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The Coaching Dept. Blog

When a Flower Doesn’t Bloom

“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” Alexander Den Heijer 

I am definitely not a green-thumb, however, time and time again I have found this quote to be true. Yes, when it comes to plants, and also when it involves people. Nature has a way of teaching us valuable lessons about ourselves and how we lead. And nature has a way of speaking directly to us—sometimes all we need to do is listen.  

This month in our Extraordinary Leader Program, our focus is on creating a culture of celebration. Now, before we bring out the banners and balloons, let me clarify: when we speak of a culture of celebration we aren’t talking about parties, giveaways, and birthday cakes (although those can be fun elements of a great culture). Instead, here’s what we really mean: Create a people-centric environment where people feel connected and committed, take ownership and accountability, enjoy doing great work, live hospitality and service, and are treated like they matter. A few years ago we heard one of the best culture statements from Garry Ridge, CEO for WD40 Company. Google this company. They have an incredible culture. 

Imagine a place where you go to work each day, contribute to something bigger than yourself, learn something new, feel safe, are protected and provided freedom by a set of values, and go home happy! 
As coaches we often remind leaders that you get to create your culture on purpose. If you don’t create it, it will create itself by default—and that may or may not be what you had in mind. No matter where you are in your season, gather your leadership team and get talking “culture”. When culture is on the agenda of every meeting, it’s almost guaranteed to be elevated. When you pay attention to it and nurture it, it tends to bloom.  

A few reminders about a flourishing culture: 

  1. Rewards are Transactional, Recognition is Relational

    That’s the words of Canada’s Recognition Expert, Sarah McVanel. In our recent interview, she reminded us of the difference between rewards and recognition, and that together these are just the tip of the iceberg of culture. While rewards can be effective as a purposeful acknowledgement, the real value is in recognizing and creating a recognition-rich culture. As Sarah states, “connection is the energy that exists when people are seen, heard and valued.” Connect with Sarah and check out the meaningful work she is doing. She has brilliant ideas and lots of cool, free tools on her site.  

    We are often surprised (not really) when we ask managers how they recognize and celebrate their people. So often we hear the old adage that random gift card giving, and the year-end party are the complete list. As your coaches, we’d love to nudge you a bit on this! 


  2. You Are Always Affecting Culture

    When it comes to your people, everything matters. Managers often underestimate the importance of their presence. It is easy to leave it up to supervisors to keep teams engaged. Don’t. Don’t fool yourself by thinking that your team (at all levels) doesn’t need to hear from you. They do. As the late motivational speaker Zig Ziglar often said, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care—about them.” Connect with as many staff and managers as possible every day. Call them. Text them. Write them notes. Stop for a few minutes and talk with them. Ask them how they are doing, how their family is doing, what they need to do their job more effectively, and thank them genuinely for specific contributions they are making. Nothing replaces a sincere thank you on a regular basis. Nothing. Keep connecting. Keep acknowledging. Keep encouraging.  

    Years ago a Sous Chef proudly showed me a thank you note he received from his GM. It was a simple hand written note on a white piece of paper. He carried it with him every day in his wallet for over 10 years! I bet he still has it. That’s the power of recognition. 


  3. Aim for Perfectly Imperfect

    Managers and leadership teams will often hesitate or steer away from creating a recognition “program” with the fear that someone may miss out on being recognized. It’s true that it may not fit for everyone. Be more concerned that a lot of people will miss out if you do nothing. They will! Aim for consistency and fairness. Make sure you are recognizing behaviors and acknowledging people for who they are. Create many ways to recognize. There is no perfect way or program. Do it anyway. Notice what happens. 


Flowers bloom in the right environments. Here’s to nurturing yours! 

Kevin MacDonald and Shelley MacDougall are the coaches for CMAA. CMAA offers coaching as a benefit of membership. To set up a coaching session you can call 1-866-822-3481 toll free. Or you can email us at or

About the author

Shelley MacDougall

Shelley MacDougall is dedicated to creating leaders in life! Whether she is coaching one on one, facilitating learning for groups, or delivering keynote presentations, Shelley’s dynamic style and compassion for people are undeniable.

Since 2006, Shelley has been coaching CMAA/CMAC and club industry professionals, supporting them to reach new heights in their careers and in life. Along with her business partner, Kevin MacDonald, they have coached and worked with thousands of industry professionals in their combined 30 years of coaching. Their popular program, The Extraordinary Leader Program, continues to develop leaders at all levels of private clubs and beyond.

After obtaining her business degree at The Ohio State University, Shelley has invested the past 30 years in training and leading others. Fifteen years of experience inside the private club and hospitality industries equipped her to venture out to connect with organizations from a different perspective. As a coach, Shelley’s passion is developing leaders and creating cultures of elevated service. You can find more about her work at

Shelley believes that “Success is on the Inside”! She is committed to Elevating Lives and Organizations… Every Connection, Every Conversation, Every Day.

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