With the return of warmer temperatures to North America, Spring provides us with the opportunity to spend a few hours each week gardening. Gardening is a great way to beat stress and the returns from a visual and potentially culinary perspective are compelling. But it also provides us with a number of lessons which can be applied to developing and sustaining teams.
Neither under nor over water
There is an art to correctly watering one’s lawn. Water it infrequently and too little and the grass will go dormant or will start to resemble the Sahara desert. Water too frequently and the grass roots will remain near the surface instead of growing deep and you will encourage the growth of fungi and weeds. Recognizing team members works the same way – neglect them and their engagement will diminish, but go overboard with praise and recognition will lose all meaning.
Weeds grow in even the best maintained gardens regardless of the volume of herbicides used. Procrastinating on removing them can result in their proliferation. The same is true of unhealthy team member conflict or other dysfunctions. Turn a blind eye to this and the issue will fester and spread the way unchecked weed growth can choke out good plants.
Let the land go fallow
Letting a vegetable patch recover for a season or two after you have harvested is a good practice. While it can be tempting to plan work to 100% of available team member capacity, this approach rarely provides time for learning. The best source of learning may be work experience, but there is also benefit in giving team members a chance to step away from the daily work once in a while to attend a conference, watch a webinar or read a book or two. While giving them a break and a chance to recharge their batteries, it will also provide an opportunity to bring new ideas into the mix when they return from their training.
Variety is the spice of life
Perhaps you really like roses so you might decide to only plant rose bushes in your garden. But this won’t necessarily give you the best looking garden. Mixing it up by planting a variety of plants could provide the benefit of flowers throughout the year. It will also hedge (no pun intended) your bets against insect infestation or diseases targeting a single plant type which could wipe out your entire garden. It might be tempting to staff a team with people that are just like you, but you will get much better outcomes if you encourage diversity.
Thomas Jefferson might have been speaking about team building when he said “No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.”