Self Confidence

Lead With Growth in 2014 With These 10 Ideas

"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional" - John C Maxwell

Photo courtesy of Daniel Moyle via Compfight
Yup. It's that time of year. We all make resolutions that we know we can't keep. We vow to do better, be better, and make the coming year better. Even though most of us know we can't keep the goals that we have set, we continue to try and set new resolutions this time every year. I like to blame it on the media and all the attention that is played to setting goals for the new year. We are made to feel that we have to set resolutions. It's not that setting goals isn't beneficial, it just isn't effective if you don't start with baby steps and track your progress in order to grow your resolutions into fruition.

As a passionate and addicted gardener, I tend to equate this time of year more with all the new growth that will arrive with Spring. January is when all the new garden catalogs and magazines start filling up my mailbox. It's like Christmas every day! If you garden, you understand! This time of year brings news of new plant and tree cultivers along with season previews. I love paging through all the books while putting pen to paper to plan which plants will be moved, trashed, or given new garden buddies. Garden websites are full of vibrant colors and planting schemes that offer endless possibilities. It helps get me thorough the cold dreary Western Michigan winters......

Professional garden architects would cringe if they knew the ways that I garden. While I try to work with planting principles like "plant in odd groups" or "plant by color", I just can't. There are too many gems out there in nurseries and catalogs that I want to include in my gardens. I love to try new things with color, form, and texture. I am very guilty of buying cool plants that catch my eye and feverishly finding spots for them. Luckily, I have a lot of room to garden with so my gardens flow without looking too much like a patchy mess. I love more of a wild and natural look than a manicured and cut look.

For years I kept a detailed garden notebook where I indicated what was planted and where. I kept tags for proper care. I was on it! As I became more experienced and whimsical in my ways, I stopped. Occasionally it's an issue but I work around it. One thing that I do every year is write out a list of ideas or plants that I want to incorporate into my garden the next year. I love jotting everything down so I have somewhat of a plan for Spring. You need to do the same in order to showcase your ideas and jump start some creativity as ideas often build on themselves.

Here are 10 "resolutions" to spark ideas  for the 2014 gardening season

  1. Grow some unusual rare or unique plants from seed. Scour those catalogs and start planting inside as early as late January. It will lift your spirits and your gardening confidence.
  2. Vow to enjoy more organic homegrown food. Incorporate flowers into your veggies to make a colorful, yet useful planting bed.
  3. Compost, compost, compost.
  4. Take some garden classes at a local garden house or a state extension program. Here's a site that will help you find one in your area  State garden extension programs . Plan what you want to learn.
  5. If you don't garden much, commit by doing it at least 3 times a week. Gardening burns a lot of calories. Moderate gardening for an hour burns almost 300 calories! Who needs to run?
  6. Reduce or eliminate your lawn. Lawns need a lot of water, fertilizer, and don't do a lot to add to the ecosystem with beneficial bugs like butterflies and a gallery of beautiful song birds.
  7. Go native. Keep your clothes on here! Plant plants native to your area. Many need little to NO care in order to thrive. They love your planting climate and have evolved so they will flourish.
  8. Plant for the four seasons. This may take some planning however, some of the most beautiful gardens actually shine in the winter. Their bronze colors and textures can be amazing!
  9. Join or start a garden club. Starting a club in my area is a goal of mine in 2014. What a great way to reach out to others, learn, and make new friends!
  10. Have fun!!!! Enjoy your garden with others and hold garden parties!
Remember, put your garden ideas and goals to pen on paper or in your phone. There are a lot of great apps out there that will help keep you organized. Start small or in chunks to keep you on track. Make plans to invite friends over to force you to keep to your time table.

Gardening is a great de-stresser and a great way to cut work out of your mind and into something where you can visually see growth and change. If gardening isn't your thing, make sure that you do have an outlet or hobby that sparks your creativity and brings you to a relaxing state of mind. If you don't have a hobby yet - This needs to be your first 2014 resolution!

If you are committed to your personal growth as a person and leader in 2014, you need to set goals. In order to have success, don't go overboard with a long list of goals because your chances of remaining focused are slim. Even if you set 2 goals for the upcoming year you will be a stronger person and more effective leader. To achieve your resolutions you need to have a plan AND find a good buddy to keep you on track and accountable (guilt trip guilt trip!). If having a notebook with goals on you isn't your thing then search for an app to keep track on your phone. There is a website that you can sign up for to help with your resolutions at You will be sent an email or text every day asking how you are doing on your goal. It will also track your stats. This great idea came from Dan McCarthy at SmartBlog. Read his entire article at SmartBlog - How to achieve your 2014 leadership goals Bottom line? Have a plan to keep yourself on track and accountable. What resolutions will you set for yourself in 2014? Here are some ideas to get you started...

10 resolutions to get you motivated for leadership growth in 2014
  1. Become more thoughtful.
  2. Focus on employee benefits and relationships.
  3. Invest in continued learning and development. Yours and your team.
  4. Become a stronger communicator.
  5. Focus on talking less and listening more.
  6. Be a champion of doing the right thing.
  7. Provide and develop better ideas from others.
  8. Build trust in your skills and from your people.
  9. Involve everyone on the team in setting the vision and goals. Own the goals!
  10. Focus on feedback. Welcome it and take criticism with an open mind.

What will your goals be? What will you dedicate yourself to focusing on in 2014? Write it down, own it, and have an accountability buddy. Lead with growth in 2014 and become a better, stronger, empowering leader.
Photo courtesy of Photo Librarian via Compfight


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?

"Volunteer" and grow into being a leader!

Love is the flower you've got to let grow.
John Lennon
A beautiful "Volunteer" Hibiscus in my garden

I love free stuff. I'm not obsessive about it like my kids - who will keep any gimmicky stuff that they can get their hands on . One of them is on his way to qualifying for the "Hoarders" TV show if he keeps it up! I am delighted when I find free plants, especially when they pop up in my garden.

"Volunteer Plants" are plants that sow themselves and just burst up anywhere in the garden. I  discovered  the beautiful Hibiscus plant above growing in the middle of some Black Eyed Susan flowers (Rudebeckia) one morning in my front garden.What a showoff! It's a perennial (comes back year after year) and the only place that I have any Hibiscus plants is on the other side of the house - in a different color!

Volunteers are spirited from seeds in the wind, compost, through water, and via bird droppings ( a favorite way for Poison Ivy to travel by the way!). They are often stronger and healthier because they will only spring up where they have the best chance of survival. Volunteers may be different than the parent plants and if pollinated, they can become new cultivers. This is often how we get new and improved plant varieties - both annuals and perennials.

In both politics and business, we frequently see new leaders pop up out of nowhere as well. They creep up in different places and may be a diamond in the rough. Leadership presents in different ages, nationalities, shapes, forms, and styles. Leaders can be the "bad boys (or girls!)" of yesterday or new and upcoming. For instance, take 17 year old Nick D'Aloisio who recently sold his Summly app to YaHoo for an estimated $30 Million. Suddenly, he was thrust into a leadership role because of his success and people look to him for tech leadership qualities. Not bad for a teenager!

Some people feel that leaders are "born". I'm not convinced of that. Sure, some people have some natural born talents that we identify with leadership, but most leaders have worked diligently to build their skills and hone their strengths. Leaders develop over time and step up to "volunteer" in a number of ways to become who they are. If you long to be an effective leader - no matter what your stage in life - here are some hints to step up your leadership growth and "volunteer":
  • Lead yourself first. Consistently motivate yourself, mold yourself, and model traits that you admire.
  • Always be positive and upbeat. Develop a win-win attitude.
  • Always breath learning new things. Read books, attend seminars, interact with colleagues, pick the brains of others. Show commitment to personal growth.
  • Build your own "Brand". Your brand will stand for what you believe in, how others see you, how you want to be perceived. Be authentic. People will see through you if you aren't.
  • Act. Don't just talk and write goals down. Get out there and dig in!
  • Take public responsibility for your actions. Finish anything that you touch or commit to.
  •  Ask for feedback- learn from it. Be open to learning new things and accepting other's ideas .Be open.
  • Seek out new opportunities - volunteer for the projects no one wants. You will get noticed.
  • Look  where you can provide insight or help to others . Give your time, ideas, plans etc.
  • Give credit where credit is due. Don't steal the ideas of others - people know and talk.
  • Appreciate others and the little things that they do. Publicly praise them or surprise them with small gifts of thanks.
  • Actively communicate and connect with people every day. Make it a habit to make a new connection  every day. Get to know them personally.
  • Push the envelope - gently. Try new things that make you uncomfortable. Take some risk. Don't be afraid of standing up for what is right - or for your beliefs.
Remember, you don't need a title to be a leader. You can be a 13 year old kid that raises $300 for a charity. You can be a stellar volunteer at your school. You can be active in Ambucs. It doesn't matter - just get out there and do it! Incorporate some of the suggestions above to build your leadership skills. I know so many "leaders" with fancy titles and they exhibit few, if any, leadership traits! They lead by title, not by investing in others. People reluctantly follow them because they have to. Don't be that kind of leader.

I love watching my kids grow up. It's so gratifying to see that they actually listened to me (at times) over the years and I see what great people they are becoming. My oldest son is in college now and I'm very impressed with how he is becoming a leader. He is unwittingly trying some of the tips above and loving it. He works in a chemistry lab and is truly enchanted. He is working on research projects with his professors. He asks questions, he wants to learn and welcomes feedback. He's sharing his knowledge with others and encouraging other's passions. He's connecting. I'm sure he doesn't think that he is becoming a leader - but he is!

One of my favorite volunteer plants in my garden is Verbena Bonariensis in the photo below. I started some from seed years ago and they have always popped up in my garden since. They are an electric purple and fit in anywhere because of their tall stature and their ability to add texture to my garden. The best part? Butterflies and bees love this flower! There are days that the air is a flutter of activity around this plant. I always love to see it take a spot in my gardens.

 Become a "Volunteer" yourself. Get out there and develop yourself. You never know where you will be "planted" down the road. Life can be a fun, mystical, and exciting journey. Embrace it and flourish.

What things have you done to develop your leadership skills? I would love to hear them!
My all time favorite volunteer "Verbena Bonariensis"