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!

Dig In And Be Ready For Opportunities!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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