“Leader How does your Garden Grow?: It’s more than just planting seeds!”

 “It’s more than just planting Seeds”  Part 2 of 5

As leader it is your job to influence your environment and organization for maximum growth for all stake holders.  This requires skills and often finesse.  You become the lead Gardner for your organization, school or group. If it was just as simple as planting seeds and then walking away everyone would have a green thumb and be an excellent gardener and all schools and organizations would thrive and grow, prosper and achieve. However, to be a gardener that transforms their organization and gets the most growth from its stakeholders, a leader has to put in constant and consistent work. 

The Gardener must have a Plan. Before you plant or do anything, the gardener must have a vision of what type of garden they want and what is its purpose. What are you trying to grow? Is it a food garden to provide food? Is it a flower garden to provide beauty? Is it a pollinator garden to attract insects like butterflies and bees?  Is to prevent the land from eroding?  Is it to transform a space? Whatever the purpose the Gardener must know before the work is put in.  The gardener must have an idea what they want their garden to look like in the end. What types of colors? What height of plants? So as a leader  ask yourself what do you want from your school, staff and students?  What is your goal for your school? What is your vision? What does success look like in your school?

Preparation is key. Before you begin a garden, you must gather all the needed materials and resources necessary for your garden to begin. You need to gather your tools and your equipment and the hands and help, if you need help, to build your garden.  You need to gather the plants, seeds, pots, mulch, rocks, and other materials you need to make up your garden. Some people can gather everything at once and complete it all in one big push because they have the resources, equipment, money, and the help.  Others are limited and plan their gardens one step at a time or work in phases to do a little at a time. Without this step, the execution of the plan can fall apart or be difficult. What do you need to make your vision a reality? Do you need the right staff? Do you need volunteer help? Do you need financial resources?

Prep the ground for the best results.  In order to plant seeds. You must prep the ground to receive the seeds. You must till the soil and break up the soil. You must remove barriers and things which may impede the growth of the seeds such as rocks, tree stumps, trash and dead plants.  If the soil is not rich, you may mix in some new soil to boost it up or add some nutrients in the soil. You may even put down a barrier which gives the seeds a chance to grow without other influences or weeds that you can not see at the time from growing. Have you prepared and removed all obstacles to your goals?

You must pull the weeds. Once planted you must maintain and keep up your garden. You must water your garden, care for your plants and you must pull the weeds. The weeds are the influences and distractions which choke the productivity in your garden. Weeds sprout up any and everywhere. Weeds are natural. However, if not addressed, weeds will spread and choke out the rest of the garden by taking away the nutrients. If your organization or school uses people or has people in it …. Weeds can grow. The types of weeds often seen in a school garden are conflicts, gossip, rumors, personality conflicts, disagreements and seeds of discord. As the leader you must pull the weeds as soon as they show up. The longer you wait the more they spread and the more work it takes to pull them up. As a leader you must monitor conflicts and sources of conflict in your school or organization. You can help prevent weeds by using some weed killers. Weed killers are the things that you do to be proactive to prevent conflicts in your staff. Team building, fairness, morale building activities, clear expectations, clear communication, and staff recognitions are great examples of weed spray that can help prevent weeds in your garden.

Picking the right plants. When planting a garden, you must be sure that you choose the right types of plants. There are so many different types of plants that you can plant in your garden. There are fragrant plants, blooming plants, ground cover plants, and different color plants.  You must be sure that plants you choose, fit the garden that you have and the garden that you want. You must make sure that the plants that you have in your garden are suited for the weather and climate. Does your garden get direct sunlight or is in the shade? Is your climate dry with little rainfall or is rainfall abundant?  Some plants will not do well in certain environments. They will not achieve their maximum potential without lots of work and maintenance. Sometimes the gardener can choose the wrong plants and spend too much time maintaining the plant because it is just planted in the wrong location or needs to be moved to another garden. Not all plants will thrive in the garden you plant.  As a leader in your school or organization you make sure that you have and choose the very best staff and people for your team.  You not only have to be sure that you have the best people but the right people for the tasks, the jobs and for the work in your organization. Also as a leader you must recognized that not all programs and initiatives can be work in every school. You must know your community and school.

Master Gardeners must grow too. Gardeners must continue to learn in order to create the gardens they desire and to maintain them. Master Gardeners train and develop their skills.  They read about the plants or seeds they have planted and how to bring out the maximum potentials.  They talk to other gardeners and visit other gardens to learn.  They know that in order to have the best garden, they must be the very best gardener.

As a leader

  • What type of garden are you trying to plant?
  • What is your maintenance schedule and routine for maintaining your garden?
  • Have you identified the weeds and a method of weed control?
  • Do you have the resources to build and maintain the garden you desire?

“Leader ,How does your Garden Grow?”

“Introduction : How does your Garden Grow?” Part 1 of 5

before
After

During the summer, as many principals across the world, I spend the time “off” preparing my school building and campus for the new school year and the arrival of staff and students.  I work on curriculum, instructional themes, plot strategies, building improvements, facility upgrades, building partnerships, and even …landscaping. This summer I found myself working on my “Friday “project of improving the front entrance landscaping to make it more visually appealing to our guests, staff and my students.  I made many trips to the local Lowe’s and Home Depot (and made a few friends at both stores). I hauled many, many bags of mulch, gravel, soil and trays of flowers. I spread the fresh mulch, added all the gravel, added edgers, remove dead shrubs, cut tall weeds, and planted new colorful flowers.  And like most principals and teachers… I spent a lot of my own money to make the project happen just right.  Anyone who has ever planted a flower garden, or any garden knows that it is now an easy task …no matter what you may see on television or in a magazine! It is hard work. It requires a lot of thought, planning, effort, countless hours of labor and maintenance. The work can be demanding, tiring, lonely, frustrating but when done correctly it is very rewarding in the end.

As I worked, planned, and watched the vision take shape, I thought to myself that this is a perfect analogy of what being a school leader is like. The leader is the lead gardener and the garden is your school: all of the people, students, strategies commitments, missions and visions. It is the job of the school leader to create a beautiful garden, maintain it, and help it grow to its full potential. The school garden must be carefully planned cultivated, nurtured, and worked to create a garden which everyone can enjoy and benefit.

 The leader toils and works during school breaks and after hours to make sure that their school is ready and growing. The leader continues to nurture their school once the seeds have been planted and school year begins.  They make sure that all the members of their school are supported and cared for so that they can bloom. The leader also recruits help when needed, researches better techniques, and brings in additional material when needed. It is hard work and tedious work, but the leader believes in the garden and knows that the work is worth it. The benefits and rewards are great and are for all. Are you the lead gardener at you school? 

  • Are you the lead gardener for your school or organization?
  • Does your garden need some help or is it prospering?
  • How does your garden grow? Is it healthy?

Read my blog posts and reflect to see “How your garden grows.” Please leave comments so that I can “grow” too.

When to lead with “I”

download

There is no “I” in team.  This is true. Leaders are supposed to be selfless. This is true. However there are times when a true leader must use the pronouns of “I” and “My”.  There are times that you must lead with “I”.

For a leader the most important time for them to use “I” is when there has been a mistake or something has gone wrong. When things go wrong, it is very easy for people to shift the blame and blame other people.  There are times that the blame does belong to someone else on your team or someone under your leadership. However, a true will accept the blame and shift the blame focus from their team members.   For a leader you take none of the credit when things go right but you must absorb the blame when things go awry.

The 2018 College Football Championship game between the University of Georgia and Alabama was decided in overtime by one touchdown pass.  The Alabama receiver caught the pass and ran into the end zone due to a missed coverage by a Georgia defensive back.  In the post-game press conference when asked about the game, Coach Smart of Georgia could have pointed the blame at his assistant coaches for making the wrong calls or the players for missing the coverage but he did not do that. In his press conference Coach Smart absorbed all of the blame and heaped all of the praise on his players. True leaders know that the blame or “the buck “always stops with them.

Can you imagine what it would be like for a head coach in his position to do the opposite? What if the head coach blamed the players publically after losses? What if the head coach blamed his staff during press conferences?  Can you imagine what impact that would have on the team and players?  Can you imagine players wanting to play for a coach who did that?

A leader’s job is not just to lead but it is also to protect and support. Leaders have thick skins so that they can absorb and deflect blows and attacks meant for those who follow them. True leaders also know that people will not follow a leader who is always shifting the blame. Team members are more loyal when they know that their leader will protect them and take the blame from them even when they deserve it.  Team members will also be more open and willingly to accept criticism from such a leader. Most importantly team members will work harder and get better for a leader that will make sacrifices for them.

A true leader knows that once you accept the blame or the failure, you can shift effort to finding a solution or getting better.  If you are not willingly to shoulder the blame as a leader then perhaps you are not ready to lead.  Blame finding, blame casting, and finger pointing is wasted time that prevents you from finding solutions and moving forward.

True leaders use the pronouns “I” and “we” instead of “them” or “they”. One is the language of ownership and accepted responsibility and the latter is the language of blame.

Remember in times of blame or mistakes, a leader leads with “I”. 

A better YOU in 2018 or any other year!

images

                                          How to improve YOU in 2018 or any year

With the beginning of any New Year comes the inevitable New Year resolutions. New Year Resolutions are commonly centered on losing weight, finding romance, getting healthy, quitting bad habits or being more successful. Many, if not most, resolutions fail. I believe resolutions fail because people try to change who they are superficially instead of tapping into the unique person they were born to be.  Resolutions are often promises made to be a “ new you”, “better you” or “improved you”.  I believe we become better not by recreating “outer” selves but by stretching and growing “inner” ourselves. We stretch by challenging ourselves to step beyond our current comfort zones and current status. Through every stretch we grow and become a better version of ourselves. To me this is the goal for any year, any month, any week, or any day…become a better version of yourself. Here are a list of 5 things to start your stretching and growing in 2018 or any year. I have found that they work for me so try them and see if they work for you.  What do you have to lose?

  1. Try new music. Music is good for your mood and your soul. However, we often get stuck in a rut of the same type of music. My natural default is Hip/Hop (90’s) and R&B (90’s). However, there are so many genres of music and so many great music artist to explore. Why limit yourself to the same few artists and the same genre. I try to expand my musical palette by choosing famous artist from genres I normally do not listen to and load up my playlist. I listen to this playlist in my car, at work or around the house. My palette has expanded to genres like country, r& b classics, rock & roll, opera, & more. I have become acquainted with musicians over time such as Johnny Mathis, Pavarotti, Glenn Campbell, Janis Joplin , Thundercat , the Bee Gees, Billy Holiday ,Sam Cooke , The Doobies Brothers ,Al Green, Sinatra and many more.( and I still find time for my Tupac!).  Listening and appreciating different music is like understanding different cultures and languages.
  2. Find a new hobby. Hobbies are the way we learn new things and expand our knowledge or skill set. Hobbies can be do it yourself projects, outdoor projects, exercise activities, or something that you take lessons to learn. There are so many different things to learn in the world why continue to do the same things over and over. When you leave organized schooling, you are responsible for the curriculum of your learning. I have a friend who is constantly looking for new hobbies or new things to try (He just sent me an invitation to learn the Olympic sport of curling!). If you like sports, learn about a new sport.  Your new hobby can be cooking, painting, baking, cycling, running, antiquing, chess, soccer, music lessons, photography, learning or new language or anything you find interest.  Stick with it for a year, learn all you can about it and see what happens.
  3. Read books. I am an educator so I love reading. However reading is the way to learn. Reading is a good escape to different places and into the lives of different people. I personally like biographies and learning about the lives, struggles, successes, and failures of other people. However, I read books on my profession, personal interests, fiction or popular reads. Reading expands your mind so don’t limit yourself to books, but read articles and magazines as well. The more you read the more you know.
  4. Take time to spend quality time. There is no greater gift we are given than time. How we chose to spend that time and who we choose to spend it with are so important. Take time to spend quality time with those who are important to you. Quality time is time spent in conversation without distractions, making new memories, reminiscing on good memories, laughing, sharing opinions, and sharing your dreams. Spend time with your friends, your colleagues, your family, your spouse, your mentors and mentees.  Conversation is the life line that connects people. Social media conversation does not count! Going out, partying and not remembering what you did… doesn’t count either. Take time to have lunch with, check on or visit with that friend or relative that you have been putting off. Send kind texts or leave nice voicemails .Take your kids (or nieces/nephews) to the park or playground. You will be glad you did and your life will be better.
  5. All writing does not have to be for a grade, assignment or classroom. Writing is not limited and relegated to academics, scholars or professionals. Buy a journal. Write daily or write once a week. Journal your thoughts, your reactions to news events, your dreams, events in your life, and your goals. Your thoughts are as a valid as anyone else’s thoughts. Your story is as real as any story written in any book. Writing helps to organize the thoughts in your mind and helps give them life.  You would be surprised at the thoughts which are floating in your mind which are waiting to be chronicled in print.