Sonny looked through the paperwork and sighed. “Oh dear!” he said. “That is a lot to worry about but don’t bluster, Mrs Fluster, our transformation and integration teams have everything in hand.”

“I’m afraid not,” said Mrs Fluster. “Our teams are really worried and confused. No-one can agree a way forward that will cost less money. Everyone wants to help and be brave, but they’re scared of taking risks.”

“Now, Mrs Fluster, calm yourself,” said Sonny. “We’re not on our own and there is a way to make our community grow and flourish. Yes. Yes, indeed. The solution lies in gardening!”

“Gardening?” said Mrs Fluster. “You’re not making any sense!”

“Oh, but don’t you see, Mrs Fluster? Gardening is how we’ll do it! With gardening, we’ll all know where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.”

He went on to explain: “Think of us like a garden. You can’t leave it to sort itself out. Fruitful, productive gardens need both nature and nurture.”

How to make your garden grow

Firstly, you need to know your garden – the type of soil, its plants and the plants you want to grow. Which parts are exposed to the wind, which need to be in the shade? This is like insight into what’s really happening and what is really important to your teams. A word of caution! It must be grounded in truth and everyone given a voice.

The next step is to create the right environment for growth in your garden. Your Leadership does this. Don’t forget to add nutrients to feed it – resources and support for people to agree what is important to them; to make difficult decisions, explore the art of the possible and be creative with ideas that will add value. And water – the free flow of communication and exchange of information, making it all safer for your teams to experiment and flourish.

Now that you’re all prepared, you can start to plant and create new things. Remember to work together, co-create it, and pay attention to what is important to everyone and everything in your garden. After all, in your garden you need to know which plants and seeds flourish where, and when to plant them to get the best from them.

Your plants need plenty of nurturing and encouragement along the way. For leaders, this means being out in your teams and the community, regularly telling simple and personalised stories, connecting people to the vision. Think about the newly established plants and saplings in your garden. You have to encourage the roots to go down deep. Values and emotional connections are just like the roots of your new saplings. Your stories need to grow and stay in people’s minds, so use metaphors and pictures to reinforce your stories. This needs time, just as you wouldn’t keep pulling up saplings to check they are growing as that would quickly kill them!

So, allow your garden to grow. For sure, some plants may be in the wrong place and need moving. Weeds will come and need pulling out and you’ll need to make sure it gets plenty of water and ongoing care.

To be continued…