Growing Your Team
Growing up, one of my favorite activities to do with my mom and grandma was tending to our gardens. There’s just something about being outside, turning the soil, watering seedlings everyday, and watching tiny green leaves emerge from the ground and blossom into something beautiful. From pulling weeds, to harvesting fruits and vegetables, to having to watch a plant wither in the off season only for it to grow back into a happy and healthy plant, I enjoyed it all.
Fast forward to today, and I live in a condo with a small backyard and fake grass (not exactly a great place for gardening). I was super disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to plant a garden in my yard. Luckily, and to my surprise, my roommate bought me one of the coolest presents a have ever received; a garden box! When I opened the wrapping, I was thrilled, and could not wait to plant the sweet peas, cilantro, basil and onion chives she had bought for me. I would finally get to have a garden!
It’s been about 3 months since my plants started to grow and every time I walk outside to water my growing sprouts, I feel like the witch from Into The Woods singing “greens, greens, nothing but greens: parsley, peppers, cabbages and celery, asparagus and watercress and fiddle ferns and lettuce!” Although my garden isn’t that grand (yet), I’m so proud of the life that is growing from the little box of soil because I helped them to grow; from tiny seeds into thriving greenery.
As I was outside the other day, clipping some of the stalks of my cilantro to add to a ceviche dish, I was thinking about all of the things that helped my plants get to this moment of harvest. There are so many different needs that I had to help meet so that I could successfully use the fresh cilantro as the perfect flavoring to my ceviche. As silly as it may sound, this made me think about the different things that go into ‘growing’ a successful team. What are the different needs that must be met in order for a team to produce fruit during its harvest?
One way to think about the different needs of your team is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. There are five tiers in this pyramid that need to be met in order for your team to be successful, much like the plants in my garden.
The first tier on the hierarchy represents PHYSIOLOGICAL needs. In order for my basil to grow into a healthy, young herb, it needs water, sunlight, soil, and sometimes, if it’s a very sunny day, a cover to protect it from the bright rays. Members of your team must have this fulfilled as well. Although many of us may overlook these basic needs, they are so important. I mean, think about it; if you’ve ever had a member of your team show up one day, tired or groggy because they didn’t get enough sleep or had a restless night, how productive will they actually be? It’s important to encourage those around you to focus on building a strong foundation by fulfilling their physiological needs through proper self care!
The second tier represents SAFETY and SECURITY needs. I tended to this need when I built my sweet peas a trellis for support. As sweet peas get larger, they use tiny tendrils to climb and grow. They will grab onto anything around them for support, including my other plants! For the security and health of all of my plants, it was important for me to provide my sweet peas with the structure that they needed to be secure. Much like my sweet pea plants, the members of your team need to be safe and secure in order to be able to focus on their work. Mistakes are often made because humans do not have (although we might try to tell ourselves we do) the ability to multitask. Giving your team members a sense of security can help to eliminate worries that can distract from the work that needs to be done.
The third tier represents LOVE and BELONGING. This one might sound like a bit of a stretch, but I have a close friend who shared an interesting theory with me the other day. She told me that if you talk to your plants on a daily basis, they will actually grow faster and healthier. I did some research, and although there is no factual evidence to support this, the idea is still important to keep in mind. Having conversations, getting to know your team, and making every member feel like a vital part of the operation is crucial to fulfilling this tier.
The fourth tier represents ESTEEM needs. When I looked outside my window last week, I saw that my sweet peas were growing at a much faster rate than my other plants. I thought to myself, “Oh no! I need to repot these” I went straight to the store to transfer my sweet peas into their own pot so that they had the freedom they needed to grow. The esteem tier in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs represents respect, status, recognition, strength and freedom. In order to meet these needs, try thinking of creative ways to recognize and appreciate your team for their accomplishments.
The fifth and final tier represents SELF-ACTUALIZATION needs. All of my plants have an innate desire (I hope) to grow into the healthiest version of themselves, to produce a final product. Much like my plants, your team needs to be able to feel like that have the potential and capability to perform at maximum capacity in their current position. Find innovative ways to challenge and motivate your team to perform at their greatest potential.
One thing to note about the hierarchy of needs is that each tier needs to be fulfilled sequentially. For example, no matter how much I talk to my plants each day, without water, sunlight and soil, it is biologically impossible for my chives to grow. Keep this in mind when ‘growing’ your own team!
Finally, not everyone has a ‘green thumb’ to start off with. When I first started to garden with my grandma, I couldn’t understand why her grape vines were healthy and thriving, while mine were withered and brown. She helped to teach me the intricacies that go into cultivating a successful garden. Although you may feel like you don’t have a ‘green thumb’ when trying to develop your team just yet, remember that anything worth anything requires a little effort! Now go out there and garden!
Where do the members of your team fall on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Sometimes, it’s hard to know without asking! Start with regular group check ins and check outs to get a feel for how your team is doing. This process can help you to determine individual and group needs so that you can begin to think of what your organization can offer to fulfill them! To be fair, you won’t be able to meet every need, but by meeting some you will greatly improve your group’s motivation to contribute and succeed. Consider these as viable options for each of the tiers:
Physiological: For some, self care is not feasible or practical at home. Weave self care into the workday by encouraging walking meetings, offering healthy meal options in the break room, or bringing in lights or plants to brighten the office space.
Safety and Security: Make work a safe space by agreeing on group ground rules. Ground rules don’t replace a code of conduct, but instead act as an agreement between group members about how they would like to work together to reach their goals. Examples might include ‘Commitment’, ‘Responsibility’, or ‘Have Fun!’
Love and Belonging: Don’t neglect the importance of team building, even if your team has been together for years! Foster a climate of inclusion and involvement with your group with activities like Dyads or Zoom ReZoom from our online activities database.
Esteem: Learn How To: Show Appreciation All Ways so that your team members know that they are valued in the workplace.
Self-Actualization: Challenge your group to grow. Have them set short and long term SMART goals. Then, pair them with an Accountability Partner to help them stay accountable, strategize, and meet the goals that they set!
*Meet the Author*
Gino Calavitta is an avid Netflix watcher who enjoys practicing American Sign Language and going to concerts!