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  • Joanna

How does my garden grow? Lessons for leadership.

It feels like Spring has finally blown in here in the UK. This long weekend I spent quite a lot of time in my garden and I have reflected on how my own journey learning to become a gardener is not dissimilar to developing into a leader.

Initially it can feel quite overwhelming, suddenly being responsible and not quite knowing where to start. Of course if I just left it, some things would grow and some wouldn’t do so well but it probably wouldn’t look how I wanted or be a place I want to spend time. Here are some of the things that helped on my gardening journey.

  • Setting a vision of what I want then helps me make decisions on what I need to do to make that happen. Do I want it to be a formal garden, a haven for wildlife, a sports ground for our family?

  • Sharing that vision with my family to make sure we’re on the same page and get their input. Ensuring we know what we’ll each need to do and be responsible for.

  • Planning my resources - how much time do I realistically have to devote to it? What can I afford to buy? The balance of which will guide me between growing from seeds vs investing in some instant impact.

  • Reviewing what’s already in the garden - what needs taking out? What needs some TLC and extra support to rejuvenate? What new things complement what’s already there and help fulfil my design?

  • Getting to know the different plants and their different needs. They need attention at different times. Some are mature and well established before I arrived, others tender and fast growing in the right environment, some can overwhelm others if not managed. Some need watering regularly, others are happy with the odd watering can in the absence of rain (not an issue this week!)

  • Once I have the direction and initial structure set, committing to regular, small interactions (watering, weeding, mowing the lawn) is likely to be far more effective at keeping things heading in the right direction than having to make big changes if I’ve let things get out of hand.

These themes are common in the discussions I have with clients starting or evolving on their leadership journey. Topics we might cover include setting your strategy, communicating your vision clearly, managing resources and prioritisation, building your team with the right mix of skills, understanding your team members motivations and development needs and ongoing coaching and regular performance discussions.

One of the key things I reflected on as I gardened was that no matter how useful the gardening books are, I only really learn when trying things out and seeing what works. Particularly with the on call help of far more experienced gardeners in my network who help build my confidence in my ability. My WhatsApp messages this weekend went something along the lines of “When should I prune this?”, “Is this a weed?”, “What kind of soil do I need for this?”, “What would work well in this space?”.

To me this is the benefit of mentors and coaches when you are establishing yourself as a leader. The leadership books give you ideas and knowledge but real understanding comes from practising and building your own style with the support of trusted advisors. And sometimes things won’t work but that’s all part of the learning too, allowing us to adapt and try a different approach next time.

If you are looking for some support as you develop as a leader that goes beyond what a book or course can teach you, please get in touch to discuss how coaching could help you. If you need some gardening help I’m probably not the best person to ask!

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