Why Patience Is So Important For Leaders

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Bigstock Images

I chuckled to myself as I watched the individuals buying plants last weekend. With 3-4 days of temperatures above 65 degrees around the end of March, it seemed everyone was now ready to break out of the winter doldrums and get started with their vegetable gardens and brightening their flower beds with fresh annuals. The reason I was laughing (to myself) was that I knew they would be buying them again very soon.

Sure enough, two days later our area experienced two nights of freezing temperatures and another one with a heavy frost. Many of those previously green and vibrant plants are now future organic matter to feed the plants that will replace them.

Is the problem climate change? No. Our area of North Carolina has a danger of frost/freezing temperatures until at least April 15. Adding to the futility of planting so early is the fact that most vegetable and flowering plants won’t grow until the soil reaches a temperature of at least 60 degrees. As a gardener you’re going to put in way too much time forcing a change that won’t work out very well in the end. A better approach is to invest time making a more favorable soil environment, learning how to best grow the plants you will choose, and/or choosing plants that can withstand cooler temperatures.

In a similar way, leaders can experience less than optimum outcomes because they “plant too early.” Because of pressure from others or their lack of awareness of the prevailing culture, they try and make things happen too quickly. And unlike gardening, you can’t easily go back and “do things over” when there’s been a loss of trust and confidence in your ability to lead.

If your impatience is negatively impacting your ability to lead or manage your team, especially in times of change, remember these three gardening principles to get more of the results you really want:

Know what’s going on below the surface.
So much of successful plant growth depends on what is going on in the soil-not on the surface. As a leader, it’s critical that you know your team on a deeper level. That starts with asking better questions and listening more deeply. What makes them tick? And what ticks them off?

Look ahead to see what’s coming.
If the people purchasing some of the more tender plants had simply looked three days ahead in the weather forecast, they would have seen the need to wait to purchase them. Why is now the best time to change? What are some potential dangers in asking your people to change now versus in the future? Is there a better window of opportunity when things are likely to “grow” more smoothly? And if you won’t give them any option but to change now, are you prepared to give them the additional resources they need to work differently and not be as likely to fail in this “harsh” environment?

Create the best environment for future growth.
Researching best growth practices, doing a soil test, or adding organic matter to the soil are just three ways gardeners can ensure the accelerated growth of their plants once it is the appropriate time to get them in the ground. Likewise, there are several things you can do to prepare your team members to change more successfully in the future. Building strong relationships, improving your own communication skills, and casting a clear and consistent vision are three that quickly come to mind. You might even begin mapping out how best to approach a future change.

John W. “Jack” Bergman, a retired US Marine Corps Lieutenant General and member of the US House of Representatives, is quoted as saying, “There’s never enough time to do it right, but there’s always enough time to do it over.” Think of how much more effective you could be as a leader if you practiced a little more patience.

Jones LoflinComment