"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!