Economic indicators point to strong consumer demand for green industry services again in 2018. But even in strong markets and operating in favorable economic conditions, unforeseen events can dramatically rock your landscape company’s revenues and damage its profitability.

For example, you can lose one of your cornerstone accounts to a competitor. (Is it wise to have so much of your anticipated revenue tied up in a single account or two?) Or, one of your key leaders may leave your company. Worse yet, you, the owner, could get sidelined with an injury or illness.

Be honest with yourself: How likely, in the event of any of these disasters, is it that the other leaders on your team can come together to continue to move your company forward?

Business consultant and author Jeffrey Scott, in a recent webinar, offered excellent insights on building a dream leadership team, a team that will drive your company to greater levels of profitability or, should the unexpected happen, help you overcome serious challenges your company may face going forward.

“Chaos happens. Mentally you have to be prepared for it; and, leadership-wise, you have to be build a team that can handle these ups and downs,” Scott says. Eventually all companies get hit with unforeseen setbacks from time to time, he says. This is especially true for landscape companies, due to the weather-dependent nature of their services and the incredibly competitive environment in which they must operate.

Different personalities, different strengths

For starters, Scott shared that companies need leaders possessing different, but complimentary strengths. One of the tools he suggested owners use to gain insights into leader candidates’ tendencies and traits is personality testing. “These profiles help you understand what motivates a person. Everyone is motivated differently,” Scott says.

He added that great leadership teams often feature individuals characterized by the “Four I’s,” the four personality traits that, in large part, determine the overall strength of a team.

  1. Insulator: This is an individual that likes to work in a silo and is not particularly suited personality wise to managing or nurturing. They might be a great technologist or sales person, but not often a good candidate for a top leadership or manager role.
  2. Inspirator: Scott describes this person is a self-starter and constant learner. They’re emotionally intelligent, self-confident and they enjoy mentoring.
  3. Integrator: This is the leader that’s able to “see the big picture and connect the linkages” in your company, Scott says. They understand how the whole company connects as a whole, from administration to sales, to operations and finally to customer service and to client wins.
  4. Innovator: The innovator is a risk taker, the person on your team most likely to challenge both themselves and others on your team, and help develop and bring new ideas to fruition, Scott says. Also, this is usually the leader that helps your company stay true to its underlying character and mission.

Because of a gap in your leadership team, do you feel pressure to rapidly advance somebody already working for you, perhaps a great field technician, sales person or even a good manager?

Think it through carefully before going down that path. Be careful before promising a career path to a leadership role for even a loyal and competent employee or manager. “Leadership and management are not the same thing,” Scott cautioned. That’s not to say that the employee you’re considering can’t become or can’t be groomed to be a good leader. It happens. Sometimes.

Career tree vs. the career path

Often, however, establishing a career path for one of your employees — for example, from laborer to crew chief to production manager to sales person, etc. – is unwise, Scott says, referencing the so-called “Peter Principle,” popularized by educator Laurence J. Peter a half century ago. His management theory, in a nutshell says an employee only stops being promoted once they rise to the level of their incompetence.

“Sometimes a person is better off moving sideways in your org. chart,” Scott says. In other words, creating a career tree rather than a career path is more often the better option for keeping a good employee engaged and improving your company’s performance.

“You want to show them a career tree with multiple career paths that are based on your company’s vision, on how your company is going to develop over the next three years and 10 years. Using a career tree allows you to make tactical decisions with this person to help you find a best fit for them,” Scott says.

Scott added that bringing in “young blood … someone with new ideas, new connections and someone with a real understanding of new technology,” can be a smart move to re-energize your team.

Three keys to engage your team

Regardless of the makeup of your leadership team, Scott emphasized three key elements to keep it engaged and moving forward:

  • Nurture cohesive conflict: One of your responsibilities as an owner is to create “cohesive conflict” within your leadership team, and then make sure that it’s maintained respectfully and in a manner “that raises everybody up,” Scott says. Maintain communication channels from the bottom up in a culture of honesty, and in an atmosphere where it’s safe for team members to say what they’re thinking.
  • Select and measure meaningful metrics: Leaders help decide which metrics to measure. Every leader should have metrics that, by achieving them, help others within company and moves your company to achieving its broader goals. “Some companies have too few metrics and some have too many,” Scott says.
  • Be open to bold breakthroughs: Encourage leadership team members to “keep their head above the ditch” so they can identify key industry trends, consider new technologies and monitor client preferences, etc. “Great ideas can come from anywhere,” Scott says.

Every new season brings with it new opportunities as well as new challenges — sometimes big, unexpected, unwelcome challenges. If you put together and maintain a core of trustworthy, talented leaders you can go home after each workday confident that your company will prosper regardless.