Difference between dead and dormant- Leadership lessons from a hibiscus

A few weeks ago a Twitter tip read: “Stop watering a dead plant.” True, you have to stop expending effort and resources if they don’t pan out. However, what if you are wrong? What if you have simply failed to see the potential? What if the problem is you and your incorrect assumptions?

potential  Last year, when I saw this dead looking branch in my garden I thought I should cut it down. I did not plant it there and this twig had nothing to recommend it – no leaves, no colour, no flowers. It was a bit embarrassing – it looked like my son stuck a ‘good stick’ in the front bed.  However, towards the end of last summer the hibiscus sprang to life and produced  beautiful dinner plate-sized flowers.

I had completely failed to see the potential in those dormant branches because:

1. I didn’t choose this plant. Did you know that when you hire someone you become more invested in their success? You have vetted them so you know what they have done in the past and have a sense of their potential. You have chosen them to be dormant branches flourish  on your team. You are more likely to look for evidence that validates your choice.

Based on my vast ignorance of horticulture, I failed to see the potential in this dormant plant. It is not the fault of the hibiscus, it was the ignorance of the gardener. (That would be me.)

2. I was impatient. Again, my ignorance of the conditions under which this plant would flourish meant I was impatient and could have cut it down before it had a chance to shine. And whose fault would that be?

3. I had unreasonable expectations. Why would I expect all my flowers to bloom at the same time and, preferably, all spring and summer long ? Is it possible that in the workplace we want our team members to flourish when it’s not their season? Do we expect everyone to produce constantly and equally? That’s just not very reasonable.

So, in my very modest garden and in future professional relationships, I’m going to be more careful to gain a better understanding of skill sets and potential. I will give new or unfamiliar plants at least a full season and appreciate signs of life. I will remember that: “To everything, there is a season”. I will keep the hibiscus! It gets better every year 🙂

Published by Dominique O'Rourke

Public Affairs professional, City Councillor, MA Leadership graduate, problem solver and lifelong learner.

5 thoughts on “Difference between dead and dormant- Leadership lessons from a hibiscus

    1. Thanks Cathy! I’m not a very good gardener so there are not likely to be many gardening analogies but you never know when inspiration will strike. 🙂

      Thanks for the comment.

  1. My hibiscus has come up every year except this year. One of them didn’t come up is this unusual

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