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I find this very useful when working with people, and not just because I like gardening. I also like a good analogy 🙂

All plants have basic requirements – sunlight for warmth and light, water and air.  This is a given and means that all plants will grow in these conditions. We learn this about plants from an early age and are careful to not deprive them of their basic needs.

But then it gets complicated because each plant type has differing requirements of these conditions. And here is the rub.  We can’t assume that we can provide the same conditions for all people either and expect them all to be ok.  They will survive, but not thrive.

So how do we do that?

Firstly, remember that after Maslow’s hierarchy of needs passes the basic human survival part, everyone’s needs differ.  That’s just a fact, even if it’s inconvenient.  It’s the same in the classroom as in the staffroom. So as much as possible, try to see everyone as an individual that needs an IEP.  Some people won’t need a plan, they fit into the mainstream of needs, but there will be people who sit outside of these parameters and they may well need more of your attention. This may be physical, but also emotionally and mentally

Next, we have to have the mindset that everyone is seeing the world ever so slightly differently.  Therefore, what you see as supporting others’ wellbeing, maybe what you would like rather than what they actually need.  We all have a unique set of values and experiences which determine our view of the world.  What can you do to find out what people want?

One way of doing this, is to really listen.  This is a hard skill and difficult when we are so hard pushed for time.  But listening without waiting for your turn to speak, or starting with pre conceived ideas is a great way to really find out what people want. It’s an essential skill of a leader.

Another is to bring in someone else as an expert.  A bit like having Monty Don or Alan Titchmarsh on speed dial.  They can help you see what’s best for your garden and then leave you to it, without it impacting on them.  A coach or mentor would do the same in your school, without the emotional attachment that can wrap itself round a clear plan.  

So how are we like plants? We need nurture, patience and time too.  Our basic conditions need to be met and then some knowledge is required so that we can thrive.  If we get it right, the plant does really well and gives back with beauty and oxygen.  

As will your children or your team.