Filling in the Garden’s Barren Spots

Last fall I scattered purple coneflower seeds over my perennial garden, hoping to fill in some barren spots. Some took root and are growing lush with several purple coneflowers to a single stem. Others never took root and left bald spots.

And so goes my work world this month, too. As a leader and peer, I scattered words of praise, encouragement, counsel, or admonition. All in three distinct occasions during the four weeks of June.

The problem is knowing which seeds, if any, will get what they need to take root and make a difference?  Who will water and feed the Forget-Me-Nots? Those suggestions to improve that were planted in mid-year reviews. Who will pull the weeds that others took time to point out and that threaten to choke the life from a positive Leadership Brand? Who will fertilize feedback from Leadership Essentials surveys by taking steps to improve communication, planning and delegation skills?

The problem: I can never tell which seeds will produce and which will not. In past years as a manager, team member, mother, and friend, some words fell on what I believed was Texas clay. Yet, they took root and produced. As lush as those spots of purple coneflower in my garden. Other words I offered in response to those who asked and were eager to hear. Yet, what began with promise soon faded under the weight of old habits or denial.

Sadly, I must admit that I nurtured words sometimes in a heart of clay or, other times, fertile soil. I, too, sent a few managers to lament,  “Why doesn’t she just do what I say?” (Did I ever mention that I lettered in debate in high school? My mother still thinks I missed my calling as a defense attorney.)

Another leader shared an interesting philosophy about giving feedback to inspire change. He gave up nudging, cajoling, or crucifying others. Instead, he just set high standards and seeded everyone evenly with his expectations. Some seeds took root and sprouted in the once barren mind. Others, lay fallow and dead. Yet, his most interesting observation? He could not judge with 100% accuracy ahead of time which mind was which.*

So, I adopt that leader-seed planter’s mentality. As a leader, parent, or friend, I will spread words of praise, encouragement, or counsel evenly. I expect some will hear and respond. Some will hear but not respond.  Some will neither hear nor respond. And I will not try to predict which is which.

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. some fell on the rock, and when it came up, the plant withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop a hundred times more than was sown.” (Luke 8:5-8, NIV)

*William Beausay II, The Leadership Genius of Jesus, p. 66.

©2012 Gloria Ashby. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail.

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About Gloria Ashby

I'm a writer, speaker and teacher. I live with my husband in the DFW area, and close to our daughter and her family.
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2 Responses to Filling in the Garden’s Barren Spots

  1. vondaskelton says:

    Great words of wisdom! I often try to make people act…or I decide they won’t, so I don’t try. Scattering equally and letting God direct the results makes much more sense. Thank you!

    • Gloria Ashby says:

      So true, Vonda. I have really needed to take this lesson to heart this month. And work on ensuring that the words of encouragement and opportunity given to me don’t languish in a heart of clay!

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