No rain, no gain

begonias rain healthy
Begonias along Comm Ave

Here in my part of Massachusetts, we are in a drought watch.  It’s not like the West Coast (what is?), but it’s dry enough that it has me thinking a lot about rain and water.

While starting my business, I took a part-time job at one of the big box hardware stores. My position?  Watering flowers, bushes and trees from 5:00AM to 10:00AM.

I enjoyed it because it gave me time to think.  Mostly, I would count to 10.  For a 1-gallon potted plant, you are supposed to water for 10 seconds; for a 2-gallon plant, 20 seconds; and so on.  At least that’s what the video training said. (I watched numerous videos; the training impressed me).  What I soon realized was that regardless of how consistently I tried to water the plants, there were many variables that impacted whether or not a plant was watered properly.  Who would have thought that water pressure, prior watering, and my ability to count to 10 could determine the life or death of plants?

One day, it rained.  I asked the manager if he wanted me to help stock shelves inside.  He told me to keep watering.  For possibly the first time in my life, my brain controlled my mouth, and I didn’t ask “Why do I need to water while it’s raining?”  I found a yellow rain slicker, grabbed the hose, and started watering the plants.  Caddyshack briefly flashed through my mind.

Then it hit me like a Category 4 hurricane – the rain will help, but it won’t get to all the plants.

The exposed plants on the top racks will be fine when it rains.  The plants on the lower shelves need TLC.  That’s the metaphor for your company and your employees.  It’s great if everyone at the top understands your strategy and gets visibility with senior executives,

but what are you doing for everyone below the surface?  Ask these three questions:

  1. Do your employees understand how their jobs enable the company to achieve its strategic goals?
  2. Are your leaders visible, and do they listen to your employees?
  3. As a manager, do you encourage and nurture (water) the team that works with you?

If you can consistently answer ‘yes’ to each of these questions, you are on the path to a higher performing organization that is focused, appreciates its employees, and likely sees benefit through to its customers.

If you aren’t sure, or you can’t answer ‘yes’ consistently, then start thinking about how your company can improve and have a positive downstream impact to the bottom line.  Additional training may help leaders and employees.  Better and more open communication channels often overcome roadblocks and reveal poor processes.  Listen. Plan, Do. Check. Act. (I added “Listen” to this well-known change cycle; click on the link for more info).

All companies can improve.  Water deeply. You will reach the roots and keep your plants healthy.

Photo courtesy of Gary Lerude through the Creative Commons License

Discussion Questions (leave your answer below in the Comment section):

  1. Do you like rain or sun better?
  2. What was your most interesting job?
  3. What management programs (like PDCA) do you use in your company?



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10 responses to “No rain, no gain”

  1. Michael Katz Avatar

    1. Sun
    2. Bank teller (best job I ever had, actually)
    3. We don’t have one!

  2. Harold Waisel Avatar
    Harold Waisel

    Bank tellers – a vanishing breed. You got out just in time!

  3. Brian Fullford Avatar
    Brian Fullford

    1. Depends on where I am. If I’m paddleboarding then sun. If I’m above treeline, then definitely sun. But if I’m on my deck, in a cabin or beach house, a good rain along with some coffee is never a bad way to exist.

    2. I spent one summer, while in high school, working a truck parts warehouse. It was a favor from the friend of the family. It was a long drive through downtown Jacksonville in my families Volare station wagon. Everyone around me was much older, but the experience taught me about hard work. It also taught me about how people work. Not sure I really leveraged that experience as much as I should.

    3. Can I have another question? 🙂

    1. hwaisel Avatar

      Rain on the deck with a cup of coffee and the newspaper sounds good (they still make newspapers, right?)

  4. Robbie Schlosser Avatar

    Hi Harold,
    Thanks for a nice metaphor for a crucial lesson. Easy to grasp and implement where needed.
    1. Out here in sunny California, some occasional rain would be nice…
    2. Interesting job? A few decades ago I switched abruptly from being a scientist (in a cancer-research institute) to a junior-high school health & science teacher. With no academic background as an educator, I learned quickly that 7th-graders are not people, as I knew them. VERY interesting job. Lasted 3 years.
    3. There’s only one guy in my company, and we manage by intuition and lucky guesses.

    1. hwaisel Avatar

      I know that I was not a person in 7th grade. I’m just about there now.

  5. Celinda Adame Avatar

    I love the sun it goes help any living cell it has also been known to raise serotonin levels aiding and chemical imbalance. But an over abundance causes harm. Like sun induced skin cancer. As for a plant to much sun cause photo damage as well. I am an aesthetician and do understand how hydration is very important for the human body as well as any living cell like a plant. Balance just like having a balanced diet breakfast in the morning dinner in the evening: water in the morning sun at mid noon. just like having a balanced diet breakfast in the morning : dinner in the evening: UV after Peak time is perfect.

    My most interesting job was working as a Medical Assistant to a Dermatologist. Understanding the health and disorders of the hair skin and nails. My short term personal goal is Hydrotherapy and phototherapy startup

    Third question is no. Honestly I don’t know what that is. And couldn’t hold a conversation . But I love the analogy/metaphor .

    1. hwaisel Avatar

      Celinda – thanks for the physiological explanation about water and sun. I always try to have a bottle of water with me while working. I can tell when I’m dehydrated – usually my heart starts racing (trust me, it’s not from exercise).

  6. zeke Avatar

    1 Sun
    2 Watering plants at Lexington Gardens in high school
    3 Company Confidential

    1. hwaisel Avatar

      Would be interesting to know if you had any of the same thoughts about watering plants while you were in high school. All I cared about was playing basketball.

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