Every leader’s goal is to create high-performing teams. And in order to do that, we invest significant effort into cultivating and growing strong people who work well together to achieve our department and organization’s objectives. It is this concept of “cultivating and growing” that got me thinking about the papaya.
My favourite fruit is the papaya. Succulent, fragrant, and slightly sweet, just one bite instantly transports me to the warm, gentle breezes of the Hawaiian and Caribbean islands. I am reminded of early morning drives through papaya farms, where you can stop and buy the plump ripe fruit, picked just hours earlier. Oh, I wish I could grow my own papayas. There is one problem though … I live in Canada!
You see, even though I have the best quality seeds, no matter how hard I try, it is almost impossible to grow papayas in Canada. Papayas are a tropical crop, which means that they need high levels of humidity for growth, and then a warm and dry climate for ripening. And they grow best in alluvial soil which is found along deltas and riverbanks. Alas, while we have several deltas and many riverbanks in Canada, tropical weather is sadly lacking. The only chance I would have of successfully growing papayas in Canada would be in a greenhouse, where I might be able to replicate the ideal growing conditions.
Bottom line: to successfully grow papayas, I need both the best quality seeds and the right climate. Which isn’t unlike what it takes to grow high-performing teams.
High-performing teams need two elements
High-performing teams are a function of getting the right people and creating the optimal climate in which they can thrive and produce. Which means that as leaders, we need to invest in both finding the best people, and in creating a positive and productive work environment. Finding the top people means using best practices to recruit, interview and onboard employees. Creating a positive and productive work environment means giving people meaningful and inspiring work; being a role model for open and honest communication and change leadership; and allowing for autonomy and trust in decision-making. As a leader, do you have both your seeds and your climate covered?
Unfortunately, in my leadership development practice, I have observed many situations where a great deal of effort is made to obtain high-quality employees, only to lose them because the work environment is toxic. And then the management of the company laments that they can’t seem to keep their good people. If your department or organization turnover is high, then it is worth your while to objectively assess whether a poor working climate is the source of your problem.
I’d love to hear about your experiences, either where you work, or what you’ve observed in other organizations you are connected to. Best seeds and the right climate? What happens when you’re missing one, or both, of them? Please comment below.