I once heard a joke suggesting that people who garden should add “plant manager” to their resumes. As a gardener and an executive manager for much of my career, that little quip tickled me, because of the inherent truth it contains. In fact, many of the skills needed to grow a really great garden are the very same talents needed to run a business operation successfully.

Neither a garden nor a business runs well without thoughtful design and a timeline for achieving desired goals. In business, that is called a multi-year business plan. In the garden, it is a design layout and planting schedule. Whether a person is supervising people or plants they must spend ample time training them to grow and be productive in their positions. Business managers organize training classes, mentoring and coaching for their staff. Gardeners enhance soils and provide trellises and shade screens to promote active growth for their plants.

Patience is always a tremendous virtue. Gardeners need patience when waiting for a perennial plant to re-emerge from the warming soil, or for the first sign of a tiny green tomato forming in the center of a yellow blossom. Business managers must have patience while their team learns to trust and support each other to reach peak work efficiency. When things work smoothly, vendors deliver raw materials to businesses just before they are needed so finished product can ship out on time, while in the garden, Mother Nature provides just the right amount of sunlight and summer showers, for plants to produce plentiful crops of flowers, fruits and vegetables.

But sometimes “bugs” can thwart best intentions in both settings. Gardeners, quite literally, always have to watch for pesky critters like aphids, Japanese beetles and tomato hornworms. Managers must troubleshoot bugs of the figurative sort such as stalled machinery, computer glitches and power outages. Both gardeners and business managers are well served by developing a broad array of troubleshooting skills in their toolkits, should disaster strike unexpectedly.

Both people and plants love to get compliments for their hard work. Words of praise provide motivation and pride and inspire both people and plants to give more of themselves to their tasks. Business managers give feedback and encouragement through performance reviews, pay increases and promotions. Of course, garden plants don’t need pay raises or promotions, but do they ever crave heartfelt appreciation. The very best gardeners will confess to having daily conversations of gratitude with their garden species.

The best advice I can offer, having worn both the muck shoes of a gardener and the high heels of a business manager, is always bestow praise generously in both settings. It doesn’t cost you anything, but I guarantee your tomatoes will be juicier, your cucumbers will be crisper and your dahlia blossoms will be huge.

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