I returned home from a trip recently and was greeted with a wonderful surprise. Seven of my nine white orchids were in various stages of flower.

About 5 years ago I bought a large, beautiful display of white orchids as a Christmas decoration. It sat on the floor centre stage in front of the hardly used baby grand we had bought for our daughter.  But that’s perhaps another story.

The orchids were splendid for many weeks and then as you might expect the flowers finished and I was left with 3 lots of leaves which didn’t look anything like as dramatic. So I bought 3 more orchids to replace them and stored the old ones in the conservatory. Over the years I have replaced the orchids several times over. Many of those set aside have not survived. I’ve even had to replace the pot as the first one was metal and eventually rotted through and leaked. Recently a new plant arrived infected by some sort of parasite and infected many of them.

I sought advice, bought products, washed them by hand and continued to feed and water them. I continued to ensure they were in a good place, bringing them in from the conservatory during the coldest days of winter and making sure that the blinds were down during the hottest sunniest days of summer. I encouraged them – yes I know but I have been known to murmur endearments and support; “Wow you’re looking beautiful today, look at those lovely shiny leaves, one of these days you’ll have new flowers; keep trying.”

At any one time I have about a dozen pots with orchid leaves hanging over them. Until this day a couple of weeks ago when I arrived home to find seven of them in bloom and some of the blooms were impressive, so large that they could hardly support themselves.

I was suddenly mindful of the investment in people through learning and development opportunities. Often clients expect immediate impact and change of behaviour from a workshop or intervention, and often they are disappointed and so reduce investment, scale back or even stop a program. Yet it seems to me that as with the orchids some growth takes time, and that the final outcome is well worth the wait.

The thing about orchids: Long term investments of learning and development