Plantito/Plantita? Yes, office potted plants count, too! If you are, then you know the similarities. If not, you can still relate and learn from the lessons that I will share below on how leadership is a lot like gardening.
My plants in my previous office. They have names. From left to right: Emma (taken from Emmie Ubarra), Grantia (taken from Grant Ceralde) and Tina (from Cristina, who gave me this plant). Both Emmie and Grant are very well respected Senior Executives who are as passionate about gardening as much as they passionate in developing their people. They are coaching me, too, on how to better cultivate my office plants! 🙂
Leadership Is A Lot Like Gardening
Gardening Leadership Lesson 1: Know Your Plant
Plants come in different shapes and sizes and preferences, too. A succulent will survive with less water to grow (in fact too much water will cause root rot) while others will wilt in this condition. Some thrive under the sun, others are cool with indirect sunlight.
Same with employees. The approach that you, as a lead, prefer, might not always work for the team. The approach that may work for one of your team members, may not work for all the rest.
I would say that knowing your employees is a pre-requisite to a great coaching output.
Once you know the approach that best works for them, it will be a lot easier to develop the person.
There are many ways to do this but that will be for another article, soon!
Gardening Leadership Lesson 2: The Size of the Pot Matters
The plant’s growth is stunted in a small container.
Same with employees. Restrictions do very little to inspire creativity and innovation.
Search engine giant, Google, is very flexible when it comes to allowing employees to work on passion projects. This eventually gave rise to Gmail and AdSense for example.
Personally, I find that I struggle in occasions when I am given exactly what to do, told how to do it, in that I should execute in that exact fashion and in that fashion alone. On the contrary, I am able to produce more meaningful and impactful results when I am given more freedom. I’m sure many people can relate here.
Gardening Leadership Lesson 3: Cultivate the Soil
This allows better moisture retention because it breaks up the surface and allows air and water to easily be absorbed.
Cultivate the work environment. Remember that leads are very influential when it comes to setting the tone and the team atmosphere, whether intentionally or unintentionally. As that is the case, it is best to intentionally cultivate a great team environment. Many things can be done but a great start would be the lead’s disposition.
I remember a story from a few years ago. In my floorwalk, I noticed how one of the otherwise energetic and shall I say noisy teams is quiet with a bit of negativity and tension. So, I asked . One employee said, “she’s in a bad mood,” referring to her team lead. The team lead was a very moody person. Unfortunately, whatever her mood was becomes the theme for her team. This type of unpredictable and unpleasant work atmosphere lead to disengagement. It took a few feedback sessions and heart-to-heart conversations before things got better. What’s important was that it got better. Well, she’s still moody but she learned how to better handle her emotions in a way that does not affect her team.
You might have observed that these three lessons are very basic. Yes, they are. However, these are, in several instances, skipped, if not neglected.
We need to make sure that the basics are in place, make it strong and stable and see how far your team can go!