November 4, 2020
Joe SalemiJack Welch, an American business executive, chemical engineer and writer, is credited as saying, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” Welch was Chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001. When he retired from GE, he received a severance payment of $417 million — the largest such payment in business history.

So why not take Welchs’ advice and help your people grow by giving them the vision, respect, and autonomy they need to contribute at their full potential?

There’s no doubt in my mind that putting priority, focus, care, effort, and attention to helping your people grow will exponentially boost your business’ value over time. I’ve heard many of the great landscape business coaches say we aren’t in landscape business, but rather the people business. This might sound like it could be applied to any industry (really it could for most), but here’s the thing: the landscape business has a people deficit. Since I began my career, the strategic focus for landscape and nursery trade associations across North America has always been about solving the people deficit. So, being a people business is especially true in our profession.

I’ll add that applying a people-first layer to leading your organization won’t solve this industry challenge, but it will be the ace in your back pocket when it comes to keeping great people you’ve worked hard to attract and retain over the years. The first step in developing a people-first culture (and it’s something you can start doing today) is to be approachable. The people in your company need to know they can come to you with ideas or concerns, and that you’re willing to listen and engage.

Great teams start with trust and one way to develop trust is when people feel they can speak up and engage in healthy discussion — even with the leader.

Being approachable means that you’re asking for input (and listening to what they have to say). While you may not be able to put all of their suggestions into action, you are fostering an environment to share in the development and contribute to the business. Take action where and when you can. If you can’t act on a suggestion, explain why. It goes a long way to making people feel valued and respected.

Great teams start with trust and one way to develop trust is when people feel they can speak up and engage in healthy discussion – even with the leader. When someone brings a concern to you or gives constructive feedback, it’s important not to instantly justify or defend. Rather, listen. Empathize with their situation and ask yourself what their real concern or criticism is. By listening, you just might surface an issue that you weren’t aware of.

The past eight months have been a real challenge for everyone. Now, more than ever, is the time to show your people how much you truly care about their growth and development. Not only will your people go the extra mile simply because they want to contribute to an organization that cares about them, it could very well be the difference between keeping your rockstars engaged or losing them to your competition.
Joe Salemi
LO Deputy Executive Director and Director of Operations