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Flowers = Caring = Engagement

May is the month for flowers. Washington D.C. is particularly beautiful in the late April/May timeframe.

I recently got up super early to go see the cherry blossoms (and get a parking spot) before sunrise. It was cold and windy, but was one of those special events. There’s a whole hillside of the National Arboretum that’s really spectacular during the height of the azaleas. And the area around the U. S. Capitol and Union Station is particularly pretty (both trees and flowers) during this time of year.

I’ve been to see “flower farms” in the Dutch village of Solvang, CA, Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC, and tulips in the town of Holland, MI. At home we have daffodils, jonquils, irises, hydrangeas, and dandelions.

WHY FLOWERS JEFF?  Nature, beauty, peace, etc.  At one point I considered being a flower arranger as my third career (Coast Guard officer, management consultant before that).  We need (and even crave) more of the things that flowers give us – both personally and professionally. Flowers help us celebrate significant events and holidays. Flowers stimulate us to take close up pictures. Flowers help us play in the dirt and get our hands dirty. Flowers are a major part of many cultures (leis and their meaning of welcoming).Flowers help us grieve.

WORKPLACES: What do our workplaces need now?  I maintain that it’s the sense of caring that comes when we give and receive flowers. To me, flowers are a symbol of caring.

How many organizations list CARING as one of their core values/guiding principles?  How many list it as their first?

We do an exercise where people talk about and scribe what the leader they’d follow anywhere said or did … and what they didn’t say or didn’t do (mistakes they avoided).  That brings back vivid, powerful, and sometimes raw memories. Then, we ask them to explain how they thought, felt, and acted because of that leader’s character/traits/behaviors. It connects the dots relative to engagement and commitment. Do this exercise yourself and reflect on the answers.

NO LEADERSHIP BOOKS: We don’t really need leadership books or articles. It’s all in our experience. What can we replicate from those things that inspired us and minimize from those that crushed our spirit? My partner Ellen used to do an exercise where she asked participants to write down one thing they promised they would never do as a manager, but ended up doing anyway. The explanations for “Why” varied considerably, but often did not go back to the feelings they felt as a younger worker.

LIFE BALANCE:  This is increasingly important to me now. Flowers help me … get outside, engage my sense of smell (sometime soon I will get stung), experience a wide spectrum of color, see nature at work (bees/pollination, butterflies), etc. Even people who live in the city crave flowers; think the escape of rooftop gardens, the charm of flower boxes in windows.

I hope, my Dear Reader, that you reflect on the connection between flowers, caring, better workplaces, engagement, and life balance.  Now, go smell some flowers.

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