Transforming your organisation into
the place where you long to belong
By Portia Tung
This is where I work
City of London
This is what I do
Nurture and Realise Potential
Classic Corporate Metaphor
Metaphor -> Language -> Behaviour
Nurture -> Opportunity -> Potential Released -> Achievement -> Nurture
“But gardening is for wimps!”
It’s too touchy-feely, soft and fluffy
Social Enterprise + Gardening =
Curious, Playful, Kind,
Courageous and Clever
Take baby steps
Everyone adds value
Practice, practice, practice
Do Enterprise Gardening
I come to you with a seed of an idea that can transform our workplaces into somewhere we belong.SUMMARYEnterprise Gardener:CuriosityPlayfulnessKindnessCourageClevernessEnterprise Gardening Principles:Take baby stepsBelieve everyone can add valueBe patientPractice, practice, practiceBe pragmatic
This is where I work, in the city of London.
This is what I do. Helping people make the most of their potential in organisations large and small.Over the years, I’ve worked in different industries, from the airlines and shipping industries to telecommunications, the financial sector and even biscuit manufacturing.And do you know what I realised? That most organisations have a couple of fundamental things in common.
The first thing that all organisations have in common is that they’re made of people. People who go to work, day in day out.Did you know that we spend around 70% of our waking hours doing work or work-related activities? That’s more time than we’ll ever spend with our loved ones in our lifetime. If you find this statistic the slightest bit disturbing, raise your hand.So it’s no wonder then that many of us long to invest this time in doing something worthwhile, doing meaningful work in the company of people we enjoy or at least can learn from. Doing work that enables us to give something back.
The second thing that many organisations have in common is the choice of metaphor they choose to structure their organisations and motivating their people. That metaphor is war.So it should come as no surprise when people spend their days in war rooms plotting to win battles and fighting the the good fight that we end up with a toxic culture of blame, bullying and dog-eat-dog.What’s more, a war metaphor can demotivate and, at worst, dehumanise people through the work they do.We know that using the war metaphor wouldn’t bring out the best in children, so why do we think it would work any differently on adults?
Dave Logan, co-author of Tribal Leadership, describes culture as “a self-correcting system of language”.If this is true, and I believe he is, then what is it that shapes the language we use?Answer: The metaphors we choose.
A metaphor gives shape to our thoughts which is expressed through language.Language, in turn, influences our behaviour, the way we act.Incidentally, these are the 3 elements we would need if we were to grow organisational culture in a petri dish.As we can see, the metaphors we choose breathes life into the culture we create.So what is it that motivates and inspires people to do their best work?
Nurture.Gardening shows us how nurture creates opportunity enabling potential to be released, resulting in achievement through the value we deliver.What’s more, it’s a reinforcing feedback loop because the more we nurture, the better the results we get, the more we want to nurture!If we are to make the most of our people and our businesses in a time of peace, it’s important we keep calm and do gardening instead of pick fights.
When I compare work with gardening, some people say, “We should leave such soft and fluffy talk to Human Resources, you know.”While others tell me, “Isn’t gardening too girlie a metaphor to use when describing organisations?”Now I know it’s unlikely I’ll convince everyone here of the importance of adopting a more gentle and nurturing kind of metaphor at work such as gardening.To the sceptics out there, I suggest they spend 30 minutes weeding or, if they’re feeling really macho, attempt to shift 40 tonnes of soil from their driveway to their garden and then tell me that they still think gardening is for wimps.Better still, I encourage everyone to grow a plant from seed to flower and watch it blossom to experience how rewarding and humbling gardening truly feels.
But the gardening metaphor alone is not enough to transform an organisation. We need to take into account the 3 key drivers of a business: value, cost and Return-on-Investment.Just as some people think gardening is for wimps, others view business as a dirty word. But it doesn’t have to be. Take Social Enterprise for example.Social Enterprises, in principle, seek to make a positive impact on the world around us AND can be profitable. They’re a good example of how good ideas sell and make enough money to keep a business going and growing.My seed of an idea is called “Enterprise Gardening”, a concept that combines the philosophy and principles of Social Enterprise with the gardening metaphor as a way of helping organisations large and small flourish.
Once, when I was describing the concept of Enterprise Gardening to a friend, she jokingly said, “Will Alice and the Mad Hatter be there with tea and crumpets?”She’s wasn’t far off the mark. The fact is Alice and the Enterprise Gardener have 5 qualities in common.
Top of the list is CURIOSITY. When we are curious, we look at the world with new eyes.Instead of being over judgmental, we keep an open mind and try to understand.
The second is PLAYFULNESS. When we play, we let go of our fears and sense self-consciousness. Thisleads to learning important lessons and making discoveries we had previously thought impossible.
Then there is KINDNESS. When we are kind, we give true gifts, expecting nothing in return, in the hope that our gifts will make a difference to the greater whole.Just think, if each of us gave one gift a day at work, it wouldn’t take long to transform our organisation from one built on human transactions into one based on a self-sustaining gift economy.
Another quality that Alice and the Enterprise Gardener have in common is COURAGE. Courage is only possible in the face of challenge and perceived danger.Courage calls on us to dig deep and figure out ways to help us achieve our goals for the greater good.
And of course there’s CLEVERNESS. We need to be clever in order to leverage all our skills, knowledge and experience to bring out the best in people.It takes a lot of cleverness indeed to create a tipping point in cultural change.
So how do we get started with Enterprise Gardening?
We begin with BABY STEPS. Why? Because baby steps can lead to big changes.Identify your goal and take one baby step at a time to bring about enduring change.
BELIEVE THAT EVERYONE CAN ADD VALUE.According to celebrity gardener, Alan Titchmarsh, “A weed is a flower in the wrong place.” And I’m inclined to agree with him.After all, everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Including slugs!Enterprise Gardening is about recognising and releasing human potential.
We have to BE PATIENT. How long does it take for a seed to grow into a tree? Depending on your perspective, quite a while or not long at all.People are individuals with different rates of growth.Fulfil the basic needs for people to grow and you’ll take them a step closer towards achievement and self-actualisation.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. It takes time to improve. As my father says, “A garden’s for life and it needs you.”Get into the habit of lifelong learning with personal improvement.After all,change begins with yourself.
Last but not least, BE PRAGMATIC. Even if you manage to plant everything, the plants need time to bed down.And you never know what kind of visitors you’ll attract, so learn to expect the unexpected.Inspect and adapt to maximise the value your garden provides.
Truth be told, Enterprise Gardening won’t be easy, but one thing’s for sure. You’ll have many curious adventures just like Alice did in Wonderland.
Always remember the power of Nature and Nurture. As Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”Make a difference by growing the place where you long to belong.And if you keep growing you can help the rest of your organisation grow with you.Happy Enterprise Gardening!