I live in an older, established neighbourhood in which there are a number of beautiful properties. Most of these gardens didn’t get that way by accident. They are the culmination of many hours of planning, hard work, attention and care expended by the homeowners.
One of my neighbours, Susan, is an amazing gardener. Over the years I’ve had occasion to watch her as she labours almost daily in her yard. Her garden is, indeed, a work of art. Not only is it well tended, but the way it is designed and organized is extremely artistic.
The other day as I was watching her working in her yard I got to thinking that there are an incredible number of similarities been good gardeners and good managers. I don’t know whether these points of convergence are simply a coincidence, or whether someone who is a good gardener is, instinctually, a good manager. However, the similarities in perspective are deserving of attention.
Points of Convergence
Perhaps the qualities that go into making a good gardener are highly similar to those in a good manager. Consider the following:
1. Good gardeners, like good managers, make the time that is necessary to do the tough work. My neighbour Susan’s garden didn’t get that way overnight. They have been in their house for over fifteen years, and during that time I have watched as their garden continually changes and evolves. They underwent a major renovation this past year, and their garden has become even more spectacular. I’m not sure how much time Susan spends in her garden weekly, but it is substantial. The same is true of a good manager. Making the necessary time to provide direction and leadership to the team is critical to ongoing success. Good managers, it seems, are prepared to invest the necessary time and attention in order to maximize the development of their staff.
2. Good gardeners and good managers are consistent in their efforts. A good garden isn’t a point in time. It is an evolutionary process. It evolves, and being available to tend the garden and deal with ongoing issues is pivotal to success. The same is true of good management. You can’t expect to show concern or listen only at selected times or on certain events. One needs to be engaged on a continuing basis. That ongoing and consistent effort is the difference between lasting versus transitory results.
3. A good gardener will recognize that sometimes one needs to transplant and move things around, just like a good manager. A good gardener is never content with the status quo. They recognize that sometimes things need to be moved around in order to enhance plant growth or prevent overcrowding. The same is true of good managers. A willingness to shift things around, move resources, re-evaluate priorities, re-assign duties and responsibilities, and try new approaches, is critical to ongoing success. Never being satisfied with the status quo is a key component of good management.
4. Good gardeners don’t tolerate weeds, and neither do good managers. Years ago, my uncle once described weeds as “Something you don’t want, something you don’t need, something that adds no value, and something you can live without”. Although he was talking metaphorically, there is some value in what he suggested. Weeds encroach on the growth and evolution of plants. Left untended, they will take over and suffocate a plant. In a work environment, noxious personalities or dysfunctional people can rob a workplace of positive energy and engagement. Knowing how to correct these behaviours, how to discipline, and if necessary, how to eliminate noxious behaviour, is critical to ongoing success.
5. Good gardeners are flexible according to the weather, just the way good managers are adaptable to business conditions. Gardeners expect good weather that will promote plant growth. However, that isn’t always the case. When inclement weather arises, or conditions change, good gardeners respond accordingly. The same is true of a good manager. He/she recognizes there may be times when one needs to change or adapt. Business conditions are seldom constant, and in today’s business climate the ability to pivot is a reality of life.
6. Good gardeners and good managers know that nurturing is important. Sunlight, fertilizer and water can go a long way to enhancing growth and yielding results in a garden. Similarly, encouragement, support and feedback are critical for a manager to deploy in order to promote the growth and development of their team members.
7. Good gardeners appreciate beauty and nature’s bounty, just like good managers appreciate results. Taking time to enjoy one’s garden and savour the success of hard work is important for managers as well as gardeners. Celebrating successes of team members is also vital in that it provides an intrinsic reward that is both supportive and confirmatory.
A Final Thought…
My neighbour Susan is, by training, a graphic designer. I suppose that is where she gets her artistic perspective. I’m not sure if she has ever been a manager in her career, but I suspect the temperaments and qualities that make her a good gardener would, instinctively, contribute to her evolution as a manager.