Are You Ready to Say Hello to New Growth?

For many of us, spring is just popping up, and old crabby winter has moved along. Spring is my favorite season. I continued to be enthralled by how life slowly unfolds and reaches up to the cloudless sky praising the sun. Small creatures start to rumble about and the insect's twirl by with ease and zest. There are so many fresh smells, and nothing beats hearing birds tweet just as the sun is rising. I am always mesmerized by the sound of croaking frogs in our woods even though our neighbors behind must beg for headphones to drown out the constant chatter.

I have a great friend that recently shared his video with me (above). Greg Heeres is a leadership aficionado and rascal with a passion for bringing out the best in others and sharing leadership lessons. He shares short snippets of video lasting only seconds but sharing what takes most several minutes to offer advice. Greg is a proponent for growth and walks the talk. His video connected with me because spring is such a season of newness, freshness, and growth. Spring is a better time to set new goals, make a change, and renew your life than New Years. What better time to grow and fertilize those around you than a time when you see and smell new growth every day.

As a gardener, I feel alive and ready to get outside planting, fertilizing, growing, and pruning. As Greg shared, it's a time to reflect on what kind of growth that we want to experience. It's looking at what tools we need to grow and what impacts others. Just like our plants, spring is also about fertilizing those around us according to their needs and what motivates them to grow. You just can't plant a cactus in the shade and expect growth when it craves the sunshine.

Moreover, pruning can be a painful process because we become accustomed to what we are comfortable with and like around us. The initial pruning is stark or painful, and we don't always know if our efforts are worth it. Isn't life like this? That to which we hold close to us is the hardest to let go. This includes behaviors, thoughts, and habits. 

I encourage you to make spring about you. Here are some ideas for bringing on some "newness" this season that will set you up for long-term growth and enable those around you to flourish.

·         What negative habits or thoughts are dragging you down? They are like diseases in the garden, and you need to address them to ensure your growth.

·         What needs pruning from your life right now? Maybe personal time is non-existent, and you are slowly sinking into the ground. Set your priorities and make a list of what you can minimize at work to maximize your personal life.

·         Who are you mentoring or coaching? You have the power to "fertilize" others, and it's amazing how you feel when you see someone grow in front of you.

·         Become more diverse. Beautiful gardens take time, planning, and patience. You need to bring in a variety of plants and have enough diversity in your yard for beauty and for the health of your plants. Are you engaging with diverse groups of people? Are you lifting others up and making efforts to expand your world? It takes time, and a concerted effort but the rewards are incredible.

·         How does it smell around you? Spring is a time for freshness. Are your ideas still fresh? Do you take the time to lighten up with those around you? Do you make a concerted effort to maintain a positive aura around you or lend positive words throughout your day?

·         Plan for future growth. Before you can plant a new garden, you need to prepare the soil. The same goes for growing new leaders. Are you purposeful in building others up so they can jump into your role some day? Are you purposefully looking to bring out the strengths in others?

·         Be the sunshine in someone's life every day. Smile, and you will light up those around you. Likewise, work the soil so that people have a strong foundation from which to sprout.

Breathe spring in and not only grow yourself this season but plant, fertilize, grow, and prune all around you!

Ready to Sweeten Up Your Pallet This Spring?

Photo Courtesy of foto76 via Freedigitalphotos.net

Simple Ways to Improve Your Garden With Pallets

Here is a great guest post from John M. Potter

Serious gardeners know how to deal with problems. It’s rare that any gardener has perfect soil, perfect moisture, or perfect weather - outside of a greenhouse, that is. Most of us have to dig out rocks, add mulch or sand, fight off rabbits and other critters, and patiently water on hot days in order to reap the rewards of beauty or harvest. If you can’t work under somewhat challenging circumstances, gardening is not for you.

That’s why gardeners often have an eye for the potential of things. They see a community garden in an empty lot - and the neighbors, socializing, and learning together that goes along with that. They can look at a steep hill in a backyard and envision a lovely terraced flower garden blooming from May to October with perennials. Because of this, it’s not uncommon for gardeners to take on little projects to turn their second home into something more comfortable and convenient for working in.

One of the trends we’ve seen recently in gardening is upcycling. Because gardeners also tend to have an attachment to the earth, many of them try to find ways to recycle items that would otherwise end up in a landfill. This often results in a quirky personalized space full of treasures - silk purses from sows ears.

Pallets are a common material gardeners use because they are so ubiquitous. Pallets are used for transporting just about everything, and they’re constructed with wood that’s already in a useful rectangular shape. Because pallets can be gotten pretty easily for cheap or for free, they’re worth using if you’d like to make something beautiful or handy.

What are some good starter projects for gardeners? First, think about what you need. There’s no point in making anything if you won’t use it. Would it be handy to have a space to store pots and tools or would a table to clean vegetables be more helpful? Could a pallet help you to grow plants like lettuces or herbs vertically? Would you garden longer if you had cold frames? Would it make you smile to surround your garden with a decorative fence? There are many good tutorials online showing beginners the practical steps and things to consider when using pallet wood for projects and even more articles and Pinterest ideas about what is possible.

Before you bookmark 100 more sites, though, it’s always good to examine your goals. You might need a new challenge or a different creative outlet. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to work with wood, and this is an easy way to start. Or is it a priority to personalize your garden space? None of these are the wrong answer. All of them, or none, might be the right answer at some point in your lifetime. Just don’t let yourself get sidetracked and forget what you’re really outside to do: grow things in the earth.

Finally, don’t forget to revel in the feel of the dirty in your hands and the wind in your hair. Spring is for gardeners, and it’s finally here!

How About a Little Renewal and Rebirth This Spring?

Courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

"Oh, Spring! I want to go out and feel you and get inspiration. My old things seem dead. I want fresh contacts, more vital searching" - Emily Carr

The past few weeks have been like living in a vortex. Spring has been rushing in and out like a lion running after a bunny. The weather turned inside out with 5 inches of snow dropping on us out of nowhere in the Midwest.  After the snow melted, I was able to get outside to welcome some of my new plants popping up while making the difficult decision to say goodbye to so many others.
Spring is such a refreshing, bright, and growing season. For those of us in the north, spring is like a gift with a big green bow on top. It’s a time when we can get outside again to enjoy nature and change.  We see things that we forgot about over the winter including wildlife, greens, and even neighbors. Once spring rushes in I feel like I have been given new life and my excitement builds to grow everything around me.

Unfortunately in so many areas of the country spring is a tease and we quickly learn that we may need to protect ourselves and our gardens from the snapping chills or snow. Mother Nature doesn’t always play fair we may need to jump in to save the day.  Here are some growth tips for keeping your spring bright and growing.

  •  Don’t be fooled by warm temperatures. Never plant new plants, especially annuals, until you check dates in your area for when it’s frost free or later in the spring to plant. Check online for proper planting dates or check with your local extension program.
  •   I love wandering inside greenhouses this time of year to smell the dirt and growth (gardeners understand!). If I do buy something I leave it inside or sheltered deep on my front porch to slowly acclimate the greenery to the cooler temperatures. Don’t bring shrubs out of a greenhouse and into the ground. It’s like dousing yourself in a cold shower and that’s not a positive experience!
  •  Don’t worry about your spring bulbs or early spring flowers. Bulbs are very hardy and built to survive the ravages of spring. Cut some to enjoy inside and leave the rest to laugh at Mother Nature!
  • It’s not too early to dig. There’s a myth out there that you will damage your soil by digging. This is actually a great time to get some digging in while the soil is soft and can actually be moved.
  • Some perennials are popping up and it’s a perfect time to divide them with a spade and share with neighbors. You can actually begin to see where you may have holes in your garden and where new plants can be plunked in.
  • Look closely at your yard before everything grows up like a jungle. This is the time to pull out trees and shrubs that have started to attack their neighbors or your house. They will come out easily and you will have time to plan what will go in next.
  • You can easily see the lines of gardens beds now. Get out and shape them with a shovel and pull out more grass to add more plants.
  • Pull out dead flowers from pots and fluff the soil or refill with fresh rich soil. It’s easier to do it now rather than when you are overly eager to get planting and throw caution to the wind and do a sloppy job with your soil.
  • Keep feeding your feathered friends. It may look greener out however, there isn’t enough foliage to feed the birds while they build nests and need extra energy.
  • Get weeding now! I am always shocked how weeds can grow under the snow. Pull them as soon as possible and keep it up like a marathon because the spring weeds are the ones that sneak up on you and make your life miserable.

Spring isn’t just for gardening. It’s also a time for renewal and growth in our personal and professional lives. It’s a great time to pick up those growth goals that you forgot about that were declared in January and put them into action. I don’t know about you, but I feel so much more motivated and energized in the spring. There’s more daylight and the warmer days perk me up. People seem happier and even more accommodating to work on projects or support others.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending” – Maria Robinson

Why spring is THE time to focus on your own renewal and growth

  • Annual performance reviews have been in full swing (I know, yuck). This is an opportune time to focus on growth areas and make changes. Pick just 2-3 items at the most for focus because your brain will throw in the towel if you challenge it too much.
  • Employers are in full hiring mode. Maybe now is the time to make a job change or even jump into a whole new field. The improved economy may be an opportunity to go part-time or start that side business you have been dreaming of. 
  • More people are eager to network or dig into some learning opportunities with the weather more encouraging and the increased daylight keeping us awake. Take advantage of events like Network After Work, industry career events, or check out Meetup.com to find something in your area. 
  • Be brave and try something new. How about yoga? Join a bike club? Find a reading group. I want to learn how to meditate so it is a focus for me this season.
  • Find a new lunch table. Stop eating with your normal group of peeps and fan out. Meet some new people in other areas to grow friendships and learn something new. You never know where it will lead. 
  • Change one thing that you don’t like about yourself. Work on a more positive attitude. Be more emotionally engaged. Put yourself first for a change. Finally do one thing to impact your health.
  • Just as we organize plants in the garden in groups of 3, organize your personal space or work area. Better yet, move things around, including yourself if you can, for a fresh start and change.
  • Look around you and pick one person this spring that you can really impact and grow. Maybe you see potential in a coworker or friend. Really focus on helping them grow where they are planted. It will be the most wonderful gift that you can offer someone. Moreover, it will be the best gift that you can give yourself. 
  • Fertilize yourself every day with knowledge. Pick up a book and read 30 minutes a day. Staring at your computer or getting lost in social media does not count. Leaders are readers and books won’t bite!

Come on! Don’t be a stick in the mud this spring. Get out there and grow!


How About a Rain Garden This Spring?

A rain garden can add beauty and impact the environment
Thanks to John Potter for his guest post this week!

You never know what the weather will bring in the Midwest. A week ago we had a freak snowstorm with 9 inches of snow, this week we were in the 60s. The frogs have been chirping for spring and some plants are started to poke up out of the ground. Sadly, I know that winter isn’t done with us yet!

Rain is a spring ritual for so many of us. Unfortunately, rain doesn’t always favor the entire country with her grace. In so many places, rain is becoming a scare resource and we all need to try to save on water in little ways. If we all save on water we can collectively make an impact on the water crises that faces our country.

I am blessed to live in Michigan where we are surrounded by 4 massive Great Lakes. We have 10% of the world’s fresh water in Lake Superior alone. To us, water sometimes appears to be a limitless resource. We are spoiled while gardeners in drought-stricken states must focus on how to utilize water sparingly. For too long we have long been content to take this resource for granted. This idea is slowly changing as water prices continue to rise. After all, gardeners must recognize that they’re not simply paying for water but the corresponding sewage rates for such water use as well - whether the water hits the drain or not.

So what can just one person do to save water?  What are some easy ways to save water? You can either choose plants that require less moisture to thrive, or you can build a garden that naturally captures and retains water. A lot of people are jumping on the bandwagon to create what’s called a rain garden.  According to Ground Water Foundation “Compared to a conventional lawn, rain gardens allow for 30% more water to soak into the ground.” Why is this important? Because so much of urban space is asphalt, rainwater quickly washes away after a storm, causing both flooding and absorption of toxins that must be removed from that water in a treatment facility before it can be used again for drinking, washing, or watering plants. Rain-garden plants are chosen not just because they retain water, but because they often filter out toxins themselves.

Creating a rain garden requires tightly planting shrubs and perennials amidst a bed of rocks or mulch to trap rainwater runoff. As such, this type of garden should be positioned near a low spot or where a naturally slope exists. If your landscape doesn’t have either, it’s easy enough to create a 6-inch deep depression. A berm should be constructed on the lowest side of the depression to retain water. Be sure that you position your rain garden at least ten feet away from your home.

The plants you select should be able to survive periodic flooding. Be sure to plant in groupings as a hedge against dislocation. Surrounding these plants with grasses that prevent soil erosion is another way to fortify your rain garden. Planting within a soil mixture of mostly sand, with equal parts topsoil and compost works best.

Rain gardens aren’t areas for stagnant water to pool. In fact, the water retained by a rain garden after a rainfall generally drains within 48 hours. Rain gardens that fail to drain within this time risk damaging plant roots. Ensuring that your rain garden does not create a standing pool of water is as simple as conducting a soil test and checking to see just how easy it is for water to infiltrate the soil.

Finally, don’t neglect to use mulch to safeguard your rain garden during dry days (shredded hardwood bark is best). On a hot summer day, as much as 70% of water can evaporate from the soil. A protective layer of mulch prevents evaporation from occurring and helps hold moisture within the soil. Many types of mulch even add helpful nutrients to the soil because they decompose over time. I layer my gardens every spring with new mulch and over the years my soil has become softer and richer while it feeds my plants.

One of the best things about rain gardens is that landscapers are able to use indigenous plants to create them, and those plants are better suited to the local habitat and to the animals and insects within it - which means they are more likely to thrive and nurture the living things within your natural ecosphere. They are also less likely to need pampering or require pesticides or insecticides to keep them looking great.

I built a rain garden on the north side of our house several years ago. We had an issue with water pouring down one of the downspouts from our two story home. The water would literally flood the plants and wash away the mulch every time it rained hard. It became very annoying and caused me a lot of extra work. We placed a drainage tube under the soil attached to the gutter spout. The tube drops the water down a dry river bed lined with stones about 8 inches deep. There are flowing grasses that surround the rain garden. It’s a perfect and natural way to divert the rain from the house foundation and because this area of the yard is so sandy it provides some well needed moisture to the plant roots.

Rain gardens are really a win-win solution for everyone. Making one in your yard this gardening season isa great project for the West Michigan gardener this spring. If you are up to the challenge I would love to see your pictures!

Today We Celebrate The Best Leaders In The World - Mom!

"From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow" Aeschylus
Photo via Ramsay2 via Compfight.com
Spring continues to unfurl and splash bright green everywhere with touches of pink, white, red, and purple. Spring is the time when Mother Nature gets to be the center of attention every day for weeks as she celebrates her own magical Mother's Day over and over. The sweet smell of mowed grass, flowering trees, and fragrant spring flowers wafts through the air. I love hearing the songs of the frogs as they awaken and look to be mothers themselves! It really is magical and makes suffering through winter well worth the wait.

Every gardener, male or female, is really a "mother" every day in the garden. We plant little seeds sometimes needing to soak or nick them with a file to help them sprout. We give them the best soil and warmth in which to begin their growth. When they burst through the soil we care for them gently - some of us even talking non-stop to them in their gentle state. We gently water them as not to drown them and provide the seedlings food as they strengthen. When our babies are strong enough to venture outside we slowly expose them to the bright sun so that they don't burn. After a few days we let them bask in the rays while we give them all the water that they need.

Once our "babies" are ready we look to put them in just the right place. We find a spot chosen just for them with all their growing needs in mind. After placing them in their new home we continue to nurture them until they can stand alone in the garden and do what they were prepared for - growing up and flourishing into a beautiful beaming center of our garden. Isn't that what our own mothers did with us as we all grew up?

 A hearty thank you to all the "Mothers" who have grown us from a tiny seed and nurtured our growth to be leaders ourselves.

Photo courtesy of Jenny Downing via Compfight
Today is a very special day to so many women - Mother's Day! This day is more than just a Hallmark holiday (and a money maker to greenhouses around the world!). Mother's Day is also a tribute to women who don't have any biological children. These women should be honored as well. So many of them have helped grow and influence other girls and women. They have had an instrumental role in leading other females to realize their purpose and have helped nurture them along in life. For ALL the women out there - Thank you and have a wonderful Mother's Day!

We can all think of a special "Mom" who has had an impact in our lives. Women have an immense magic on the lives of those that they interact with every day. Moreover, women really are some of the strongest role models out there. Moms do so much "behind the scenes" work that most of us don't even think about on a regular basis. Moms are silent leaders - and the best one's at that! Moms do so much throughout our lives as they nurture our growth and prepare to let us go out into the world. Guess what? The growth that they provide really does lead us without us really "seeing" Mom as a leader. This is what the best leaders do in the background.

Why "Mom's" are the best leaders around
  • They gently teach us manners and how we should always be thankful
  • They teach us not to hit or throw things and to control our tempers
  • Moms are strong and repeatedly show us their strength and perseverance in tough times
  • They are decisive when they need to be in making a hard call
  • Moms support us unconditionally
  • They  believe in us and our ability to succeed
  • They know how to balance family and work without complaint
  • Moms are fantastic program managers - who else could plan and execute all those extracurricular events?
  • They give us positive praise without giving us "big" heads
  • Moms let us make mistakes and learn from them
  • They remind us that they have the last say and to respect their decisions 
  • Moms are the ultimate planners and multitasking queens
  • Moms have sound listening and communication skills - perhaps too much for some people!
  • They have a strong work ethic and expect us to as well
  • They quickly handle conflict and encourage collaboration while working through strife
  • Mom knows how to protect us from ourselves
  • They know how to form strong teams and manage them (birthday party games, chores) 
  • They are pros at creating reward systems to encourage behaviors and increase productivity
  • They always try to encourage a positive atmosphere where we respect each other
  • Moms are tolerant and open to new ideas
  • Mom is always up for a challenge that no one warned her about!
  • They are our biggest fans and fiercest protectors
  • They know how to play politics from being with other parents
  • Moms really are THE BEST  naturally born leaders!
If you have any doubts at this point that Moms are the strongest most natural leaders around sit back and really think about what a "Mom" did for you as you grew up and how she continues to help you  develop as a person today. How did she nurture you and prepare you for the real world?
Guess what? Next time that you are trying to be a better leader or find a new one for your team, think of Mom and all the qualities that she has. You will know what to look for and how effective he/she will be!
Happy "Mother's Day" to all those women who have made a differences in the lives of others and continue to do so today. Moms = Leaders!

You've Got A Friend In Me

"Folks are like plants; We all lean toward the light" - Kris Carr

Photo courtesy of postbear via Compfight.com
Spring is such a delight for me. The sun is more vibrant, the clouds fluffy and trailing, and the clear gentle breezes go this way and that. Spring also brings a lot of work for me as I energetically go out to cut back all the dead growth in my beds - only to ramble hours later into the house moving slowly and with a marked soreness! This ritual continues for a few weeks until all my garden beds are clean, freshened with wood chips, and new "friends" join the plants from past seasons.
In a way, spring clean up at my house  is like Christmas. As I pull away all the dead growth not only am I greeted by fresh green growth,  but I discover plants springing out that I had forgotten were there. At times I can't remember exactly what some plants are until they put on more growth. All of  a sudden I have some "ah ha" moments and am delighted. This time of year reminds me so much of meeting new friends as I wander in my gardens. I haven't seen them for quite some time yet, I love "reacquainting" myself with each and everyone of them. Some plants were planted last season and are "new" friends. Others are established and never fail to disappoint me with their beauty and stature.
It's times in my garden like this that I really appreciate all that I have and the beauty springing forth around me. Indeed, I really like to think of some of my plants as old friends and it always puts a smile on my face as we meet again after a long, cold, harsh winter.
This spring is especially meaningful for me. I recently sprang into a new job opportunity and every day is full of new learning experiences and discovering new friends. It's a delight to go to work each day with a sense of discovery and wonder - just like wandering in a spring garden. Sadly, I just left some work friends goodbye however, my new venture offers new friendships ahead. How are your work friendships and what do you do to grow them?
"Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend" - Albert Camus
Photo courtesy of Seranyaphotography via Compfight.com
Some people don't want work friendships. They stay with old ways of  thinking that work and personal lives should be kept separate. Huh? Considering that we all spend 8-10 hours a day (at least) with people at work we really NEED to make friends at work. The benefits keep us healthy and engaged.
Why you need "work friends"
  • You spend more time at work than with your family. A healthy life means healthy relationships with those that you are around the most. Be healthy. Seek out some work friends.
  • You will want to go to work everyday and look forward to being with people that you like and understand you.
  • You will feel more motivated and engaged working with those that you like and respect.
  • Friends are a great support system. Who better to understand you then those that see you in your work role? Work friends understand your struggles and frustrations better than anyone.
  • Friends help bring about a sense of belonging and team.
  • You know what? You really will care more about your work because you know that what you do can impact those around you - your buds.
  • You will learn so much more from work friends. You feel more comfortable asking questions, sharing ideas, and asking for advice.
  • Sometimes work friendships grow into mentoring opportunities. Mentors get to know the "real" you and may see the gifts that can be unlocked inside.
  • Friends really do make us happy!

 Clearly work friendships can be the start of something new and open up opportunities. I'm eagerly looking forward to building more relationships and finding new friends in the weeks ahead. In large companies it's often easier said than done. People are busy, schedules are in conflict, there are often already a variety of friend groups. Remember high school? It never really leaves us.

Here are some suggestions for how to make new friends

  • Smile with all of your mind and body. Be genuine.
  • Take an interest in others. Be very curious.
  • Make others feel important and really listen.
  • Ask questions and be genuine in learning all that you can about others.
  • Admit any mistakes or misunderstanding right away. Be sincere.
  • Don't gossip!
  • As Dale Carnegie always said, "Don't criticize, condemn, or complain".
  • Don't stop trying to form relationships. Some people are shy and really need time to open up and connect with other people.
  • Be helpful and offer to shoulder more workload from others.
  • Jump into social opportunities and accept invitations to connect outside of work.
  • Volunteer with coworkers on projects or in the community.
  • Seek out other people outside of your department or even location.
  • Ask people to lunch or for coffee.
  • Bring in treats.
  • Be real and be a friend.
Do you have any other suggestions to make some friends at work? Relationships are what make us human and really help us grow. Go out and uncover some friends this week! I know that I will be uncovering some new opportunities to connect........

Invest In The Right "Seeds" with a Talent Mindset

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant" - Robert Louis Stevenson

Photo Courtesy of Code Poet via Compfight

We are having a heatwave in the Midwest with a high of 52! The snow is rapidly melting  and already  the crazies are out in their shorts and sandals. Many gardeners have already started seeds inside for spring planting or they are preparing to do so. I start some of my seeds inside in February so that I can pop the plants into the ground right after our last frost in May. I love the smell of fresh dirt and growing seedlings when I open the door to my grow room in the basement. Every flower has it's own scent and it makes me itch to get outside!

Experience quickly taught me that buying cheap just doesn't pay in the long run. The same goes for seeds. It's crucial to find high quality fresh seeds or you may end up looking at bare dirt under your grow lights. That being said, remember to read planting instructions closely because some seeds need to be nicked or soaked prior to planting. Likewise, some flower varieties need to be sown a good 12 weeks before your last frost date. In order to grow the best, you need to start with the best.

Passionate gardens often become seed collectors to save for planting the next season. It's a great way to perpetuate unusual varieties, save money, and share with others. If you receive some seeds from a friend or have some left over from last year you want to make sure that they will germinate so that you don't get frustrated. Here's two tests to see if you have good seeds:

  1. Water Test: Soak your seeds in a container for 10-15 minutes. If they sink then they should germinate. If they float you had better just dump them.
  2. Germination Test: Take a few of your seeds and place them in a row on a moist paper towel and fold the moist towel over them. . Place them in a sealed plastic baggie. Keep them damp and place them someplace warm like the top of your refrigerator. Check periodically to see if the seeds sprout. It could take a while so be patient. Obviously if they sprout, they are good.
You want your offspring to get the best start that they can this spring to avoid disappointment or seedling death. Here's some tips for getting your seeds off to a strong start:

  • Spend more money up front and buy quality seeds. Skip the dollar store or off brand seeds. Check the expiration date on the back of the packet to see how fresh they are.
  • Consider buying heirloom seeds, organic certified, specialty, or no chemical seeds. These products are often top of the line genetically or in their production and will grow for you.
  • Read the instructions on the packet! Some seeds need a little help to get going by being soaked or scratched. 
  • If your seeds are super small like Poppy seeds it may be worth buying extra because they are so hard to plant without needing magnifying glasses!
  • Be selective and don't go overboard. It's SO easy to buy way too many seed packets because they all look good like candy in a candy store. Be reasonable and consider your growing space. I've overdone it way too many times.
  • Do your homework on your planting space to verify that if you are growing shade plants that you have a shady area to actually plant them in...... 

"The people you surround yourself with in your organization make or break your success. No one succeeds alone" - Stacy Feiner, PsyD 


Just like the seeds that I grow I am passionate about "growing" people. I love to find that special "something" in someone and bring it to fruition. This isn't easy and from time to time I have really wanted a "garden plan" to help. I finally found one in Stacy Feiner's new book Talent Mindset: The business owners guide to building bench strength. What I love about this gem is the passion that Stacy brings in addressing the need to identify great talent, foster it, and bring a new mindset to organization's.  Our people really are our foundation and we need to ingrain this in our company culture. I particularly enjoy that Stacy's book is geared towards business owners and small businesses who really have a stake in having strong talent in order to survive.

Feiner is clearly passionate about the importance of talent development to the survival of an organization. Moreover, she is adamant that this isn't just an HR responsibility, it's every body's job in the company. Most importantly the owner/CEO must have a stake and invested interest in the road map detailing  how this process can be done and how critical it is. The entire talent concept is deeply embedded within a company culture. She presents ideas that form a completed puzzle and plan which involves 9 interlocking "pieces" called Center's of Excellence. These Center's are organized into 3 corridors: Acquisition, Development, and Deployment. These corridors tend to give leaders the most "people pain" that seem to never go away. The Centers of Excellence enable a company to optimize talent, grow, lead for the future, and to find talent and successors for the company.

It's up to the owner/CEO to own and steer the process of a company's talent and strategy. It's this leader who has the ability to change the culture and really make finding and developing new talent a key variable in the culture long term. Moreover, Some owners may have succession concerns and many don't like to think about the future or acknowledging that they are the key to making talent a priority in order to continually build the business. Feiner  interjects that "A players look for A Companies" and that means owners must be at the helm of a complete human capital plan to bring in, grow, and develop talent. Ultimately a company shines with excellence when it attracts top performers, invests in them, has a rotating path for growth and providing greater opportunities. "Selection is a high form of risk management". Companies that turn a blind eye to risks don't stay in business very long. Are you ignoring your talent pool and development plans? Do you have a plan for growth?

I love how Stacy encourages companies to engage new team members with enthusiasm. She stresses that energy needs to be high and off running immediately. Rolling out the red carpet is a must for newbies. The goal is to "accelerate productivity and generate energy". It's expensive to bring in new people and more expensive to lose them. Don't let it happen. Stacy  champions the corridor of  "development". Look at individual learning styles, level of the team member, their experience. Don't use a one approach fits all mentality. Owners need to instill a feeling of collaboration, continuous learning, and empowerment in employee development. He or she must set the tone for continued learning and cross training. You can't just stop there. You need to fold feedback and coaching into the organization as well. Training isn't a one time trip. It's continuous, requires conversations, and feedback must go back and forth. Growing people is like growing plants - give them what they need to grow and look out!

Perhaps the most important area for family businesses is the need to have leaders waiting in the wings to jump in the leadership seat when the time comes. Call it anything that you want but a lack of succession planning can sink a company with a few years - or sooner. Feiner emphasizes that talent has to be identified, nurtured, challenged, competitive, and be offered expanded roles every 3 years. Creating "multiple layers" of talent is critical for future leaders and family owned businesses must bring outsiders in to help fill the talent pipeline. It's critical to have the right people in the right place and maintain a "deep bench of talent". People are tools and capital to bring growth and stability. Smart companies have programs in place to develop and "deploy" people throughout the organization. Don't be the leader that let's the pipe run dry or allows talented people to run off.

One of my favorite chapters in Stacy's book speaks to the importance of employee engagement. Once you have lead or worked in a company where people are engaged and the culture is strong, you can't imagine how the bottom line is impacted. Not only is it a people impact, it directly impacts profitability. The quote "Leaders of organizations are stewarding a cause, not just a company" gives me chills. People depend so much on their professions to support their families, for personal growth, lasting friendships and engagement, and their future. Providing a great "growing" environment really sets the tone for unbridled growth and a nurturing culture. Engagement is a "building block" of culture. It grants an immense competitive advantage in the marketplace. It envelops everyone and encourages employees to take ownership of their roles, individual talents, and champions growth. Employees are a company's brand and they need to be nurtured and cared for.

I highly recommend Stacy Feiner's book  Talent Mindset particularly if you are a company owner or if you have even a little finger in finding or developing new talent. The book offers numerous real life examples of companies and leaders who have struggled with "talent pain" and have had proven success using Stacy's strategic system. People are so important to the growth and survival of any business. Pick up Stacy's book today to guide you down the  path of growing and cultivating your talent! 

Just as with seeds we all have a responsibility to provide what our people need to grow and develop. Tender seedlings quickly wilt and perish if they are neglected. Can you afford to let your team do the same?

Picture Your Goals For 2015

"Make sure that you visualize what you really want, not what someone else wants for you" - Jerry Gillies

Visualize your goals - I'm planning for Spring!

Although winter continues to rage in many areas of the country, the first signs of spring arrived in my mailbox this week. I received the first of many garden catalogs that start hitting households across the country in January and February. There's nothing better to a gardener than sitting in front of the fireplace with a cup of coffee and a pile of garden catalogs with a Visa Card nearby.

The internet is a priceless tool for finding unique and specialty garden companies. It's the ultimate way to find catalogs to spurn your imagination and check customer reviews. I'm still a bit old school because I love to hold a catalog in my hand and page through every section while writing a wish list of plants for the new year. The pictures connect with me, give me ideas, and help me to plan new gardens or make changes. The pics are priceless aids in combining colors, textures, and sizes to intermingle in my existing beds. If the gardening  bug has hit you, it's simple to find some great catalogs for inspiration. Once you are on "the list" you will be not be disappointed opening the mailbox every day. For a list of garden companies, to order an online or mail catalog go to Direct Gardening Association . Enjoy!

 Our eyes are one of our greatest gifts and they allow us to visualize what words can't quite do. Many of us are visual by nature and pictures stay in our minds longer. Pictures allow us to make new creative connections. The internet has opened up a whole new world for visual enticement, along with online sales. I buy most of my plants online these days because I can locate what I want and lurk about for the unusual. I get inspiration from Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, company websites, and blogs. It can get rather addicting!

Inspiration from Pinterest

This is the time of year when every TV network reviews the good and bad of the past year. It drives me nuts. I never like to dwell on the past and negativity. We need to learn from the past and look to the future. Naturally, we are also being inundated with goal setting ideas and tools to guilt us into setting goals for 2015. We have fitness trackers, apps, calendar sheets, and buddies to "encourage" us to stick our goals. Few of us do. It's human nature. I have started to get more serious at writing down my goals but I need to look at them every day. That's not happening much. I'm not one to plaster them all over my mirror and house as some hearty goal setters suggest. That would get awkward. I can just hear my kids heckle me now....

Looking back, I have always accomplished the goals that I carry around in my head. I just have not been faithful in writing a list. I need to make the process easier and well, more interesting.

 Just last week I discovered an alternative way to set my goals - A Vision Board.

I belong to a valuable LinkedIn Group called "Lead With Giants" with Dan Forbes. If being a better leader inspires you and you want to learn with the best, I suggest that you join the group. In his article Dan explains how to not use lists, but visuals to set your goals. He explains that a Vision Board highlights your "most important goals, aspirations, or intentions". You SEE your goals as opposed to looking at a daunting list. Most of us are highly visual and pictures stay imprinted in our minds much longer than words. Dan goes on to say that "Images and visuals stir our emotions so that powerful subconscious thoughts go to work to make our visions a reality". I love it!

Making your board doesn't have to be flashy or time consuming. You can be as creative as you want or not at all. I love it because you can glance at it quickly to remind yourself of your dreams and carry the image with you all day. Moreover, my goals are personal to me and only I need to understand what my pics  mean. My goals can lay out in public, yet only I know the true impact of the pictures. Dan suggests that you divide your board into four sections to be most effective. The areas include:

  1. What do I want to be?
  2. What do I want to do?
  3. What do I want to have?
  4. What do I want to leave?

Wow! Just asking yourself these questions will bring out more emotion and thoughts. You may set goals that you didn't anticipate. Perhaps your goals will be stronger than you originally planned.You may learn more about yourself and what is truly important to you. Find all the pictures that you can that depict and bring your goals to life. Place your board in a prominent place where you will see your goals several times a day. The best part of having a Vision Board is that it's flexible. You change it anytime. You can add to it or arrange your goals differently. Once you accomplish goals you can add new ones.

 Make 2015 YOUR vision and start your board this week. Here's the link to Dan's article for more inspiration: Lead With Giants Vision Board

Visualize this thing that you want, see it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blue print, and begin to build." - Robert Collier

I have a Vision Board all ready for my goals. Right now it's above my home office desk. Once my visions are complete, my board will come with me to work where I can look at them several times a day. The best part of my board is that my goals are out in the open, but only I know the true significance of my pics!

Happy pinning and have a wonderful and prosperous 2015!!

Picture your goals with a blank slate

Hey! Thaw Out Your Style!

"A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water" - Carl Reiner

Spring is officially 5 days away but you would never know it! Across the country there is a roller coaster of temperatures and a flux between snow flakes and rain. In many cities, the dress code is shorts one day and earmuffs the next. It's a constant  tease of things to come. We can almost smell, taste, and see Spring but we are tortured by the frost and snow that continues to nip away....
The dirty cycle of freezing and thaw
The beauty of consistency!



Where I live, I have never seen snowbanks piled so high and in so many contorted shapes. It could be May before the 15 foot high snow piles are mere puddles. I planted some new 3-4 foot weeping pines last Fall and I can't find them under the snow! The picture above in the left is what I see every morning when I leave for work. I hope that there are trees under there! I'm curious to see what they look like when the snow washes away. The picture on the upper right is a summer view - frost and snow free! I yearn for those days.....
This has been a rough winter on all of us. Extraordinarily low temps may bring some big surprises when Spring whisks away the snow. Some more volatile days are ahead as temperatures move 30-40 degrees within a 12 hour period. In milder areas, the damage to plants and crops will be more of an issue as vegetation tends to come out of dormancy more quickly and can succumb just as quickly. Depending on the temps, water inside emerging plants can freeze and plant cells burst. Some plants can take it, others plummet to death.The inconsistency of Spring is  tougher on plants then us.
Plants are a lot like people. They are unique and each have their strengths and weaknesses. They all have a particular purpose or use. Some are strong, some not so much. When the snow does have a chance to melt, we are faced with 3 types of frosts to contend with. Todays Homeowner
  1. Hoar Frost: This is a rather light and "feathery" frost that so many of us see on chilly days. There is an abundance of water in the air that turns into ice crystals. It may be 28 degrees for a few hours and only real tender plants will be damaged.
  2. Rime Frost: Water is deposited onto plants from the dew and it freezes. Plants have a glazed or wet look in the glistening sun. Rime frost is more harsh then Hoar frost and may kill some blossoms and foliage.
  3. Black Frost: You guessed it. Black frost isn't good and plants are blackened. It will kill tender plants. The water is sucked right out of the plant and it isn't pretty!
You can't win against Mother Nature and most of us have no choice but to stay along for the ride. For farmers and growers the inconsistency and dips can be stressful and directly hit their pocketbook. We all pray for the best and hope the ride slows!
Working for someone that seems to be in a constant frost and thaw cycle takes it's toll. We become like plants in the path of destruction! 
A few years back I worked for a boss that was like a cold Spring storm. Her management style was inconsistent and I never knew what was coming from one day to the next. Her micromanaging was smothering us all to the point where we braced ourselves for the next frost. She would ask for a project one way and the next week the work was all wrong. She would nod in agreement in meetings but turned around and chastised one of us afterwards. She favored those that agreed with her and worshipped her every word. Not so with the rest of us. It made for a difficult and unhappy culture. people either went along with everything she said, shut down, or left. It was ugly. We just never knew what the "temperature" would be from day to day.
Don't be that leader that freezes and thaws day by day!
We have all heard that "people are our best asset". Too bad so many companies are just mouthpieces and don't really believe in the investment and power of people. Many times I have been a part of an organization that says one thing, but does a complete 360 in action. Too many companies allow toxic leaders to continue to "lead" even though the culture is slowly being frozen to the ground by their behavior and actions. Don't passively plant yourself in the ground and let it happen.
How "leaders" can be a breath of cold frigid blast.....freezing everything in their path:
  • They seem to thrive on destroying employee trust with inconsistent behaviors.
  • They ignore the direction that the team has been successfully moving along.
  • They nod their head in meetings in agreement but privately attack ideas, plans, projects.
  • They spend more time stewing, criticizing, and complaining.
  • They act like their opinion is the only one that matters and act difficult when things don't go their way.
  • They are emotional time bombs. People tip toe around them trying to avoid the frost.
  • They are ethically inconsistent. They will use anyone as their scapegoat.
  • They are "change" junkies. They love to stir things up because it "keeps" people on their toes.
  • They preach accountability but don't practise what they preach.
  • They love to favor those that are like them.
  • They praise one hour and criticize the next.
  • Their team is the "best" and then the worse in the organization (when things fall apart).
  • They are proactive and excited about new projects or initiatives and quickly lose steam. Their negativity "kills" morale.
Sound familiar? I hope not! Unfortunately, I'm sure that you see a "leader" like this somewhere in the mix at your company. If it's you - look in the mirror and do a 360! My experience has been that this type of manager won't change. They refuse to recognize how their temperature damages the team. They always think that it's "other" people that are the problem - not them. Even more disturbing is when companies allow these "leaders" to remain in place.This is sadly often the case. Either no one sees it or upper management refuses to rock the boat and make changes. For the rest of us that means either staying frozen in place or moving on to warmer pastures.
How was your last frost cycle and how did you survive?
Photo courtesy of Marko via Compfight


Fresh Start Leadership

"Life stands before me like an eternal spring with new and brilliant clothes" - Carl Friedrich Gauss

Photo courtesy of Diane Cordell via Compfight

Once the holidays are over I'm ready for Spring. A white Christmas was pretty, but I really need to feel the sun on my face and long to walk outside without bundling up. That won't be happening for a long time! I'm keeping warm inside in Western Michigan holding out during a snow storm warning. The snow is starting to pile up and the temperatures will hit record lows. The Chicago schools have already closed for two days because of the snow and cold. I think that my kids will have an extended vacation as well!

This is a tough time of year because I'm not a fan of the cold and am itching to get out gardening again. Long ago, I learned to bring the spring inside because I can't trust Mother Nature! If you need a jump start on spring here are some "fresh starts" to get you thinking green!

  1. The birds are still outside in mass. They are hiding in the evergreens and searching for food. Hang bird feeders outside your window and keep them filled. Better yet, put a feeder on your window to enjoy them up close. Their happy chatter and fluttering will remind you that spring isn't far off!
  2. In late Spring, buy a butterfly house kit for your family. You will receive caterpillars via the mail and it's amazing to watch the little critters thrive and turn into beautiful butterflies. It's a beautiful sight to see them float away into the wind when you release them in late Spring.
  3. Buy fresh flowers from the grocery store every week and place them where you will smell them frequently. It will conjure up thoughts of the beauty to come.
  4. Sign up online to receive some garden catalogs if you don't already receive any. They will put a smile on your face and prompt you to start planning for Spring! Lay the catalogs on a nearby table so they catch your eye.
  5. Hang a silk flower wreath with bright spring blooms on the door where it will greet you every time you come home.
  6. Place spring blossom air fresheners strategically throughout the house so that it always smells fresh and alluring.
  7. If you didn't plant bulbs in pots in the autumn to enjoy now - no problem. Grocery and home improvement stores sell forced bulb plants to enjoy. It's breath taking to watch tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths force themselves up through the dirt and perfume your home. A single hyacinth will scent an entire room with it's alluring fragrance. I love enjoying hyacinths for weeks on end.
  8. A real luxury for bringing Spring to you is signing up for a mail service that ships you a new fresh flowering bouquet or plant every month. You have the chance to explore new exotic blooms and scents. 
  9. If you are a little more ambitious then bring spring in by "forcing" branches from outside. There are a lot of beautiful spring shrubs and trees that have vibrant colors or smells. You can manipulate them into blooming early just for you! Here's how:
By mid January or early February most branches on shrubs/trees such as Crab Apple, Beauty Bush, Magnolia, Red Bud, Forsythia, and Pussy Willows will bloom if you bring them inside and "force" them to do so. The branches will have both swollen leaf nodes and flower buds on them. The flower buds will be larger and more pronounced. Cut the branches on a warmer day (if possible) or cut them when they are real frozen. Submerged the branches in warm water for a few hours. Next, pull the entire branch out of the water and fill a vase with warm water so that the ends of the branches are submerged. Initially covering the branches with plastic wrap or misting them daily will encourage them to bloom more quickly however, it's not necessary. The branches will begin to bloom within 1-6 weeks. Try it! It's a great way to "force" Spring!

Photo courtesy of Woodley Wonder Works via Compfight

Leaders need a "Fresh Start" too!

New Year's aside, you really need to periodically examine your strengths and weaknesses with honesty and clarity. In order to grow, you need parameters and guidance. No one can do that but YOU. Give your self a fresh start this year by jotting down just one or two growth "nodes" to focus on this year. That may not seem like a lot but it takes time and dedication to genuinely make a new habit stick and a permanent part of you. It can take 80 years for a tree to grow and reach maturity - you are no different. 

Here are some "Fresh Start" ideas to get you thinking:

  1. Focus on the long term. This may not sound like a jumping pad to new growth but it is. Our society has a short term focus and it's human nature to follow. Skip short term - go long term.
  2. Think globally (even if you are a small business) BUT act locally. Look outside your bubble and see things from a new perspective.
  3. Develop an open mind. To many leaders, their view is the ONLY one and being open is an open shut case. Don't go there. Open up and welcome ideas that make you uncomfortable.
  4. Have fun. Lighten up, and live. Cast aside your "leadership persona". It may be what's holding you back. A while back, I remember reading about Pepsico's Indra Nooy. She regularly walks around the halls barefoot and sings! She's comfortable in her own skin and knows how to chill!
  5. Learn what emotional intelligence is and don't assume that you have it! Learn it and make it a part of you.
  6. Develop an agility to learn one new thing every day. Read one book a week. No excuses.
  7. Ask, ask, ask, questions of everyone. Vow to ask a certain number every day to learn, learn, learn.
  8. Become an entrepreneur so that you can spread and welcome a "intrepreneurial" spirit within your team. This is difficult and may be the one fresh thing to focus on.
  9. Become known as a collaborator. Don't kid yourself - this isn't easy and takes patience and focus.
  10. Develop energy through love of life, exercise, healthy eating, and hobbies. It's easy to fake this one for awhile but it needs to be authentic and naturally projected with consistency and transparency;
I could go on and on with ideas because there are so many areas that I want to jump start in my life and with my leadership. I love a "fresh start" every year and the hardest part is staying on my game and making it happen.

This year I am committed on focusing on always portraying a genuine positive outlook with energy from within. This will impact my team building and collaboration skills. Also, I need to step back and shut up. I will listen more and focus while doing so!

What will your fresh start be?