Start Weeding For Excellence

"Excellence is a continuous process and not accident" A. P.J Abdul Kalam

Photo Courtesy of domdeen via

I'm honored to share this guest post from my friend John Potter the Executive Director from GRAPE GR

In business, the term Excellence refers to the “outstanding practices in managing the organization and achieving results, all based on a set of fundamental concepts or values”. Of course, the term also translates to how we practice the more mundane and tedious aspects of life. Most of us try to avoid doing those things that “waste” our time or that we just don’t enjoy doing. We procrastinate and make excuses. We forget that doing the mundane will actually get us to where we want to be.

Gardening is no different. So many gardeners want perfection in the landscape and start off the season with exuberance. In the garden even the most enthusiastic gardeners don’t practice that which will bring excellence. We need to water, we can’t neglect deadheading, and yes, we must consistently weed.

Landscape weeding is perhaps the least rewarding work performed by gardeners. Failure to weed however can leave plants susceptible to being choked out and weakened. So it’s not a chore to be shucked off as merely a cosmetic exercise. We plant our gardens to protect, nurture, and cheer their growth. The dreaded chore of weeding means taking the time to do it right (we all know what will happen when we forego getting the roots - a much larger weed to confront the next go around) and with frequency.

Unfortunately, weeding is also painstakingly tedious. However, doing it right and pacing ourselves prevents the weeds from engulfing the garden. Be steadfast and diligent in weeding and you will have success. It simply requires deploying the same methodological approach found in any serious pursuit of excellence. That is, a systematic approach that incorporates ongoing learning for improvement. You need to commit to the ongoing process of garden care and weeding or you may need to pay someone to help get you back on track. We all know what can happen when weeds such as Poison Ivy is allowed to flourish. In short, know what the pros know and do what they do like the professionals at Alfreso Landscapes.

Cultural Control

What does a systematic approach to weeding look like? It’s not simply an organized approach to pulling out weeds!

Take for instance what is called cultural control. The phrase denotes a systematic/learning approach to weed control that excludes herbicides. Unlike a “one practice fits all” scheme, this type of weeding requires ascertaining whether plants are annuals, biennials, or perennials (most notably because they have different root systems). You need to know what you are dealing with before taking action.

As such, it involves implementing specific weed control strategies. For instance, simply uprooting perennials risks allowing them to quickly re-establish themselves in moist soil. Best to wait for a dry spell. For those that are difficult to pull (like milkweed), cutting is best reserved for late summer when the plant’s life cycle has exhausted and before the pods release a multitude of seeds into the wind.

Likewise, the seeds of annual weeds are best taken care of in the early spring (before they germinate). For those that make it past the soil line, cutting them immediately and doing so if they regroup remains effective as the roots are weakened and gradually there will be minimal root strength left.

Understanding the biology of the weeds in question and what type of root system they threaten (annual, biennial, or perennial) takes some time and practice. You will learn from doing and from your failures. It also involves the ongoing-learning mentioned above. The end result is less costly and improves soil health. It will also make every homeowner’s life easier and the time in the yard much more enjoyable. Think of life as a garden and you will quickly learn to meander your way to success and excellence by your commitment and attention to that which will bring you to your end goal.

To grow excellence we need to get ahead of obstacles, not wait until they root. You can weed all season long however; being proactive in preventing weeds is a smarter approach. There are numerous natural and organic methods to prevent weeds. Everyday natural household products will kill weed seeds. Planting companion plants such as Mexican marigolds, legumes, and cover crops may offer effective weed control. The former is known for its herbicidal root secretions that kill weeds without harming most other plants. Cover crops not only enrich the soil but compete with weeds for water and soil nutrients. Being proactive will put you back on the path of creating excellence.

Like any pursuit of excellence, the journey is more important than the goal. With that in mind, it's important to view weed control as a continual, year round effort. Approach your own growth and the empowerment of others with a “gardeners” mind and get out there to dig up some excellence!

Whatcha Gonna Do About That Void?

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

This void space drives me nuts!!!! 

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

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

Got voids in your garden? Try this!

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

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

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

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

What to do with that leadership gap:

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

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

What's your plan for filling those annoying gaps?




To Lead With Or Without Tears?

"We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear" - Martin Luther King, Jr

Photo via Giovanni John Orlando from Compfight
Although Spring arrived this week, in many areas you would never know it! In Michigan, Detroit had more than 90 inches of snow and had 27 days below 0 degrees. Our Great Lakes had 92% ice coverage ( no small lake - 94,250 sq miles). Too many cold records were set and at some point all that snow and ice will melt. The time has come and the Southern Great Lakes are expected to experience some heavy flooding. USA Today.

Unfortunately, floods may be a hot topic in many areas around the country this Spring. Spring rains have increased in the past decade except out West where they really need some rain.The unprecedented snow volume will melt - too quickly - and the water will flow out of bounds. In the Midwest we normally have thaws throughout the season to melt some of our snow. That didn't happen this Winter and we have 15 foot snow piles in some areas. Ice jams will be the biggest problem when everything melts at once. The snow has an unusually high water content in it this year and with soggy ground, it will have nowhere to go. In some areas the water is already a soaked sponge and the ground just can't keep up. Once the Spring rains hit, the flood threat will be amplified. Floods aren't just a threat to our homes and infrastructure. They can have long term effects on our ecosystem and food production. The tears of Spring can bring a flood of problems.
  • Well water can become contaminated and affected
  • Fields will flood and some crops planted last Fall will wash away (Winter Wheat, Hay)
  • Orchards may flood damaging fruit trees
  • Beneficial nutrients like Nitrogen will be washed away in the soil
  • Sandy soils will run like rivers collecting all in one area
  • Plants/shrubs/trees are already stressed by a rough winter and may be further weakened and die by heavy flooding
  • Tress with shallow roots will fall damaging homes and property
  • The lack of drainage in clay soils can be catastrophic
Flooding can happen so unexpectedly. We may not have time to plan or react in the way that we hope to. We have floods in business too - TEARS...........They creep up on us or flow out of nowhere. Often, too many of us don't know how to handle our own tears or those of our teams. Tears make everyone uncomfortable. How do YOU feel about tears?

In her book "Bossypants" Tina Fey said that "Some people say 'never let them see you cry', I say if you're so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone". For the most part I think people feel that tears are a sign of weakness or a form of manipulation. Not so fast. I hope that times are finally changing as we enter the age of "Emotional IQ" and we want our leaders to be more human while connecting through emotions. We want our teams to do the same. Tears are what make us human and help us to connect. They have their place as long as they are genuine and shown in an appropriate situation NOT being used to get our own way.

Years ago I the small company that I worked for was bought out. It was an ugly merger from our side. Over 100 people were losing their jobs including one of our senior leaders. I will never forget the day that he was talking to a few of us about the merger. He had tears in his eyes as he talked about all the opportunities for us that were ahead and the growth that we would be a part of. His emotion was raw and his tears were a strength. Although he was losing his job, he was concerned for us and genuinely pleased that we had jobs and some great opportunities ahead. Those were tears of strength and true emotion. I admired him even more that day. His tears encouraged me to make the best of our situation and to make him proud.

I think that we are finally moving forward in business because leaders are finally acknowledging the existence of, and place for, Emotional IQ. We can't just shut off our emotions at 7:30 am when we arrive at work only to turn them back on when we arrive home. We are  human and shouldn't have shame in showing our emotions. Tears, grief, frustration, happiness,and joy make us who we are. We want to work with people who care and share their emotions. We want people to understand us and to empathize.

Grow your leadership through your emotions
  • Don't fear opening up. Let people see and experience your feelings. Use the words "I feel"
  • Tears make you human. Be who you are. Don't be so scared of what others think of you
  • Tears aren't a sign of weakness - they allow us to be candid and authentic
  • Work on being comfortable with emotion. Rely on emotional strength and control
  • Study some of our greatest leaders. They lead with strength and emotion. They self regulate and know how to connect with others on an emotional level
  • Showing authentic emotions validates that you are approachable
  • People will drop everything and follow a leader who understand them and has conviction
  • Emotions say far more than words
  • What's so horrible about letting your guard down once in awhile? Your people know that you aren't always in control. Be real and acknowledge it!
  • Bring your entire self to work and don't hide behind a fake or emotionless face
  • Natural tears have their place. Tears show that it's OK for your teams to show emotion
  • Tears help open dialogue and show who we are and what we care about
  • Tears can help reinforce peer relationships  and strengthen bonds
  • Tears may bring issues up to the surface and issues can be addressed

Now, obviously we don't all want to walk around with our heart on our sleeves and bawling at every little thing. What I am saying is that tears can have their place in our work lives. I'm also vehemently encouraging both men AND women to be authentic in sharing emotion through leadership. Some male leaders refuse to show their true emotions for fear of being "weak". Some female leaders go to the opposite extreme with their emotions and are labeled a "cold bitch". What I am advocating is that we act like what we are - human. Be authentic. Share your true emotions. Don't pretend that you don't care or aren't fully and emotionally engaged. You will push people away. You won't form true and strong relationships. People follow people who are like them or those that they look up to. You are human. Show it.

I have been encouraged in the past few years with more leaders showing their emotions and tears. Some politicians and business leaders have been very forthright with their emotions and I admire them. John Boehner cried after winning. Some of our past presidents have cried. The Pope has cried. I just saw Jimmy Carter with tears this morning talking about making a difference. Are they faking it? Probably not. It's a risk showing your emotions and a gamble more of us need to make.

Are you willing to be human and risk leading with tears once in awhile?

Photo courtesy of Franco Folini via Compfight

Hey You! Get Out There And Fail OK?

"In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure" - Bill Cosby

Photo Courtesy of ktpupp via Compfight
As a crazy passionate gardener, I often hear these types of comments from people after they visit my house .... "Man, you were born with a green thumb! I kill everything" or something like "How do you do this! It's so easy for you!" Um. NO! What people haven't seen is how many plants that I've killed in my day or the numerous dumb things I've done in my garden that totally failed. I've spent a lot of money and time wasted in my garden. I've naively tried to grow the same tree in one spot 4 times. Failed. I've tried to make a colonial style mixed garden. It looked like a  bunch of weeds. Failed. I was dumb and planted some bamboo that really likes to wander. Hello?????? In short, I have had a whole lot of failures before I was able to perfect my craft in order to have a beautiful garden today. Brown thumbs aren't yet black. They CAN become green with failure, practice, and persistence!

As I have gracefully aged, I have eagerly expected and embraced failure. It took me a long time to appreciate and accept it. Like most people, I grew up expected not to fail. Our society loves to see people fail and punishes them for it. It has taught me so many critical lessons. Failure has helped me grow and become a better person. It has humbled me and brought out my strengths. It is what makes me human. I've learned more about the dark side of  people who punish failure, rather than seeing what a blessing it can be. Failure has made me an awesome gardener, a better person, and more self assured in my path through life.

Successful people make it look so easy. Learn their story and find failure after failure...

Walt Disney, Oprah, J W Rowling, Van Gogh, Lady Gaga, and Steven Spielberg are all big failures. They failed, disappointed their families, were teased or looked down upon. In the end, failure was a gift. They learned, overcame, and succeeded. They made it look easy. I bet that if you look up someone who you admire you will find failure. Makes you feel a little better huh?

Over the years I have worked with (and walked with!) numerous people who literally hit the dumps in their career for one reason or another. One friend had to quit her job because of the sheer stress and load of work that she carried. She felt like she was ready to crack. She took some time off to reflect and recoup. She failed, struggled, and is now an HR leader at an international company. I had a boss that lost his job due to a merger and prospects looked grim. He is now a senior marketing leader at a large financial institution. A friend of my lost everything while she was an entrepreneur. She was dead broke and without a home. She picked up the pieces, licked her wounds, and is now successfully running her own company. All these people embraced failure with a positive attitude and moved on. They learned and didn't give up. Any one of  the people above will tell you that failure is good and that they are thankful for it!

Photo via gareth1953 at Compfight
Great companies, leaders, and your closest peeps know that failure IS good. If you work for or live with someone who punishes you for every little failure then RUN! This can become a toxic and unhealthy situation. Accept failure as your friend and use the lessons learned to grow.

Try a little fail once in awhile.....

  • Failure gives you time to reflect
  • It offers you proof of what can be done better and how
  • Your failures can be a valuable lesson to others
  • Failure is your best teacher
  • Failure helps you confront fear head on with more confidence
  • Failure means a new start
  • It IS OK to fail!
  • Try new things and if you fail, you grow
  • Failure helps you to be a survivor and will give you more "grit"
  • Our supreme victories are those that are the most difficult
  • Failure brings you one step closer to success
  • Failure will help bring you nearer to your real potential
  • Don't be afraid to experiment. There are worse things in the world than failure
  • Jump out there and try new things - what is there to lose?
  • Do NOT avoid failure. Dump any pre-existing notions that you have
"Success is not a destination, it's a journey" - Zig Ziglar

I love Zig Ziglar. If you read his story you will quickly learn that he experienced a lot of failures. He didn't achieve the huge success that he did until later in life. If you are truly afraid of jumping out into the world and out of your comfort zone, then jump online and read about all of the failures that successful people have made before you. If anything, it will ease some of your fears and push you to jump out there to fail.

What are you willing to fail at today in order to succeed????