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A few years back, I wrote an article in which I provided some gardening tips to developing good teams. I’m spending more time tending my garden these days so I decided to share a few more lessons for those wishing to cultivate a team building “green thumb”.

Fertilization should be regular, but situational

Grass lawns need to be fertilized at regular intervals but the composition of the fertilizer (the proportions of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) varies by season and by the needs of the grass. Whereas you might use a 20-5-10 mix in the early Spring to give the dormant grass a boost of nitrogen to rebuild and to get ready for the heat of summer, a 13-25-12 mix is better in the late Fall to stimulate root growth in preparation for the following year.

When considering the professional development needs of team members, we need to regularly give them the time and resources for professional development, but the specific tactics used to develop should be dictated by their development objectives. Just like the three ingredients which go into fertilizer, there are three components for learning – formal training, relationship-based, and experiential. Depending on the development objective, the specific percentages of each should be varied.

Don’t delay deadheading

Deadheading, the task of trimming faded flowers from plant stalks, is not just about maintaining the aesthetics of the garden, but is also about avoiding energy wastage by the plant. Gardeners don’t relish this task but it is critical to developing stronger plants and getting more bloom cycles from your garden.

We may not look forward to the unpleasant task of removing someone from our team, but prolonged procrastination or wanting to be perceived as a “nice person” will hurt your overall team when there is a toxic, inefficient or ineffective team member who is clearly not improving in spite of support and coaching. Your best performers will be demotivated and may even leave and you will be sending the message that mediocrity is tolerated to the remainder.

Be thoughtful when adding a new plant into an established garden

When I have to replace one of the existing plants in my garden with a different variety, I always take the time to consider the impacts of the new arrival on the other plants in the garden. I learned this lesson the hard way. A few years back I replaced a large but unhealthy tree in my backyard with a small fruit tree. There were a few smaller stunted flowering shrubs under the old tree. When it was removed and the new tree was planted, the shrubs took this opportunity to spread like wildfire, risking the health of the fruit tree. I ended up having to transplant a number of those shrubs to a different spot in the yard to ensure the new tree remained healthy.

Even if you have a long-standing team with well defined ways of working, never underestimate the impacts on the team when a new team member is added. Involve the team in the selection of the new team member and make sure you build in sufficient ramp up time to help the newcomer understand and adapt to the culture and behaviors of the team.

Healthy, beautiful gardens do not develop by accident and the same can be said of good teams. As Rudyard Kipling wrote in “The Glory of the Garden”: Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.




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