Are You Crowding Out Your Team?

Like so many of you, I spent the holiday weekend planting flowers.  A lot of flowers. Before planting my annual flowers I had already renovated some garden beds and moved shrubs around. As I planted flat after flat of flowers I resisted the urge to revert to my past gardening habits.  I have a habit of filling in every empty spot in my garden with a plant. I hate empty spaces and holes. On the plus side, my garden is lush and full by summer’s end. The negative? Some of my plants don’t appreciate being crowded out and can’t flourish in their spot.

You don’t need to have a green thumb to know that cramming anything into a constricted place won’t work.  Plants, animals, and people need their space and room to grow. We have seen the results of overcrowding in so many areas of the world. Why do so many leaders still try to “plant” people so close without a second thought or neglect them and expect them to grow?

Have you ever had a manager that micromanaged you day in and day out? Perhaps they had sound intentions, however; their actions were stifling and wore you down every day until your passion was crushed. You dragged your feet to work feeling like you were crowded out.

A few years ago I had a manager that was obsessed with controlling everything that our team worked on. She went as far as standing over our shoulders when we wrote critical emails. She "coached" us on what to say and when in presentations. We had a difficult client at the time, and in her mind, she was protecting us to keep the customer calm. Needless to say, her actions had the opposite impact, and our group was being crowded out.

Micromanaging isn’t the only way that leaders crush growth. Unfortunately, the result is the same. People grow weary, lose their confidence and purpose, and end up leaving where they know they will have a chance to grow.

Here are some more ways that managers crowd out their people

·         Leaders may avoid challenging folks with new projects or opportunities

·         Neglect to offer vital resources or equipment

·         Provide minimal if any, guidance or critical information to assist in work

·         Fail to build strong teams that work together and support shared goals

·         Lead in front, not from behind. This pushes teams and clouds results

·         Neglect employee opinions and input

·         Refuse to listen to alternative options or points of view

·         Undermine employees to save face with other departments

·         Leaders who take credit for the achievements of their employees

·         Managers who refuse to support and back employees when crises arise

·         Weak leaders hold their employees to higher standards than for other teams

If you have ever felt crowded out or demoralized in your career, you probably have some more suggestions. As a leader, look at your "garden" of employees to verify that everyone has the resources and space to grow in their spot. Offer them the resources, support, and leadership that they deserve to sustain and grow those around them.

Are you ready to give your people space?


Photo courtesy of Vlado at

How Are You Growing Your New People?

Spring has arrived in the Mid-West, and people are scurrying around plant nurseries like frenzied squirrels preparing for winter. The sun and warmer temps along with a wave of nursery ads have convinced many of us to fill our carts with an array of colorful perennials, annuals, and fragrant shrubs.  Yes, I have been right in the middle of the chaos because gardening is in my blood. My reaction has been a bit different than my fellow shoppers. I’ve wanted to throw my hands up in the air and yell “No! They aren’t ready yet”!

Mother Nature has a way of getting even with us. Just because it looks and feels like spring, we need to wait until we know that the season is ready for planting. It was 29 degrees here last night and promises to be another cold one tonight. My fellow gardening aficionados that bought colorful plants and welcomed them into their gardens may have tears running as we speak. The plants that they bought can't take cold temperatures and are probably a lifeless brown color by now. Our actual frost date in Michigan is at the end of May. Trust me; I learned early on that you never put a plant in the ground until the plant and the environment are ready.

In many ways, our new team members are like a young plant. You are both eager to plant them where they will flourish. However, new people need some gentle babying similar to a young flower. New employees need to learn and become accustomed to your culture. Like plants, you can’t just pull them out of a warm greenhouse, plop them into the 50-degree soil and expect them to grow. You need to immerse them in the area with some dedicated mentoring until they adjust and are raring to go.

New employees should be planted in the right spot within your organization. You can’t plunk a Hosta in the middle of a hot spot in the yard in the midst of a cactus garden and expect results. Likewise, be cognoscente of your new player’s skills and strengths and place them where they can contribute and thrive.

Leadership responsibility doesn't end after your new team member is planted. They need periodic touch bases with you to learn how they feel in their new role and what support they require along the way. Periodically, you need to fertilize your people and nourish their growth and progress. Checking in with people should be planned, consistent, and heartfelt. You've invested a lot in your members, and you don't want to wake up some day learning that they are listless and leaving the organization.

Seedlings are fragile and small in the spring, yet they can outgrow their space in a matter of months and become overly crowded and no longer thriving. Perhaps they are shaded by other companions or being choked out by weeds. Don’t let this happen to your newer teammates. Don’t assume that life is just humming along fine. Get out there in the trenches and see how your people are interacting and growing. What areas need attention? Is there some weeding that needs completing so that others can continue their work and grow? Do your people have the support that they need so that they can have an impact where it's needed? Are they receiving enough doses of information to succeed?  Get out into your “garden” every day to walk around and notice anything that just isn’t thriving.

A garden is a sanctuary for those that plan, prepare the environment for planting and spend precious time picking the right "plant" for the right place and nurture growth. You need to think of your team and ask yourself how well you are tending to your work "garden".

Photo courtesy of IMGPK via








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!

Given Out Any Treats Lately?

Photo courtesy of aopsan via

Earlier this week I dropped by the store for a few things and as I was checking out, I hesitated. I had grabbed some cans of cat food and 3 bags of cat treats. This has been a weekly habit for a while and I had to laugh at myself. Our entire family is allergic to cats and somehow we have collected 3 cats over the past few years thanks to the kids. We have acreage so the cats can endlessly roam and explore. They are also spoiled with a cat door into the garage, a soft bed and heat lamp, and of course, canned cat food and treats. Fortunately, they have hearts of gold and keep the critters at bay.

I’m not alone in spoiling our pets and rewarding them with treats. There are more that 70-80 million dogs and 74-90 million pet cats in the United States according to the ASPCA.  That means that 62% of us have at least 1 pet. I’m sure that you know someone (or are one!) that goes a bit overboard on pets by buying them luxury beds, fancy toys, and clothes. According to NBC News this adds up to Americans spending over $60 billion on pets every year. I imagine a large chunk of that is on toys and treats alone.

People have a variety of reasons for spending money on their pets. Rewarding them, showering them with love, training them, or thinking that they are tiny humans. I ‘m a sucker for cat treats because I love the glow in the kitty eyes when I shake the treat bag. Plus, it’s the only way that I can get them to do what I want. Don’t we use similar tactics with our kids or even spouses? We do it because it works.

Pets aren’t so different than people. As a manager, I have enjoyed discovering the gifts in my people and bringing them to the surface. It requires patience and a sincere interest in getting to really know your team. More so, I have been on a journey to see how to reward those around me. Guess what? It doesn’t have to cost a penny. You don’t always need to shell out treats or trinkets with the company logo on them. Most people crave recognition for their work or their skills. They want their gifts to rise to the surface to be utilized and yes, even recognized.

I have a sister that believes her poodle is human – complete with sets of clothing and hair bows to match. When you think about what we spend on rewards for pets it’s astounding. Most of us don’t think enough about how to recognize or reward the people around us. Buying a bag of cat treats is easy, remembering to treat those that we work with, not so much.  Obviously companies shell out billions of dollars a year in rewarding employees however, a large chunk of that expenditure is rewarding years of service, not every day recognition of what are folks doing. What are you doing personally to recognize those around you?

Giving “treats” to those that we have contact with every day is fun, easy, empowering, and yes, inexpensive. If you don’t believe me, think about what you do for your pet every day. A far
flung analogy but it’s true. Think about what you can personally do every day to have an impact on someone that you work with. You don’t need to be a manager to reward, be a person. Let’s get into the habit of treating and rewarding each other.

Ideas on how to recognize those around you

  • How about a good old “thank you” face to face or better yet, in front of everyone else?
  • Drop off an old fashioned thank you card on their desk or mail it to their home
  • Bring in a treat just for a special person
  • Recognize someone on LinkedIn or on an internal social media account
  • Jump in and assist a coworker with a project or task that no one else wants
  • Introduce them to someone that can help them in their career or with their goals. Proudly brag them up
  • Ask a team member to be on a high profile project or team
  • Surprise them with a unique desk gadget
  • Buy them lunch
  • Cover their desk with some scratch off lotto tickets
  • Everyone has a special hobby or passion. Bring them a gift related to their passion
  • Offer more smiles and words of encouragement

Let’s get back to being human. Let’s spend more time and thought thanking others, recognizing coworkers, and offering treats for others. Rewarding doesn’t need to cost anything but your time or attention.  Hey, if you have pets, next time you buy treats for them remember that there are other ways to treat and thank your human friends!

Are Waves Dragging You Under?

Photo courtesy of Kevin Dooley via

“My life is like a stroll on the beach…as near to the edge as I can go” – Thoreau

A few days ago I ventured down to my family’s cottage on the beach of Lake Michigan. The cottage is a 100 year old wooden structure perched on a sand dune and we have to winterize it every winter from the raging winds, ferocious waves, and cold. The autumn wind burned my face and the lake looked ominously angry as it usually does in November.

 If you aren’t familiar with the Great Lakes, perhaps you are picturing a small puddle lake with houses dotted around the parameter. Most people are surprised to learn that the Great Lakes consist of 5 lakes and hold some of the largest area of fresh water in the world. The lakes are massive in size and if you sit on our beach and look west, you won’t see Chicago across the way as many think. Lake Michigan takes numerous lives every year due to its unexpected and sneaky riptides. The waves can reach 25 feet in height and the churning waters are no match for large ships. Remember the Edmund Fitzgerald? Lake Michigan swallowed it up and boasts about taking other ships as well.

November is the most dangerous month for massive storms and waves on the lake. Lake Michigan stays relatively warm this time of year when the cold air temperatures hit. This forces the warm air close to the lake to rise and the cold air to drop. Bam! The opposing forces kick up the winds and the energy creates waves as the air blows over the water surface.

The lake water is darker this time of year as the sand churns continuously in the waves. I always feel powerless and small watching the waves. The constant tug of the water and the fierce wind reminds me of who is boss. It reminds me that life is like a furious wave and we all face our own waves every day.

Are you caught in the waves?

  • Waves blow you off course and before you realize it, you are drifting alone
  • An undertow can’t be easily seen but it will creep up and pull you under. Ever have that feeling when with deadlines and work piles?
  • You need to stay on top of the waves to see your end goal and reach it safely
  • Remember that waves don’t make themselves, other forces create them. Manage outer forces and you can handle any waves that come your way
  • Waves aren’t always destructive. They can serve an important purpose. They take out the old and bring in the new. Storms have delivered us more beach from time to time while preserving the shoreline. Teams need a shake up once in a while to bring everyone back on track
  • Waves don’t have rules and they churn forward and backward as well as side to side. This is the type of conflict that you want to avoid in teams because there is no one managing the process or outcome
  • Always wear a life jacket in strong waters. Safeguards like strategies, plans, goals, and strong teams are your backups and provide safety
  • Waves can move and destroy the heaviest rocks over time. Likewise, your leadership, infrastructure, or culture can erode over time
  • Sometimes you just have to stop fighting the force and ride the wave. You never know what may come of it until you work with it, instead of against it

 I welcome you to brave the November winds and waves on the Great Lakes some year. You will leave in awe of Mother Nature and maybe even give more thought about how you can ride the waves or use them for change. Where are the most powerful waves that you have experienced? I would love to hear! What waves are dragging you under this week?

Do You Work With A Mushroom?

Advice from a mushroom -
Be down to earth
Keep a low profile
Know when to show up
Start from the ground up
Be a fun guy! -

My son has been digging for gold the past two weeks spending time in the woods searching for treasure and dragging his older brother along. We are fortunate to have acreage and there are rumors that there is treasure on the land going way back to the Indians. Sadly, the gold he is looking for is mushrooms! Morel mushrooms to be exact. Now, as a non-mushroom eater I just don’t get it. To me eating a mushroom is a little bit like eating a worm.

I never knew that Morel mushrooms are such a hot commodity. People search for them as if they are truly gold. They spend hours just to find a handful of pitted looking little creatures. Once enthusiasts find some Morels they keep the location secret and protect it with their life so that they can go back the next year. My boys trudged into the wet woods creeping around decaying trees and looking under debris for mushrooms. Their find was a handful of mushrooms which they promptly decided to dehydrate to eat later. I decided it was time to see what is so special about an unsightly mushroom.

We have shady woods, spring moisture, and a lot of decaying trees. I discovered that Morels often grow near particular trees such as Sycamore, Hickory, Ash, and Elm. In the Mid-West they pop up in the late spring seemingly overnight and love warmer air, wet soil, and they are heavily dependent on the right weather conditions. These ugly little buggers are indeed a fungus and spread by spores. In fact, my son collected his in a mesh bad so that as he walked the spores could still be released to grow future generations. Morels are such a find because they cannot be commercially grown. Only Mother Nature can successfully grow them and hence, gold! Morel Mushrooms

Surprisingly mushrooms are very interesting, um, plants. They are indeed fungi and can only reproduce by spores – trillions of them. They are simple looking with just a stem and cap however, they are actually rather self-sufficient. They aren’t greedy about needing sunlight like other plants and thrive in the deep shade or dark. They only ask for moisture and love rainy days. In fact, mushrooms are made up of about 90% water. As ugly as they are, mushrooms have a ton of vitamins and they even have their own specialized immune system. Mushrooms love dead stuff and they spring quickly from decomposing matter. You could almost think of them as plant zombies rising from underground.  Not all mushrooms are ugly little fungi; some have beautiful coloration, glow in the dark, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. I was surprised how firm and strong the Morel mushroom felt when I had the courage to handle one. Mushroom facts

After my own mushroom information hunt I will admit that I have a better appreciation for mushrooms. They are rather fascinating and I can see why looking for Morel mushrooms is a quest because of how scarce they are. My boys came back from the woods with about 20 Morels and you would think that they found gold coins. As I examined a fat Morel in my palm I smiled as I thought about a coworker that I worked with early on in my banking days.  Mary was a stout woman and was referred to as “the mushroom”. She liked to rule the office and didn’t realize just how the “spores” she threw out impacted everyone around her.

“If you treat your employees like mushrooms (keep them in the dark and regularly throw crap on them) it’s entirely likely that you will get precisely the work you deserve in return” – Seth Godin

I have had the pleasure of working with several different organizations and have been blessed with so many learning opportunities and experiences. Conversely, I have met some interesting and even toxic characters along the way. Whereas the Morel mushroom is a treasure, some of the “mushrooms” that you may have worked belong in the dark and hidden out of reach!

How to identify a mushroom in your midst

·         The shroom in the cubicle near you enjoys keeping everyone in the dark. No genuine team player here. This person is sneaky and navigates underground and behind the scenes to get her way.
·         Surprising, most of the mushroom is actually below the ground. The roots are deep and go unnoticed. Watch out for those with hidden “roots”. They have their own agenda.
·         Morels know that they are rare, the best, and a catch. Sadly, a Morel in the cube has the same thoughts.
·         Know someone who hoards information and keeps people out of his territory? He thrives on power and hides data under things.
·         Mushrooms thrive off the debris of others. Every office has that one person who loves to see others take the blame or relishes in the mistakes or failures of others. It gives them power.
·         Morels love moisture and it feeds their growth. Your tears and misery are food and give strength to the office mushroom.
·         Some mushrooms are toxic – literally. They are poisonous for others to be around and their bad attitude spits out like trillions of tiny spores. Stay clear!
·         Your office mushroom is always hard to find. No one is ever sure where she went or what she is doing and a search finds nothing.
·         Many mushrooms smell - your adversary smells of trouble. Walk away quickly!
·         Mushrooms like Morels grow quickly given the right environment. Your old buddy the mushroom grows big and ugly overnight. He rises out of nowhere with a clear purpose.

Hopefully you work in a bright and positive environment that fosters growth and team cohesiveness. It wouldn’t hurt every now and then to open your eyes and go on a slow walk around to see if there are any “mushrooms” thriving in your midst that could drag you under into the dark…….

Are You Seeing with Fresh Eyes?

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“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes” – Marcel Proust

Humans are creatures of habit. Most of us enjoy consistency and comfort so that we can hum through life until something jolts us out of our “happy place” to face reality or change. Sometimes we are forced to change our habits, walk down a different path, and look at our surroundings with new eyes. All too often it may not be us that see things through new eyes, but someone else that knocks us on the head to do so. New eyes are fresh eyes and we all need to look at our lives or situations with a new view. We’ve all heard the expression that “The grass is greener on the other side” however, you need to look at both sides!

As most of the country remains frozen and bare now is the perfect time to look at our yards with new eyes. Why? The snow and lack of vegetation offer a blank slate. We can see what we don’t normally see – or want to. The snow is a like a white canvass and we can see through the trees. Spring is approaching and this is a prime time to take advantage of imaging what can be so that you can make it happen when the canvass begins to slowly brighten with color. Get ready to be an artist and plant your garden with an artist’s eyes.

How can you really see your garden with fresh eyes and bring it to life this spring?

·         Take pictures or video of your yard now to see what winter elements stand out and plan to add some if none exist. A garden should shine all 4 seasons and you need to bring it to life. Do the same thing in late spring.
·         Have a garden savvy friend or Master Gardener visit to tour your yard and ask for frank feedback. It’s so critical to have 4 eyes rather than just your two.
·         Ask non-gardening friends over to walk your yard this spring after growth jumps out to see what they see. Ask them questions. Ask what they see, or don’t see.
·         Hire/ mentor a landscape design student to tour your area. Many need to do pro bono projects or internships and may welcome the opportunity.
·         When spring arrives and everything pops out lie on the ground and look up. Do one better and look down at your yard from above. This will definitely give you a new view!
·         Tour your yard by morning and by night. The view is completely different and may pull ideas out of you.
·         Post pics online in garden chat sites and ask for advice. You will be well rewarded! Gardeners love to help one another.
·         Buy landscaping software or visit free online sites to plunk your yard pictures into and see what can be by adding hardscape or different plants.
·         Sit back and read a lot of gardening books or magazines as the snow swirls outside.
·         Be willing to accept some criticism, open your eyes, and be prepared to dig into some new change.

“One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team” – Kareem Abdul Jabbar

Over the years I have been a part of numerous teams, managed various teams, and faced a lot of team dynamics. A strong and engaged team is the driving force behind success and employee empowerment. We all know what happens when a team is weak and the members act like weeds in a garden. Teams really are like a garden. You need to tend to them through effective “design”, fertilization, enriching them with warmth, and unfortunately do some weeding. Most importantly, you need to view the team with a fresh set of eyes to learn how to enhance the growth.

Early last year my team welcomed a new leader. Naturally we were a bit nervous not knowing what to expect and a bit reluctant to change. It turned out that having a new set of eyes was exactly what we needed. We needed someone fresh to look at what we were doing, how we managed projects, and our team dynamics. We quickly realized that some of our work was redundant, we had silos, and our processes well, sucked. Moreover, not all of us were playing to our strengths. Welcoming a new “gardener” to our team is really fueling our growth.

So how do you look at new teams with fresh eyes?

·         Don’t come in with preconceived notions and refuse to listen to prior leader views beforehand. Walk into a fresh canvass ready to bring out the color. Our new leader refused any previous views regarding our team members which was refreshing and offered a new start.
·         Honor the past. Don’t bad mouth prior leaders.
·         Like a garden, you need to paint a picture in your mind about how you want your team to look.
·         Get to know your people as individuals. What energizes them and makes them tick? What do they need to grow?
·         Gardeners put the right plants in the right places for growth. Do the same for your team. Build on each person’s strengths.
·          Sit back and really listen. Communicate with strength.
·         Notice the team dynamics. What is working and where are the weakest links?
·         Be a sponge. Soak everything up without comment and look for patterns, nuances, and weeds.
·         Everyone loves a great story. Showcase your experiences and knowledge with stories that a team can relate to. It will help them understand where you are coming from and what you have brought to other teams.
·         Be a nurturer and remember that change and growth take time. Every new garden has weeds and over time a strong leader smothers the weeds to bring out the best in a garden. The weeds may rise up in the form of fear, uncertainty, people feeling threatened, or even feeling on the “out” if they were “in” with their previous manager.
·         Allow your eyes to see what can be. Empowerment is the fertilizer, belief and trust is the soil, give your people the tools and knowledge, and offers them “sun” to allow them to grow and fill your canvass with a new vision.

How will you see your team with fresh eyes?

Are You The Turkey?

“If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get” – Frank A. Clark
Photo courtesy of Tuomas_Lehtinen via

It’s that time of year again when Americans overindulge on one single day more than they probably do any other time of the year. We also take more naps, watch a lot of football, and probably shop until we drop. Yup. It’s Thanksgiving! The holiday that turkeys hate with a passion….. 

Our colonial ancestors probably never imagined that their holiday would eventually revolve around a bird. A bird, by the way, that isn’t particularly attractive looking and looks rather menacing.  Have you really ever looked closely at a turkey? Even the name denotes something negative to us. Merriam-Webster identifies a turkey as “A stupid, foolish, inept person”. Hmmm. Remind you of anyone that you know or maybe even work with?  
In honor of Thanksgiving and the almighty turkey that you will be munching on this week, I’m sharing some turkey facts. Not only am I sharing two legged facts but turkey facts about someone that you may work with.
Are You The Turkey?
Turkey Dinner Tidbits
Co-worker Tom Turkey Tidbits
Turkey gobbling can be heard up to 1 mile away
Tom’s gossip spreads among the team and breeds distrust
Turkeys roost every night high up in the trees
Office turkeys live and breathe a silo mentality. The higher the better!
Turkeys see in color and have daylight vision 3X stronger than humans. They have horrible night vision
Your turkey cube mate fails to see (or refuses) the facts and team vision in front of her face
Turkeys will attack and peck at their own reflection (ask any turkey farmer with a shiny car)
Tom sees himself as the center of attention and wants people to “see” him
A group of turkeys is called a gang or posse
Your fellow  turkeys try to lead the gang down a slippery slope when they feel threatened or powerless
Turkey heads turn from bluish to red when they are mad. Their feathers quickly become ruffled
Need I say more? We have all seen this turkey enraged and burnt red with temper!
Wild turkeys can run up to 25 MPH and fly up to 55 MPH
Tom the turkey loves to have his ideas, and only his ideas, heard. He quickly runs away with them at the expense of the team
Turkeys were almost extinct in the 1930s
Your co-worker has a leadership style from the 1930s. The word “teamwork” is a foreign bird
Wild Turkeys are only 5-20 LBS and we fatten them up fast to eat!
The turkey in your group has a fat head and tries to tell everyone else what to do and how to do it because she’s right
Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be our national bird
Tom turkey thinks that he’s the top bird!
I remember my few encounters with turkeys of the feathered kind. Years ago I was on a garden tour and found myself on a country farm with wild flower gardens and turkeys. The turkeys were massive and stalked people as they head butted us from behind. Worse yet, they quickly discovered my car and started pecking away at the mirror and anything else shinny.
I also saw turkeys in action by my Mom’s summer cottage a few years back. The town was under a turkey attack.  A gang (literally) of wild turkeys roamed the town chasing mailmen and terrorizing anyone on foot or bikes. They would even stop traffic daring anyone to interfere. They ruled!
Unfortunately, I have also worked with turkeys, for turkeys, and even managed a few. Their behavior was wild, puzzling, and disruptive. They really did resemble our feathered friends with their actions and behaviors. There may have even been times where I might have had visions of stuffed “turkey” on the table….
Happy Thanksgiving and I hope that this year YOU aren’t the turkey!



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?

Volunteers Are The Real Lights This Holiday Season

"A candle loses nothing by lighting another Candle" - James Keller

Just in the past 2 weeks I have seen holiday lights pop up everywhere in every shape, size, and color! As I drive around neighborhoods I'm amazed, and puzzled, how some of the lights ended up where they now hang sparkling away. I love Christmas lights and I wish that most of them would stay up year round. There's nothing like a twinkle in the trees and a warm summer breeze to help me relax and enjoy the night colors of a garden. The glow of  lights always brings a glean to our eyes and wonderment at all the kaleidoscope  of colors. The best part about lights this time of year is the reaction that they bring out in people and the delight in young  happy faces.

There is an endless array of lights to choose from. I remember when I was little we were stuck with the big, colored, hot lights that looked fake and BIG! Now we have LED, color changing, icicle, net, solar, specialty, globe, Princess, Sponge Bob, Mickey Mouse, - the list is endless! What I enjoy is how lights just seem to give and give while twinkling  their hearts out.

What are YOU doing this year to bring out the light in people?

To me, the true bright lights of the season are all the wonderful unsung heroes that volunteer year round to help others. These giving souls kick it into high gear during the holidays and have a passion for making a difference. These "lights" don't ask for recognition or a standing ovation. Volunteers love to bring out the light in others and leave a lasting glow. I have a close friend that runs around this time of year delivering for the Santa Claus girls. She's exhausted but glows after a long day. At my company we had an Angle Tree for those who have so little. The generosity of complete strangers was astounding. The giving bestowed a glow that lasts throughout the holidays. I've seen it so many times - people doing for people.

As I get older I am less enchanted with the holiday season itself, the presents, the relatives, and the Christmas splashed all over for weeks and weeks. What warms me is seeing others give so much of themselves expecting nothing in return. No applause, no spotlight, no newsflashes. Just humans being, well, human. I eat up stories about people doing for other people. Being a light in the dark. Bringing hope and letting others know someone is thinking of them. Why can't the lights shine bright all year?

If volunteers are the lights, then our various charity organizations are colorful bright beacons. These organizations run on passion and their volunteers are their electricity. If you have ever worked with groups of volunteers you know that it's important to keep those 'lights" burning so that your volunteers have the time, energy, and drive to carry the light out to those that need it. Leading volunteers is a gift and you need to keep them glowing and growing in order to help others.
How do you keep the light burning when leading volunteers?
  • Select the right people. Find those that share your vision and understand your mission so they stay on board for the long term.
  • Consistently share your organization's mission and goals. Update your volunteers on your progress.
  • Show your passion, frustrations, hopes, and disappointments. Be human. Be a leader.
  • Help your volunteers connect with each other and feel a part of the group.
  • Help your people to learn and grow with your organization. Keep them informed.
  • Enable your people to  shine all year. Let them know every day how critical they are to your success.
  • Play and have fun. Set up times to socialize with other volunteers to share stories,  struggles, and triumphs.
  • Constantly coach and mentor people. You will lose volunteers if you fail to mentor them and don't consistently connect.
  • Provide professional training and support.
  • Let your people lead. Have them set the direction and become leaders of new volunteers.
  • Say thank you every day.
  • Know how people want to be thanked. Some volunteers cringe at public recognition. Some eat it up!
  • Celebrate wins as a team. Cry on each others shoulders when there's pain.
  • Be approachable and "one" of them. If you are a director remember that titles are just that - letters.
  • Remind yourself that YOU are the electrical current that can keep those volunteers glowing. Keep the lights on!

"A volunteer is like a rare gem. When placed in the right setting and cared for, they will shine and give pleasure to all who see them" - Unknown

Leading volunteers is a gift and such an honor. They are the energy in any organization. I know from experience how easily volunteers slip away and how challenging it is to keep their fire lit. Take care of your people. Help them grow as individuals and in your organization. Challenge them. Thank them every day. Make them feel needed. Empower them to bring your message out into the community. Be the electricity to keep their light glowing.

To all who volunteer all year long.. THANK YOU!

Photo courtesy of newwavegurly via Comfight