Leadership Lessons from Gardening
We can learn a lot from watching perennials-plants that is. As someone who aspires to be a gardener I enjoy spending time planting and nurturing both flowers and vegetables. It is quite rewarding. I see powerful lessons in leadership from the simple act of putting plants in soil, making sure they are in the right conditions; shade/sun/partial shade/partial sun etc. Of course they must be watered, weeded, pruned, fertilized and protected from those pesky rabbits!
What lessons in leadership have I learned from gardening for more than 20 years? Well, I learned the most important lessons of all; plants are smart and they inherently know just what to do given the right conditions. We humans are no different. We are wired with the right stuff and given the right work conditions we too will show this inherent smartness. We will grow, blossom and produce fruit.
Here’s a true story told to me a few weeks ago by a leader at the ‘C-Suite’ level. He shared how much the turnaround time for certain projects has improved. That he finds he is doing less but getting more done. His direct reports are actively engaged and this he explains as meaning they’re asking more probing open ended questions; they are putting forward ideas for solutions to technical problems and get this- all this, the leader shared is done in less time and accurately!
What’s responsible for this account? The leader in question is part of an executive leadership development program that involves group leadership training and coaching as well as one-on-one executive coaching. The lessons and strategies learned from this program are personalized and internalized by the leader and consequently modeled in his behaviour toward his direct reports.
This story is a perfect example of leadership lessons demonstrated via gardening. Prior to investing in the executive leadership and coaching development program- the scenario described by our leader was the opposite of what he now describes. Turn around time for projects was a constant challenge to get them done and done accurately. The conditions pre-program were ripe for the very results he was getting. Fast forward post-program and the conditions are ripe for producing desired results. The only thing that’s changed is the quality of the condition in place for developing his direct reports.
The leader’s story above demonstrates beautifully the inherent smartness I have seen in plants that is also evident in his direct reports and all employees for that matter. It is like this across organizations around the world. Direct reports’ smartness is able to sprout and bear fruit when leaders not only prepare the grounds for this to be, but also take care of the watering, weeding and fertilizing.
Regular feedback given using a coaching leadership-style, training in leadership development for direct reports ( those with and without titles) as well as attuning to their emotional needs are all examples of how our leader grew his direct reports. He now just has to step back and allow them to shine. This is why perennials do so well if they are placed in the right conditions at the start we just step back and allow them to shine.
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Here’s to loving how you live, work and play!