In observance of the Memorial Day holiday, the Northwest Herald newspaper will not be published May 28. Breaking news and information will be updated on

Caldwell: Dig into your garden for new business results

The Ilex verticillata was dead. In spite of the one lonely green sprig on the Common Winterberry shrub and after fertilizing, pruning, wishing and hoping, I needed to face the fact that the bush was dead and taking up space in our garden.

For over a year, the plant had just enough green leaves to give off the appearance of life, but not enough to be spectacular, vibrant, flowering and lovely. The shrub was just getting by, much like what happens in business and in life.

When I finally had a vision of my perfect garden, I made the decision to take out the dead plant and replace it with a new flowering and fragrant lilac bush. At the time, I had no idea what a big project I signed up for. After one hour of sweating, swearing and digging, I finally pulled out the deeply rooted tree that was firmly entrenched in the soil and not allowing any other nearby plants to flourish.

During my adventures in gardening, I had time to think about the areas of life where we are deeply rooted but at the same time are not fully alive. If you are committed to growing in your life, you must keep tending your personal and professional “garden.”

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” The Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet Michelangelo Buonarroti dreamed of what was possible before creating a work of art. Like Michelangelo, begin with the end in mind.

Working your way backward, determine what your ideal personal and professional life looks like. Imagine what would be possible if you were deeply rooted and fully alive in the areas of life that are important to you; your family, employees, clients and your organization. Look at where you are now and quantify the gap between your ideal life and your current reality. Be brutally honest with yourself. Get back to the roots of what makes you happy, successful, productive, connected and growing.

What are the areas of your life that you need to prune, cut back or dig out and discard? Where do you need to trim the excess or take out weeds in your life? Are the groups and clubs you belong to supporting your growth? Are you available to support others? Being involved in every available organization, association or network group means being committed to none of them. Choose to dig in and invest your time, treasure and talents in the areas that are genuinely important to you. Recommit to being the most vibrant and engaged partner in your organization and new opportunities will blossom for you.

Revitalization and rejuvenation are critical; think about the areas where you need to fertilize and nourish yourself. Take some time off to reconnect with your family, friends and most importantly, yourself. Take at least one day to think, dream and evaluate your progress year to date. What have you accomplished so far and how will you make this year your best ever?

Conduct a formal or informal 360-degree assessment of your professional and personal performance. Ask the people in your life: “Where am I using my strengths?” “Where do you see that I am the most vibrant and alive?” Ask the tough questions such as: “Where do you see that I am having difficulty and not energized?” A powerful question to ask your coach or trusted adviser is: “What can I start/stop/continue doing to be a better leader/spouse/parent/friend?” Be prepared for some answers that you may not like but need to hear in order to grow.

Fortified with this information, write down the specific measurable steps that you can take action on immediately. By taking small steps every day, you enact the Law of Compound Interest to your efforts and will enjoy the sweet fruits of your labor over time.

Whether you conduct your “Tending Your Garden” process privately or publicly, consider capturing it in a journal or video format. Your journey will be instructive and act as a personalized road map to achieve and maintain success. As a leader, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get dirt under your nails to support other people on their journey.

The positive effects of tending your personal and professional garden will transform the way you approach your daily living and the harvests you enjoy. When you take the time to plant the seeds of success and nurture them, you will create new and rewarding opportunities and have more fun along the way!

• Kathleen Caldwell is president of Caldwell Consulting Group and the founder of the Global WHEE Institute (Wealthy, Healthy, Energetic Edge) of Woodstock. She works with leaders and teams to renew their love of their business and produce record-breaking results. A “Tending Your Business Garden” resource list is available at, or by phone at 815-206-4014.

Loading more

Digital Access

Digital Access
Access from all your digital devices and receive breaking news and updates from around the area.

Home Delivery

Home Delivery
Local news, prep sports, Chicago sports, local and regional entertainment, business, home and lifestyle, food, classified and more! News you use every day! Daily, weekend and Sunday packages.

Text Alerts

Text Alerts
Stay connected to us wherever you are! Get breaking news updates along with other area information sent to you as a text message to your wireless device.

Email Newsletters

Email Newsletters
We'll deliver news & updates to your inbox. Plan your weekend and catch up on the news with our newsletters.