Grow Forward, a leadership philosophy in making the “box” bigger.

Since the several days of prep and endurance of Hurricane Dorian, I spent some time thinking about various blogs to write about. While I was initially planning on another horticulture-centric post, I made a decision to address and publish a certain aspect of the “Grow Forward,” slogan and how it relates not only to Hortfire LLC but a lot of my decision making process, planning, and management.

At some point or another you have either been questioned or questioned someone about “leadership.” What makes a good leader? What are the traits? While most people have a general consensus of what makes a good leader, that changes as time passes and attitudes change. Each individual, business, or industry may have similar traits, but there is no one exact criteria, plus a lot of what we have come to think about leadership traits are by today’s standards considered just habits, some deemed important and other not so much.  Still I look back at all the times I was asked about leadership and I realized that I was being judged for either knowing all of that person’s criteria for leadership or I was being evaluated to be seen as a fit for their leadership style/philosophy.  So it is important to know firmly what your leadership philosophy is and how to properly articulate it.

The “Grow Forward” concept is a larger encompassing mission statement. Yes, it is slogan used quite often, yet like the name Hortfire it can be misunderstood or confusing, so I wanted to take a moment at discuss how our leadership philosophy is an integrated part of this concept and encourage anyone who may need help in defining or refining their own leadership philosophy as well. I have use this philosophy time and time again and I am proud to say that the vast majority of time it has been successful yet there have been other experiences that we learned and grew from as well, it happens.

I have always been very strong on using logic to address problems and overcome challenges. For many years, I have listen to people talk about “thinking outside of the box to create solutions.” I have heard numerous solutions developed outside of the box, yet these solutions to accomplishing the goals has always seem to be skewed, as in a lot of solutions are never implemented because they could be unrealistic given the conditions and resources. So there came a point in my early twenties, that I decided that I didn’t want to be a person inside the box or the person outside of the box. I wanted to be the person who makes the box bigger, because that person is creating the solution that is needed and allows more growth potential. Below in italics is the written version of our leadership philosophy.

“Our leadership philosophy consists of 4 principles, 7 practices, and 13 habit points to solve problems, dictate planning, analyze outcomes, accomplish goals, improve development, and augment lasting success individuality and as a group. Each tier of this philosophy has a specific influence working together while adjusting to an ever changing environment.

 Of the four principles, each is a series of actions that are taken to ensure a reduction in potential uncertainty to an outcome, yet flexibility is given to learn from each experience. The first principle is to examine. Examining is asking a question, observing a previously unsolved problem, or addressing a new conflict. To examine also requires gathering as much evidence of the subject in question and to continue to record observable information and changes as time progresses until completion. The second principle is to educate. Educating is being committed to gather further information outside what is observed, including previous similar examples, which relate. To educate also includes developing a potential solution. One must hypothesize the desired outcome, weigh pro’s and con’s, identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, and mitigate potential other outcomes which maybe either true or false and what the results would be if the solution is enacted in a yes or no fashion. At this point reexamine the environment for any changes and then reassess the development of the solution accordingly if true. Once a solution is decided, then the method to implement the solution must be decided. The third principle is to execute. While executing the solution denote any changes in the environment and carefully observe the progress, tabulate all results and information. The fourth principle is to evaluate. Analyze the results, report the results, and share the results with trusted sources to receive further validation or rejection of progress achieved.

 The seven criteria are to take a proactive approach to every challenge and turn it into an opportunity, set benchmarks to accomplish from the goal to where you start, accomplish your benchmarks in an focused  manner without constraints of time because you utilize your time efficiently, seek the best outcome for all parties when challenges arise and don’t be afraid to start over if it is what is best for all cannot be attained currently, continuously accept input and not to be afraid to challenge your beliefs so that a whole picture is realized,  reduce overlap in productivity by making the most of what resources you have and overlap resources with other parties to areas of need, and never stop trying to achieve higher even if you have reached your goal.

   Throughout the process of implementing these criteria the thirteen points of positive habits are: respect all people regardless, empower everyone to the fullest, hold everyone accountable for their actions or the lack there of, listen to every person equally, be sincere in listening and communicating, reward those for going above and beyond, maintain discipline to accomplish the benchmarks, communicate the benchmarks and the goal written, verbally, and visually as it is the mission, give credit to those who put in the work that is asked, take time to come together as a group and address all issues as a collective, stay positive no matter how bad things get, uphold your promises and words but don’t be afraid to ask for help or let someone know something has gone wrong, and finally have the courage to take action, speak, or disagree even when you are potentially the minority.”

While this is our leadership philosophy, I am going to address several potential criticisms so that there is not misunderstanding about it or its’ application.

This philosophy when applied can tackle some of the largest problems or conflicts with the goal of permanent resolution. There have been instances were resolution was never completely attained and issues became reoccurring and application only provided temporary relief. The failure lied in not accounting for all the information and typically the root of the problem was unseen until further deeper investigation than before, hence examining and educating principles are paramount. While both of those principles seem closely aligned to the scientific method, that is only similarities because the scientific method has its’ own principles and methods that govern it. Both are logical approaches to seek facts and discovery, yet the leadership philosophy ideally wants a desired outcome while the scientific method wants unbiased results to create facts.

Quick decision making is traditionally viewed as a desired trait of leadership, yet the scope of the problem and probable outcomes must be taken into consideration. Sure, it doesn’t take a large amount of time to make a simple decision, yet if the desired outcome could have a dramatic and long lasting effect, then a precautionary person is going to need to take time to reduce potentially making an error in decision making and reduce that uncertainty of reaction to the solution.  A person is going to try their best to stay ahead of schedule, so that when time consuming decisions are to be made, they are not done in haste. Accomplishing a goal right the first and only time cost far less than having to revisit it and potentially losing the trust and support of a customer, not to mention future business dealings as well.

Another criticism maybe the methods for analyzing potential solutions don’t include methods like a cost-benefit analysis, focus group inputs, previous customer satisfaction rating and other methods during the Educate principle. Each instance of application of this leadership philosophy is a case by case basis. Those other analysis should be conducted in conjunction of the three mentioned, those three are mentioned because they are basic cornerstone analysis. One would not use a cost benefit analysis to resolve conflict management between employees. So whatever the instance the leadership philosophy is applied to, you are still responsible for gathering all the appropriate information, assessment tools, and risk analysis as it relates above the basic three methods mentioned.

Where is the creativity and innovation within the leadership philosophy? Why is that not addressed specifically? It is not addressed specifically because it is understood to be part of it. Within the Educate principle one must be creative to develop a solution for the desired outcome, this may require some form of innovation, which may or may not be developed through the scientific method outside of the philosophy. Also this is reinforced in the practices of starting from the goal and going to where you start and of challenging your own beliefs. Again it is reinforced within the habits of coming together as a group and addressing all issues collectively. Both of those aspects are inherit of the philosophy, ideally a leader can cultivate creative and innovative thinking, yet no one person has all the answers.

What about a time constraint deadline and under resourced project to manage? How does the leadership philosophy address that, there is no mentioning of such? First part break this down into two parts based on the conflicts, time constraint and under resourced project. Secondly ask for the desire outcome of completion of the project with available resources is it attainable realistically? Identify, is the time constraint self induced, short notice of acceptance of work, or a miscalculation of planning? If it is self induced by mismanagement of planned time, then realistically no, not attainable without sacrificing integrity of workmanship, communicate to other parties and accept the consequences. Is it due to a short notice of work, then maximize labor production even if it includes negating profits to potentially above break even point minus any profits needed to complete a project due to be under resourced, if there is any profits at all, otherwise not attainable. Was there a miscalculation of time in planning the budget, if so, not attainable without sacrificing integrity of workmanship, communicate to other parties and accept the consequences. Sacrificing the integrity of workmanship can create problems down the road which may result in professional distrust, non-repeat business, or civil litigation.  Now as far as the under resourced project aspect of the question, again ask yourself, was it due to mismanagement of resources, lack of availability in resources, or miscalculation of resources needed? If the lack of resources is because mismanagement of allotted resources, then no, not attainable without sacrifice of integrity of project, communicate with other parties and accept the consequences. If there is a lack of resources because a lack of availability, there is an option, communicate with other parties to find substitute resources to use directly or find resources that can be modified to replace specified resources, otherwise the time constraint maybe broken waiting for requested resources. Was there a miscalculation of the resources needed, if so, then potentially refer to the example above about negating profits to above the break even point in fulfilling the required resources. If for some reason there are no profits or not enough profits, then communicate with other parties and accept the consequences, otherwise there will be a sacrifice in integrity of the project. Like mentioned in the sacrificing the integrity of workmanship, sacrificing the integrity of project can also have similar consequences as well. Yet there is a plausible example of completion of the desired goal using the leadership philosophy, yet only under the conditions that project was accepted on short notice and parties are willing to accept alternative or substitute materials in it. This condition maintains some form of profits which is ideal. Depending on the size of the company and project, the company can also take a loss both with time and resources and finish the project without fear of returning to fix problems or potential threats of litigation as well, yet these decisions are made at a higher level and within following the leadership philosophy should be communicated when first noticed.

The last criticism I am going address is the complexity of our leadership philosophy. For the first time reading this or hearing this, it may outwardly appear as an extremely complex method, yet like any other activity in life, with practice it becomes second nature. As a child wiggles around as an infant, it begins to roll, once it learns to roll, it begins to stand up on its’ hands and knees, after it stands up on its’ hands and knees it begins to pull itself up to stand on two feet while holding on to higher objects. After it begins to stand on two feet it begins to let go of those objects and starts to put one foot forward of the other, and eventually it begins to walk on its’ own with perfect balance. We were all that child at one point, yet unknowingly we practiced each action and got stronger, developed, and eventually independent of any help. So remembering 4 principles, 7 practices, and 13 habits can be second nature if you practice it and eventually you will master it.

Our leadership philosophy is an integrated framework that works from the broad perspective down to interpersonal relationships. It creates a positive belief and culture that seeks not only the best out a situation but all parties involved with a goal of lasting relationships. It is just another example of how we want you and everyone else to “Grow Forward!”

At some point in the future, we make a post about strategic philosophy. So until next time, I hope we have made you think about your leadership philosophy and before we let go I want to leave you with an quote, something to ponder, as every leader should.

“Everything changes except change itself.”  Kung Fu Zi  (Confucius)

Take Care, Be Safe, Happy, and Healthy,



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