Survive or thrive?

Our Covid experience has given me the opportunity to try my hand at a spot of gardening.  I’ve always loved to potter, but I’ve never grown anything from seed and so I’ve been surprised at my monumental successes and failures in this department.  Having had so much time to reflect, I’ve realised that there are quite a number of similarities between growing plants and developing a team and how important it is to create the right environment for them not only to survive but to thrive!

Having planted my beetroot seeds, I left them in the warmth of my office and they soon showed me they were enjoying their environment, all sprouting out and standing to attention.  However, on planting them out, I realised they didn’t respond well to the first place I put them.  After a couple of moves, they started to flourish again and I’ve had a super little crop.

In the same way, last year I was gifted a beautiful orchid, but when the flowers fell off and nothing came back, I thought I’d killed it.  I was about to throw it out but decided to cut it right back and set up a regular watering routine.  On moving it to a brighter, west facing position in the house where it received all the afternoon sunshine and changing it’s pots so that the roots could see the sunshine, it soon began to respond.  I was like a child in a sweetshop getting up every morning to see if there were any more buds and have now been rewarded with this beauty.

However, not all my efforts have been responded in the same way.  No matter what I’ve done to try and help some of my herbs, my beautiful clematis or violas, they’ve withered away and I’ve realised that it’s not about coaxing the plant to grow but more about creating the environment for it to grow.  Providing all plants with the same care and attention doesn’t automatically mean they will thrive.  Some plants need lots of water whilst others prefer very little, some desire shade whilst others love basking in the sunshine.  Some require food and manure whilst others favour barren conditions.  Each plant has a set of favourable conditions for it to prosper and this is exactly the same with people.  We may be motivated by similar things but at the end of the day we’re all individuals.

During the last four months we’ve all found ourselves adapting to very different working conditions.  Working from home has become a new norm for many of us and whilst some have loved it others can’t wait to get back to the hubbub of the office and commuter life.   For some, continuing to go to their place of work has been a constant and so all changes that have taken place have built up over a period of time with their comfort zones growing as a result.  For others who have either worked from home or been furloughed, the work place may now seem a very different place.  They will need to get used to the changes, or could be feeling less valued or perhaps not competent/confident to do what is now being asked of them.  Like all of us, when we move away from doing something for a while our comfort zones shrink and we need to take little steps to increase our confidence once more.

My 1, 2, 3 for you …..

  1. Increase your levels of active communication.  Focus on making your communications two way so that you’re not on transmit mode.  Listen with your eyes and ears so that when you feel someone is saying one thing but their body language or tone of voice is saying another, you can check in to find out what is really going on for them.  In this way you will be able to support them more fully.
  2. Be patient and empathetic.  As mentioned above, for those who have been working from home, you will probably find that their comfort zones and confidence have shrunk. Anxiety of travel on public transport, social distancing etc may be a key worry.  It’s up to you to help your people see what they can do and identify what is in their circles of influence and control.  When they ‘want to’ do something rather than ‘have to’, their levels of engagement will rise more quickly.  If your people are going to continue working from home how are you supporting them to create the distinctions between work and home lives?  It is crucial that we are helping them to develop an environment that positively impacts their mental and physical wellbeing rather than feel their home has now become another work hub.
  3. Move away from hours worked and focus on outputs.  If we are going to create the right environment for staff to thrive and prosper we need to stop wearing the badge of honour for hours worked.  Instead let’s focus on output and what people achieve.  This will help us to understand where we need to support, develop and mentor our people so that they become efficient and effective teams rather than burnout ones!

As Curtis Jackson said, ‘People are like plants – they grow and change every day’.  How are you helping your people to do the same?

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