I love to garden. Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows that. I write about it all the time. Its relaxing, gets me outside breathing the fresh air, and there is a distinct sense of satisfaction that comes from creating something and watching it grow.
I also love the rhythm of the seasons with gardening. While gardens get the most attention when they are at the height of their beauty, most of the critical gardening work takes place in the shoulder seasons, prior to and after the garden’s peak. The critical work happens during times of the year when your garden is NOT at its beautiful peak.
My family and I live on a busy street with tons of walkers, and we have several garden areas visible from our street. Over the many years that we have lived in this house, I have had countless conversations with walkers who see me in our front yard, puttering, and want to chat about gardening. “I would love to get my garden to look like this,” is a comment I have heard countless times. “What’s the secret?” is another common question.
And I usually find that my answer to this last question scares most of these would-be gardeners away. Because when most people ask about what it takes to have a beautiful garden, they are envisioning themselves enjoying the benefits and beauty of their garden, with lots of cut flowers in their home in the summer time. But when my answers to their queries start to cover tilling the soil in the fall, year-round composting, laying down a good winter mulch (shredded leaves are great, by the way), when to cut back in late fall, feeding the soil year-round, waking up the bed in spring time, pruning and dead-heading all summer long, watering… most people get quickly scared away by the required work for twelve months to get a beautiful garden for three to six months.
The point is that there is a ton of work that goes into creating, nurturing and growing something beautiful. Casual observers will notice what you have grown when it is at the height of its beauty. But most won’t realize or appreciate all the hard work that went into it when no one was looking.
That’s the way I think about growing a business or a team. The hard work, that most people have no interest in doing, occurs in the “off season” long before the fruits of the labor will be visible. You want to build a great team? A team is like a garden in so many ways:
- You have to have a vision for the garden you want to build. In other words, you have to know what kind of team or organization you seek to create.
- You then have to prepare the soil, which means you have to create a great environment for a team to grow in. You have to create a culture that people want to be a part of.
- You have to choose the plants that you think will thrive in that garden, which means you have to be thoughtful about the types of people who will thrive in the culture you are building.
- You have to constantly feed the garden, which means your team won’t exist on autopilot. Every team, and every garden, needs to be nurtured, because needs change over time. The needs of the team or the business change as it evolves. And the needs of your team members will change as well, as they grow, or their personal circumstances evolve.
- You have to constantly evaluate what is working and what isn’t. Do some plants need to be moved to another spot, for more sun or more shade? Maybe you have someone on the team that simply needs to be moved to another role or another position in the organization in order to thrive.
- And eventually, you have to realize when something in the garden just isn’t going to grow, and it needs to be removed. It might have the potential to be the most beautiful plant in the world, but that isn’t necessarily going to happen in your garden. It’s a bad fit.
And most important of all, something that every committed gardener or experienced business leader knows, is that you will make mistakes. Not everything you do for your garden or your team will be the correct choice or decision. That is a guarantee. So, you have to be able to be honest with yourself and realize when something wasn’t right. And you have to be willing to own that choice, adjust, and move on. You can’t garden or lead if you stubbornly refuse to realize when something just isn’t working.
You get the idea. The metaphor works, and we could go on like this all day long. (But I need to refresh my coffee, and wake up my kids for school.)
Don’t just think of your business or your team in its most beautiful form. Don’t be the walker by that gazes at the beautiful garden, and only thinks about how great it would be to have something in its full bloom.
Instead, be the person and the leader who thinks about what will be necessary to get your business prepared to bloom. Think about the steps that will need to be taken to make the beauty happen.
I always tell those walkers that “beautiful summer gardens are created in the fall and early spring, long before anyone notices they are there.” The same is true for your business and your team.
Have a great day, enjoy, and happy gardening. Do the hard work.
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