As we approach fall, and my consulting work ramps up and my daily gardening activities wind down for the season, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned from starting a (small) garden this year for the first time. It’s been a blessing and a joy, and also patience has been the hardest lesson to learn, with the absolute truth of inevitable failures (in the form of dead plants) not far behind. But as I took a break from client work to defog my head by weeding and tending plants for a few minutes, I thought more about the metaphor of gardening for the development of people in organizations. Here are a few parallels:
- We all need the right conditions to thrive, and those are different for each of us. Some plants need more space than others (otherwise they end up with powdery mildew, see picture); others want more close coaching or tending. Some plants need warmer climates, and we also need the right healthy soil – or environment - to fulfill our needs.
- We ALL need ongoing care and tending! I have yet to find a plant that I can truly just drop it anywhere and it will grow and prosper (though I welcome recommendations 😊). My cosmos bloom a lot longer when I remove the tops of the flowers that have dropped their petals; and personally, I do a lot better if I mix my consulting work with regular time in relationship with others, balance in my life, and space for me.
- We go through cycles of growth and dormancy. This brings me back to the lesson of patience. I know I can’t grow many flowers in winter, but it is SO hard not to start those little baby seedlings so that there is green when I most want it in mid-winter! Similarly, I had an amazing year of growth and reflection and learning last year, and while that learning will continue, focusing on stability so that I can manage other big things is important. None of us can be challenged in all areas of our life all the time. And in fact, we can plan for these cycles and lean into them.
- Diversity helps us to thrive. I’ve learned about “companion planting”, where growing one type of plant next to another keeps away pests or attracts pollinators or otherwise helps both to thrive. It reminds me that we all are intended to live in diverse ecosystems, and that is true at every level of team, organization and society.
- SO much can pop up to try to drag down our vision, and it's okay to adapt. Sometimes the smallest things feel like the biggest problems, and sometimes the challenges are just enormous. Sometimes you can address powdery mildew with a milk spray, and sometimes you need to adapt your vision of your garden to no longer contain that peony plant but instead realize that maybe a daylily might do much better there. Sometimes you tear out bindweed again and again and again, and sometimes you realize that it’s time to be okay with that morning glory vine taking over that area of the garden and enjoy the beauty it brings. It’s okay if it feels too much at times, and its okay to change your expectations of what a beautiful future looks like, as long as we keep holding on to towards the hope and possibility of what you’re working towards.
And it’s important to remember, when we bloom and thrive, we often spread our seeds to the wind, impacting more than we will ever know in ways we will never see ourselves.
With love for your own vision and gardens (real and metaphorical),