4 Lessons On Team-Building I Learned From My Garden

As a gardener, I enjoy this time in the summer because you get to step back from your garden and appreciate what all that hard work you did in the spring and early summer has given rise to. This time of the year is also an ideal time to review how the plants are faring in your garden so you can anticipate what changes might need to be made in the upcoming fall or spring.

Walking by the various gardens around my house, I noticed how certain flowers planted a few years ago were now doing a great job filling out what used to be bare spots in the garden. At the same, I also noted which perennials would need to be transplanted in the fall given how they were beginning to outgrow their current place in the garden.

Now, it wasn’t always the case that we had a thriving garden full of multi-coloured blooms and various kinds of foliage. In the first few years when we started working on our garden, it felt more like a losing battle with nature given how many plants we lost to pests, problematic growing conditions and who knows what else. Although it was frustrating, those early years provided us with some valuable lessons about our garden, lessons we’ve since used to create a garden we could enjoy and admire.

After reviewing the steps I took over the last few seasons to get my garden to this point of abundance and sustainability, I noticed that there were some interesting parallels that could be drawn to the process of how to go about creating a strong and successful team. And so, I’d like to present these four valuable lessons I learned from my garden which can help you through the process of building and developing a successful team for your organization:

1. Understand what conditions your team will be expected to perform under
In the first summer after we bought our house, my wife and I naturally wanted to have our garden filled with our favourite flowers and plants. So we went to the nearby nursery and purchased the various plants we had on our list and planted them throughout our garden. For the first few weeks, we were very proud of our garden and we looked forward to seeing these plants blooming and thriving in the years to come.

Unfortunately, that first year ended up being a painful lesson on the kinds of problems we’d have to deal with in our garden as we ended up losing almost all of our plants. It took a few more summers of trial and error before we figured out what types of plants were best suited for our garden and since then, we’ve been able to enjoy a bountiful garden with successive blooms throughout the summer.

Similarly, when it comes to building a team, it’s only natural that we want to bring people on board who we have an easy time collaborating with or who we feel would be a good fit with our team’s goals. However, it’s equally important that we take into consideration the working conditions your team will be expected to function under and whether those you select will be able to perform adequately under those conditions.

In order for your team to be successful, you need to be sure that you select people who will thrive and not whither under the environmental conditions and pressures this new team will inevitably face along the way towards attaining your team’s shared goals.

2. Make sure you provide for each of your team members’ needs
One of the joys I get from gardening comes from seeing my rose garden in bloom. Given the fact that roses require a full day’s worth of sun, plenty of water, and soil that provides adequate drainage, I created a new garden spot in our yard which would provide such conditions to ensure not only repeated blooms, but also a nice view for us to enjoy as well.

In building this garden, I selected rose plants which would not only complement each other, but which would grow in a similar fashion to provide a relatively uniform look. Despite being given the same amount of sun, water and fertilizer, some of the rose plants became weak and started suffering from plant diseases while others thrived and bloomed often throughout the summer months.

Although it was discouraging to see some of these roses performing so poorly compared to others in the same garden, I used this as an opportunity to understand how these plants differed in their ability to grow and bloom. As a consequence, I ended up providing more support and care to the plants that were struggling while spending less time on those which had no trouble growing in my garden.

In the years since, many of those rose plants that once struggled are now growing at the same pace as the others, thereby helping me move one step closer to creating the rose garden I envisioned when I first broke ground to create this new garden spot.

In terms of building your team, it’s important to understand that an employee’s ability to succeed and thrive in one setting within your organization doesn’t mean you can simply transplant them into another setting and expect a similar level of performance. What’s required instead is an awareness of what needs they’ll have to help them address the challenges they’ll face, and what you can do as the team leader to help them to become valued contributors to your team.

3. Make plans to tap into the various strengths of your team members over the project’s lifespan
When we selected the various plants and shrubs that are now found in our garden, one detail we paid attention to was when the perennial or shrub bloomed during the year. While some gardeners like to have a major show of flowers at a given point in the year, I prefer having a garden where the plants bloom at various points during the season, allowing us to enjoy a variety of flowers from late spring well into the fall.

Of course, one problem this creates is that at certain points in the season you have a garden where some plants are very colourful and showy, while others appear to be more muted and limited in their growth or activity. Thanks to our awareness of this issue, we made sure to group the various plants in such a way that it creates a more balanced and diverse visual display in our garden.

In the case of the employees in your team, it’s easy to focus on the more successful members of your group and assume that the ultimate outcome of the team’s efforts will depend on their level of participation. A more effective approach is to gain an awareness of the individual strengths each team member brings to the group and when those strengths would be of great value to the team’s efforts.

Such insights will make it easier to assign tasks to team members that match up with their natural abilities and talents, ensuring that your team won’t become dependent on the efforts of a few ‘star’ players. It will also help make the achievements feel more like a team effort rather than the accomplishments of a select few within the group.

4. Team-building is a never-ending process
One of the easiest ways to tell someone is a gardener is not just by how well their garden is faring, but by how much they enjoy all the regular, maintenance work that goes with growing a garden.

Work like pruning back overgrowing stems, cutting off spent flowers, removing weeds, and providing the necessary watering and feeding are just some of the tasks that have to be done to maintain the general upkeep of any garden. Certainly, it’s a lot of work and it can feel tedious at times, but this is what’s required if you’re going to be successful as a gardener.

Likewise, you can’t just assign a new position or project to your employees and only follow up during team meetings or when you’re curious about their results. Instead, you need to be more involved in your team’s efforts by making sure they have what they need to complete the tasks assigned to them, along with providing whatever support they’ll need to address unexpected issues.

Such attention and focus on your employee’s needs will not only help push your team’s efforts forward, but it will also demonstrate your commitment to ensuring they are successful in their initiatives as a member of your team. After all, the best way to engage someone is not simply to offer them more money or perks, but to show them that their work is valued because those around them are driven to see them succeed in their efforts.

There’s no question that building a team can be at times a challenging, demanding, and time-consuming process. However, as any successful gardener will tell you, it’s only through your willingness to commit your time, effort and resources to the process that you’ll be able to tap into the full potential from those you’ve gathered and succeed in achieving the vision you had for your combined efforts.

Some other posts you may enjoy:

  1. How to Help Struggling Employees Find Their Space
  2. Using The Summer Downtime To Assess Your Organization’s Direction
  3. A Springtime Reminder on Leadership, Communication, and Collaboration
  4. Do You Have A Meaningful Relationship With Success?
  5. How To Build Your Team For Success
  6. 4 Reasons Why Your Boss Should Take A Vacation

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Tanveer Naseer is an award-winning and internationally-acclaimed leadership writer and keynote speaker. He is also the Principal and Founder of Tanveer Naseer Leadership, a leadership coaching firm that works with executives and managers to help them develop practical leadership and team-building competencies to guide organizational growth and development. Tanveer’s writings and insights on leadership and workplace interactions have been featured in a number of prominent media and organization publications, including Forbes, Fast Company, Inc Magazine, Canada’s national newspaper “The Globe and Mail”, The Economist Executive Education Navigator, and the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center.

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