All my life, I wanted to have a garden. That was probably because my grandfather had a big garden, plus my great grandfather happened to be a farmer. In fact, I come from a long line of farmers in the Midwest. So needless to say, the desire to grow a garden of my own was in my blood!
But there was a problem with my gardening plan: I lived in a big city, where the neighbors’ houses blocked most of the sunlight. And let’s face it; my yard didn’t exactly have the space to grow much of anything. Honestly, I think I was lucky to grow a few house plants, so gardening was a pipe dream for me. Then I bought the house of my dreams, with plenty of land for gardening, and everything changed! Well, eventually.
Excited to get to work on my garden, I immediately started reading about what to grow in each season, and dutifully scoured the local stores for soil, plants, and gardening tools I’d need to successfully grow something. The plants I put into the soil started looking good…for the first week or two. Then something changed, and all of the sudden my poor plants went downhill and started dying. I was so disappointed. I’d watered the plants and took care of them like the books instructed me to, but they all died. I was at a loss as to what I did wrong, but not about to give up.
Fortunately, my daughter’s boyfriend knew a lot about gardening since his mom owned a big nursery. Right away, he asked me if I had checked the soil. Well, no, I didn’t know that’s something you’re supposed to do, nor did I know what to check for! Taking pity on me, he tested the soil and let me know it didn’t have enough nitrogen. Okay, that seemed like a simple enough fix! He added nitrogen to the soil, and lo and behold, as soon as I started gardening again, everything flourished.
It turned out that one seemingly tiny change made a huge difference. In fact, the area that had once held dying plants suddenly held an amazing bounty. I had so many cucumbers, I had to give them away, not to mention the tomatoes, fresh herbs, watermelon, cantaloupe, etc. It was the garden of my dreams, and I was so excited!
So, why am I telling you this? Well, my experience with gardening got me thinking about how important it is to have a healthy environment when you want to nurture a plant. And it’s not just plants that benefit from a nurturing environment. I’ve found that animals do, too.
For example, we have two border collies. We got one from a breeder and the other from a rescue. The one from a rescue was from a puppy mill that got shut down, and he’s just not the same as our other dog. He’s more fearful, less confident, and jumps at every noise. They’re the same breed, but one just didn’t have as nurturing an environment from birth, and you can tell.
Of course, humans are way more complex organisms, and their needs are much greater than a border collie or a cucumber. But at a fundamental level just like all living organisms, they still need a healthy environment to grow. So, if you want to get the best out of your employees and let them feel good about what they’re doing at work, they need a nurturing environment. Without it, you won’t see the best performance from them.
This means employees need plenty of encouragement, proper training, and a workplace where they feel safe, valued, and important. They need to feel like you respect them as humans and care about their family and entire being. Otherwise, they won’t flourish. Employees can sniff out unauthentic gratuitous behavior, so you must genuinely care.
Some of you hard-core capitalists might think this is a nansy pansy soft skill. And sure, maybe you only want to focus on the bottom line! But even if that’s the case, you’ll still want the best performance from your employees so they’re as productive and profitable as possible, and this will require a nurturing environment. If you don’t provide it, your profits will suffer.
In short, one commonality among all living things is that they need a nurturing environment to grow and thrive, and this applies to the workplace for sure. If you’re expecting peak performance from your employees, you have to make sure they have the best, most supportive environment possible. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just bring some nitrogen to work and sprinkle it around? But it isn’t that easy! Humans are complicated, and as a CEO, it is your job to figure out what your team needs to thrive.