Author Archives: Paul LaRue
It’s Memorial Day in northern New England. This means it’s time to finally start planting our gardens.
I was reminded of this visiting a local farm stand/ They had a large chalkboard sign reminded the locals to not plant until after the holiday weekend.
Despite people’s claims to the contrary, it’s not recommended to start planting when the warmer weather arrives in March/April after the spring thaw. Because we’re notoriously known for frost snaps (and snow) through May, as evidenced by the near-record breaking lows during the week prior.
Gardening is a meticulous work but the rewards are fruitful and greatly multiply our efforts if we follow some simple guidelines. Leaders can likewise take these guidelines to help them be more effective in cultivating a great culture and impact in their organizations.
- Wait for fertile ground. Just like ground that’s not quite thawed, we can force culture and change on people when the time is not right. It will frustrate not only us but our teams as well. Sometimes waiting for the proper time to start is the best course of action rather than rushing and forcing the process.
- Work the ground until it’s ready to plant. Sometimes people need to be prepared before they are ready to be receptive to what you want to initiate. Discussions, talking culture, bringing them in for strategic meetings and other methods can get your people to be ready for the process of reaching the goals laid forth.
- Establish the boundaries. Good boundaries are necessary not only for keeping behavior aligned, but like the fence around a garden, keeping destructive creatures from ruining the work. Make sure you comply as well to those boundaries and ensure they are fair and allow for growth without restricting it.
- Plant seeds. A vision can’t germinate without being given up to the soil. Sometimes it needs to be scattered, other times a careful planting of the vision is the best to allow the seed of change to take root.
- Water. Plants need nourishment, and so do your people. By praising, keeping culture and vision out in front, and leading by a positive example, you can great the right environment for your staff to sprout towards attaining the goal ahead.
- Weed. Removing the growth that chokes out the nutrients of the plants is necessary for gardeners to ensure their crops stay vibrant. Likewise, removing toxic people (including leaders and best employees) and counter-productive systems allows your people to grow without hindrance.
- Be patient. Some crops take time to sprout above ground. A patient leader will know that despite outward performance, an employee can be growing by leaps and bounds inside (below the soil). Some people are slow learners who eventually grow quickly. Having patience and knowing your people well enough to understand what is happening within them with the right nutrients and environment is key to getting the most out of them.
- Expect variations. Not every corn stalk will be a certain height. Some zucchini plants will grow beyond their rows. But they produce the desires effect nonetheless. Once your people produce, don’t try to box in their production or growth. Different people will yield varying results, so keep in mind that not everyone will contribute the way you want. Allow for variations as long as they are being fruitful.
- Enjoy Harvest. When the goal is met, take time to enjoy and celebrate your teams accomplishments with them. Allow them to share the fruits of the labor they have created.
- Plan for next season. A gardener starts planning for the next crop the day after harvest. They pre-prepare the soil and ensure the ground will endure a winter and spring thaw. Allow your people to rest and reset, rotate the growth opportunities and cast another vision while keeping your culture aligned. This will allow your organization to grow even more following your recent success.
People are living organisms that need light, nurturing, environment and protection in order for them to properly grow. By seeing the basic principles of gardening and applying them to your leadership, we can expect a multiplied outcome of fruitfulness as well.
A complaint is made by a customer to the corporate headquarters.
Corporate cascades it down to the regional managers.
The region manager addresses the the store manager.
The store manager tells the shift manager what went wrong.
The shift manager reprimands the employee for the issue.
Was it the employee’s fault? Perhaps. But the blame – and ownership for the issue – should be taken by corporate.
The higher level of leadership, the more every issue magnifies your ability to lead and lead through others.
Many times an employee gets the brunt of something that was not their fault. They were poorly trained, or their performance was shrugged off (“it’s a tough employment market you know!”) or the manager didn’t care that shortcuts were made (“it saved labor”). Or sometimes corporate demanded that Q4 number be met at all costs.
While you can’t be responsible for every employee’s behavior, you are responsible fully for ensuring they are hired, trained and led the right way to execute at the highest level of performance they can give.
Don’t perpetuate it rolling downhill. S*** (STOP) the downhill roll and take ownership to fix it starting with yourself.
Have you ever worked for an organization in which there was an “unwritten rule”?
These are usually practices outside the norm of standard procedures. Quite often, they are usually discovered by someone within their first couple of years in the company, when a unique situation arises.
Then someone pulls you aside and says, “We have an unwritten rule about this...” and tells you what you should do at this point.
Unwritten rules may have an intended purpose, but they create some unintended consequences:
- They may run contrary to other sound policies and procedures in place. Sometimes these rules go against practices for expediency, which is why they’re unwritten in the first place.
- Their execution can undermine trust. They communicate to staff that when all else fails, or when roadblocks occur, then there is another set of standards. This send mixed signals to your people.
- They can send conflicting messages throughout your organization. “When all goes to script we do X, but when the script goes out the window, we do Y”. These rules say “we make up the rules as we go”.
- They expose holes in processes and systems that need to be tidied up. You’ll need to examine your procedures and make sure your systems are congruent with your mission.
- Oftentimes they support a person who is subverting the system … because if it was a written rule, they’d be transparent. Unwritten rules many times hide devious workplace behavior.
There may always be an unwritten rule here and there that fall through the cracks. If that happens, by all means work to weave them into the operations. However, check every unwritten rule to make sure they don’t undermine your core values, and what the rationales are for them being there. If they fail to support your mission, then these “unwritten rules” need to be “written off”.
What are the “unwritten rules” in your organization? Identify them, qualify them, then write them off or write them in.