Like most men I know I am not really into taking care of plants. However, in my office I had a plant and for a long time it thrived and gave me a lot of visual pleasure. Over time I noticed that the leaves on the plant had begun to turn brown. I continued to water it, but to no avail. The leaves had a burned look and then began to wilt. I thought about whether I should throw the plant away.
One day a woman with a floral printed smock and a floppy straw hat came by my office bringing new plants. I asked her what she was doing and she said her company provides plants for offices and maintains them on a weekly basis. I asked her if she could take a look at my plant and let me know whether it could be saved. She took one look at it and told me the plant had outgrown the planter. All that needed to be done was to place it in a larger planter with new soil and it would recover. At my request, she placed it in a new planter with new soil and shortly thereafter the plant gradually showed signs of new life. Over the next few weeks the plant was back to full health.
As a general manager I was responsible for leading a team of over 70 salaried staff. Part of my responsibilities was to work with the various supervisors in evaluating the individual performance of their team members. During one such evaluation we were discussing one of our once-excellent employee’s work. We noticed that over the previous few months his performance had not been up to standard. In spite of our best efforts we could not turn him around and as such we had to make a decision on whether we would need to separate him from the company.
I kid you not, while sitting in my office one day I glanced at that plant that had once been dying and was now completely restored and thought of that employee. We brought him into my office and had a different conversation this time. The result was we determined that he had outgrown his position. He felt stagnated and unchallenged. It so happened that we had a manager’s position opening up that we believed he would be a great fit for, and would do an excellent job. We promoted him and sure enough he became one of our best managers.
When I look back, I think of what a shame it would have been to throw both the plant and employee out simply because I did not understand the importance of environment. As leaders it is our responsibility to mentor, coach, and challenge our employees to grow and play bigger within our organizations. When we do, we all win and we have the pleasure of watching the growth of our potential replacement.
Have you ever been in a pot too small or given someone an opportunity to grow, and how did it turn out?