As I’m writing this, it is the evening of Mother’s Day in the US.  Because the weather was lovely, much time was spent in the garden this weekend mowing the lawn, trimming bushes, preparing the vegetable garden for the summer. I then took my lady-wife and mother to dinner where we had a lovely meal with nice conversation, a very drinkable bottle of wine and cannoli for the mothers in the party.

It has been a remarkable spring. 

The apple blossoms are done – no surprise there.  This is fairly normal for us.  The pear blossoms are done.  This is unusual.  Lilacs are done – not terribly unusual.  The tree peony are done.  Tulips are done – again not that unusual as they often are.  Its a little odd that the late blooming variety are done as well, but, that is not far from the realm of possibility.  Let’s see.  Hmmm.  Oh yeah, iris are in bloom and there are peony ready to bloom.  Those two are unusual for mid-May in Michigan.  July is closer to the expected.

Oh, the stuff that is done?  They all bloomed within a few days of each other.  By mid-April.  That is not only unusual.  It is remarkably unusual.

Right then.  What does this have to do with anything?

On Shrubbery

Well, a few years ago, some friends were over visiting a day or so after I had trimmed the bushes in front of the house.  He (Dan, the male in this married couple, and father of a bright boy, married to the boy’s mother)  made a comment, asked a question really, “Who trimmed the bushes?  They look very… zen.”

I had.  I tend to do that a couple of times a year, three depending on the particular year and how much the bushes have grown.  You see, left to their own devices, shrubs – there are a couple of good-sized arbor vitae, a healthy juniper and a couple of others that I have no idea what they are.  The thing is, when it comes to trimming bushes, shrubs whatever, some of them can be trimmed into shapes really easily and will do quite well.  Others will struggle, sicken and eventually die.

As a shrub grows,and is untended for some time, it will do what ever it pleases.  It will stretch for light and water and… right you get the idea.  The thing is, if the thing is left alone, it will grow quite… big,  These were quite large the first time I tried to prune them.  How do you prune something that is probably larger than most people have them, and still allow them to be healthy and thrive whilst doing what they are supposed to do?

How does one get the most out of anything, help it develop to its full potential and achieve the goals one sets for it?

Well, with bushes, its pretty easy.  You can trim the recent growth, prune the large branches that are sticking up and neaten up the edges.  Maybe give it a nice round shape.  The thing is, from this point you can direct its growth from this point by trimming given branches one way or another – yet always allowing the bush to be a bush. 

So, this got me thinking.  It is, after all, Mother’s Day.  Never having been one you see, how does a Mother guide her children in their development, growth, etc.?  I have my ideas, but, like I said, I’m not a mother – grandpa, yes, dad – well, I’ve played one now for an awful lot of years.  But, how does one teach young people to grow into, well, mature, positive people?

On Mothers

How does a good mother raise children?  Well, I can talk from observation of how the lady-wife and my mother tried – they focused on getting the best from their kids all the time, encouraging them to try things, if they wanted, and sticking through the commitment after starting.  Backing out after starting when things are hard or unpleasant or, boring, was discouraged.  Firm, yet loving might be a good short description.

My siblings and their spouses are using (or have used) this general approach with their kids.  Other folks we know are trying as well. Finding the balance is a challenge.  Learning what will motivate people and what gets them all excited can be a challenge – as any mother (or dad) with more than one child.  The fact is, one-size-fits-all style approaches simply do not work for raising kids – or bushes for that matter.

Some folks tell us that mothers always will do the right thing for their children.  Maybe in a movie.  I don’t know.  There are plenty of examples of mothers who did a terrible job and were amazingly horrible at being mothers.  Let’s face it – some people are not cut out to be mothers.  (Same with fathers, but my mind was wandering around on mothers today.)  They may want to be mothers, or think they do, but really, they have not considered what it means to be a mother at all, how much work it is and how long that work will continue.

The lady-wife tells people that becoming a mother is a life-changing event that will continue for the rest of their lives.  Once they become a mother, as long as they are alive they will be a mother.  Its a pity that some who chose to do so are not very good mothers.  I think sometimes people forget what their role is.

This got me thinking.

On Managers

Why do some managers try the one-size-fits-all when it comes to career-development, professional-development and generally assisting their staff to improve and grow?  Why do some people believe that the motivational devices that work for one or two people will work for everyone?  Yes, I know – it is up to the employee to seek out and strengthen their career – it is their career after all.  Still, managers can encourage them and show support to them for learning more and broadening their skill-sets, even if it includes learning concepts that may not be directly applicable to what they are doing right now.   After all, the way technology changes, what is to prevent them from learning something that will be helpful to them, the team and the broader company on the next project or a future project? 

Compared to mothers, managers have it easy.  They can become an “un-manager” by changing jobs, quitting, retiring, getting fired… lots of ways.  I wonder if people who want to be managers before they actually are managers would still want to be a manager after they learn the  reality of how much work it is.  Then again, if becoming an un-manager was as difficult as becoming an un-mother after being a mother (or a manager) I wonder if that would change how badly people want to be managers.  

Still, we have our own bias, don’t we?  A fair number of people presume that because they wanted to become a lead and then a manager and then some higher level of boss, that the really good testers want to do the same.  Possibly the really not-so-good testers do as well.  I suspect this is because we see this path (novice >  experienced > really experienced > lead > manager > bigger manager > knight > Earl > King) as the only way to measure success.  Because “moving up” in the organization is what we are told is what we want to do – and some people really DO want to move up – then that is what everyone wants to do, right?

Or are biases and personal views getting in the way.  Mom wanted to take ballet when she was a little girl so darn it, her daughters will take ballet.  They only THINK they want to do soccer or karate.  But that can’t be part of the one-size-fits-all thing right?  I wanted to be a manager so Joe must want to be a manager too!  I’ll get him going and he can move up instead of being just a tester.
  That is not part of the one-size-fits-all thing either.  Right?

So, Managers and Mothers – consider what it is that you want for your people – either staff or children.  Is that what you want or is that what they want?  We can’t always get everything we want – I know – there’s a song about that, right?

The question boils down to this – are we trying to shape out children and our staff in a way that they can be shaped or are we trying to force them into something they can not be?   Shaping and pruning them to enhance their growth will result in an amazing thing of beauty – a well-formed person.  If we force things they can not support, there is a chance they will wither and never achieve the potential that is theirs.

To all the good mothers in the world, I salute you.  Likewise all the good managers.

Bushes, shrubs and hedges?  My hedge clippers and pruning shears are cleaned and sharpened for the next time I need them.