Tending the Garden:
As I write this, I can see the Brothers Range of the Olympic Mountains outside my window in West Seattle. It’s stunning. I never get over it, and it never gets old.
“Well,” I sighed, “I guess I will have to find someone to remove all these bushes.”
We stood a moment looking at the beautiful chaos of the hillside beneath the house I wanted to buy.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Those blackberries have been holding up that hill for about a hundred years.”
I leave the brambles alone. It’s not picturesque, and truth be told, it’s not even very neighborly. About once every other month, the vines creeping out over the sidewalk are cut back so people can go for their dog walks and baby strolls. Every August, if I remember, I go back there and pick the warm berries to eat fresh with breakfast or freeze for smoothies or drop into a bowl with vanilla ice cream. I don’t tend this garden. I let it be wild, which is infinitely different from what happens inside the fence: an espaliered pear tree up against the north side, three large livestock troughs filled with organic soil and edibles that are easy to harvest, containers of tomatoes and herbs and geraniums, and colorful pots with dahlias and strawberries. It’s sort of orderly. I pull weeds and pick and trim.
I think organizations are like this too: there are wild, chaotic parts that might be left alone because they are actually holding up the hillside – the foundation – of the organization. And, there are other parts that require your care, your thoughtfulness, your purposeful pruning.
The real question is how are you attending to the soul of your organization or team? How are you letting alone what needs to flourish and paying close attention to what needs to be nourished and weeded on a regular basis?
What should be nourished and tended? Pruned and cut back? Take time to nourish and tend the relationships with your team, as well as your customers or clients. You should be thoughtful and organized in creating approaches for performance, marketing, outreach. Perhaps, you are systematic: you plant seeds, you water and fertilize, and you cultivate patience for the harvest. You also practice determination and discipline for letting go – of the conversations, tired questions, systems that don’t work, and ineffective measures – and you make way for the good seeds to flourish. You weed out any poisons, like gossip, bullying, and shaming. You deal with interpersonal strife by having the courageous conversations and asking for what you need, with a time frame and specificity to make it happen.
Sometimes, we get stuck thinking that everything will just happen organically, without our assistance or interference; other times, we think the neat, orderly rows of seeds we plant will produce the greatest harvest. But every good gardener knows it’s both: it’s planting the right seeds, taking care, weeding, pruning. It’s also allowing the wind to carry a seed where we capture the magic of photosynthesis and something amazing blooms we weren’t even imagining.
About the Author: Libby Wagner, author of The Influencing Option: The Art of Building a Profit Culture in Business, works with clients to help them create and sustain profit cultures.
This article appeared in
Reprinted from Floor Care & Central Vac Professional and SQE Professional, August 2017