Are you tending your workplace like a garden?
Every spring, I spend time in the garden. There is something about taking the tired, dry look of winter and turning it into something new and vibrant. I usually take Thursday and Friday off so that I can spend 4 days straight, preparing, planning, planting and watering. I take note of which perennials didn’t survive, I consider the colour scheme that I want this year, and off I go to buy all the bedding plants and supplies I will need. The efforts required to take me to an objective defined by a vision of beauty and vibrant colour.
Once the planting is complete, the seedlings are in their neat little rows and the ground is a rich, dark colour of new soil, the important part begins with nurturing the garden and all the planted pots. Watering with regularity, weeding often, and dead-heading the petunias to ensure maximum blooms and colour are a must. My favorite part is the month of July, when everything is bright and in full bloom and my plan and all of its efforts have come to fruition. There is no place in gardening if you don’t have the belief that hard work and effort yields great results. You have to want the end result. You have to make a choice to plant a garden and live up to the commitment it takes. The effort at the front, and all the care along the way, brings you to the point when you can enjoy the fruits of your labour - whether they be fruit, flowers, or vegetables.
But what about at work? Are gardens really being planted? Or does everyone just focus on the fruit and assume it will be there? A culture where orders are barked from the top, passed along and translated into sales numbers or objectives that must be met, without a lot of attention to how they get done, but simply that they get done! It’s easy to go up to an apple tree, pick the apples and bake a pie. It is just as easy to head to a florist and buy a bouquet of flowers. However, being handed a package of seeds or a seedling and having to then be responsible to create the fruit – that’s a lot of pressure and a lot of hard work. Yet, the rewards of achieving great things with the dedication and proper efforts along the way are received with pride and greater satisfaction.
As is in gardening, there are also controllable and uncontrollable factors in the workplace. We find natural gardeners and those who will never have a green thumb! Within the workplace, the same scenario exists. We can take into account everything that we know, and try to address the unexpected, and with calculated risk, decisions are made with a plan of meeting objectives. What is your workplace like? Are there strong managers and a culture of planning, planting, weeding and nurturing? Perhaps it is the processes that can be challenged and weeded out and more efficiency can be created? After all, if certain things are done on a daily basis simply because they have always been done, but with no other purpose, removing them leaves room for the healthy, more prosperous projects to flourish. Are individuals being mentored? Is professional development and training being offered? They are to a team what fertilizer is to a garden. It can only strengthen and fortify the end result.
A beautiful and healthy garden is one that is made up of some diversity – there are plants that play a role in ground cover, plants that grow as cut flowers, plants that will bloom later in the season, and plants of various heights to add dimension to the garden with texture and colour. Of course, you then must determine and appropriately so, plant those that need partial sun versus full sun, otherwise a misplacement occurs and nothing flourishes! The same can be said about the workplace. Now is definitely the time where multi-generational workers find themselves on the same team. Each person has a purpose. Some act as annuals – change agents perhaps or a contractor that is added to the mix to provide a level of expertise that is appropriate to the team right now. There are others who act as perennials – playing a different function on the team. Perhaps they are able to provide the knowledge and experience to the individuals that grounds the team - the re-occurring revenue; the cash flow, that will position the team to support the new ideas for the future.
Embrace the diversity of the team. Accept that throughout the ‘season,’ certain roles will take the lead, while at other times, will play the secondary lead – and go dormant - but only for a while of course. A garden that is only made up of one variety that comes up all at once without any dimension is not a garden which creates an atmosphere of excitement and interest. A true gardener, knows that the measure of success is to have created an ever-changing, environment of new growth and substance to meet the longevity of the full season – now and into the future.
Have we left anything out? I believe we have, and that is of understanding the role of patience. Yes, a gardener must have patience. Does this need to be understood in the workplace? To some, this is not a word that belongs in a workplace. It is better to be competitive, and willing to take on great risks, and keep working more hours – forget work life balance, weed out all those who are inferior, no coaching needed, go, go go, build a better product – and customers will come and so will success! However, now look at a garden. You can’t rush a garden by watering it more (drowning) or fertilizing it more (burning). You simply have to have patience, and believe that if you are doing all the right things along the way, that you will see the end result. Patience, is accepting that roots must be fortified, the foundation must be built, and then success will be realized. So, does your workplace believe in planting a garden as a means to success or is your workplace assuming the fruits and flowers will simply just be there because everyone will work hard to make it happen? Finally, what is your role in all of this? Are you the gardener? Are you a weed? Can you be the fertilizer that will strengthen your team? Or are you simply waiting to pick the fruit or the flowers – hoping that someone else will do what is needed? Know your role, play it well, and the future will bright for you personally and for your organization!