I know it’s springtime, because I feel unusually happy. Spring is my favorite time of the year ‒ it stays light until 8:00 pm, the sun is out and the birds are singing, and everything is green and blooming. Including in our vegetable garden! Every April, we turn over the soil and plant a new crop for the summer. This year, we are growing: heirloom tomatoes (red, green, yellow, and cherry varieties), green and yellow zucchini, Japanese eggplants, Persian cucumbers, green and purple beans, snow peas, jalapeno peppers, and a couple of other random things like a baby watermelon plant.
As we’re been working hard on fertilizing, cultivating the soil, and watering our seedlings, I’m reminded of a couple of huge personal growth lessons:
Growth takes time. Be patient and try to enjoy the process.
I could go out and buy these vegetables at the market, but there’s joy in the work and investment of growing them ourselves. Plus, they do taste a whole lot better (especially the tomatoes!). When it comes to leadership, we can get impatient and want to “get to the next level” before we’re ready for it. But we can’t rush the time it takes to grow … and if we do, we might overlook ingredients like patience and pain that are actually the keys to maturing us. They make the difference between an average tomato that’s picked before it’s ripe, and a rich, juicy tomato that’s bursting with flavor. It’s making me hungry just to type this, so I need to move on.
There is power when we let people see us grow.
Just as I take satisfaction in watching our garden grow, I believe that God delights in watching our development … and of course, actively nurturing us along the way! So do the friends and colleagues (like each of you) who are partners on this path.
One of my co-workers reminded me last year that as I’ve grown as a leader, others have benefited from seeing my journey. That reminded me to keep letting other people into my life, thoughts, and feelings even when it’s uncomfortable and vulnerable. I know that’s a huge part of the “food and water” that’ll help me to thrive in leadership!
So in light of that, I’d love to share with you my “growth list,” or the things I’m working on in my leadership:
- To let people know that I’m available for them.
Occasionally I’ve heard someone tell me, “You must be so busy.” And sometimes I get the impression from leaders I respect that they’re always strapped for time. To the best of my ability, I want as many people as possible to have a different experience of me. I want people to know that I’m available, responsive, and fully present when I’m with them. That doesn’t mean I’ll always say “yes” to everyone or everything, or operate on other peoples’ timelines, of course! I’m always going to seek to maintain healthy boundaries and limits. But I want to communicate with responsiveness, presence and engagement.
- To keep trying new things, not staying only in my comfort zone.
I’m always trying to find a balance between operating out of my strengths, and stretching myself with new ideas and experiences. My biggest enemies are complacency, or acting like I’m an “expert.”
The other evening, I tried eating oysters, scallops, eel, and a bunch of seafood I normally would never order at dinner. Some of it was disgusting, and I regretted it. But I tried it! I’m proud of the fact that although I hate shrimp, I make it a point to try it every couple of years to see if I’ve changed. I haven’t. My family and friends like to say that “I’m missing out.” And they’re right … I’m missing out on all the stomach-aches and nausea I would get if I ate those things more often.
- To initiate hard conversations more regularly.
I want to deliver constructive feedback more regularly to address unhealthy dynamics before too much time passes and things get worse. I’ve done this a bit in the past year, but some of the conversations took me a few months to build up the energy and courage to initiate. I’d like to get more comfortable with hard conversations, so they take less out of me each time. The organizational nerd inside me is saying to write a recurring reminder on my calendar: “What hard conversations do I need to have this month?”
- To keep finding creative ways to ask for feedback.
This year, I’ve asked for a ton of feedback on my work and personal projects. I’ve asked friends and family for casual feedback, and am doing a 360 (performance review) at work. But I want to try to figure out some other ways to get feedback that are more creative to keep things interesting and dynamic!
A couple of ideas I’m considering:
Feedback of the Day: “If I could do or say one thing that would make you feel more respected/loved today, what would it be?”
Asking feedback from our children: “When I’m having a bad day, which ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Lord of the Rings’ monster do I look like?” or “What do I say to you that makes you feel sad or angry?”
So that’s what I’m working on. Hopefully by putting it out there, it’ll give me that extra boost to grow. Especially if you check in and ask me how I’m doing.
What about you … how do you want to grow in leadership this year? What’s on your growth list?