Guerrilla Gardening for Managers

Categories: Winnthinks

Did you know that 1st May is International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day? It’s ‘an annual event of optimistic seed growing’. If you want to find out more, go take a look at – or better still, grab that trowel and that seed packet, and get planting!

I love the concept of Guerrilla Gardening. There’s something delicious about the idea of planting secretly in order to beautify an ugly and neglected place, or to provide fresh, free food for concrete-bound city dwellers. It got me wondering… is there a human equivalent?

Yes, of course there is. It’s every time a stranger acts kindly. It’s when a friend has the sensitivity to pay you a compliment when you’re feeling grumpy and having a bad hair day. All those tiny, precious positive strokes serve to reinforce our sense of belonging, of being noticed and appreciated. They help us to blossom and flourish. But without those things people, like places, can become barren, empty and isolated, an unappealing patch of ground where nobody wants to go any more. And it’s a self-perpetuating cycle.

It happens in organisations too, so without sounding too much like a New-Age Hippy, how can even hard-nosed managers use the principle of Guerrilla Gardening to help nurture their people in the workplace? Here are some suggestions:

  • Take a leaf out of Catherine the Great’s management manual: “Praise loudly, blame softly”. If someone’s done a great job, thank them (of course you will, that’s basic good manners), but also make sure other people know – particularly those further up the hierarchy. Great managers, whilst progressing their own careers, also actively support other people with theirs.
  • Give people opportunities to shine and really show what they can do. If they’re good at something, give them some autonomy. When people are trusted and you stop micro-managing their every move, they not only grow their confidence, they grow their CV too. And you get a proven safe pair of hands to help lighten your load into the bargain.
  • Encourage staff to take a few risks from time to time. Give them permission to step out of their comfort zone and try something new. They’ll need your support, of course, but their perception of what they’re capable of will be subtly altered forever. Not only does risk-taking open up new horizons, it also actively grows a person’s resilience and their ability to deal with change.
  • Ask them how they’re doing. Great managers indulge in ‘spot coaching’ throughout the day; when they’re walking down the corridor, fetching a mug of tea, walking out to the car park. Be interested in your people, find out what makes them tick, listen to their suggestions, deal with their niggles, ask their opinion. It’s amazing what you learn.

Guerrilla Gardening for Managers. It’s a metaphor that just keeps on giving, isn’t it. What else would you add to this list?

One comment

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article with your unique take on the correlation between guerrilla gardening & the role of an organisations manager. Hopefully it will reach those who need to take heed and put into action!

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