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Creating a Hothouse

Realising the full potential of our people is not just a case of trying to “improve” that person’s skills, learning, and behaviour. It is also (even more so) about improving the environment around that person. In this blog, Senior Learning and Development Business Partner at Trade and Investment Queensland, WENDY PALMER likens our workplace to a hothouse that provides everything we need to nurture our “seeds”.

Consider a seed.  Often the smallest of things.  Yet it contains within it all the potential of everything it will ever be.  A peach seed, for example, contains an entire tree, every branch, leaf and piece of fruit it will ever produce.  It is all there, contained in the tiny body of one small seed.

When you take that seed and plant it, you are doing so to activate the potential you know that it holds.  However, if you were to merely toss it on the ground you would not exactly hold out hope it would spring up tall and healthy.  If you dig a hole and put the seed inside, you might believe you have given the seed a greater chance to realise it’s potential, but what if the soil in which you planted it is not the right kind to support the new life?  What if you live in a climate that is not conducive to the survival of that kind of plant?  Are you watering it enough? Too much?  What if pests are present and they attack the struggling seedling?  The potential for productivity is lessened with each opposing factor.

Now, what if you took that seed and you planted it in the confines of a hothouse.  There you could ensure each element needed to allow that seed to realise its full potential could be provided in an optimal way.  You control the soil type, adding the nutrients the seed requires.  You control the sunlight, the temperature, the watering schedule.  It would be protected from pests and you could prune or treat disease.  With each element of the environment carefully controlled in the ways that are supportive of the seed, it is left to do what it is designed to do – grow and produce to its full potential.  And you would have every reason to be confident that it would.

Now, take a human being.  Much like that seed, each and every human contains the potential to be the very best version of themselves.  All the strength, courage, willpower and ability to learn and adapt exists within each person, just w

aiting for the optimum environment to help draw from themselves that potential.

I have worked to develop leaders and organisations for many years and I have long seen the focus of leadership and cultural change developments fall to the idea of shaping people, finding means in which to make people behave (or stop behaving) in certain ways.

However, in the same way, you can’t force a seed to grow or will it to sprout, so too you can’t pressure a human to give you their best.  In fact, the act of pressuring often diminishes your return when it comes to human output.

A seed is designed to grow, to produce, and like any living thing, so too are humans.  And just like the seed, the environments in which humans are placed makes all the difference to their ability to grow and produce in healthy and bountiful ways.

Like a seed needs water, nutrients, sunlight, temperature and pest control, so too humans need elements to be balanced to support them physically, mentally and emotionally to allow true growth.  Things like physical and psychological safety, trust, equity and fairness, challenge and stimulation, autonomy, connection and recognition ensure the human brain recognises and registers the environment as safe.  That sense of safety triggers both the desire and the ability to grow unimpeded.  When these factors positively impact on humans, they process information, communicate, collaborate and produce better and better results as a by-product of the environmental incentives.

Alternatively, in environments where people experience fear, threat, suppression, stress, overwhelm, confusion or mistrust, the ability and even desire to offer the best of themselves is severely impeded.

Consider that all life is dependent on the environment in which it exists.  Some environments support life in positive ways, while others prove detrimental to survival.  We are all products of our environments, and each and every day we use all our internal resources to adapt, survive or thrive within the environments where we are forced to exist.

This is where ‘Creating a Hothouse’ becomes the most effective action any organisation can ever take to ensure their people have all the elements within their environments to become the very best versions of themselves and to offer that in service to the greater organisational goals.

Do you want engaged, motivated and creative people supporting your business, bringing their best selves into your workplace and producing results that create success?  Take a long and critical look at the environments you are asking them to exist in, and whether those environments are causing them to thrive or merely survive.

The future success of workplaces within this great age of information depends on their ability to recognise the destructive elements in their environments, often the legacy of the old ways of working leftover from our industrial ancestry.  In place of these old, worn and ineffective structures, they need to ‘Create a Hothouse’, where positive, human-centric, healthy environments are provided to allow human beings to do exactly what they are made to do – grow and produce to their full potential.

One Response

  1. Great blog with an easy to grasp story for people leaders. Today’s leaders are expected more and more to understand and cultivate the best in the human condition, but we all need to be scientists and explorers in how we work, to make workplaces the best they can be.

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