Growing Weeders Into Leaders: An Interview with Jeff McManus

09/25/2017 09:55 am ET

Our personal and professional motivations have always fascinated me. I hesitate to call myself a management expert, but I know this much: The tools that motivate one person may fail with another. One size rarely fits all.

Brass tacks: Leadership is complicated, a subject that I recently discussed with Jeff McManus, author of Growing Weeders Into Leaders: Leadership Lessons from the Ground Up.

The following is an excerpt from our conversation.

PS: What was your motivation for writing this book?

JM: I wanted to share the story of how, when given the opportunity, people really do give their best with incredible pride and belief in why and what they do. I also wanted share a few insights I found successful in creating a national championship program. People come to Ole Miss from all across the country to see how we do things. We host an annual Landscape University training program to share our ideas. The book is a composite look at what happens when ideas, processes and people get it right. Hopefully, the takeaway is part inspiration and part application.

<a rel="nofollow" href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1683503309/?psimo-20=&tag=thehuffingtop-20" target="_blank">Growing Weeders

PS: I’ve worked on many dysfunctional teams in my career. How does one lay the groundwork for a unified team?

JM: Yeah, working in teams can be a mixed blessing. All the good ideas and talent in one place can create unexpected competition or invite those less invested to disappear behind the better team member. I discovered early in life, however, that if we start by shaking hands and valuing each other, we can start to build trust. The groundwork starts with trust, collaboration and having a mission that is bigger than the team. Once you are all moving in the same direction, looking out for one another with an eye on the end game, then competition and slacking off aren't an option. It’s the leader's job to facilitate and work to remove silo thinking and turf wars. We accomplished this by having conversations about some things bigger than ourselves. We focused on ideas and principles through open and direct conversations. We then were able to apply those to the bigger picture, which was always besting our best. Everyone gets the credit and everyone owns the failures too.

Author photo

PS: What is the difference between a “weeder” and a leader?

JM: Generally, it’s the attitude that makes the difference. A weeder works only for a paycheck; a leader works with a purpose. A weeder focuses on eventually getting out of work and taking a pension; but a leader focuses on growing others and having a passion for what they do. A weeder sees just the job; a leader sees the people doing the job.

PS: Why is it so important for organizations to make themselves as flat as possible?

JM: People tend to connect with what and who connects with them. The more connection you can create through communication, the more everyone feels invested. Giving everyone a voice in the process helps create ownership and develops intrinsic motivation. If you are leading an organization, I would strongly suggest connecting with your people – making yourself available to listen and especially ask questions. Making the communication process easy and accessible directly impacts output.

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