Over the last two summers, I’ve been working on renewing the various gardens around my house. As I came to the end of the process this year, I noticed some interesting parallels with the nature of today’s organizations and in particular, the periodic need to take steps to help rejuvenate your team and their collective efforts.
Whether your organization is looking to address the challenges being brought forth by today’s global economy or simply to make some changes to keep on course with your objectives, the following five steps should prove fruitful in helping to drive your employees’ efforts towards your shared goals.
1. Connect the changes you make with the vision you have for your organization
As part of my plans to rejuvenate the garden, I wanted to transplant some of our perennials in order to make room for some new ones. As my wife is not a gardener, I knew she wouldn’t see there being a need to buy more plants as we didn’t have any unsightly gaps or empty patches in our garden.
I realized that the best way to get her onboard with my plan was to first move the current plants to their new location in our garden. This would make it easier for me to show her why we’d needed to buy more plants in order to make the garden look complete.
Similarly, when looking at implementing changes in your organization, it’s important to make an effort to look at how these changes would be perceived by those you lead so you can frame them in the context of your shared vision. This way, your employees will have an easier time accepting and incorporating these changes into their work plans because they can also see how these changes will help them to achieve their shared goals.
2. Make sure you put the right people in the right places
When we went to our local nursery, I asked my daughters to help me find some “showy” plants to put in these new empty spots in our garden. As they meandered around the large grounds, they would run back to me with a plant in their hands asking if this one would be a good fit. In some cases, the plants required too much room to grow; others bloomed at the same time as the other plants in our garden.
By taking note of the plants we already had in our garden, we were able to find the right plants that would ensure we’d have a garden in bloom from spring to fall, with a few vibrant colourful ones to complete the effect.
Looking at today’s organizations, it’s a common concern amongst leaders that they might not be able to attract the kinds of employees they need to ensure their future growth.
As I wrote in a previous piece, most organizations would be better served by looking inward at the employees they currently have in their workforce and ensuring that they are given the right opportunities to put their full talents to use for the benefit of the organization. More often than not, the real talent problem organizations face is not having their employees in the right positions where they can contribute the most to their organization’s goals.
3. Give all your employees the opportunity to contribute to your shared purpose
When you look at a landscaped garden, it’s easy for our eyes to focus on the more showy and colourful plants. That is, after all, the reason why gardeners incorporate such plants into their garden as a means of helping to direct the viewers’ eyes in a particular direction.
Of course, what makes the best gardens so attractive is that they don’t rely solely on these eye-catching plants to define their garden. Instead, these gardens incorporate a variety of plants which together help to create a cohesive and attractive effect.
The same truth applies to your teams and organization – sure, you might have a few star employees who seem to be the anchor or main draw of your organization. However, it’s important that leaders don’t lose sight of how their other employees help to move their organization along in reaching its shared goals, if not also helping to set up these star employees to achieve their quite noticeable successes.
As any sports coach will tell you, a star player is of little use if they don’t work with the rest of the team to win the game.
4. Provide resources and environmental conditions that encourage employee growth
One of the ongoing challenges I’ve had with my garden was with plants that did so well that they started to crowd out the surrounding plants. For the last few years, I’ve dealt with this by repeatedly pruning back these fast-growing plants. While this helped with controlling the growth of these plants, it didn’t prevent the surrounding plants from being stunted in their own growth.
Although the obvious course of action would be to transplant the weaker plants, I decided instead to move these fast-growers to a new place in the garden where they could grow as much as they wanted without negatively impacting the other plants.
Almost a month later, those plants that were left in place have finally begun to grow at their natural pace. Clearly, all they needed was better growing conditions in the form of more light and space to achieve what they’re capable of.
Likewise, when it comes to your employees, it’s important to understand what their inherent strengths are and provide them with the proper environment and resources that will allow them and your organization to thrive.
5. Make time to understand what your employees need to succeed
Ultimately, what determines whether your efforts to tend and care for your garden will succeed comes down to how much you understand both the needs of your plants and the conditions they face in your garden. Over the last few years, I’ve come to learn what plants work best in my garden, which ones require regular care and attention, and which ones are pretty much self-sufficient, requiring only a slight pruning every now and then to keep them in check.
Unfortunately, most people tend to treat their gardens with a one-size-fits-all approach, ignoring the fact that the various plants in their garden have different light, watering, feeding and pruning needs.
Your employees are no different. While they may carry out similar functions or roles, the kind of feedback, recognition and support they need will vary. Like successful gardeners, the key is to learn and understand the differences in these needs and then finding ways to provide them despite your limitations on resources and time.
Whether you want to create a thriving garden or organization, in both cases it’s not just in the early stages of planning, delegating and nurturing that you need to focus on the health of your garden or organization.
As time passes and your organization grows and matures, it becomes even more important for leaders to take stock of their organization’s culture and make the necessary changes to encourage a renewal in your employees’ sense of purpose. Through implementing the measures above, leaders can continue to provide the necessary conditions to strengthen your organizational culture as well as your collective drive to grow and succeed.