How To Spend Less Time Pulling Weeds When You Are A Leader By Jones Loflin

Helping Leaders Make The Best Choices With Their Time

One of the tasks most gardeners dread is pulling weeds. In addition to being tiring and time-consuming, removing weeds from around garden plants can disrupt the roots of the plants you want to grow. And here’s the reality… if you are highly intentional in how you cultivate your garden, weeds won’t often become an issue.

The same can be said for leading a team. If you’re having to invest lots of time reacting to crises, having difficult conversations more frequently than you would like, and not having the “space” to grow the results you want, it could be due to the actions (or inaction) that are part of your typical approach to leadership. If you want to spend less time on addressing problems as a leader and more of it on achieving your team goals, here are five suggestions based on the best practices of successful gardeners.

Know What You Want To Grow
When you don’t have clear goals for your team and individual members, it’s like leaving the soil bare in your garden. SOMETHING is going to grow, and it’s usually not beneficial. So many problems with teams originate because one or more members of the team have unclear expectations about their work, don’t recognize how they fit into the bigger picture, or don’t feel valued for what they do.

As you think about what you want to grow don’t just think about performance goals. Consider the need to grow values like a shared purpose, trust, diverse-thinking, and effective communication. How can you conduct yourself as a leader to express those values in your daily activities?

In addition to goals and values for your team, have some “stretch assignments” in mind for each individual that keeps them focused and productive.


Use Weed Prevention Strategies
I’ll never forget the first time I told an avid gardener about a granular pre-emergence herbicide. When I shared with him that it could be applied after other plants were established in the garden and it would prevent most weeds from sprouting later, you would have thought I gave him a million dollars. If using herbicides aren’t your thing, you can achieve similar results from covering the soil around the plants with mulch, newspaper, cardboard, leaves, or other organic matter.

There are so many ways leaders can prevent the weeds from sprouting when it comes to working with their team. They include:

  • Weekly check in meetings that include consistent questions to make the meeting efficient for you and them
  • Being more proactive with accountability to expected tasks and deadlines
  • Communicating with team members in the ways that are most effective for them-not just the ways that are most convenient for you

Of course when you can’t prevent the weeds from sprouting, the key is to address it as soon as you see it. Remember, nothing ever gets better from neglect!


Apply A Cover Crop To Nurture The Soil
Cover crops are grown on farmland or even gardens to enrich the soil and protect it from erosion. The crop also shades out many weeds that need sunlight to grow.

If part of your “weed pulling” is because your team environment isn’t healthy, plan some type of enrichment activity. What’s something they could do together that would help unite them or at least get them talking to each other about something besides work? Community service projects, an offsite meeting, or simply a meal at a local restaurant (if all team members feel safe to do so) can foster more positive energy among team members.

Team members who have a deeper sense of connection with each other will be more engaged and productive at work, thereby “shading out” some of the weeds you have seen growing in the past.


Increase Your Focus On Growing Your Existing Plants
When you spend too much time pulling weeds, you limit the time you have to focus on the health of the plants you do want to thrive. For you as a leader, that may mean you are investing so much time in your low performers that your high performers are being neglected. Or, as Aaron Levy wrote in a Forbes article, “Leaders are focused on task-managing instead of coaching.”

What might your day and week look like if you made “people growth” your highest priority? Finding ways to resource and guide each team member to even greater levels of success in the work they do. Might their success reduce the need for you to be pulling weeds as often?


Wander Through Your Garden More Often
I don’t know of any successful gardeners who enter their garden only when they need to plant, cultivate, or harvest. They visit to observe, notice, ponder, and reflect on how things are going and what they might want to do differently.

How often do you take similar strolls and reflect on how things are going with your team? When you do, have some questions you can ask yourself to guide your thinking. They might include:

  • Who (or what) is growing well right now?
  • Who might need a little more attention from me?
  • What are some potential weeds I need to be looking out for in this season?
  • How can I reduce or prevent the growth of these weeds?
  • What am I doing to resource and encourage the healthy growth of each of my team members?

So, what type of leader do you want to be? One that is constantly battling problems and challenges, feeling like they are fighting a losing battle? Or a leader who is intentional about seeing opportunities for growth, wants to provide an environment for it, and is vigilant about preventing threats to such growth? I know which one is more appealing to me.


About Jones Loflin: Jones Loflin has made it his life’s work to deliver powerful ideas and practical solutions to individuals around the world so they can achieve more of what is most important to them. His books are described as “illuminating” and his presentations as “unforgettable.” In his 28 years as a speaker and coach he has helped countless people regain confidence in their ability to achieve greater success in work and life. For more information on Jones, click

If you would like to have Jones be the next keynote speaker at your meeting or conference, give Midwest Speakers Bureau a call at 515-974-8305.