The Incompetent Gardener

There once lived a man called Sam. Sam owned a small property and at the back of the property he had a small garden – a little bit of lawn with some small flower beds.

Sam really wanted to have a garden full of colour and great plants. You see Sam loved to entertain people and he wanted to have a garden he could show off to others when they came around for BBQ’s or garden parties.

However, Sam just wasn’t a very good gardener.

He would go to the local garden centre and he would pick out the biggest and most beautiful of the plants – those that had the biggest blooms and the brightest colours. Sam would buy them and bring them home. He would plant them in his garden in a spot that, to his eye, would make for the most pleasing display.

Same cared little for the soil type his plants preferred and would never read the label, either before buying or after to discover where these plants might ideally be planted so they could thrive and grow. He would never ask for advice of the plantspeople at the garden centre – no he would pick out the ones he liked and shove them into his garden because he knew best.

Each year it would be the same – over time Sam would get more and more frustrated because his plants would look less and less like they did when he purchased them. The blooms would never be quite so big and bright, the leaves nowhere near as shiny. 

I can’t have plants looking like that in my garden he would say and dig them out and then head off to the garden centre to get more to replace them. In his mind Sam would blame the plants for their inability to grow – and vow not to buy that kind of plant again. Same would even change the garden centre because it’s obvious they do something to the plants to make them look all brilliant, but they can’t be selling very good specimens if they only last a few months. These plants aren’t cheap, they should last longer. I can’t believe they can get away with selling such sub-standard products.

Anyway, this had gone on year after year – each year Sam virtually replacing all of the plants in his garden at great cost and then discarding them on the scrapheap of the local “refuse centre” when they looked tired and lacking in vitality.

One year however, Sam was asked by his company to go to one of their overseas offices for a 3-month secondment – a chance to see how they work and how they are getting great results. Sam was thrilled at the chance and gladly arranged thigs so that he could go. He asked a good friend of his, Sarah, to pop round the house each week and tend to the garden, mow the lawn and just check that the house was OK etc.

Off Sam went and had a great 3 months learning from his opposite number in the other offices. Well I say learning, what he learnt was that they didn’t do things as well as he did, and they had some funny ways of doing things. That’s for a different story though…

After 3 months Sam returned home. Sarah had arranged to be waiting for him at his house when he got back so that she could give him back the keys. Sarah was a lovely lady and had arranged to have milk and bread in the house so that he had all the basics and did not have to go straight off to the shop. It just so happened that on the day Sam got back it was a lovely summers day and it got Sam to thinking that he would love to host a “welcome home” BBQ for his friends the following weekend. As he was driving home from the airport he was thinking about when he would be able to go to the garden centre and buy some new plants because the garden when he left was looking really bad.

After having a quick catch up Sarah said, “let me just show you the garden so you can see what I have done – I hope it is OK”. 

With a sense of dread expecting to see the worst Sam followed Sarah out. He was absolutely shocked by what he saw. The garden was in full colour. There were new plants in different places, and they all looked amazing – on this sunny day the colours were so strong and vibrant, and everything looked freshly planted.

“How much do I owe you for all of these plants – they look amazing” Sam said. 

“What do you mean answered Sarah” with a puzzled look on her face

“The plants – they must have cost you a fortune. I mean they look great, but you really didn’t need to go and buy a load of plants, I could have done that” replied Sam.

Sarah laughed “I didn’t buy any plants – these are all your plants. All I did was move a few to places that suited them better, and water and feed them regularly. They were looking a bit tired and uncared for when I arrived so I just gave them a bit of tender loving care and hey presto, look at them now” Sarah’s face was beaming, you could see how much she cared for the plants.

“I don’t understand” Sam said “anything I buy always ends up dying and I have to buy new ones”

“Sam the secret to a great garden is not what you put in, but how well you care and nurture it. You have to ensure that you find the perfect spot for each plant so that they have the best chance of growing and becoming the beautiful plant you want them to be. You have to ensure that they get the right nutrients, that they are fed regularly and that they are given everything they need to grow. That is how you get a great garden” Sarah smiled.

Sam looked bemused “I had no idea – I just thought you buy the best plants you can afford and then they will grow and if they don’t then you just get rid of them and get new ones” he shrugged.

“Sam when a plant doesn’t grow it is very rarely the fault of the plant. Plants love to grow and bloom and show off their colours – it is in their nature. The only reason a plant will not grow is because of us, the gardener. We either choose plants that simply do not like the kind of soil we have, or we don’t give them enough attention and we don’t feed them so they can grow”

“I had no idea” Sam smiled a little embarrassed.

“I hope you don’t take the same attitude to the people who work for you Sam?” laughed Sarah

“erm……no” muttered Sam feeling a little bit uncomfortable.

It is so easy, like Sam did, to look to blame others when they don’t seem to be fulfilling the potential we see in them. Yet, just like the garden, it is often the environment these people are placed in that affects how well they will grow and develop and whether we get to see them in full bloom or not.

Taking time to nurture, feed, ensure that you provide the right support and that they have everything they need to grow is what great leadership is all about. You have to care and take an interest in your people – to help understand what the ideal conditions for them are to be able to grow to be their best. Leaders really are gardeners like Sarah.

We would love to help develop your leadership skills. We can work with you 1:1 or in small groups and we will help you develop the kind of leadership attributes that will fill your garden with the most talented and brightest people and work with you to see your business thrive.

If you think we can help your business and you would like to get a feel for who we are let’s have a chat.

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