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How to Work Smarter in Cultivating People Practices

Work Smarter by Putting PEOPLE First as a Manager

Hello, I'm Deb Calvert, and my company is People First Productivity Solutions. Admittedly a long name, but it's no accident that the word productivity is a part of that name. Productivity is something that is really important to me. I value it, and I have always favored the activities where I can be productive in the work that I do. I suppose I come by this honestly. My first name, Debra, comes from a Hebrew word that means "the bee."

And so I am sort of like the bee buzzing around, always very, very busy, but only with the activities that give me some sort of result when it's all said and done. And I think this is an important thing for managers to consider. You know, there are lots of ways that you can occupy your time. Lots of encroachments on your time, lots of work that is not all that valuable and it's certainly not productive. Well, your time is precious and you shouldn't allow it to be squandered on those low value activities, becoming more discerning and looking for shortcuts and making sure that the choices you make help you to be both efficient and effective will serve you better.

For me, productivity is something that I look for even in my hobbies. I don't use my spare time for some of the more traditional types of kickback activities. Leisure time is not something that really excites me, but I do have some hobbies that make me very productive in my personal life too. And I'd like to share one with you because I think it's a good metaphor that you can use as you evaluate how you're spending your time, too. My hobby is gardening, but not just any kind of gardening.

I grow 57 different crops in bales of straw. Let me show you what that's like. Here they are, bales of straw. This year I have 60 of them. I started a couple of years ago with 24 and we increased to 48 last year. And now I'm up to 60 and I grow 57 different kinds of crops in these bales of straw. I also have a few containers for gardening where I grow things in dirt, but mostly it's the straw bales.

Let me tell you why I have straw bales for gardening. I used to live in California. We lived there for 15 years and we didn't have enough space to do any gardening. So when we moved back to Missouri a little over three years ago, I was eager to start gardening. I was excited to be able to to get back to doing that.

But I realized pretty quickly that in those 15 plus years since my last garden, I was older than I used to be. And I didn't relish the idea of getting down in the dirt, hoeing and raking and weeding, fighting off the bugs, having to constantly be watering. So I was feeling a little bit discouraged, but I had worked with a number of agriculture accounts and I realized that I could do something a little bit different. I could grow what I wanted to grow in these bales of straw.

You see, when you have bales of straw, especially when you put them up on pallets like I do, here's what it means. It means no, bending. It means you don't have to do any weeding. It means that you have very few bugs to deal with. The straw confuses them if they try to crawl up from the ground. You do get a few flying insects, but by and large, they they don't find the straw bales either because there aren't bushes and trees and other plants around these.

Planting on gravel also meant that I keep the bunnies and the deers away.

And then we went ahead and set up a system with automated watering hoses on timers, so that my bales of straw don't even need my attention for that. Now, this makes me more productive because all I have to do is go out and harvest all the goodness that grows. But of course, there's a little bit more work to it than that. And I'll share the aspects of that work over the next series of videos that I bring you. Each one with good management lessons too. With straw bales you have to condition them. What you see on top of the bales, that white stuff, that's urea, it's nitrogen, which helps to break them down and get the inside of the straw bales nice and warm and decomposing, so that things can grow in it the same way that they would grow in dirt. Even so, with the earliest plants that I put into the ground, I always give them a little bit of dirt like you see over on the right hand side here, because at the beginning, the medium isn't fully ready.

The straw bales haven't been amended to be the perfect growing environment. And this is true for you as a manager, too. You have to consider creating the right environment and making sure that people, especially when they're new to your team or to your company, that they have been given the very best chance of success. That will make everybody more productive. And when things are new, this is my early spring crops that you're seeing here, some lettuce and a few other things like celery and oh, that's probably a broccoli over there. So the early spring crops, they require a little bit more attention.

And you have to invest that time early on to help nurture the people on your team, too. People will grow where they're planted if they're given all the right love, if they're given the attention and if they're given the nutrients and if you cultivate them so that they are able to grow and set deep roots within your organization. To be more productive as a manager, you have to think about planning and preparation and shortcuts to preserve your time so that you can use that time to do even more for the development of the people on your team.