Turning the Earth of Executive Leadership


Turning the Earth of Executive Leadership

Denver, Colorado weather can be crazy, especially in the winter. On Monday it snowed 9” and by Wednesday, it was in the 50s and sunny. As the lunch hour approached, I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood and to refresh my mind from a great meeting with a VIM Executive Coaching client. Our offices are located in a beautiful Victorian mansion and other homes on the block still retain their 1880s charm.

Much to my surprise, a neighbor was out in the bright sunshine turning over the garden in his side yard. There were a few bags of compost next to him, and I assumed he was in the process of adding it into the soil. 

I asked him what he was growing! He laughed and said, “Well, not much yet, but as I turn over the ground, I begin to think about all of this year’s possibilities.”

The Planting Season
As I walked away, I realized that without defining it in terms of executive leadership, the gardener had landed upon an important point that every executive leader or entrepreneur should well understand.

The workplace, however you define your company, association or organization, should always be a place of fertile ideas. As such, turning over the earth in a symbolic sense and adding compost, or the allowance of many points of view, opinions, styles and opportunities, is important for the cultivation of a healthy environment.

I don’t claim to know as much about planting and growing things as my office neighbor, but without specifically expressing it to me on my walk, the gardener well understands that turning over the soil, aerating it, mixing in nutrients and then planning what direction may be taken in the future, is precisely what we must all do in our lives. If we don’t turn the ground, as it were, we become “packed down,” stolid and non-supportive of growth.

Moving it over from gardening to leadership, if as a leader, you become indifferent to new ideas, close-minded, develop built in biases and are closed off to allowing others to express themselves, “the ground of cultivating new growth” loses much of its fertility.

In an organization where the exploration of new ideas, or the reaction of saying “no” to any new ideas or different approaches or accepting those individuals into an organization who are unlike the members of the current team (whatever that may be), we lose flexibility, dynamism and certainly, creativity.

The antidote to reaction, the key to being more responsive and open to new possibilities is mindfulness. In being mindful, we are being authentic and open to possibilities we may not have seen before.

When my neighbor was turning over the soil of his modest garden, he was doing much more than playing with a muddy pitchfork. He was thinking about gardening catalogs, the huge variety of seeds that might grow in our Denver climate, and how he might arrange the rows and a hundred other variables. 

Isn’t that what we should also be doing in our organizations? If, year after year, we are essentially going about our sales, marketing, research and development, financial and production plans in pretty much the same manner, how can we hope to succeed year after year?

By being mindful to numerous possibilities, we lose the constraints of reaction and view life instead as being more responsive to all sorts of opportunities. My gardening neighbor may  not have been thinking, specifically, about mindfulness, but no doubt he realized that perhaps a certain plant might not have done so well the year before, or that its yield was low or that the sunlight was too much or too little and in being mindful, he might have been open to new ideas.

Being mindful works both in our personal and corporate “gardens,” when we allow authenticity in to our mindsets, it is amazing what will bloom.

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