July 30, 2007

Deadheading for Renewal

Deadheading is one of those often-overlooked chores that keep a garden lively with color. Instead of lamenting that all the blooms have died, one simply needs to pluck off the dead flower head and many plants get back in action and flower again.

Gardeners who forget to deadhead end up not getting the full value from their plants and often spend more money planting new items already blooming. A lot of individuals and organizations make the same mistake with their own efforts.

We probably would all benefit from a deadheading approach to both our personal lives and the programs and services our organizations sponsor, periodically assessing which efforts seem to have run their course, pruning them a bit and plucking off what clearly has died off, and then waiting to see if things will actually renew and bloom again. Doing so may prolong the value we think has expired and allow us to focus our limited energy and resources on new ventures or other efforts that need them the most.


Anonymous said...

Jeff, an excellent point and a great analogy. My association, and many others I observe, aren't very good at deadheading. As a gardener (and executive) I know that what you say is true.

Why is this? Here's two reasons, that I observe:

1. Since everything an association does is the most important thing the association could be doing (for some constituency), it is difficult to reduce, retire or sunset anything. Of course this limits the capacity to do new things.

2. Perpeuating the status quo is aided by jargon like "of the member, by the member, for the member", in my judgement. Such rhetoric is not helpful--it tells volunteers that associations will do whatever they want (for as long as they want). Volunteers think we execs mean it when we use jargon like this (or it is used by our association management association). Thus, volunteers may see no reason to change their individual constituency preferences. They simply expect to be served. Said differently, "Don't try to prune my garden"!

So how do volunteers and staff actually apply forward looking leadership to prune and "deadhead"? Inquiring execs and gardeners what to know how to apply good, common sense thinking.

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Great observations from the anonymous commenter.

My own reaction two the questions posed is that it is easier to get others to deadhead if an overall criteria for doing so is being applied versus what may be seen as a personal preference for changing things.

Just as different plans require different pruning (and some won't rebloom even if deadheaded) so might different programs or services require different metrics to indicate success, need for revision, or need for retirement. Having what might be a tough conversation to determine those criteria can often help facilitate the actual efforts that will result from applying them later.