As regular readers of the blog know, I am a huge fan of metaphors. My most well-known metaphor of course is the title of one of my most requested keynotes (and my first book) – Why Does the Lobster Cast Off Its Shell? So it’s not a surprise that I am absolutely delighted that our guest blogger today is using a metaphor to illustrate one of the most important skills in leadership – adaptability when it comes to developing people. Jim Clemmer is the founder of the Clemmer Group, a firm that focuses on making people better for organizations and organizations better for people. He is also the author of seven international bestselling books and I’m proud to call him my professional colleague. His post today uses the metaphor of perennial gardening to offer an important lesson in leadership.
Leaders Grow People To Their Full Potential
I enjoy perennial gardening in our yard. As I have tended our gardens over the years, I am continually struck by how some plants will do well in some locations and terribly elsewhere in the garden. Each spring and fall I move plants around to match their preferences for particular soil, wind, and sun conditions, as well as their proximity to other plants.
At times I have been pleasantly surprised by how some lackluster plants have suddenly thrived in a new location better suited to their needs. Since each perennial has a different bloom time and length, one of the gardening challenges is to keep color spread throughout the garden from early spring to late fall. It’s one reason I never “cheat” by using annuals that bloom all summer long. A constant chore is cutting off old blooms to encourage new ones and pruning plants that are becoming overgrown.
Although people also thrive on individual attention, managers often use a “one size fits all” approach and try to “mass grow” people. Leaders, however, work closely with their team members to customize their growth and development. Like a good gardener, leaders treat each person in their organization as an individual with his or her own unique aspirations, strengths, and characteristics. Leaders then work to put people in the best place for them to thrive and succeed. They mix and match team members to build a well-rounded team that can show its best colors according to the season – or is best suited to the current operating conditions of the organization or the team. Leaders tend to each person on their team and coach them to change habits or prune overgrown methods that may prevent further growth. They are consistently moving team members around to avoid overcrowding and to bring out the best in each person.
Leaders provide a bigger environment by delegating autonomy. Strong leaders are strong coaches. They clarify performance targets, develop skills and abilities, reinforce progress, and build on strengths. Leaders consult, facilitate, counsel, and guide. They also confront when they feel someone is not living up to his or her potential.
Research has now proven the truth of Goethe’s advice, “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of being.”
So what insights do you have to offer when it comes to adaptability in developing people? What has worked for you? What hasn’t? Please share.
To contact Jim, learn more about his keynotes & workshops, leadership team retreats, and access his articles, blog, and newsletters, visit his website at www.ClemmerGroup.com.