Planting Zone

Is Patience Your Virtue?

"It is not necessary for all men to be great in action. The greatest and sublimest power is often simple patience" - Horace Bushnell

Photo Courtesy of Kew on Flickr via Compfight

One of the largest and weirdest flowers in the world is the Titan Arum (Amorphophallus Titanum) or Corpse Flower shown in the picture above. Why is it called a Corpse Flower? Because it literally smells like rotting human flesh when it blooms for a few short days. The real story behind the Corpse Flower is in the power and patience that the plant has before it blooms.

Titan Arum hails from hot and tropical Indonesia. It's the largest unbranched inflorescence in the plant kingdom ( which means the floral structure is composed of many smaller individual flowers). It's umbrella sized petals open to 3-4 feet and it produces the largest leaves in the world - up to 15-20 feet! It loves hot warm day temperatures and high night humidity. The Corpse Flower is very patient and determined. It can take 10 or more years to bloom and demands particular growing conditions. One plant in Switzerland took over 75 years to bloom!The largest plant at Kew Gardens in England weighs over 200 pounds and grows 1/4 inch an hour! It only blooms after it has stored enough energy within it's underground stem. The Corpse Flower is highest on the smell-o-meter at night when it's very humid and it begins pollinating. Pollination releases a strong potent scent that is the result of 2 sulfur producing chemicals. The smell can be detected from 1/2 mile away! The smell does have a positive.It attracts pollinators such as the Dung and Carrion Beetles (shocking huh?).

Photo via Wild Sumatra at Compfight
Photo via Wild Sumatra via Compfight
Photo via wlculter via Compflight

This incredible creepy sci-fi plant draws crowds to botanical gardens all over the world when it blooms. It generates more press than a sitting President while blooming. People literally spend hours just watching the plant come into bloom and quickly grab nose protection when it does. It's so creepy that it's mesmerizing. The patience and long term focus of the Titan Arum is really admirable. Nothing can hurry it's growth, no one can influence it to bloom bigger, brighter, or faster. The Corpse Flower develops at it's own pace and inherently knows that patience pays off when it pops out in all it's blooming glory. How patient are you?

"He that can have patience, can have what he will" - Ben Franklin
Patience is NOT one of my virtues. It's something that I really need to work at and focus on. I get really enthusiastic about new ideas and projects and want to jump right in. I want to make things happen and bring about change. I hate waiting on other people in order to get things moving. It's hard for me to understand why some people work so slow, precise, and lethargic. Not the best traits for developing and growing my leadership skills over time right? Leadership is one area  where I have had to learn to pace myself and force myself to set long term goals on gaining more knowledge, experiences, and education.
 Like the Corpse Flower, leadership can't be forced. You must have patience and focus on the end goal : strong and everlasting leadership. 
If you are lucky enough to be a seasoned patient leader here is what your arch nemesis acts like:
  • He won't make time or have an interest in hearing other's concerns.
  • Lack of listening skills.
  • Results oriented to the determent of other teams/projects.
  • Perfectionist.
  • Little empathy or no Emotional IQ.
  • Persistent yelling or sarcasm.
  • Unreasonable goals or deadlines.
  • No tolerance for delay or failure.
  • Teams are a second thought. Get out of  the way of this leader!
  • One way communication - hers.
  • Leader feels that the marketplace demands this method of leadership.
  • No focus on the long term or the need for looking that far ahead. Just go!
Sound like anyone that you know? I bet that it does! Our fast moving world doesn't reward patience and long term thinking. Everything has to happen now, be now, and then it's on to the next thing. As a result, we are all pressured to produce now, act now, and hope that it all works out. Not conducive to personal long term growth nor the health of  individuals or companies.
 Leadership is a long term personal development process focused on experience, mistakes, education, and life lessons. Learn patience and practise patience.

 Why IS patience a virtue? How can you use it?
  1. When you take the time to see things through the eyes of other's you see the bigger picture and what other's are experiencing or noticing. Step back and focus. Take time to learn.
  2. Patience allows you to evaluate tension within a group and without bias. You avoid taking sides, can remain open minded, and be patient under pressure. This gift may take years to develop.
  3. Listen. Really listen. Ask questions in a patient voice and have an open positive attitude. This too is a hard skill.
  4. Be willing to seek a new perspective from someone else. Have your own mentor who can guide you with patience to resolve issues and strengthen your leadership.
  5. Be a role model. Don't runaway from being responsible yourself. Responsibility and patience often go hand in hand.
  6. Some things just take a long time. You need to be consistent and focused. For instance, building a strong company culture won't happen overnight. Like our flower, it happens on it's own timeline and you need to nurture it.
  7. Mastering patience and building skills over time, even decades, build your brand and reputation. Patience is the foundation of so many regarded skills. It's your foundation and base.
  8. Patience brings results. It rewards with growth, sales, service, and even personal recognition.
  9. Learning patience bring you the gift of suspending judgement or making decisions long enough to consider the best avenues to take. This is critical when your decisions have an impact on the lives of others. Be patient. Be focused. Be responsible.
  10. Patience helps build strong character in both yourself and others. You learn the ability to step back and look at every aspect of a situation with calm and reason. This enables you to truly make clear, fair, and just decisions. Patience brings a sense of peace.
Patience really is a vital virtue for everyone to develop.Think what would happen if we had a world full of patient parents, teachers, politicians, coaches, CEO's, leaders at every level. We are all leaders in what we do in our own lives. Some of us are more patient then others in learning patience in the game of life. Some of us need to remember that patience takes time to develop in others over time.

Like the Corpse Flower, patience can't be rushed. We all bloom when it's our time. Make the time to learn patience and put it to use. Bloom when YOU  are ready, not when others want you too!

Photo via The Rocketeer via Compfight

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 in the Leadership Zone?

"Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new" - Brian Tracy

Photo courtesy of USDA
Are you in the right zone or do you feel completely "zoned" out? When you are in your genuine zone you tend to feel more energetic and dynamic in both your work and personal life. Things are getting done. You are moving forward at a comfortable and confident pace. Time seems to slow or disappear as you get lost in whatever you are doing. It feels right and you love the feeling. Being in your zone brings you harmony and allows you to focus and grow. Think back to a time when you were "in your zone". Remember how you felt and what about that time made you lose time and love what you were doing. How did it feel? It's a great place to be! Do you get to jump into your zone a lot or is it a distant dream?
You can guess one of  my favorite "zone" times. Yup. It's when I am in my garden puttering around creating and bringing plants to life. It's the warm sun and the birds tweeting about. It's the satisfaction of seeing the growth of my work. I literally get "zoned" out for hours. Time passes without me noticing while my concentration and passion are focused like a sharp spade. I get some of my most creative ideas in this zone!
Again, I have found that life is similar to a garden. It's important that whatever your daytime gig or your  level of leadership, YOU find the right zone to grow in. Plants will only thrive if they have agreeable growing conditions. You won't grow tulips in Florida nor will you be growing any oranges in Wisconsin. The right plant needs the right place. The right leader needs the right zone to thrive. The two have an  uncanny need for the same things or they will both wither and even die.
Anybody can garden and be successful. Really! The key is having enough knowledge to be dangerous and plenty of spunk to give things a try. The biggest problem newbie gardeners make is not researching (or simply reading the plant tag!) what conditions a particular plant needs and following through when planting. The second error is watering too much or not enough. Last, don't place a sun loving cactus in the shade. It just doesn't work. Many of you have safely raised children or dogs, you CAN raise a garden. I've heard every excuse out there and I'm not buying in...
The first key to gardening with finesse is learning what planting zone that you live in. The USDA revised their plant hardiness map in 2012 to help gardeners and growers figure out which plants will thrive in their location (see above). The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature in your area and is divided into 10 degree F (Fahrenheit) zones. There are also heat zone maps for the warmer areas of the country because some plants can't survive in extreme heat.  Look at the map USDA Plant Hardiness Map to determine your planting zone. I live in Western Michigan and I am in Zone 6. Plant tags will either indicate which zones the plant will thrive in or the lowest average temperature that it will survive in. You absolutely need to know your planting zone or you will waste a lot of money and not ever realize why you are a crummy gardener!
Just to confuse you a bit. There are some caveats to your planting zone. You can actually "gain" a zone and grow plants that are out of your zone with success. For instance, I have Musa Basjoo Banana trees that grow from nothing to 12 feet tall every year. They don't realize that they probably shouldn't do that. I have overwintered Windmill Palms that didn't get the message either and they grew. How? Simple. Plants can move up a zone under the following conditions - so experiment!
  • Micro climates will allow some plants to grow. My banana trees are growing in between my sun porch and mudroom with the dryer vent nearby. They are protected in the winter and grow huge!
  • Snow. We snowbirds can actually grow plants that some Southerners can't. Snow is an insulator and protects plants.
  • Mulch or straw. Both insulate and protect against freeze and thaw cycles.
  • Wind, sun, days of frost will influence how and where a plant thrives.
  • Soil moisture and humidity.
What do planting zones have to do with you? Simple. If you aren't in the right "zone" - your zone, you won't thrive. How can you tell if you aren't in your zone?
  • You're not motivated and don't thrive
  • You feel frustrated and leggy
  • Your job has become a chore
  • You resist moving forward
  • Your "vision" is blurred
  • You are stressed and show it like a thirsty plant
  • People aren't buying into your ideas
  • You feel alone in your zone (remember our tulip in the wrong place?)
  • You are distracted by too many minor issues
  • How about dealing with office politics, busy work, solving other's problems, and you plain feel over your head!
What does all this have to do with your "Leadership Zone"?
Simple. If you fell out of your zone or haven't yet discovered it -  don't fret. You can drop back into the right zone. To be an effective leader and have personal happiness through growth, you need to find your sweet spot and remember (or learn) what it's like to be there.
First, you need to learn your zone boundaries (remember - you can't thrive in the wrong zone!).  Bill Zipp discusses 3 leadership zones that will help you to stay in the right zone and perform in his blog  3 Comfort Zones of Leadership.  Here are the Three Zones:
  1. Comfort Zone: This zone is real safe and comfy. You like it but know that you really can't stay here forever. While it might be nice to stay, you have the urge to move on and need more. You just aren't in your zone anymore. Your leadership style has developed and you can't stay in the greenhouse anymore being protected from the real elements!
  2. Stretch Zone: This is the zone that Bill refers to as "bold vision and big goals". Things are a little more uncertain and there is more perceived risk in this zone. This is the zone where you belong. You have dreams, vision, and trepidation. You feel challenged and are loving it. You thrive here!
  3. Danger Zone: You don't want to be in this zone! You are going to wilt like a plant! This zone brings stress, lack of productivity, worry, and burnout. It can happen fast! Zipp says that this is a zone of physical exhaustion, emotional depletion, and brings relational issues. Get out quick! Move back to your stretch zone!
So, how do you  find your zone? Here's some suggestions:

  • You need to get back to what impassioned you to your leadership role in the first place. Was it making a difference? Serving people? Creating new innovation and working with teams? Dig down and find it!
  • Play to your strengths. As you move up you have to take on more. I bet you are doing things you shouldn't be and aren't even good at! Give those projects/jobs to someone else who has the right gifts. You need to be able to use yours.
  • Prioritize tasks or have someone do it for you. Take advantage of technology to free up your mind to focus and guide you to do the right things.
  • You need the right environment to lead in just as plants need the right growing conditions. Write down what YOU need and make changes. It could be mixing up teams, reassigning projects etc. People follow you and depend on your strengths.
  • Find a mentor to help you get back to your sweet spot. Sometimes you need someone else to help you clarify  where you are and where you need to be.
  • Revisit why you wanted to influence and lead in the first place. Make those reasons your personal mission statement.
  • Reach out and ask your people what they need from you. Lead with a servant attitude to help them be successful and bring you back into the Stretch Zone.
  • Don't micromanage. You quickly fall into the Danger Zone when you take on too much or try to control everything. That's not leadership and you will just burnout.
  • When you get back to your passion and focus, strive for excellence in the key areas ONLY that will leave you with that "in the zone" feeling. Leave the other distractions out at all costs.
  • Be persistent and resilient in your role. Revisit expectations, goals, the end result regularly with yourself and your team. Keep your team zoned in on what you need them to do as a group.
  • Always be ready for resistance and the pull out of  the other zones. Don't let yourself lapse and tease yourself into thinking another zone isn't all that bad.
In short? You are like a plant. You need to be in the right spot and in your zone to thrive. Don't lose your focus and resist falling out of zone. What have you done to be in your perfect zone?

This Banana plant may not realize it's not supposed to grow here!