A couple of weeks ago I planted my very first garden. The process actually began last November when my wife and I prepared the area and looked forward to our spring planting.
Over the years, I have benefitted from the harvest of others many times and appreciated the concept. I was motivated by both the fresh vegetables and the finished product (salsa, pizza sauce, etc.). There’s just something about tomatoes from the garden, and I really wanted to try making our own homemade pizza sauce. So, we went to work.
As I reflected on the garden concept, it reminded me of how much planting a garden relates to growing and developing people. Here are a few examples:
- Make a plan.
With a goal of a garden in our heads, we first chose a good space in our yard with the right amount of sun and brought in soil to provide the best conditions. Then, we mapped out where the items would go, leaving adequate space for each to grow. Whether someone is new to the organization or new to a career, our goal is to help them get established in the right position with an opportunity to flourish. Begin with the end in mind and you’ll get better results.
- Give them an early start.
We planted our seeds and cared for them indoors for the first eight weeks prior to planting. This reminded me of the many Marco employees (myself included) who joined us right out of college. It may seem easier to bring in an industry veteran, and sometimes it is, but seeing something start from seed and grow into an amazing product is definitely worth the work and the wait. Some of our best leaders developed their skills inside our company.
- Timing matters.
Like people, plants grow at different paces and need different conditions. Our tomatoes and peppers started as seeds and had weeks of attention before entering the garden, while our herbs began as more established plants. Some plants are more resilient or complicated than others. It’s our job to set them all up for success by recognizing their strengths, weaknesses, pace and needs.
- Keep the competition out.
We’re currently fending off a slate of critters — rabbits, deer, a woodchuck and a fox. We built a fence and took other proactive measures to protect what we were growing. At Marco, we work hard to validate our employee and client satisfaction. It’s my job to make sure we find and retain good people and good customers.
- Keep trying new techniques.
When I told people that we were going to plant our first garden, I received all kinds of input. Everyone had their own techniques for creating a bountiful harvest. We took it all in and put some of those ideas into practice. We bought old coffee cans at a flea market to protect our tomato plants. We put red solo cups around our peppers. We’ll see how that all plays out. Just like with growing people, we expect to keep learning and trying new techniques.
- Tend to the environment.
Planting a garden is fun. But the best part is the harvest you get at the end. There’s a lot of work that happens between those two points. Like when growing people, gardens need lots of tending and weeding. Some need more water or support than others. As gardeners, it’s our job to provide what they need and pull out the items (weeds) that could hold them back from reaching their potential.
- Engage others.
Growing gardens and people take work. We will see better results (and have more fun) when we engage others in the process — young and old. One of the highlights of starting the garden for my wife and I was when the grandkids painted artwork on the entry fence. They brought something to the garden that we couldn’t, and it makes us smile every time we see it.
Growing a garden or developing people is an exercise in patience. Like many leaders, I prefer immediate action, outcomes and progress (and of course I would like the pizza sauce now). When you start a garden, you have to put in a lot of work and wait. The output doesn’t happen overnight – with plants or people, but there’s a lot of pride in the accomplishment.
Stay tuned on how the garden turns out – I’ll give you an update in the fall…