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!

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?

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"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.