Bear with me on this analogy for managing employees. You may want to argue with it or say you would do it a different way. But as is the case with accountability, you have to change your thinking to adopt an accountability mindset.

Grow Weeds!

Believe it or not, a busy manager like you who wants to add a bit of outdoor greenery to a drab office might be better off carting a weed to work. Weeds, after all, flourish even if you forget to water them, or even if you can’t find a sunny spot near a window to leave them to do their growing. Unlike orchids, they’re not picky about where they spend their time and don’t need a lot of your attention which really belongs elsewhere, anyway – to thrive.

A good second choice is the daisy, which will grow nearly as hardily as a weed with a minimal amount of fuss on your part.

What does this have to do with managing employees?

Think of your employees as orchids, daisies, and weeds. Think of yourself as the gardener whose job it is to nurture them to full bloom.

If you could choose the employees you’d most like to work with every day, would you select:

  • Orchid employees, who need you to stick close enough to ensure they get just the right amount of – but not too much – sunlight, water, and humidity (read that; directions, feedback, and praise), or else they’ll wither up and die?
  • Daisy employees, who can yield voluminous blooms (excellent work) in a wide range of temperatures (situations), but still need you to check in every now and then to make sure they are getting adequate water, sunlight, and circulation (coaching, feedback, and opportunity)?
  • Or weed employees, who can fend for themselves in almost any situation leaving you plenty of time to tend the needier plants in the garden?

I am inviting you to work with the analogy of weed, daisy, orchid.

Try to equate an indestructible weed with a high-performing employee – someone who doesn’t let anything stop him or her from succeeding. Compare a maintenance-hungry orchid with a low performer – someone who takes so much of your time to keep on track that you have to wonder if it’s worth the effort.

Using the metaphor in this way will help you understand employees, which is the first step in knowing how to allocate your time and involvement with them.

Treating everyone the same is not the same as being fair.

The first step in knowing how to allocate your time and involvement with your employees is important because, unfortunately, most workplace “gardens” don’t begin with a crop of ready-to-grow, impossible-to-stop, weed-like employees. Your workplace employs a diverse mixture of orchids, daisies, and weeds. As their manager, you need to identify their differences (and their differences can be vast!) and decide who needs what from you.

Chances are, you’re already devoting most of your time to the orchids:

  • New employees.
  • Problem or apathetic employees.
  • Employees whose skills don’t quite match the job they’re expected to perform.
  • Employees who grew like weeds in their last positions so you promoted them to the next level…and they’re taking a while to get back up to “weed speed.”

Daisies, on the other hand, can pretty much figure things out on their own. But daisies still need some coaching from you and their more experienced peers. Daisies are:

  • Competent employees who struggle with just a couple of their tasks.
  • Employees whose lack of confidence in themselves might be keeping them fro growing like high-performing weeds.
  • Otherwise exceptional workers whose personal or health problems have caused them to slip a bit on the job.
  • “Weeds” who are experiencing a temporary setback in one or two problem areas or who have taken on new responsibilities and need some time to adjust before they’re performing at their peak again.

It can seem that weeds don’t need you to manage them at all. Weeds are:

  • Employees who take the next logical step without waiting for the boss to suggest it.
  • Employees who get their word done well and on time.
  • High performers who are eager for more responsibility and greater challenges.

The reality for you, the manger of a staff of employees whose skills are diverse, is that each one – orchid, daisy, and weed – needs you on some level. Recognizing which level of your time and involvement is necessary to help your employees bloom where they are planted – no matter what kind of flower they resemble – will help you nurture each one appropriately and effectively.

The success of your orchids, daisies and weeds, of course, is part of your success and your organization’s success. The gardener will be judged by the health and beauty of the garden.

Read, learn, and apply these lessons. Then watch your garden grow!

If you would like guidelines for categorizing your employees, hints for determining how much time and involvement you should give each type of employee, tips for effectively coaching each type of “plant” in your garden, insight that will help you engage as a mentor, coach, or manager or food for thought about what kind of employ you are and suggestions for those times you might need some help finding your way back to the weed garden, THIS will help. Then watch your garden grow!

Share this post. Let's start an accountability movement!