Fruits of Our Labor

Fruits of Our Labor

For the second consecutive year, How to Create Your Own Landscape University went smoothly. Hosted on the beautiful Ole Miss Campus in Oxford, Mississippi, there were many details to manage and execute; such as scheduling the Double Decker bus ride, food orders, planning the campus-wide tour and gathering all the needed intense learning and training tools in one place. The entire program flowed smoothly, people were engaged and our staff were able to show off the fruit of their labor on a beautiful campus tour. I was reminded how far our team has come in the last four years. One conference attendee stopped to tell me, “Your landscape guys walked up to me outside, said hello, shook my hand, and started asking me questions about my campus. That was impressive.” I was thrilled to get such a glowing report. That is real change and personal empowerment. I watched in excitement as our front line team members taught other guest leaders, attending the conference, how to walk through practical steps to growing and training their teams. Four years ago we could have never done this.

In 2011, I felt our campus workload was being pushed to its maximum limits. That combined with staff drama and the all-too- familiar rumor mill, had stretched our physical, mental and emotional limits. At that time, we decided to try and change our approach to how our staff viewed and approached their work. The change began with me – embracing my role as the department leader – to be pro-active and stop being passive in the area of training and development. Stop waiting for someone else “go” and just GO! Stop pointing at everyone else and do what you can do.

As we started to focus on our new approach to training, we realized we also needed to focus on development as well. Today, to say our department has seen the real benefits of effective, planned and executed personnel training and development, would be an understatement. We started by redefining our landscape culture as one in which everyone is a leader, no matter what his or her title says. There is one person each of us leads every day – ourselves. Growing this culture of leadership and responsibility has empowered positive change in our team members, in work outcomes and hearts/minds. The growth has been more than I have ever expected.

The campus at Ole Miss is blessed with natural rolling hills and trees that take root and grow healthy and strong. For years, the true beauty was hidden by the lack of caring and vision for what this potential diamond in the rough campus could be. This was also true about our landscape team. Their real strength, talent and potential of the Landscape Team had never been nurtured, tended and grown. The redirection of our focus on developing our “Weeders to Leaders” to bring out the beauty of our campus has paid off bounteously. Somehow, we seem to be running on or ahead of schedule with our 1000 acre campus work load. People are busy working, but they are having fun. Nearly all have embraced our new style of training and development. My hope is to see others benefit from what may be a new way of thinking. It takes some time, some planning and a whole lot of love and courage.

Today, I enjoy the investment we chose to make four years ago. I have more mature leaders, less stress and fewer drama headaches than I have experienced before. Landscape University has helped me be a better person all while growing better landscapes and leaders. A good investment reaps a good return. One of our staff members commented on how he had heard one participate continually making excuses as to why this program will not work at their location. I thought he nailed it when he said, “People look for reasons not to change even when change can be good.” I guess I got to the crisis point in 2011 that something needed to change for me and our team. I’m glad it did. Through this we launched Landscape University in 2013. Landscape University has moved us from a really good team to a great team and this past week the fruits of our labor were realized.

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