(Copyright 2000, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)
Chapter Two – Nurturing Organizational Growth
Our goal in this block of instruction is to visualize your life, organization or business from a gardener’s perspective. Our environment is arguably the most natural and complex organization there is in our world and fundamental to everything we do within it. Whether we’re looking at organizations from a family, business or organizational perspective, our most important responsibility is to nurture life – human, animal, plant, marine and even insect life – for we are all interdependent and bound together in a greater community and ecosystem called the natural environment.
We often hear the terms atmosphere, climate and environment used when describing families, businesses, organizations and communities. Our personal and societal relationships are easily described in an environmental context, because everyone knows what we mean by a stormy relationship, a tainted atmosphere, an unhealthy climate and a changing environment. More than ever before, people are stressed from the demands of living in today’s modern world – in what’s often an unhealthy environment – and they try to reconnect to natural processes any way they can.
We weren’t meant to live in an artificial world separated from nature and from natural processes. We long for the natural, authentic and organic life in the purest sense of living meaningful, grounded and connected lives – both to each other as well as to our natural environment. The further removed our lives, organizations and businesses are from the natural world around us, the more unhealthy and unbalanced we become as a society.
We need to approach the organizations we create from a gardener’s eye and perspective, in order to seek harmony, balance and integration with natural and sustainable processes. It all begins with caring for, nurturing and nourishing life and the environment around us. Organizations left to themselves without proper care and tending often leave people stressed, out of sync, out of touch, disconnected, unsettled, unappreciated, unbalanced, and unfulfilled.
A natural and organic approach to organizations begins with focusing first on caring for and sustaining the people and life within an organization – for example a city, university, animal shelter, farm or ranch – and then creating thoughtful natural and organic processes to support them. This process is a holistic, natural, organic and sustainable approach designed to support the health and wellness of the garden within organizations. Only once the organization is supporting, nurturing and nourishing the garden within it, can it then nurture and nourish the world around it.
The work of a gardener always speaks for itself. A discerning eye can easily understand and appreciate the effort and hard work that goes into every flower bed, vegetable garden or terraced landscape. I will use the term garden generically, in order to describe all interaction between a gardener and their work of caring for the plants, soil and environment around them – whether it be a lawn, cottage garden, herb garden, flower garden, vegetable garden, park, field, meadow, stand of trees, patch of woods, a natural or organic farm or vineyard. All are simply different word pictures of the generic term that I’ll refer to as gardening.
Imagine a quaint and idyllic cottage garden with beds of flowers and plants, winding pathways of pea gravel crunching underfoot, natural rock formations and hillsides, bird baths and feeders, benches and patios, trees, ponds and flowing streams, where secret garden rooms await discovery around every bend along inviting flagstone paths. To be a good gardener is more of a calling than it is a profession, hobby or pastime. That’s the fundamental point to comprehend when we discuss the tending of both gardens and organizations. An organization requires a calling before it can be of service to the life within it, let alone begin to serve the needs of those outside the organization. You don’t need to have a green thumb to be a good gardener, you only need a deep and personal understanding of life and the environment around you – whether you’re working with people in an organization or with plants in a garden – or a combination of both.
Gardening has to do with tending life and living things – plants, animals and even insect life – all within a balanced and natural habitat or ecosystem. The gardener in his or her garden is both a nurturer and caretaker of living things that have been entrusted to him or her. Only once you understand that to garden really means to care for and nurture living things that have been entrusted to your care, can you begin to see and feel the deeper meaning associated with what you’re doing – and why I say that gardening is a calling. It is this perspective that is the fundamental starting point when viewing organizations: What is the calling that drives and motivates the organization and is it focused on caring for and supporting the lives and life held within it? Leaders of organizations need to have a deep and personal calling for the responsibility that is entrusted in them to care for, nurture and nourish the people and life within their organizations.
As a gardener, you have been given trust and responsibility over living things and there is no higher purpose in life than nurturing and promoting life itself. A clear example of this on an organizational level is that of a family nurturing, educating, providing and caring for their children. If a family fails to create a nurturing environment for whatever reason, then everyone suffers for it – children, parents, community and society. With this view in mind, gardening is neither drudgery nor punishment, but a fundamental understanding to respect, nourish and sustain life. The same holds true for organizations and businesses beyond the family unit. The leader’s care in tending for their people as if plants in a garden, remains the same. The bottom line is never based on money, budgets or widgets – but on lives and livelihoods, on community and society, on values and principals, and on the atmosphere and the environment. A gardener seeks to create harmony, beauty, balance and value for themselves, their community, their society and for their environment.
Today’s trend and movement towards natural, organic, local and sustainable agricultural practices is evidence of a growing awareness and realization that society has to restore balance to its relationship with the environment and help find ways for people to get back in touch with nature. Forward thinking urban planners, cities and communities are working to create livable cities and urban areas that incorporate walking paths, bike trails, bike lanes, green space, parks, water features, lakes, waterfronts and mass transit solutions to provide alternatives to the automobile and invite nature back into population centers. Clean and alternative energy projects are now considered essential to creating a better future for everyone. Stress, obesity and health care concerns – quality, access, availability and costs – have highlighted the fact that society needs to solve these issues through fitness, nutrition and wellness strategies, but there remains a long road ahead in restoring health and balance to today’s society.
Our society is beginning to understand that there is value in adapting natural processes into our lives, businesses and organizations to seek harmony with nature, as opposed to being at odds with it. Organic, green and sustainable thinking allows us to view the environment and our place within it as a system of interrelated, integrated and holistic elements – each one essential to the health and wellbeing of the next. In particular, the term organic evokes images of getting back to our roots and back to basics. We think of harmony, cooperation, healthy, natural, nutritious, organic, seasonal, locally grown, green, biodegradable, sustainable, reusable, repurposed, environmentally friendly, pollution free, alternative energy, off the grid, land management, crop rotation, free range, hormone free and humane practices – all images of working in harmony with the world around us. Once we begin to look at the world and the organizations around us from a gardener’s perspective, we begin to understand the calling each of us has to nurture, nourish and sustain all life around us – and create a more beautiful and beneficial world for everyone to enjoy!
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