Is Being a Leader Sucking the Life out of You?

Photo credit: Shandi-Lee via Compfight CC

"Work is 1% inspiration plus 99% transpiration" - Albert Einstein

Yup. It's that time of year again. Hustle and bustle, year end projects, tight schedules and endless meetings, vacations rushed in, and the holidays..... The days are shorter, the cold is bitter, and the clouds just keep dumping on us. The winter months can bring about too much stress to the point where you may feel that the life is being sucked right out of you. Guess what? It's not any easier on our plants outside braving the stress this time of year!

Winter weather can stress shrubs/trees throughout various regions in the country. For us snowbirds, snow can be our best friend by insulating and protecting plants for the winter. Often regions where it's bitter cold and there is a lack of snow cover suffer more plant loss. All life needs water to survive. When water is scarce or non-existent, we die. It's particularly critical that plants continually have sufficient water uptake throughout their roots and leaves. Plants go dormant during the winter but they still perform internal processes to survive. For instance, transpiration is movement of water throughout a plant/tree and the evaporation of moisture from it's aerial parts like the leaves, stems, and flowers  A lack of water stresses the plant out and it will eventually succumb.

Plants that are particularly vulnerable to cold drying winds and moisture loss include: Newly planted shrubs (that maintain green leaves) and evergreen trees, rhododendrons, azaleas, hollies, boxwood, laurel, cedar, cypress, junipers, and plants being grown in a planting zone where they are marginally hardy (an example is growing a zone 7 shrub in a planting zone 6). I planted a specialty Alaskan Cedar that was marginally hardy in my area  where it was exposed to the winter winds. It slowly turned brown and didn't survive the winter despite my efforts to protect it. It was ripped out in the spring and a different tree was popped in it's place. Lesson learned!

This time of year, a lot of people love to decorate with live Christmas trees, wreaths, and evergreen ropes. They make the house smell great and they are more festive because they are "real". They also dry out real fast (lack of transpiration!) and the dry needles cascade all over the floor. In a real dry house, they often don't make it to Christmas!
 There are things that you can do to protect both your outside shrubs and your Martha Stewart holiday home...
  • Smaller newly planted evergreen shrubs can be protected by putting 3 stakes in the ground around the shrub and wrap burlap around it to protect from drying winds. You should only need to do this the first season unless you are a glutton for punishment.
  • Plant wind scold prone shrubs/evergreens in protected spots near the house or by taller trees that will block strong winds.
  • Check the planting zone of the shrub that you are planting. A Monkey Puzzle tree will not survive harsh winters no matter how much protection you give it. Be in your zone!
  • My favorite solution - spray the shrub and your live indoor decorations with a product like Wilt Pruf. Wilt Pruf is a anti-transpirant that protects plants from losing moisture. It protects against cold drying winds(in all seasons) and maintains the moisture in your live holiday decorations. Wilt Pruf is a pine emulsion that dries to a strong flexible coating on the shrub. It feels waxy after it dries and lasts about 3-4 months. It does not interfere with any of the natural plant processes like osmosis or photosynthesis etc. Bottom line - it's like a coat for your shrub and wreaths. It keeps the moisture in your shrubs outside and will help your Christmas tree thrive until December 25th inside. For more information on Wilt Pruf please checkout

Humans and plants are very similar. We get stressed a lot, especially this time of year. There have been times in the past where I  have felt like everything around me is trying to steal all my energy and wipe me out. We all have so many demands on us pulling from all directions. The poor economy in the past several years has only heightened the pull and stress. Family needs this, the boss needs that, employees have personal issues, teams have conflicts, peers fight like children, production is off schedule etc etc etc...Our people look to us to hit a magic button to make it all better. We can only give so much. The responsibility, and sometimes burden, of being an effective leader is a weight on all of our shoulders.
What happens when being a leader sucks the life out of you?

Many people never even realize how stressed out they are until they are pulled or forced out of a situation. A few years ago, I was in a job where nothing seemed to flow right within the company where I worked. It wasn't until after I left that I recognized how much stress I was under. Things happen for a reason in life and I was fortunate to get out of my situation while I still had hair left! You really need to recognize your own personal stress signs and act.

You have undoubtedly heard the saying that you can't control other people, you can only control yourself. It's true. I've tried - and failed! It's up to YOU to pull in the reins so that you have more control and less stress. It's worth mentioning that some stress is a good thing. It helps to keep you on your toes and focused. Stress is a monster from which you can't escape - you can try to cage it!

Here are some common culprits of stress that plague us all:
  • People: The demands of others, personal problems, "babysitting", negative people, disengagement, peer conflicts.. the list goes on and on.
  • Personal career dreams and aspirations
  • Problems: Big or small and you are expected to save the world.
  • Pressure
  • Pace/Lack of time
  • Politics: Internal politics can be a huge life drain. In many companies more time is spent "playing the game" than actually working. There are too many silos, turfs need to be defended and grown, everyone tries to please to get ahead. Yikes!
  • Effort: Sometimes it seems that everything is swirling around us and no matter how much of ourselves we offer or effort we give, it's just not enough.
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of resources
  • Technology or lack thereof
  • Personal life issues and struggles
  • Health issues
  • Interpersonal demands
  • No fun or life of normalcy
The list seems to go on and on. I'm sure that you can add several of your own. Just because you are a "leader" doesn't mean that you are invincible and can take on the world solo. Don't place that burden on your shoulders. You aren't any less of a person or professional if you need to stop and take a step back to keep the light alive inside you. Realize that you can't do it all and don't feel like a failure for a second when you take the first step to de-stress. Leaders have vision. You need the vision to look out for you!
What do smart leaders do to avoid having the life sucked out of them?
Here are some ideas!
  • Maintain your perspective on life. Remember your roots and dreams
  • Focus on the big picture with vision. Don't get caught up in the little things
  • Ask for feedback from mentors and other leaders in your circle
  • Find a mentor or key supporter
  • Develop your own personal "board of directors"
  • Find a great life coach to run things by and gain a different perspective
  • Ask for 360 support
  • Open up to others. Grow personal relationships with peers
  • Hire and empower the best people that you can - they are your stress deflectors
  • Streamline your area and reassign duties or teams
  • Delegate and develop trust for other's to handle hiring, training, management, etc
  • Address issues early and right away so things don't sneak up on you
  • Develop outside interests. Have a life
  • Find ways to recharge yourself. Make finding a hobby your number one goal
  • Do what you love. Find it if you aren't doing it!
  • Set a goal for only working a certain numbers of hours a week. Stick to it!
  • Meditate
  • Take breaks and de-stress throughout the day
  • Maintain a positive attitude and you will feel more alive
  • Be thankful to be a leader and remember why you worked so hard to become one - make a difference

Being a leader is like being a new parent. If you don't take care of yourself, you can't care for your "baby". At first it's tough to leave your "baby" in the hands of others but you need to. You can't be effective and lead if you are stressed with little life left inside you. Like our outdoor shrubs, you need to have life (moisture) cursing throughout your system in order to remain strong, viable, and thrive!
Photo credit: Ian Boyd via Compfight CC


** I was not compensated in anyway by Wilt-Pruf Products, Inc. I have used this product with success and recommend using it to protect your plants/shrubs.