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Are you good with plants?

Do they tend to thrive in your home, or your garden? Or are they more of an afterthought?

(oh look, it’s withering…I should really water that…tomorrow…)

Every spring, I head out to the garden centre and fill a cart with flowers. It’s like a spring tradition that marks the milestone of having survived winter. But truthfully…I don’t have much of a green thumb. I’ve never really taken the time to learn about what kinds of plants will grow best in what conditions. So, every year I arrive at the garden centre with basically one yardstick for choosing my plants: is it colourful? If it catches my eye, it goes on the cart.

And every year, my ignorance costs a few plants their lives. The ones that survive, often don’t reach their potential. They leave the garden store all bright and colourful, and three weeks later they are fighting away with too much sun or too much shade or the wrong kind of soil.

But you know what’s interesting about this? I always expect those plants to thrive.

I always expect to see their best. Even though I have a track record of an underperforming garden, I always expect those flowers to grow and bloom exactly as they did in the garden centre – better, even!

You probably don’t ever look at a plant or a flower and expect it to fail either. We always expect them to thrive and grow. Do you bring the same mindset into your work with your people?

Nurturing others, is a leader’s job. If your Managers don’t believe in nurturing, or only pay it lip service, corporate culture will suffer. Results will suffer. And these days especially, attrition will explode.

In my last few blogs, I’ve been working with this definition of management:

Today, I'm talking all about nurturing (if you want to read about delivering results, you can read that post here).

So what does it mean to nurture? Why do I use this word? Maybe it sounds a bit too intimate to you for the corporate world. Usually, we use the word nurture when we describe our children, or maybe those flowers in my garden. But really, when we commit to bringing another living being into our care, isn’t nurturing exactly what we are committing to do?

When we become responsible for a child, we don’t just think of our role as "provider of food and water..." so they’ll stay alive and get taller. We think of meeting them where they’re at, understanding who they are and what they dream about. We think of coming alongside them and caring for these hopes and dreams throughout their lives. We think of helping them through their disappointments and failures. We think about doing our part to help them become their very best version of themselves.

We think about bringing out the best in them, don’t we?

The best Managers do the same thing for their employees.

The best managers I ever worked for didn’t just give me food and water – tasks, training, money and benefits. They nurtured me. They took good care of me in a way that made it safe for me to grow myself.

If you’ve been hanging out with me for any length of time (as in more than 10 minutes) you’ll have already heard me cite the Gallup research about the Great Global Dream. 80 years ago, when Gallup asked people about “their best life imaginable” we answered with things like family, home ownership or a peaceful existence. Today though, when they ask us about our best life imaginable, what do we say?

To have a great job!

And that means three things: a living wage, the chance to grow, and work that matters.

If your company is going to remain relevant, in the face of this great global dream you must nurture.

You must give people the chance to grow. It’s all well and good to ensure we deliver results...but just like at the end of the day we won’t wish we’d spent more time at the office…we’re also not going to be lying on our death beds relishing in the bottom lines we created or the efficiency we improved.

Now, you know I’m really big on getting results – it’s your oxygen as a manager – you simply must show up and deliver, as a custodian of your organization. But if getting results is what keeps us alive, nurturing others is what brings us to life. Focusing only on getting results is like spending our whole lives just making sure we have enough money to eat and live. It’s not very satisfying.

Nurturing others makes your work more fulfilling AND simultaneously enhances your ability to get results. Over the long term, people who are nurtured in their workplaces are more motivated, more engaged and more productive. They stay in their jobs longer. They give more discretionary effort.

When you nurture others, you invest in your long-term ability to get results, because you invest in relationships. The opposite is also true: when are delivering results, you build stronger relationships. As you nurture others on your way to results, you build relationships, which in turn, helps you sustain and increase results. Results feed your relationships. Your relationships feed your results.

Nurturing others comes down to 3 things people are looking for from us. When the world’s workers ask for “the chance to grow” they are really saying 3 things to us:

Know Me.

Challenge Me.

Support Me.

Think back on your life for a minute and write down the name of someone in your life who really helped you grow. It could be a coach, a music teacher, a boss, a parent or grandparent, an aunt or uncle.

How did they show up in your life?

Did they know you well? Did they see your strengths? Did they stretch you, challenge you, to take some risks, to try new things? Did they support you in everything, even if things didn’t work out?

Chances are, if you are looking back on a stretch of time when you grew exponentially, you had someone in your life who knew you, who challenged you, and who supported you. They were personally committed to your success.

Just knowing your people isn’t enough. Neither is it enough to only challenge them or only support them (it's really hard to support them if you don't know them and challenge them...). As leaders, our people need all three pieces of the nurturing equation if our people are truly going to experience “the chance to grow.”

Your people are counting on you. A withering garden is one thing…but a withering life?

Not on my watch.

What about you? Will you nurture a key relationship today?


The Skillful Manager Program develops exceptional Managers: Managers who Get Results. Managers who Nurture Others. Managers who Build your Legacy. You can learn more about our training programs here.

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