Organizational Behavior

Are You Cutting Your Team Down OR Being Their Support?

Photo Courtesy of Dstma via Compfight

"To lead people, walk beside them...As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear, and the next, the people hate.. When the best leader's work is done the people say, "We did it ourselves!" - Lao Tsu

I have a confession to make. We have an artificial Christmas tree complete with integrated lights and branches that pop right out. No watering, no dry needles, no wonderful pine smells, probably no authentic Christmas spirit.. As a gardener, I should probably have a real evergreen inside for the holidays but I have always had a tough time even cutting my flowers to bring inside! I prefer to be outside enjoying them and avoiding the house when it's nice out! Surprising, I don't even have a lot of indoor plants. The ones that I do have tend to ask for little attention and scare the bugs away! I prefer to enjoy my garden as a whole and love to watch everything interact. This year I have vowed to decorate with more live greenery to bring more of the outside in.

This is a popular time for families to forge out and find that perfect Christmas tree. They bundle up and often make a full day of searching for the best tree that they can find. They cut it themselves and take care in carting it home while hoping that it fits in the house! The tree is lovingly watered and cared for until THE big day and then... all is forgotten.... out with the tree and in with Valentines Day. Next week I will give you some tips on finding the right tree and caring for it so that you can enjoy it into the new year.

Christmas trees can take anywhere from 7-15 years to grow, only to be cut down for a few special weeks in December. We don't think too much of cutting a tree for the holidays and it's such a priceless tradition throughout the world. Our tradition continues automatically every year, often with certain rituals being passed down through generations. As I watched my neighbors come home with their huge live tree this week a thought popped into my mind. Sometimes we don't even think twice about cutting things down. Guess what? Too many leaders cut their people down without a thought or without even realizing it!

Are you a leader unwittingly cutting your people down?
I have worked for both effective and just plain bad managers. Like many of our teachers back in school, we tend to remember the teachers that stood out and made a difference to us and really remember with vivid details the worst teachers ever. Surprisingly, they get worse over the years when we think back.....One of the best leaders that I ever worked for knew how to light up a room with his energy and positive attitude. He empowered us and allowed us the freedom to do our job. He encouraged us to learn from our mistakes and backed us up when we needed the support. I could easily talk to him about my frustrations without fear of reprisal. My worst boss? She was very threatened by her team. She looked for mistakes and picked on the little things. She micromanaged and jumped into matters that she didn't need to. In short, she made everyone miserable and no one respected her. We never knew when she would strike and it was tough to love our jobs and to perform our best. Neither of these leaders were "bad" people at heart (there was some debate on this in our team however). They probably didn't even realize how they were coming across to their teams. In my worst boss's case I hope that she didn't consciously try to cut people down. Don't be this type of leader - Don't cut your people down!
You could be cutting your team down if......
  • You whine or complain too much about systems, people, progress, your problems
  • You are negative and closed minded
  • You deliberately deceive others for personal gain or for your own career growth. You take credit and push blame
  • You are arrogant or have a deflated ego
  • You act like a dictator and micromanage
  • Keep to the status quo. Don't fall into the trap of saying "That's how we do things here". Be open to new ideas and ways of doing things. Don't belittle new methods
  • You aren't accountable. Stand up and take responsibility
  • Make empty threats or don't follow through on your commitments
  • Ignore the truth, data, feelings
  • Yell or scream
  • Don't thank people and recognize their gifts and accomplishments
  • You cut people down in a group and publicly humiliate them to make a point
  • You sugar coat feedback
  • Do what is wrong or stretch the truth
  • You can't self manage or self lead
  • Have no emotional IQ or are inflexible in showing empathy
  • Ignore team strengths and individual gifts
  • Can't adapt to or encourage change
  • Are over reactive and prefer to put out fires as they flare up
  • Can't communicate or won't foster stronger skills
  • Put teams or people in boxes
  • Churn people rather than develop them
  • Put processes first and can't foresee the need to step off of your path

Is this YOU? Are you cutting down your people without realizing it? If so - STOP! Go through this list and add your own weaknesses. It's not easy and not a lot of people can actually go through this process. Make a growth plan and address any areas where you are having a negative impact on your team. ASK for feedback and be strong enough to "take" the truth.

You can't keep cutting down trees in the forest and think that you will grow the group unless you are planting and nourishing new growth in your people. What will you start working on today?

Photo Courtesy of Ian Sane via Compfight

Whatcha Gonna Do About That Void?

"Leadership development is not an event" - John G Agno

This void space drives me nuts!!!! 

My garden is overflowing with a variety of plants, shrubs, trees, you name it. Somehow it all ends up working with different  colors and textures. It's a fluke. I tend to buy cool plants that catch my eye or that I absolutely must have. I worry about where to put them when I get home and wander the yard looking for a spot. Not a real professional garden design strategy. I'm pretty flexible in my approach but one thing drives me nuts. I HATE a void space in my gardens. I can't stand it. It looks and seems wrong. I feel like I have to get out and buy something to fill that void!

My eyes love to see solid colors and popping textures. Any kind of gap draws my eye to the sore spot and it just seems, well, wrong. To me, the void says that everything isn't working together the way that it should be. There are flaws in the design. There's a  lack of a physical presence and alas, no underlying pattern. The plants aren't hanging together and the group isn't complete. Consequently, you gotta jump in and find a way to fill the void!

Got voids in your garden? Try this!

  • Place a tall urn with a vertical accent and overflowing flowers in the space. The eye will be drawn upwards and it will be an art piece.
  • Add a bird bath to the space for feathered friends.
  • Place a small chair or bench in the spot. Everyone knows that gardeners never actually sit IN their gardens. Furniture is really just garden art. Spray paint it a wild color.
  • Buy or make a funky piece of art to plunk in the spot.
  • Buy some inexpensive annuals to fill in. This time of year is a great time to put a mum plant in.
  • Place a wooden post in the spot with inexpensive wind chimes for eye candy and for a whimsical sound.
  • If you are having guests over to view your garden, prop your kid up in the spot for a bit.

Bottom line? Give that void a purpose and close the gap in your garden!

Don't be so quick to fill your gaps in leadership though....

Years ago, I worked at a company where a group manager harnessed a lot of information but was a very ineffective manager. She kept information close to her chest and through reprimands, made her staff very dependent on her. I heard her team going to her with questions that they knew the answers to. I had to do all I could to not roll my eyes. They didn't like her but they were stuck with her. When she left to go to a competitor, my boss was concerned. A wealth of knowledge was leaving and she didn't want to be in the crossfire of questions. Guess what? The exit of the manager never caused a ripple. Her position was a "gap" for awhile but her people stepped up to lead and manage themselves. They always had it in them but weren't encourage to manage up and lead out. They grew as individuals and as a team. I loved seeing the transformation!
"Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people" - John D Rockefeller
When there is a void in leadership, don't always rush in to the rescue. Don't be impatient like I am in my garden to fill a gap. Sometimes the gap will bridge on its own or over time.

What to do with that leadership gap:

  • Sit back and give situations time. The scene may have been a whole lot different had my boss rushed in to patch the gap that she feared. Put a temporary "statue" in the gap.
  • Ignore the gap. See what happens!
  • Give people room to spread their roots and grow. Let them show you what they've got!
  • Focus on relationships within the team.
  • Take the opportunity to grow new leaders rather than popping in an existing one.
  • Be deliberate in your plan. Great garden design really does start with a plan. Following it is even more crucial. Deliberate  a plan and carry it out. Let the gap remain during this process.
  • Ask yourself if "store bought" is really better than "home grown"? Home growing people takes a lot more work and time as do plants. Often it's the only way to have a unique and superior "plant". The time to fill the gap may be worth it.
  • If a leadership gap irks you or you need a temporary fill, plant some "annuals" in the spot. Assign some people to rotate as managers in the area or have shared responsibilities.
  • Make it a practice of having several up and coming "stars" to be able to jump in to fill gaps. Don't allow that one "plant" to have all the power and knowledge. When they leave, you will notice a gap more because you don't have anything to fill it.
We are a fast moving, inpatient society. With all the technology moving at us at a torrid pace, we want instant gratification. Patience is not one of my virtues. I want to make decisions and move on. I want to fill in those garden gaps and dig elsewhere. Sometimes, that's not always the best plan.

The more that I look at the picture above the more it really bugs me. It's been there too long and nothing is filling in. There's a huge plant sale this weekend......Sigh. I need to go there to fill the void.....

What's your plan for filling those annoying gaps?




10 Ways to Survive Stormy People and Cloudy Leadership

"Then come the wild weather, come sleet or come snow, we will stand by each other however it blow" - Simon Dach

Photo Courtesy of Martin LaBar via Compfight

This past week threw a majority of the country into a winter cloud of snow, sleet, ice and cold. Mother Nature waved her hand, conjured up a Polar Vortex, and everything halted. If you aren't tired of winter yet, then you are a perfect candidate for an Antarctic exploration on a boat in the frozen sea. Not only humans suffered. Animals and plants shuttered as well. One of the first things that my garden buddy asked was "Wonder what this will do to our gardens in the spring"? Good question!

The storm hung over us in a deep cloud. Our plants can't dig holes to get warm or hide out of the winds. Some plants try to warm themselves, one being the Rhododendrons. They curl up their leaves  for protection from the cold. One bonus of the high snow fall is the insulation that it provides for plants. Moreover, plants planted by buildings and protected by tree lines are given some protection as well. Unless of course falling ice and snow from roofs and power lines fall on top of them! Most of the damage from the recent storms won't be known until spring. Here are some signs to look for:

  • Smashed and broken limbs and trunks.
  • Brown Evergreen trees.
  • Sun scald and injury on tree trunks in sunnier areas. Trunks are damaged after cold when the sun hits the trunk, causing damage.
  • Frost heaving. Plants are literally lifted out of the ground from the thaw and freeze cycle that occurs where winters are warmer.
  • Root death from the extreme cold.
  • Slow growth, stunted growth, weak looking plants from a lack of water uptake and food production.
  • Just plain dead plants!

Most plants will sail right through the winter of 2014. Plants and trees have had the luxury of adapting through thousands or even millions of years. Most perennials die back to the ground for protection. Numerous plants have narrow circulatory vessels to prevent air bubbles from forming and preventing water or fluid uptake. Trees and shrubs drop their leaves to slow down their systems and then go dormant. The biggest killer of plants and trees this winter will be a result of the inability of plants to pull in water to stay hydrated. When it's so cold a specimen loses water via roots, leaves, and branches, then dies. Hence why it's so critical to water all of your plants well prior to winter. For more in depth information on winter survival for plants, check out this great article Winter Woes No Problem.

The recent Vortex affected everything in it's enormous path. It controlled where we went and how we lived for days. It changed lives and we had no control over it. We all had to settle down and hunker through it. Unfortunately, too many of us make clouds that we carry over our heads as we lead teams OR we work with a storm threat......

Are you working for a boss with a cloud above their head that leaves storms in it's path? Are you that person?
Photo Courtesy of Atomtigerzoo via Compfight

Working with or for someone who is unpredictable and stormy is not fun. You never know when they may explode or leave a path of destruction after they've wandered away. They leave everyone on edge and have a negative impact on teams and sometimes, an entire company. I worked for a "silent" stormy boss who always had an ominous cloud hanging over her head. She never exploded by screaming and yelling. She preferred sneaking up and barraging people in public. She would make employees feel 2 inches tall by posing points that poked holes in their work and projects. Her "way was the highway" and we all learned to be very effective storm trackers to predict when she would strike. I always tried to remind myself that she had control issues and was acting the only way that she knew would get the results that she wanted. Other days I thought maybe she just had some mental issues.

So.. How do you become a storm chaser to avoid people with clouds that follow them?
Better yet, what if YOU are the storm? 
Here are some ways to avoid the storm. Look closely because if you notice people acting like this towards YOU, you may be a stormy Polar Vortex leader........
  1. Stay out of their way whenever possible. After you work with someone for awhile you may be able to see a storm brewing and can take cover. If your sense a bad mood, bring up an issue later. If people avoid you, take the hint.
  2. Don't get sucked into any negativity. Protect your mindset and don't let anyone bring you down. Be professional, be brief, remember your gifts. This conflict isn't about you. If you are negative, stop! Your negativity will drag  down productivity, team work, and the overall culture of the area.
  3. Don't invite the storm in. Bad weather belongs outside - keep it there. Don't invite the cloud into your office to try and work things out or calm things down. It may make a situation worse and drive more negativity. Let the storm pass on it's own - you can't control others. If no one wants you in their space - perhaps you had better evaluate why!
  4. Adjust your communication skills to mirror that of the person that you are talking with. Recognize the weaknesses of the other party and compensate for it. Work with the storm, not against it.
  5. Be overly patient and pleasant. We were all crabby and on edge last week during the storms. Slippery roads, no electricity, the cold. We couldn't change it. Hopefully you wore a smile and just made it through. Are there any other options?
  6. Be proactive in your work, always be on your toes, and have a back up plan. That's what we do in sticky situations (storms!) and we persevere.
  7. Have a group of confidants. Find some trusted peeps who are in your same situation and whom you can bounce frustrations off of. It helps! Now, if you are a "leader" and see people in groups avoiding you ... wonder why and examine your behavior!
  8. Document if things get really rough. You probably aren't the only one in the eye of the storm and there may be a need for group collaboration down the road if a leader's actions become unbearable .
  9. Keep your resume up to date. Sometimes you just plain tire of storms and need to move where the climate is a whole lot better!
  10. There's a lesson in everything that happens to us in life. Think about what lesson you can learn and perhaps find new strengths in yourself that you didn't know were there!
Often you need the storm to pass before you see the destruction and realize what a survivor that you are. If you see a storm brewing, hunker down and take precaution!

How have you survived a "Polar Vortex"?


Are you a Thankful Leader?

photo courtesy of Flickr

"We can always find something to be thankful for, and there may be reasons why we ought to be thankful for even those dispensations which appear dark and frowning" - Albert Barnes

Rose - the flower of gratitude

Sadly, the air is getting cold in the Midwest and I even saw snowflakes yesterday. Augh! Last weekend I said goodbye to my tropical paradise as we closed the pond for the winter and I chopped down my banana trees. The annuals have been pulled out and  my garden continues to slowly die down as the days become shorter. In some ways,  I am thankful for the coming of winter in order to wind down, but look forward to what next Spring will bring!

It's early November and the start of the Holiday Season. The Holiday music is already torturing me even though we just finished trick or treating! Facebook has been telling me what everyone is thankful for every day and will continue to do so for the rest of the month. It could be a long month!

 Unfortunately, too many people wait until the end of the year to think about or even voice what they are thankful for. I've read numerous studies that have shown that if you regularly express gratitude or do something for someone else, it will make you happier and more fulfilled. You may even live a longer life. Gratitude should be a part of our every day lives. Don't wait until the 11th month and wrap it all up in 30 days. Showing gratitude can have a positive and enormous impact on those around you. Make it a habit.

"As we express our gratitude we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them" - John F Kennedy

One of the areas where I see a strong need to express thanks is in our work lives. Projects loom over us, deadlines shorten, companies work with fewer people, everyone is stressed out, and we have lost the finesse to utter a few simple words - THANK YOU! Worse, it seems that not enough "leaders" even think that they need to express gratitude. They do. Leaders come in all forms, sizes, shapes, and levels. Again, you don't need a fancy title to be a leader. Your thoughts and actions make you a leader. Don't wait until the end of the year or the all employee meeting to say "Thank you".
Your simple words of thanks can have a profound effect on others.
This simple word has to power to.......
  • Positively influence other's engagement and pave the way for their future in your company
  • Offer  meaningful lives for families because people know they are appreciated and families are acknowledged for being supportive
  • Bring out the best in people via engagement, productivity, and willingness to grow
  • Show people that they have overcome hardships and surpassed goals. They beat the odds. You recognize it and express gratitude
  • Your appreciation will shape attitudes, offer new approaches, and bring out new mindsets
  • Gratitude impacts your teams connectivity to their job, goals, purpose, and culture
  • Your words are worth more than money- they are more important than money
  • The work of others offers them a chance to do work that matters. You notice!

Why wouldn't you show gratitude towards others? Not only will it have an immediate impact on others, but it will impact you!
  • Gratitude will impact and improve your health
  • You will find you have stronger and deeper relationships
  • You will be more productive and have a stronger sense of purpose
  • You will leave your mark on the world
Life has a way of engulfing and catching up to all of us. If there were any positives that came out of of the economic downturn of 2008, I feel that we all realized that jobs are precious and those that kept one were exceedingly thankful. Moreover, we were reminded that our employers don't owe us anything. It's critical that we stand up and be the "CEO of Me Inc". I  have worked with, and for, "leaders" that eagerly take their position for granted. They become so wrapped up in themselves and their "leading" that they fail to truly connect with their teams and appreciate what they have.  Eventually, it does catch up to them!
Whether you are a leader at heart or one by position, remember where you came from and truly reflect on what you have and how you can influence others. You can make a difference. You have a purpose.
What are some things that you should be grateful for?
  • Your position. You have the opportunity to serve others. Do it wisely and with passion!
  • The many opportunities that you have to grow and impact the lives of others. Cherish it!
  • Success and failures. Learn and grow from your mistakes. Allow others to do the same. Encourage growth!
  • Mentors. They have encouraged and led you. Mentor your people, make a difference!
  • Your team. They are the reason for your success. Thank them. Tell them they are important!
  • Your company. They gave you the chance to lead. Be humble and thankful!
  • Your family. They support you and fill in the gaps when you can't be there in person. Tell them!
  • Your strength of purpose, humility to serve, and the tenacity to keep going when the going gets tough because YOU are unique!
This holiday season sit back and really search for what you are thankful for. Don't do it because social media tells you or the dancing M&M guys in Santa suits on TV do. Do it because you have been blessed with the gifts to recognize the best in others and have the confidence to step in and lead with sincerity and conviction.  Verbalize your thanks and remain genuine and approachable. Your ability to make an impact will strengthen your gratitude!

Through experience and valued time with others, I have mellowed from my younger years as a rogue professional. I am really thankful for all of the opportunities that I have had to make a difference in my work.  Leadership is important. Will the people that I influenced remember my impact? Nope. They move on to grow and hopefully influence others. That's OK with me. I remember the times where I was able to bring out and develop the gifts in those I have worked with. Their achievements and look of awe when they succeed or move on have been my thanks. I'm thankful that I was a part of their growth!

As with every season that comes to an end in my garden I reflect on what I've learned, experimented with, and achieved. The sight of so many colors, shapes, and sizes outside are my thanks. I'm thankful for the opportunity to build an oasis where the birds, bugs, and critters quickly multiply. I look ahead to what I can achieve next year and share with others...

Leaders, what are YOU thankful for and do you tell anyone???



Are You Masking Your Leadership?

"As an actor, we spend so much time putting the mask on and trying to be someone you're not" - Russell Hornsby

I must admit that Halloween is my favorite holiday! My boys have a blast picking out costumes and accessorizing as if they are going to the prom. I think it's the only time that they ever care how they are dressed! I have a chocolate addiction, so I love snatching all the good stuff when they aren't looking. There's plenty to go around! Kids love fantasizing and pretending that they are someone else- even if it's just for the night. By the looks of it, there are a lot of adults that never quite outgrow their love of pretend either...You know who you are!
Halloween has to be the most creative holiday of all. Some people really go nuts with the lights and decorations - all for one night. Others relish trying to scare the wits out of kids. Moreover, it amazes me how creative and zany people become in decorating their pumpkins. Some of them are literally works of art. It's obvious  that a lot of time and planning went into what seems to me is an impossible feat! I usually end up "over" carving my pumpkin faces and they cave within 2 days! I can grow them - I just can't carve or cook them. Some pumpkins depict flamboyant faces while others come to life with realistic scenery's that tell a story. Incredible!

The tradition of pumpkin carving goes way back to Europe in the Middle Ages. People carried around gourds with candles in them with the belief that evil spirits would be scared away. When our ancestors landed here, there was a lack of gourds so pumpkins were used instead. Pumpkins are squashes from the Cucurbita family which are native to North America. Technically they are fruits that love warmer weather. Most people plant the seeds in June when summer is heating up. Pumpkins love rich well drained soil and a lot of sun. They refuse to grow until the air temps are 65 degrees or higher. Plant the seeds in hills with plenty of room for them to grow. Pumpkin vines will quickly take over your yard so beware! There are over 82 varieties of pumpkins in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Pumpkins come in red, green, white, pink, striped, and even blue! As people have become more accepting, these unusual colors can be picked up at markets Wikipedia.
Fantasizing and pretending is what Halloween is all about. Masks, pumpkins, candy, and cavities. What more could a kid want? When Halloween is over though... we need to set aside the masks and pumpkin faces and show our "real" face. I ask you this - Are you masking yourself ? Are you pretending to be someone you're not? 
Beware! Wearing a "leadership" mask can be detrimental to yourself and those around you!
I don't know about you, but I have worked with a lot of people who wear masks. They feel that the only way to get ahead or fit in is to be someone that they aren't. They try to act and react according to how they think others want them to. They mimic their boss and take on his mannerisms. Suddenly, they turn into a "Mini Me". They often  have an air about them that is fake or they act like they are on a stage. Do you know someone like this?? Is it you?
In my first "real" job out of college I joined a management training program. There were 11 of us and we rotated in different areas of the company to gain exposure and experience. We formed some strong friendships and frequently hung out together after work. As time went on, some of the people in our group changed. They became more aloof and acted like they were "better" than us. They hung out with people that they felt could further their careers. They had changed and acted like the herd that they had joined to get ahead. What infuriated us the most was that they were promoted faster. The fake face and persona that they had adapted rewarded them in kind. Have you been in the same boat? It doesn't sit well when "fake" people move ahead for their own gain while relationships suffer. 

People take on a false facade for a variety of reasons. For some, it's a way to hide their flaws and weaknesses. For others, it's a lack of self confidence. Some people are promoted and don't feel that they "deserve" it so they lead with a false pretense. Fear, insecurity, a lack of self worth, and lack of trust force people to act in ways that aren't true to who they really are. They put on "airs", they act like the boss because they can't be themselves, they aren't good at showing feelings so they mask them. When you hide who you are, it causes internal conflict. You may have trouble connecting or being honest with people. People who don't think that they are deserving won't develop into strong leaders. They are so busy trying to prove themselves (internally and externally) or pretending, that they fail to break through.
To lead you must be authentic and have a sincere interest in helping others. You should be passionate about making a difference and not hide behind any doubts or internal struggles. You need to address these key areas if you are going to throw the mask off and lead:
  • Insecurity : Shed any thoughts of not being good enough or that you aren't deserving. You have the skills and drive to make a difference. Don't allow yourself to feel powerless or helpless. Write down all your strengths or ask those that you trust what they think. Acknowledge your strengths and build on them every day. Tell yourself that you are a strong and deserving leader. You become what you think. Knock those negative thoughts out of your head.
  • Fear: Don't fixate on saying or doing the "right" things. Everyone makes errors and YOU are the only one who will really ever notice. If you avoid mistakes, you will never learn or grow. You will lose your "influence". Embrace dealing with difficult situations or conflicts with people. Face your fears head on. They won't unmask until you do. No one is perfect.
  • Lack of trust: You need to learn to trust yourself and others. Don't hide from leaning on others. We are social beings and need each other. People love being asked for help or support. Do it until it feels natural. Give back your trust as well in your people. Great leaders MUST trust. You need  to have faith in other's talents, abilities, and gifts.

You will lose out as an effective leader if you don't look beneath your mask and unleash your fears, address your lack of self confidence, and learn to trust . Companies are finally recognizing the value of "soft skills" and it's more vital than ever that you  develop authentic and unmasked leadership skills. If you don't - BOO! It will catch up to you! Are you prepared?

Lead with your smile!

The end of summer brilliance

"If I were a flower... I would be a sunflower. To always follow the sun, turn my back to darkness, stand proud, tall and straight even with my head full of seeds." Pam Stewart

We live in the country and down the street there is a farm that is clothed in tall, vibrant, electric yellow sunflowers along the road every year in late summer. The sight is so dazzling that you can see it from quite a distance. Whenever I drive by, I can't help but smile. It's such an uplifting beautiful and unexpected sight.  The patch of tall upright flowers look like a mob of  hundreds of  happy, playful, and carefree people. You would smile too! I guarantee it!

Sunflowers, "Helianthus Annus", are a native American flower that everyone recognizes. They often grow wild in fields with the help of birds spreading their seeds. I have a small patch by my bird feeder this year from my featured friends left from last winter. What a sight! Sunflowers come in so many sizes and colors thanks to novel breeding techniques over the years. Flowers can be anywhere from 12 inches to 20 feet tall. So many of us grew up with sunflower forts or gardens to romp in. Notice sometime how summer is depicted in pictures, tee shirts, and decorations covered with sunflowers. They grab attention with their sunny happy "faces".

Humans are unique because we have so many expressions that project our thoughts and feelings. Even as babies we have the ability to communicate through our cries or expressions. No other animal has that ability. Our faces often reflect  the "soul" of our personality. We all know people that walk around looking as if  the world is ending. You know, the one's that look forlorn because they are always wearing a grumpy or unhappy face? Always. Think of how their "aura" wears off on others. They look like their face might crack if they smile. How does it make you feel? Smiling is so unique and powerful to just us - make sure that you take advantage of it!

One of the most famous smiles in the world belongs to the Mona Lisa. I'm not convinced that she is actually smiling however, it's the first comment that's usually made when referencing the painting. Did you know that kids smile an average of 400 times a day? Happy people tend to smile 40-50 times a day? The average Joe smiles only about 20 times a day? What a difference! Smiling sets off a chain reaction. When you smile, you release powerful "feel good" chemicals called Endorphins. Your Cortisol decreases which impacts your mood. Smiling releases Oxytocin which aids in bonding and intimacy. Smiling is like a great night's sleep for your brain and even better? It's contagious! Even if you need to fake a smile once in awhile you still release Endorphins! Smiling is like sugar to your brain and has these benefits as well :

  • Raises your mood and decreases stress as a result
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Increases self confidence
  • You feel and look younger
  • Gives you energy
  • Lengthens your life span
  • Reduces pain
Why would you NOT smile????

What does smiling have to do with you?? Simple. If you want to be an effective leader - smile!!

Think of how you feel when someone smiles at you - particularly someone that you admire. No matter who you lead or how many, you set the tone and guide the culture with your facial expressions and body language. People tend to naturally mirror the moods and reactions of  their managers. An instant connection is set off  when you smile and your grins help connect people. It relays the message that someone else is important. By smiling, you have the power to encourage others while projecting energy, optimism, and motivation. Studies have even shown that smiling can increase employee productivity.

If you still aren't convince about the power of your smile consider this:

  • Smiles build trust - look at the profound effect your smile has on an infant. Powerful.
  • Smiles are contagious. They spread and often stay in place because of what you do or say.
  • Smiles make everyone look more attractive and approachable.
  • Smiles can help you, or others, recover from embarrassment or an uncomfortable moment.
  • A positive focus is amplified by your happy grins.

Smiling makes you memorable and is one of your best tools for sound leadership!

Some time back I heard an interesting story about an experiment that a financial firm embarked on. Their offices were very professional with gleaming steel and glass. Everyone could see one another  and freely interact. The company asked the branch manager to wear a worried and stern face for the entire day (which wasn't like him). He also kept his door closed which was something that he never did. He pretended to be on the phone in serious discussions - grimacing. His entire staff could see him. Guess what? Investment sales plummeted 25% that day. People walked around wearing frowns and whispered that perhaps there were business problems. Layoffs may be on the way. The team reacted to the mood and expression on their manager's face. His lack of smiling and morbid expression  had an enormous affect on the team. Do you want to be this type of leader? Who wants to have this kind of negative impact on a team? Think about what your face says next time you are in a sour mood.

Here's another example. I have a friend that works in a mid size company. Every morning she strolled  right by the CEO with a friendly "Hi"! and a bright smile. Every morning he ignored her. He did the same to others as well. Just how do you think that made his people feel? Is that a great way to start your day? She was determined to coax a smile out of him. It took several weeks, but she won. He finally smiled and responded. Wow! What type of culture do you think exists in that company? You got it. The atmosphere is negative. People look pained. There's a lot of turf protecting and politics. Not a great place to show up to every day. Don't become this type of leader. The results can be devastating.

Don't be a grumpy face. Imagine those bright sunny "happy" fields of sunflowers in your mind and project the feeling that they bring you onto others. If flowers aren't your kind of thing then find something else that makes you smile. Smile and be approachable to people. Strive to connect and show that others are important to you.

Stand tall and proud to be a leader. You can do it.......

The sunny face of leadership

"Bee Havior" = A leadership culture!

A beautiful Bumble Bee on my Butterfly Bush
"That which is not good for the bee-hive cannot be good for the bees" - Marcus Aurelius

Towards the end of the summer with the flowers bursting out in both color and fragrance, the bugs get really active and wild. The crickets and cicadas drone on in a harmonious symphony and I laugh whenever I see my feisty humming birds bomb diving for  flowers. The end of  summer energizes and motivates the garden creatures because they know that winter is not far away.....I just love watching all the activity and thinking how lazy we are in comparison!

September and early October are the busiest time of  the season for bees and wasps. They are in a frenzy to gather food for the winter and intently grab every grain of pollen that they can. Wasps in particular can be very aggressive. They are voracious and if they feel threatened in the least, they go berserk. Wasps are drawn to me  like water. There could be 100 people standing around and I'm the one that gets stung! One time, I was stomping in frustration on mole hills in my garden and I unknowingly stomped on an underground hive. I screamed  and ran like mad as a hoard of wasps chased me. I never made that mistake again! (I was only stung twice by the way..)  Honey Bees and Bumble Bees are quite tame in comparison. They perish when they sting so they are less likely to do so. I'm never scared around them and I have even pet Bumble Bees without incident. 

As I sat in the sun in my garden last week, I was intrigued by all the bee activity around me. They were so purposeful and focused, zinging this way and that. You would think that with all the flying about by so many bees, that there would be overlapping visits to flowers and mass confusion. Not so! Each bee seemed to be leading the way. Who was the leader? The Queen was housed up in the hive so someone had to be empowering all these bees...
Bees are obviously very social creatures. There are several generations living within a hive and the bees care for each other's offspring. The hive has a queen bee along with a few male drones (who like to eat a lot and are pretty lazy!). The remaining bees are female worker bees. The queen is more of a captive than a true "leader". Bees are actually smart little buggers. They are sensitive to taste, odor, communicate through dancing and pheromones, think, and even have individual personalities! As members of the group, they lead the hive and mimic human traits like being hard workers, cooperative, sharing decisions, and working towards a prime goal - survival of the hive. Contrary to what I have always believed, the queen does not make all the decisions - the workers do. For instance, the forger bees aren't mindless and actually make critical decisions as a group relating to forging for pollen. Moreover, the group decides when the hive is becoming too large or is deteriorating and they organize a team to leave the hive and start a new one with an appointed queen. Interestingly  enough, the hive becomes very disorganized and chaotic if there is no queen in residence. The hive can become aggressive and confused. The queen doesn't work much other than bearing young so, her status is what many of us have always suspected of royalty - they are figureheads! Orkin
If you find a bee hive in your yard, just sit back for a few and watch them with fascination. As long as you don't threaten the hive, they will ignore you. They each know their job, they are skilled and experienced in communicating their progress with the team, what looks like chaos is a planned strategy, and they are busy! What I find so fascinating is how dedicated the bees are in working together and how they all seem to be equal leaders. The queen has her role, but the worker bees run the show. What a great culture!
I hate to admit it, but there is a lot that we can learn from bees! Consider this.......
  • Bees take the time to listen to each other and communicate. They know the future of the hive depends on it.
  • They seem to practice some type of "groupthink" but still think independently and share alternatives.
  • Bees work smart and pace themselves in the hive. They can't afford burnout within the worker bee ranks.
  • They work together with one agenda to meet goals. They know the consequences if they don't!
  • They build consensus as a group and don't deviate unless threatened - then they adapt and change.
  • The hive has order and isn't micromanaged - they can make decisions for the good of the hive. There's "wiggle" room to try something different if it protects the hive.
  • They exhibit a sense of responsibility to each other and the hive.
  • Bees "trust" one another. For example, When a bee communicates where some great flowers are, the fellow bees don't question the source - they take it at face value and forge out!
  • They stick to the jobs that they are assigned to and don't fight for a promotion.
  • Bees are smart and quick learners. They know their goal (survival) and set their path. They maintain a balance in the hive and kick out any bees that are unhealthy in the hive in order to keep on course.
In short? We can all learn a lot from the bees in our yards. Better yet? Leaders should look at bee behavior and model some of their traits in the workplace. What a great work culture it would be if we were all valued for our intelligence and comfortable in working together to meets goals - no hidden agendas or turf wars. How great if we trusted one another, yet were open to adapting and make change  without sacrificing our individuality. A balanced and fair culture would be so satisfying and productive. Perhaps managers should have small beehives nearby to remind them of what can - and should -Bee!!!!!!
What "Bee Havior" would you like to see where you work and what would it take for you - or your manager- to make changes to "The Hive"??