Friday, January 27, 2012

Plant in need

I try to avoid looking at it. Because every time I see it I am racked by guilt. Every day when I arrive to work, there it is -- looking forlorn and woefully neglected: My plant.

It started as a vibrant, hot pink petunia. Now, it's not much of anything. Just look at it. I haven't seen  the semblance of a flower in months. And just last week I cut nearly all of its stems and leaves off.  It seemed only right. They all had evolved to brown crisps. "Help me!" the plant seemed to be saying. I suppose I could have watered it a little more. OK, a lot more.

My tragic neglect of the plant has given it a staunch following. People around here check up on it daily. They leave shaking their heads. Because despite my desperate attempt to resuscitate it, the plant never shows marked improvement. In fact, I'm not convinced it's still a flowering plant. But those in the know assure me it's definitely not a weed.

I will continue to work hard to bring it back to life. All I can do is keep watering it, I guess. Unless you have better advice? I welcome your feedback. Help me help my plant.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Do our trainers know how to train?

Another entry from Fred Haskett, Managing Partner – Operations, U.S. Lawns of West and St. Charles County

Do we really know how to “Train Our Trainers?
A lot of us are in the midst of working on our “Training Programs.” This is an area that, as I have talked to different people around the industry is a continuing source of angst. We live in an information rich environment. There are literally hundreds of places to get technical and business information. At PLANET (the Professional Landcare Network) members are lucky to have at their fingertips: programs, books, videos, DVD’s, CD’s etc. These represent some of the most cutting edge information and data available.
Yet with all of this “STUFF” why is training still a constant source of frustration for us large or small?
I do not think the problem is in finding the RIGHT STUFF. The problem is: Do we, as owners and managers, know how to TEACH the RIGHT WAY. To be effective, we as trainers need to be familiar with the nature of the Teaching-Learning Process
Teaching is directing the learning process – Motivating – Reinforcing – Satisfying Needs – Creating Interest – all toward the trainees goals.
Learning is the process by which a trainee, through his own activity, becomes changed in behavior.
Training Methods are those techniques (procedures / processes) used by the trainer to instruct the trainees in the knowledge, skills, and competencies necessary to achieve the objectives of the lesson.
BEFORE YOU TRY TO TEACH … you should know how people learn.
There are five basic ways in which trainees learn. Your job as a teacher / trainer is to select the way or combination of ways best suited not only to your trainees, but also to the particular thing being taught.
1)     Doing: Performing a new job in the same way, with the same tools and equipment, under the same conditions as they will have to do this task in an actual real-life situation.
2)     Thinking: Solving a real-life difficulty or problem: getting the facts needed to solve it; discussing it with others; arriving at decisions; putting the decisions into action, and testing them.
3)   Seeing: Observing a thing being done; studying pictures, charts, videos, illustrations, and real objects
4)    Being Told: Getting information and instruction through words – written, spoken, or printed.
5)     Being Checked and Corrected: Learning through mistakes brought to their attention in a positive manner by an alert, competent trainer.
I have found over the years that adults learn their basic and fundamental skills and tasks best with a combination of these processes. At our company we have been using the following training process for the past few years and have seen a definite up-tick in the effectiveness and results from our training efforts and events.
The most important thing about this process is that:
                   … You must utilize it consistently and in the sequence it is presented in.
               … You cannot skip steps and achieve the results you want.
I have found also that providing this simple tool to your trainers will make them more comfortable and less fearful of their role as a trainer.
We call it  --  SHOW, DO, WATCH, COACH
1) WHAT: Explain what it is that you are going to train on.
2) WHY: Explain why you do what you are going to train on.
3) LISTEN: Have the trainee explain what and why we do the specific process or procedure.
4) SHOW: Demonstrate to the trainee the specific process or procedure.
5) DO: Have the trainee demonstrate the specific process or procedure.
6) WATCH: Observe the trainee demonstrating the specific process or procedure.
7) COACH: Explain to the trainee what they did right and what they need to correct.
8) SHOW: Repeat the demonstration of the specific process or procedure emphasizing the areas the           trainee needs to correct.
9)  DO: Have the trainee re-demonstrate the specific process or procedure with the corrections you           demonstrated.
10) WATCH: Observe the trainee re-demonstrating the specific process or procedure.   
11) COACH: Explain to the trainee what they did right and what they need to correct. Repeat steps 8, 9, 10, and as required.
12) PRAISE: Compliment the trainee on their successful accomplishment.
A Simple Process … that can and will apply to virtually any person or any area of your business.
As we all know … Training is not a full time job it is an all the time job.
If your trainers have the right tools they can get the job done for your trainees.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The People Have Spoken

The people have spoken, and they had good news for the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA). That's because at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival, held Jan. 15 in Nevada City, CA, the CLCA's documentary, "Rock the Boat," garnered the People's Choice Award. Congrats, CLCA!

The film, which the CLCA sponsored and co-produced, chronicles a group's 51-mile boating expedition down the cement-lined Los Angeles River in 2008. Over the Army Corps of Engineers' objections, the group of 12 coasted down the river on a quest. Their mission: to have the EPA declare the Los Angeles River navigable so it could be eligible for protection under the Clean Water Act. And it ultimately did gain protection under the act, on July 7, 2010.

"We think this movie brings attention to what the river is now and what it could be in the future," said Chuck Carr, the CLCA's director of communications. "With California's water issues, rather than see all the water pushed out to sea, there are lots of ways to harness some of that water for Los Angeles to use."

For more information about the documentary or to see a trailer, visit

Friday, January 13, 2012

ASABE to develop new water use standard

The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers wants to establish a new standardized process, and it needs your help.

The Society is launching a project that will develop a standardized procedure for determining water available for irrigation use. Those with expertise in irrigation and water issues are encouraged to participate.

Establishing a standardized process would enable landscapers to better address local, regional and national water-related initiatives, the Society stated in a release. It added that the new document will standardize the ways available water resources and irrigation requirements are quantified.

For more information or to participate, contact Travis Tsunemori at or 269.932.7009.