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Planting Seeds

I can tell you, without a doubt, I don’t have a green thumb. Not even close. I kill almost anything given to me that is supposed to grow. House plants, flowers, trees, even the little bean plants my daughters brings home from school after studying about it in science. I’m like the Black Plague of Death for anything that needs to be planted. I’m not really sure what it is. It’s not that I want these plants to die. On the contrary, I want them to live. They brighten up my house, make my yard look nicer and keep my daughters from yelling at me for killing their science experiment. My intentions don’t matter however, if I’m left in charge of it, it’s probably a goner.

I realized that when these plants come into my home, they require a lot more attention than I’m willing to give them. They need water, sunlight, good soil and a host of other things to flourish and survive. In my day to day life, I become so busy that thinking of these plants, and their needs, goes very low on my todo list. If I’m honest, they probably don’t even make it on the list.

I know what you’re thinking…. Jonathan…what’s the point of all this?

Hold on, Hold on. I promise I’m getting to it.

The other day I was sitting on the plan and a video came on of Andy Fricella speaking to his team at 1st Phorm. He was talking about the Chinese Bamboo tree and its amazing growth and how it can grow to over 90 feet tall within a 5-6 week period. That’s quick! Some of these plants have been found to grow 48” in a 24hr period. I found it so amazing that a tree could grow that fast that I decided to do a little more research.

What I found was astonishing.

The Chinese Bamboo tree, as amazing as it’s growth is, has a very unique characteristic. When you plant a bamboo sprout in the ground, with perfect soil, and water it everyday, literally nothing will happen for 4-5 years. Nothing!!!! Can you imagine? You go out, everyday to water and nurture this little sprout, and it just sits there. A year passes…nothing. 3 years….nothing. 4 years….ugh, I’m tired of even typing it. You see no growth, no movement, no results. And then….BOOM! This things sprouts up like Jack’s magic bean stalk in his backyard. I can barely remember to water a plant for 2 days, let alone for 5 consecutive years without any growth.

Who would do that? Wouldn’t they get tired of pouring their life into that sprout and not see the return? Doesn’t that sprout know that in today’s society, we want results and we wanted them yesterday? Doesn’t that little sprout know that we have way more on our plates, way more responsibilities to handle every day then to go our for 5 years straight and water it’s little leaves to not see anything happen during that entire time?


(Sorry, I got a little carried away there)

A few weeks ago, I was working with the leadership of an organization who is implementing a Leadership Development Program. Their hope is to empower and educate high level employees with the skills needed to become excellent leaders within the organization. The employees are broken up into mentor groups, where they regularly meet with their facilitators and discuss leadership principles, development and have homework assignments to complete. The program has been in beta for several months, however the CEO, who leads one of the groups, is ready to bag the entire thing. When I asked him why and what the biggest challenge was, he very directly stated that he wasn’t seeing any results. He had been meeting with his group for 8 weeks and the organization hasn’t become leaps and bounds better than what it was. No one was stepping up to fill leadership roles within the organizations and the teams weren’t performing any higher than they were before. The Leadership Development Program was obviously not very good and was a waste of time.

(I bet you can guess exactly what point I’m about to make can’t you?)

You see, all to often this is where leadership fails. We look at leadership as the short game.

Do a little now, get results now and move forward.

We are way to busy, with way to much on our plate to invest hours everyday, with our employees, coaching them and helping them become better. We might start off with good intentions, but eventually lose interest with helping develop people when the results don’t come as quickly as we want them to. We are fast to blame others intelligence or abilities and often times cast aside those who aren’t keeping up. We fall back into our old habits of instructing versus coaching and add more stuff to our agenda’s because the only way to get things done, is to do it ourselves.

As I sat and thought about the bamboo farmer, I have to admit, at first I thought he was insane but then, a sense of admiration came over me. His patience, diligence and persistence eventually pays off. His daily efforts of caring for that sprout eventually pay off with a reward that touches the sky. He get’s to look on that sprout with pride knowing he did everything he could to help it grow to it’s potential.

What would happen if we took the lessons from that farmer and implemented them into our leadership?

What would our companies look like, if everyday, despite the immediate return, we took the time to care for those around us, to nurture them and provide for them what they needed most to be successful. What if we were patient with their growth and our time in helping them grow, understanding that for some people to achieve their maximum potential, we would need to put in a little extra effort.

You see I believe leadership is about influencing positive change in someone else’s life and our ability to help people live up to the incredibly limitless potential inside of them. This change and growth doesn’t happen overnight. It takes an amazing amount of patience, diligence and a willingness to show up everyday for the people you lead. When you make the choice, and dedicate yourself to this daily responsibility, I can promise you one thing. One day, you will be able to stand back with pride as you gaze upon the 90 feet tall giants your love and care has helped create.


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