January 23, 2017

Manage outcomes more than people

By Jacki Hart CLP
Prosperity Partners program manager

This past winter was one of the most inspiring professional development seasons I can remember in a long time — complete with fantastic symposiums, dynamic speakers, trendy and new winter workshop topics, engaging chapter meetings, a vibrant and growing Peer to Peer Network and the LMN/LO Leaders Summit. And last month, Canada Blooms inspired the gardening public with the beauty of what our industry can create using our professionalism and panache. When one of our American peers exclaimed to me this past winter, “Y’all aren’t an association, y’all are a landscape nation,” I believe he was right.

At the helm of that nation, executive director, Tony DiGiovanni is one of the best relationship-builders I’ve ever met. I wonder at times where we would be today without his efforts. We also have a great provincial board that operates with successful processes and guidance to keep our association moving forward and chapter boards with engaged, professional volunteers who spend countless hours making a difference in their communities for the mutual benefit of all. Last, but not least, we have an incredibly talented staff at LO — each with their own areas of expertise and the autonomy to be creative and bring themselves fully to their role — to support you and your business.

The driving force behind the successful team at LO is leadership. Tony has a leadership style (admittedly at times, to a fault), where he allows his team to have autonomy, flexible hours, direct the priorities of their daily tasks, and at times (especially when they can be more productive and undistracted) to work from home. It is, for the most part, a very well-oiled machine. If I ask Tony about a specific detail on an event, initiative or promotion, he typically directs me to the staff member to whom he has delegated the lead role. He doesn’t micromanage people, he manages the outcomes of their work.

When I look back on the hundreds of conversations and meetings I’ve had with members this past winter, there’s a common theme: the challenges they’re finding with managing people, improving communication and becoming better leaders. The challenge of managing people is felt industry-wide, regardless of sector or chapter. It’s with respect for the style in which the LO staff work together that I’m hoping to inspire each of you to engage, enable, entrust and inspire your team to soar this year like never before.

Reset your management style
Here’s a glimpse into the management style of our executive director at LO: Hire people who have the right personality, energy, enthusiasm, and the ability to self-direct. Give them clear accountabilities (i.e. job description), ensure they understand what it will look like when they are doing a good job, and get out of their way. I’m impressed every time I speak to one of our staff at LO — they are focused, capable, collaborative, positive, and love what they do. They are engaged with minimal supervision and without being micro-managed.

The biggest gap I see between the majority of entrepreneurs default management style, and building effective Gen Y or Millennial teams (the under 35s) is micromanagement.

Here’s my theory: entrepreneurs are wired to be perfectionists, who pay close attention to detail. Most owners are compelled (more by necessity than by choice) to babysit or micromanage. This often happens because they haven’t communicated clear expectations, company culture, or processes. Micromanaging can eventually lead to tension and conflict. Tempers can flare, blame or self doubt runs rampant, people leave, and the cycle continues. Business owners are then left continuing to reaffirm for themselves that they can’t find good people, and that managing staff will always be a struggle. Sound familiar?

There seems to be a perpetual search for ‘right-fit’ team players. I’m going to suggest that ‘wrong-fit’ people could possibly be ‘right-fit’ if they understood very clearly what the company culture is, what the code of attitude is, and specifically what their contribution is to the whole team. In my experience, working with hundreds of business owners, the root of the problem is the same: without a clearly defined and communicated culture, strategy, targets/goals and boundaries, your company could well be akin to the Wild West. In the Wild West scenario, employees know when to run and when to duck. There’s also little trust, safety or predictability and the boss has to play Sheriff and constantly be on the look-out for signs of unrest and non-compliance of the law. Sooner or later, most choose to get the “heck out of Dodge.”

The leadership style at LO is the way of the future for entrepreneurs. This is the ONLY way to fully engage and retain the under 35 crowd on your team — your next generation of creativity, management and success. This is the age of individual contribution to the big picture, an era

when everyone on your team needs to know what it will look like, sound like and feel like when they are performing at their optimum.

So, while it might be too late for this year to make sweeping attitude shifts, I invite you for this season to test these waters and observe. If you’re an owner, try it with one crew, one person, one supervisor. Whatever you’re comfortable with. If you’re a team member reading this, try it with each other. Go to the boss asking for clarification so that you can prove you’re going to soar in the role for which you’ve been hired. Eliminate the boss’ belief that he/she needs to micromanage you. It’s a two way street.

I invite you all to step into collaborating with one another at work, to create improved leadership and trust in your midst. Make a collective effort to align your efforts, empower each other, create new trust, achieve strategic goals and sustain improvements. I believe we collectively have more of a ‘right fit’ leadership shortage in this industry, than a shortage of good people with potential.

I hope all of you have a great start to your busiest season and continue to improve one thing at a time – to keep moving forward on your journey to prosperity.