And a link to the 220 page eBook “I Can Grow People” …which is free because we prefer it that way!
So! 15 Horticultural Tips for Managers to grow people for blooming great results!
How can a simple gardening metaphor really germinate the seeds of enlightenment and passion for getting the best out of your people to achieve outstanding performance?
I have spent many years in the field of Learning and Development helping, guiding and supporting managers to transform themselves into highly effective Managers and Leaders. I have trained, facilitated, mentored and coached.
I have in some cases probably manipulated and bribed people along the way, which is definitely not good practice, but what else can you do when someone just doesn’t get what managing people is all about?
This remained a challenge for me until I linked effective People Management with effective Gardening Management.
There seems to be a strong link (for me) between a great gardener and a great manager.
So, rather than “sell” management as a concept and get bogged down in theoretical management gobbledygook, I focused on practical, pragmatic steps to becoming a brilliant people manager in a fun and light way without missing or skimming over powerful theoretical principles. This was achieved by relating the skills, knowledge and sometimes more importantly, the attitudes of a great gardener with that of a typical people manager.
A highly effective gardener nurtures and grows a variety of horticultural challenges with a view to getting the best performance out of the various flowers, fruit and vegetables. A gardener’s satisfaction and motivation stems from seeing plants do blooming well through the day to day support they provide and the application of their gardening knowledge, skills and style.
A few years ago I planted the concept of growing people like plants with managers, clients, Directors, HR teams and professional organisations. I soon began to realise that everyone gets it! The metaphor created a simple way to discuss effective management from a 3rd person perspective.
I use the metaphor regularly on my development programmes and have never known a more effective and memorable way to get managers to understand their role and the impact they have on people to achieve results and business success.
In fact the gap between the metaphor and us is not as wide as you may think. We share half the same DNA as a banana…
…and our blood is almost identical to the pigment (chlorophyll) found in plants, although our blood contains molecules of iron, whereas plant’s contain molecules of magnesium.
So, if you want to make a difference in your organisation you’ll need to get your hands dirty and get stuck into some simple steps to growing the ideal people garden.
Now that’s an interesting point. Sometimes I look at teams and departments and relate them to gardens. Some are maintained well and all the plants are performing as expected. The manager takes great pride in their garden and works tirelessly to get the best out of every single plant. And then there are some who don’t.
It’s a bit like those potted plants that can often be seen in company receptions, on windowsills and in hallways. You know the ones… the unloved ones. These are the plants with droopy brown leaves, a pot that’s too small, rarely watered and often taken for granted. The expectation is that they should “just grow” rather than be encouraged and supported to do so.
What a shame… but then I guarantee you know someone who is just like that plant. The unloved employee with droopy shoulders a job that’s too small (or big!), rarely communicated too, often taken for granted and just expected to get on with it and deliver results.
Well, all I can say is if they don’t deliver don’t blame the plant, look at the manager first.
So to help you with the gardening metaphor, read through and ponder on the following. And fertilise your learning a bit more with some useful links I’ve added in.
1. Style is everything
A Gardeners “style or type” is based on the nurturing of each plant balanced with completing tasks to achieve a result or yield. This relates quite nicely with management styles based on personality and situations. Situation + Thinking = Response.
2.Learn to listen and speak quietly
You can’t just shout at plants and expect them to grow! People have to feel that you understand their individual needs and are there to support them with some empathy.
3. It’s as simple as a bit of Maslow
You can’t neglect your plants and expect them to thrive. Some people are more “hardy” than others but everyone needs security, contact and communication.
4. Are you serious about your CPD?
Gardeners develop the skills and knowledge required to be successful. They invest time and energy in their self-development as should managers with their Continuous Professional Development.
5. Learn from your mistakes
Gardeners accept that mistakes will be made but will learn from them for next time. Managers should do the same. Next time is an opportunity to get it right.
6. Get to know AND feel different personalities
Gardeners understand that all plants are different and have differing needs. Different plants have different personalities like people and the secret to success is managing the differences well.
7. Right tools, Right place, Right time
Gardeners use the right tools at the right time and in the right way. Managers also have many tools and resources to make their jobs easier but it is shocking to see them not used or used incorrectly.
8. Your paid to be a manager not a best buddy
Gardeners are not afraid to deal with under-performance and managers should not hesitate to deal in the same way once every effort has been tried to get performance back on track. Just face up to the fact that some people will not perform well in your garden and deal with it. Don’t let friendship get in the way but always remain friendly.
9. Get ready for The Show!
Gardeners like to show off their success stories and prize winning vegetables and managers should also seize every opportunity to show off their high yielding people.
10. Get rid of the pests
Gardeners prevent or get rid of slugs and pests at the earliest opportunity. For managers this means spotting and removing anything that will get in the way of your people blooming.
11. Spend quality time preparing the soil
Managers prepare the soil, climate and surroundings to give each plant the best chance to do well. Managers also need to consider the culture and climate they create and influence in the workplace. Does it help or hinder people to grow? I often describe a company Induction as the time a plant would spend in the perfect climate of a greenhouse before being planted in the big garden.
12. Provide clear direction and have entry and exits points
Gardeners lay paths for direction and to create a sense of order and a manager should also provide clear direction and establish the boundaries that create a safe and consistent way of working.
13. Develop robust Talent Management and Succession Plans
Gardeners have a succession of plants to replace plants who have wilted, died (or have been stolen). Managers should also consider how they prepare for leavers and promotion.
14. Deep breath. Count to 10. Think before act!
Gardeners have patience…they don’t expect results overnight!
15. Work hard at it!
A natural gardener has “green fingers”…but most of us have to work really hard to get better at it. Continuous Professional Development for Managers and Leaders should always be evident.
A lot of people appreciate a good garden but a lot of people are lacking the will to put the effort in to create it too – some gardeners are better than others and some gardeners should never be gardeners!
People can’t be mass grown and all treated the same way. Garden management is about managing diversity and dealing with new challenges every day.
‘An alternative approach to management development is somewhat linked to that of agriculture. It is concerned with ‘growing’ talent rather than manufacturing it. The fundamental idea behind such an approach is that the individual will grow into what (s)he is capable of becoming, provided we can create the proper conditions for that growth. Such an approach involves less emphasis on manufacturing techniques and more on controlling the climate and the fertility of the soil, and on methods of cultivation.’
Douglas McGregor, 1960.
To be fair, the gardening metaphor has been around for years. This is nothing new at all and any Google search will introduce you to someone with a view on how to grow people like plants.
However, in 2009 I combined all my notes and wrote a book called “I Can Grow People”.
With this book, you can be sure that you have a huge and varied selection of ideas and approaches to work from… And, because it is such a creative and fun way to think about how to manage people then I’m sure you will come up with some wonderful ideas to bring the metaphor to life in your people garden.
I’m also a firm believer in giving rather than taking and so I would like to offer every reader of this blog a free PDF copy of the book that can be downloaded by following the link below. I hope you like it.
The concept is also an integral part of a very powerful Leadership and Management Development Programme we deliver through my business which I’m very proud to remind people won the Training Journal Peer Award for Innovation after being delivered with huge success throughout our valued client NSL Services.
So with Spring well on its way and plants all around you beginning to start the blooming process all over again*. Take a step back to consider how you could apply the metaphor to create the perfect people garden and achieve your own blooming great results!
*Based on the climate in the UK where I’m typing this right now.
This article was written by Jason Stevens an expert author for TME and features in the March edition of Training Magazine Europe (TME). Sign up below to get full access to the website and a free copy of the Magazine every month.
If you liked this article (and want to return a favour for the free book) please do share this blog using the links below.