People are not like plants – how to treat them like people

Plants are not People

I am reminded this time of year of a basic truth in most of us – we like to put our energy into fixing things. I have a vegetable garden, and 5 weeks ago I put seeds into pots and started to grow them indoors. Each morning I look at the progress represented by 22 little pots and only about 5 showing signs of life. Yes, I am not a very good gardener. I only wish the bare pots would tell me what they need.

How does this relate to leadership? Often I go into organizations with the goal of helping a leader look at their team, have a conversation around team potential vs business strategy, help the team members think about their own development needs to meet the strategy, and then leave them with action items/goals to help them successfully hit the targets in the plan. In every team are people that are not growing. Leaders tend to worry about these people and put some direct energy (talking) and lots of indirect energy(worry, frustration) into fixing them.

The traditional solution? Gallup once made the statement “Put most of your energy into your best people”, which also can sound like the GE mantra of ‘cut your bottom 10%”. These statements sell books but implementing is risky and hard for leaders, people, and cultures.

The reality . . . .

Plants are not like people. Plants cannot tell you what they need more of to grow.

People are not plants, they can tell you what they need to be successful if they trust you AND if you ask.

 

The solution . . .

What if in your one on one conversations and performance conversations you asked?  Recently I helped a leader of a small organization implement a performance evaluation that focused on asking – and I call that a performance conversation. He was amazed at what he heard from his people.

People are not like plants, so lets stop treating them like plants . . . . and to some people, stop acting like a plant and blaming the gardener.