weeds. Don’t let this happen to your newer teammates. Don’t assume that life is just humming along fine. Get out there in the trenches and see how your people are interacting and growing. What areas need attention? Is there some weeding that needs completing so that others can continue their work and grow? Do your people have the support that they need so that they can have an impact where it's needed? Are they receiving enough doses of information to succeed?  Get out into your “garden” every day to walk around and notice anything that just isn’t thriving.

A garden is a sanctuary for those that plan, prepare the environment for planting and spend precious time picking the right "plant" for the right place and nurture growth. You need to think of your team and ask yourself how well you are tending to your work "garden".

Photo courtesy of IMGPK via freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Do Your Ornaments Say?

Photo Courtesy of Lynn Gardner via Flickr.com

The holiday spirit is among us and you can’t go anywhere without being cheered on by gawking lights and the blaring of holiday music. Most of us have our Christmas trees up and decorated with bling and empty stockings ready to accept candy and gifts.

Not only are Christmas trees a symbol of the holiday season, they all tell an individual story. I enjoy going to parties at friend’s homes to see what their tree looks like.  Moreover, I love to view the trees of those that I don’t know well at all. For me, Christmas trees can reveal so much about personality, hobbies, family, and history. For instance, our tree is a mix of homemade ornaments clinging to life after years of use. We have an assortment of character ornaments that reflect the different stages of toy or TV show obsessions from my four boys. There are ornaments reflecting hobbies and I even squeezed in some girly ornaments to balance out all the boy stuff on our tree. Although our tree is a hodgepodge of ornaments, it really does reflect who we are.

Have you stopped to really look at your tree this year to see if it reflects your personality or family history? Stand in front of it tonight all lit up in its splendor and I bet you will quickly pick up details that you never noticed before. Better yet, look closely at the holiday tree at your next party in the next few weeks and see what insights you pick up. You are your ornaments.

Let’s pretend for a moment that your team has been given a holiday assignment to brighten up the office and share some spirit.  Everyone is given an 18 inch Christmas tree to decorate and display on their desk. There’s a catch. You have to pick a specific colored string of lights that reflects your personality. Second, you have either craft your own ornaments or adorn the tree with items that reflect who you are and what you stand for. Needless to say, Barbie or Superman ornaments are not what we are looking for here.

Give this some thought. What would your tree look like and how will it reflect the real you? Here are some questions that you will need to ask yourself and be willing to bare to those around you:

  • Would you be comfortable sharing who you really are and dropping the mask that so many of us wear to work every day?
  • Do you feel confident that people would see your tree and agree with who you “are” every day at work?
  • What two things jump to mind about you that you would want to really showcase on your tree?
  • What two things would you feel really uncomfortable showcasing and why? Do you tend to show these habits at work?
  • What “thing” about you would be on the top of your tree because it truly is who you are or want to be?
  • Are you more of a showy person as reflected on your tree with tons of glitter and tinsel or are you more simplistic?
  • What themes would your tree reflect about you or do you feel more multifaceted than most people?
  • Would your heart show on your tree or would it be a subtle reflection?
  • How would you display your true passion on your tree?
  • What one thing about you would you want to display to others on your tree that you have never shared before?

 Hopefully by now you have a clearer vision in your mind of how your tree would look and what others would learn about you. The “ornaments” that we adorn our tree with are deep inside us and make us who we are. They are our values, morals, passions, and visions of our real selves to those around us.

Here’s a hint of what my tree would look like. I would circle it with bright red lights to reflect my passion for others. I would opt for thin tendrils of silver tinsel to share my flair for creativity. My ornaments would provide quick insight into my passions for learning, teaching, inspiring others to achieve, and empowerment. I’m sure that my love of gardening would also shine through as well. I would still need to place a bright gold angel on the top to guide me.

What would your ornaments say about you this holiday season?


Foster The Seeds of Growth

Photo courtesy of reddeergrowboys



The leaves are slowly starting to change with autumn approaching. I have always had mixed feelings about fall because winter will be on its heels. I’m not a fan of winter because I don’t like being enveloped in gray skies and cold. Moreover, I hate being forced to put my garden to sleep until the winter skies clear.

Fall remains one of the best times to plant new trees, shrubs, and perennials. Even better, it’s a great time to find some deals because nurseries are hunkering down for winter. This may surprise you, but now is an opportune time to plant seeds. It’s a fairly effortless task and it will bring a smile to your face next spring when the seeds spring to life.

Numerous seeds need stratification in order to sprout. This means that the seeds need to have a period of cold so that when ground warms in the spring the seeds have a jumpstart from Mother Nature to sprout.  Everything young in nature needs some guidance and care in order to flourish and grow. Check the needs of your seeds before just scattering them and walking away. Invest in their growth.

There’s still plenty of time to do some planting and here are some seeds that would appreciate being planted now:

  • Bulbs are always no brainer to plant in the fall where there will be several months of cold for them to snooze in
  • Annual Poppies
  • Hollyhocks
  • Cosmos
  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • Nicotiana
  • Cleome
  • 4 O’Clocks
  • Bachelor Buttons
  • Sweet Pea
  • Wall Flowers


The wonderful thing about fall planted seeds is that you can sow them up until the ground freezes in most areas of the country. Grab some packets, pick a breezy autumn day, and plant some beauty.

Sometimes we forget how delicate the young are whether it’s a child, animal, or plants in nature. When I see small children I have flashbacks to when my kids were tiny. Caring for them was such a priority. As they grew they needed guidance, individual attention, mentoring, and at times, monitoring. Unfortunately, not all young people are given the guidance and care that they need to grow into leaders within their communities. If their growth isn’t fostered at home, it may only happen at school or with friends. For most young people, this isn’t enough.

Lately, I’ve read several articles in which leaders share their advice to their young selves. Most of this advice is career focused aimed at people in their late 20’s and beyond. What about those that really need advice when they are young and easily influenced? So many young people are lost or lack sound mentoring or role models, especially those that aren’t on a career path yet. Perhaps they aren’t focused on a career because they remain confused or are more focused on just finding a job to get by.

Leaders today should focus more on our young people working through middle and high school. We can impact kids at that level and offer them hope, guidance, and assist in preparing them for their future so that they can impact the world with more confidence and ownership. Let’s make their future a priority before they are thrust out into the world without skills to cushion any mistakes that they make.

So, I went way back in time dropping myself into my younger body. What advice did I really need then? Here’s what I wish my friends and I had heard when we were young, impressionable, and downright squirrely.

  • Quit spending so much time worrying about what others think of you. They are thinking more about themselves and worrying about how they come across as well. This is advice I wish that I had been brainwashed into believing at a young age – it would have saved me a lot of grief!
  • Don’t try keeping up with others. There is life beyond these years and you need to move at your own unique pace. 
  • Fail young BUT learn from your mistakes. Even better? Learn from the mistakes you see around you. Those are free lessons. As the youngest of 3 girls in my family I can’t even count the lessons that I learned from my siblings. 
  • Find an older crowd to hang out with that seems to have their stuff together. I promise that you really do become what you hang around. It’s cool to be smart and a geek. Life will reward you if you lay a sound foundation of friends now. 
  • Don’t feel pressured to pick a career and stick with it. Life is a journey and you can’t make sound choices without life experiences to guide you. Don’t let people place you in a mold that doesn’t fit. 
  • Work a lot of different jobs when you are young to learn and grow. Volunteer in a variety of areas as well. Doing so will help you determine your work preferences and you will learn if you prefer working with people, data, or things. This will shape who you are and where you will be years from now. 
  • Grow up and mature, but always stay a kid at heart. I can’t tell you how many people in their 20’s that I have encountered that live like they are still in college. They drink and party like there’s no tomorrow and share way too much on social media. Poor images are hard to shake and social media is with us forever. Be careful of the image that you portray and hang out with your older and more focused groups. Conversely, always see the world with a child’s eyes and act like everything in life is a new experience. 
  • Begin building your brand young. When you get older and go to a school reunion you will find that reputations really never change much. The party guy in school probably still is and lives with that rep. Obviously, the best way to build your image is to be careful how you come across on social media and to those your interact with. 
  • Passion is great but don’t spend your life chasing just one dream. Life changes and chasing a dream may leave you dissatisfied and always looking for more.
  • Find a mentor early on. Ask for advice and learn from him or her. 
  • Never regret your mistakes or what could have been. This has been one of my weaknesses and it’s not productive. 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. People really find joy helping others 
  • Develop grit and perseverance. Grit is one of the key factors in success. After you get knocked down be prepared to get right back up. 
  • Bullies will always be around. They just learn to hide their tactics better. Develop a thick skin.
  • Don’t let your job consume you. You are more than a title or profession.
  • Live your values and be transparent with others.
  • Never stop learning and read for a lifetime. 

As a leader you need to make it a priority to reach out to our young people. Volunteer in schools, with youth groups, community events, and within your own home to impact a young adult today. Give them the confidence, young wisdom, and appetite to grow like the tiny seeds that we sprinkle on the ground.

What other advice do you have for our young people? I would love to hear!













How Well Are You "Repurposing" Your People?

"Do what you can, where you are, with what you have" - Teddy Roosevelt

Look at what you have in a whole new way!
 
As the snow melts I continue to see plants that I forgot about and a whole lot of trash that somehow found its way under the snow. I was outside yesterday and am still wondering  where an old metal crow bar came from along with a long steel pipe and wicker basket! Cleaning up the yard and garage is a Spring ritual and just can't be put off. Spring can also be a great time to "Dumpster Dive" to seek out all kinds of cool and unique junk!!!

I love unique garden art. I like to put a special stamp on my garden with a "Lisa" flair. That means seeking out fun and unusual outdoor art. If you are a gardener, you know that garden art is anything but cheap. Hence, I look for ways to use old junk that I can use my creativity with and turn it into unique pieces of art. My favorite is metal because it's indestructible and looks better as the weather throws everything it has at it. I love to "repurpose" old junk and if that means visiting old junk yards or dumpsters - I'm on it!

Repurposing is the "art" of finding new uses for old things. I am  picky about what I bring home and I don't like old stuff inside my house. Inside, I'm more of a modern girl - the less stuff the better. Some of my best finds have been near the dumpsters by my Mom's cottage. The cottages are on the shores of Lake Michigan and all the cottages are about 90 years old. That means some good old stuff! Every Spring the cottage owners clean out their junk. I have found several old metal porch pillars that make great trellises for Clematis vines. I have several old metal bed frames that I have spray painted and turned into colorful bright panels that host flowers by my pond. We found an old metal bike rack in the front of our property that is smothered with Sweet Autumn Clematis every Fall. I turned an old metal fire ring into a raised flower bed in an area where nothing will grow because of tree roots. I love old metal and it's fun to find a treasure to get my creativity flowing as to what I can do with it.
 
You don't need to be a gardener or artist to find great ideas for your garden. Just visit Pinterest and you will be presented with unlimited ideas. Flea markets, old farm garage sales, antique stores, junk yards, and yes, garbage bins can give you the junk that you need to start creating. Look online for ideas and then look around your own house. You may be surprised what you can repurpose. Don't dump your old rusty wheel barrow, put plants in it. Years ago I worked at a bank where we did a huge remodel of our building. I took home van loads of unique stone in all shapes and sizes. I used them to make a dry creek bed in an area in my yard where we had a lot of runoff from our gutters. It looks natural and serves a important function. Why dump perfectly good stone that would cost hundreds to buy?
 
This season, look around you. If you see junk lying out for the taking or in dumpsters, think about how you can turn it into something new to enhance your garden and further enhance the look and feel of the space around you. Think twice about throwing something away. Even an old wood dresser or seatless chair will survive a few years outside while bringing a new look to your garden. Stand back and take the time to look beyond what is in front of you and instead, think about what it can become!
 
Photo Courtesy of Pillowhead Designs via Compfight
Look around you - there are opportunities everywhere!
 

I'm sure that you've heard the expression "Old is the new New". In business, not enough of us apply this to our processes and people. If something isn't working "out" the way that we think that it should, we throw it out and start over. When we apply this attitude to our people, we are making a huge and costly mistake. Despite the pool of candidates out in the job market it remains a challenge to find great talent to bring into our teams. If you are in human resources you know how expensive, time consuming, and resource draining new hires can be. We want to bring the best talent in at a reasonable cost and grow them into the organization. This can be frustrating and a challenge. I think that we are too quick to throw out what isn't working. We are too hasty in replacing someone if they don't quite work out. We need to look more closely at what we have and how we can "repurpose" our talent to new areas.

We need to be willing to look at our people and envision how they can be our next best "Garden Art"
 
 As a leader you put a lot of effort into finding the right talent to bring to your teams. From time to time you may find yourself in the position of noticing that one of your people just isn't working out. Perhaps they have been in the same position too long. Maybe they have some great qualities but just aren't a sound fit anymore. Is it time to cut ties? NO! You hired them because they had the right "stuff". They still bring something to the table. They have value. Something happened along the way and a true leader finds a way to look at their talent in a new light. It's time to look beyond what is in front of you and instead look at what can be. How can the talents and gifts of your people be utilized in a different position or area ? You need to step up and "repurpose" your talent.
 
The first step in looking at how your people can be "reborn" into another area, opportunity, or even changing their existing job, is to sit down and acknowledge together that things just aren't "right". Have a candid discussion of what you both see and how you both feel. Ask your employee what they want and need from you. Let them know that you believe in them and want to help them grow. That may mean that they move on into an area that gives them more opportunities for learning and growing. Strong leaders help their people grow, even if that means losing them to someone else.
 
The next step is sharing your team member's strength and weaknesses. Where do they excel? Is project management a high for them but they have little opportunity to use it? Forget trying to improve on weaknesses. It just won't work in the long run. Take their strengths and build on them. Use them more in a project role going forward. Focus on using their strengths in their existing job or in finding a new opportunity where they can shine.
 
Here's some more ideas to consider when looking to make the "old" new:
  • Place people into a learning rotation so they can learn more about how different areas function and how they can help bring down "silos". They will be exposed to new people, ideas, and methods.
  • Involve them in some company forums where they can share their ideas and learn from others. They can bring their experiences back to the team.
  • Create a mentoring/coaching relationship for your team members.
  • Give your people a work "buddy". They can learn new skills, learn from others, share ways to collaborate, and expand interpersonal skills. This is similar to an internal internship.
  • Give your people a chance to shine again. Give them stretch goals that won't make or break your area. Give them a new way to contribute and choose how they want to do this.
  • Give your people a chance to amaze you in new ways. Allow them time to take on entrepreneurial projects that they want to dedicate time to. Let them use their skills and creativity in new ways.
  • Act like a leader, show your commitment to your team. Focus on growth and opportunities.
"Repurposing" your people is one of the greatest acts of leadership that you can take on. Looking beyond what is in front of you and instead looking at what can be is a rare gift. Dedicating yourself to refreshing one of your people will bring untold benefits to everyone. Consider what leadership in this area can bring:
  • Stem talent from leaving by redirecting it
  • Bring down silos
  • Fresh eyes and opportunities
  • Renewed team confidence
  • Career rejuvenation
  • Renewed commitment
  • Strengthened work styles
  • Stronger/new team relationships
Who will you reach out to today to "repurpose"?
 



The Best Leaders Cultivate Butterflies!

"We are all butterflies. Earth is our chrysalis" - LeeAnn Taylor


Photo Courtesy of Stephen Poff via Compfight.com

The cold and snow have not let up one bit in the last week. Twice, we were stuck in our driveway in ice or slush. More than twice I was cursing up at the sky. I threw up my hands and took off for our local botanical garden. I needed to sweat a little and play with some butterflies. I love watching them glide through the air without a care in the world enjoying their short lives and serving out their purpose - in this case? To wow and inspire me!

We smartly visited Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park a week before their official grand opening of the "Butterflies are Blooming" annual exhibit. There were very few people there, but numerous  breeds and colors of beautiful butterflies. We were awed watching awkward butterflies slowly climbing out of their hanging chrysalises to begin a new life as soaring, free, gracious creatures. It took my breath away to think about the growth and changes that the caterpillars endured in order  to become such beautiful transformed creatures.

Watching new life break out in the butterfly bungalow
 
Meijer Gardens receives shipments of new chrysalises every week over a 8 week period. The chrysalises start life in the "bungalow" above. After they have adjusted to their new body they are released into a tropical oasis where it's a consistent balmy 85 degrees. There will be over 7000 butterflies during the exhibit soaring in the 5 story conservatory. It's like being in a Disney movie with them fluttering all around at different heights and in so many colors and sizes. The butterflies hail from places like Africa, Asia, South and Central America. There are species like Long Wing Heliconius, Common Morpho, Scarlet Mormon, and streaked Tree Nymph butterflies. They sip on fresh fruit and sweet water while enjoying flight above Orange Jasmine, Bahama Buttercup, and Mexican Honeysuckle. It's breath taking and so tranquil! Imagine becoming a butterfly.....Meijer Gardens

Why are we so fascinated by butterflies?


  • They have unattainable freedom, grace, independence, and seem invincible.
  • They are spectacular with unique colors or different wing spans and shapes.
  • Butterflies glide through the air without any care in the world. They enjoy life and get to visit so many beautiful flowers.
  • Each butterfly is so unique. You can be the ugliest caterpillar on earth and morph into a colorful, powerful butterfly.
  • Butterflies seem to have a purpose. They essentially start life as "worms" and live in order to change themselves into something new.
  • Butterflies inspire us. We are all fascinated by them. As kids, almost all of us captured a caterpillar and nurtured it to see what it can become. Monarchs were my favorites!
  • Butterflies tease us into imagining how it feels to become something else. Something better then before.
  • Butterflies represent life or a new beginning. Don't we all dream of that at some point in our lives?
  • Butterflies urge me to be the best that I can be so that I can grow and serve out my own purpose.
 
Leadership and butterflies are alike!

I have managed people for over 25 years. My favorite part has always been mentoring people while watching them grow and develop. I likened my new team members to young caterpillars. They were inexperience or lacked knowledge in a variety of areas. We worked together to develop new skills and gave them a shot at new experiences. Over time, they grew and became increasingly more independent. Like butterflies, there came a time when my people were "released" out into the world bound for new ventures. It didn't matter if they moved up in our company or left us for a better opportunity. I was always so proud . I love to see people grow and advance. They took up the challenge and strived to grow and develop. They spread their wings and were ready to glide off into the world. My butterflies were "free".

Effective leaders mentor butterflies. Bad leaders are left with caterpillars!
 
We all come into this world out of a cocoon, young and naive. We learn, grow, experience failures and rewards, and we strive to strike out on our own into the world. We take flight and 1.2.3. Go! It's up to each of us to decide how far we dare to spread our wings and where we are willing to fly. Some of us are more successful than others. Many of us are fortunate to have support during our growth and we are pushed to spread those beautiful wings a bit wider and to soar much higher. Perhaps we had a leader that influenced our growth and our flight out into the world. As a leader, you may have the opportunity and gifts to guide someone's growth. Help them morph and spread their wings. Are you up to the challenge?
 
How to guide others to grow and take flight:
 
  • Let people make mistakes and don't hold it against them. Allow them to mature, grow, and learn from them.
  • Don't mother someone or over protect them. They will fear change and striking out on their own.
  • Don't fix everything. Force people to detect and solve problems independently.
  • Show trust, win trust.
  • Show respect, win respect. Not hard is it? 
  • Listen, listen, listen. Talk less. Sit back and allow others to find solutions, create, and bring new ideas to the table.
  • Don't criticize or belittle new ideas or ways of doing things. See #1 for guidance.
  • Search for ways to bring out the potential in others. Get to know your people and what makes them tick.
  • Focus on someone's strengths, not their weaknesses. Other team members can compensate for weak areas.
  • Reflect and encourage a positive attitude. It's contagious. A positive attitude spurs people to do their best. They feel less fear and apprehension.
  • Be enthusiastic so that others can internalize and use it to take bigger steps towards success.
  • Share your weaknesses, mistakes, lessons learned. Be human. With an experienced role model, people feel more steady and will take on bigger challenges and new projects.
  • Teach through story telling. A part of all of our childhoods were great books and stories. They grew with us and enabled us to see the "bigger" world. Your stories will do the same. People respond to stories and can see themselves in them.
  • Challenge people. Don't let them retreat back into their cocoon or fold in their wings. We all need to be forced to take steps that frighten or intimidate us. Push people in little ways to open those wings.
  • Stay curious and innovative. Live it every day. It shows people what you value and that it's important to you. People are like kids and model what they see. You want them  to model what will grow and challenge them.
  • Truly be authentic and believe in others. Close your ears to rumors or the past. Allow each person to start anew so that YOU can see what their "stage" is and how you can help them grow into their first "flight". Let them prove themselves to you first so that you can see firsthand the path they are choosing.

What are YOU going to do today to start cultivating butterflies?

 

Photo Courtesy of Wolfpix vai Compfight