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4 Leadership Lessons from Mucking in the Garden: A Leadership Tradecraft post

I am not a gardener. I view it more as an administrative task – some things are not in their appropriate space; other files need to be culled and archived/composted.

I participate in order to help my wife and because I enjoy the finished effort, although I am not sure the word “finished” ever applies to gardening.

As I have plucked, carried and hauled I have been reflecting on leadership lessons that might be harvested.

 1. A wonderful vision means nothing without the skills/tradecraft to implement.

When shown a picture of a great garden I can say “wow” and “wonderful.” But this does not mean I know anything about how to implement the vision.

So often church leaders seem to think it is enough to talk in grand or vague terms about what the church could be but there is very little guidance or awareness of the skills, resources and work required to go from A to B.

People can be inspired but inspiration without strategic perspiration is just chocolate for the spirit.[Tweet “Inspiration without strategic perspiration is just chocolate for the spirit”]

2. Training for key tasks needs to be specific
Being instructed to “pull out the weeds” does me little good. Everything looks green to me. Which are the offensive candidates? Does the instruction to “Trim it back” mean to cut it just by the knobby part or is this an occasion where only 1 inch remains above ground after the prune. I am a long way from being delegated an entire area of the garden, even the compost!

Most congregations now recognize the need for increased attention to hospitality. If this is to mean more than “visit with your friends” specific behaviours need to be named and trained. Just as planting a beautiful garden requires more awareness and skill than imply ripping open a packet of seeds and dumping them on the ground so too with creating a welcoming environment for people new to the congregation.

Similarly with the growing recognition of the importance of communication. Specific behaviours yield particular results and this is true for every area of an organization’s life.

3. How You Nurture the Soil Matters
Did you know that certain plants do better in some types of soil than others? Who knew? I guess I realized that the desert is different from the West Coast but I never paid attention to the more contained ecosystems.

People and teams require different kinds of environments in which to thrive. Innovation and/or research and development differs from establishing new accounting procedures. Baby boomers need different processes and communication in order to feel comfortable and blossom than do Gen Xers or Millennials.

And ecosystems change. Children and youth now require different ingredients to nurture imagination and spirit than those born in the 1940s or 1950s.

We  believe we have this covered with our mythology of inclusiveness but in practice we do not.

4. The Garden Requires Regular Attention
I’ve worked long days in the garden for two or three days in a row. And then I came back a week later and the alien forces have regrouped and mounted a counter-offensive!

Eventually, with enough training and development, a leader is able to delegate; however, that time never seems to come as quickly as one might like. Creating culture and building capacity take time and attention. (If this was a different post we might point to the developmental arc of various hockey teams, but I digress). It is very difficult now, with multiple demands, for a leader to stay focused on one key area for very long unless it is in crisis mode.

What have you learned from gardening?

(Photo by Jane Doughnut)

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  1. How timely…I just came in from gardening…I smiled my way through the post. I don’t know exactly how this fits but I note that there are surprises in the garden. We have options about how we respond. ( I considered a few today) I discovered a perennial shrub that seems to have arrived in the neighborhood without encouragement. A good surprise. I also found a sink hole around the sprinkler system (small); a not so good surprise. While I was out there I was musing about the need to be ready for whatever comes along, while still able to keep on with the task that was started.

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