Where is Your Focus?

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faceless woman picking bellis perennis flowers on meadow

When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower. – Alexander Den Heijer

What a profound statement. Listen to the wisdom in these sixteen words. When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.

As leaders, we need to take these words to heart. And we need to put this concept into practice.


Because your team is a field of flowers. They are beautiful, they are fragrant, and they bring the bees (i.e. your customers). When the bees drink that sweet nectar, they are buying your product. And the only way to keep the nectar flowing (and the bees buying) is to create an environment in which your flowers can bloom.

So how do we do this?

Consider this tale of two farmers, Dell and Dale.

Dell and Dale are two neighboring farmers who grow flowers for their local community. Each of them has the same size land right next to each other with roughly the same soil density and composition. They both enjoy the same climate, sun exposure, and rainfall levels.

Both Dell and Dale rely on their flowers to provide income for their families. But each of them tends to their farm a little differently, as can be expected. I mean, we all think we know what is best and how to do things better than our colleagues, just like our competing farmers do.

Dell is an old-school farmer who likes to keep things simple and let nature take its course. He obviously provides additional watering when needed and does the occasional fertilizing, but only just enough to keep his plants from withering. He sees this a good budgeting. Just enough to keep them from dying and still producing flowers. That’s all he needs.

Oh sure, once in a while one of the plants doesn’t flower, but Dell figures it was a dud and he can just buy new seed. It’s the cost of farming.

Dale, on the other hand, is a master farmer. He knows his plants need good fertile soil, so he provides consistent, regular potassium, nitrogen, and magnesium to ensure the right balance to keep his blooms popping as frequently as possible. Of course, this costs him considerably more each year, but he is comfortable with his bigger budget because he sells many more flowers than his neighbor Dell.

Now here’s the thing. Because Dale spends a little extra on regular fertilizing, he receives the side benefit of many more bees coming to his field. And those busy bees help out other parts of his farm. Because of all their activity, Dale has seen his other crops become more vigorous with the work of pollination, and he has so many bees, he has created his own apiary (a collection of beehives) and because of that, he started producing honey as well.

In fact, Dale’s careful attention to his field has transformed his entire farm into a lush and luxurious local attraction bringing in tourists and townsfolk alike.

So what does this all mean for us as corporate leaders?

We need to be more like Dale and less like Dell. What do I mean by this?

We need to provide our team members with a safe and stable environment (the soil), we need to pay them appropriately (the water), and we need to provide regular recognition (the sunshine).

On top of all that, we must be on the lookout for any problems that arise due to changing circumstances among our team. When something seems a bit off, we need to be curious, test with questions, and assess what needs to be addressed.

Then we need to determine the best course of action and execute as quickly as possible to prevent any further decay or depreciation. And most of the time, that means fixing the environment, not the person.

So often, we say things like, “Aaron just has a bad attitude,” or “Lewis is just so lazy,” or “Karen is always so cranky.” We attribute undesirable behavior to the person and refuse to look at the environment.

And so what do we do? We scold the person (oh, I’m sorry, we provide “feedback”) or we figure we can replace them, just like Dell does when one of his plants doesn’t produce flowers.

But if we act more like Dale, when we start to look at the situation or the environment, we start to see the broader picture. We start to see that Aaron doesn’t have a bad attitude; he is struggling with a new task and needs training. We learn that Lewis isn’t lazy; he needs more direct communication from you so he can keep busy. And Karen? Well Karen is just…Karen. Sorry, Karen. I’m kidding! Karen isn’t cranky; she is overwhelmed with too many projects and you need to reassess your delegation technique.

Think about your field of flowers. Focus on the field. Go out and test the soil, check the water, and always provide plenty of sunshine.

You see, when you focus on the field, the flowers will bloom. When you focus on the flowers, the weeds will ruin your view.

So how will you focus less on the flower and more on the field? How will you create an environment where the blooms are bountiful, and the bees are abundant? And how will you sustain a department that flourishes month after month, year over year?

Your Mindful Moment:

Do you want to pick flowers, or do you want to pull weeds?

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