As a gardener, I love this time of year.  In my part of the world, the May long-weekend is the traditional time to prepare the soil and plant all of the vegetables and flowers that I’ve been growing from seed, or bought as little plants six weeks ago. They’ve been safely tucked away in my green house, doubling in size and getting ready to greet the spring air.

Even in gardening, I am a strategist.  I plan ahead, plotting my plantings to hit different heights on an increasing basis as they line up from the front to the back of each garden bed.  Ensuring they will display complimentary colours to the plants around them.  Coordinating bloom times so that at various points throughout the season, my garden is always a symphony of colour.

I love gardening because there are elements that can be controlled, variants that can’t, and enormous satisfaction that can last me from the first tentative buds of spring flowers peeking through the snow in early March, to the fall of the last red leaf in late October as the garden goes to sleep.

As I prepare for planting weekend, I realized that my gardening activities are very similar to my coaching advice. Consider the following:

Plan Your Garden:

A great gardener knows to have a game plan before planting.  Newbies will buy up anything that looks good in a nursery, and then plant indiscriminately.  A seasoned gardener understands that plants grow to different heights, at different times of the year, and may need different soil conditions.  A plan considers all of these elements and ensures that anything that is planted has the best possible opportunity to grow, and be seen and appreciated.  Have a plan.  Then follow it.

Prepare the Soil:

I do a heck of a lot of weeding before I do any planting.  Not everything in your life should be there.  Consider your habits and processes.  What are you doing that might be holding you back from really prospering?  What activities would make you even more efficient?  Every garden needs a little weeding now and then.

Do Early Seeding:

I start a number of plants – especially vegetables like lettuce and peas – from seed indoors, under growing lights.  This enables me to get in some early plantings, potentially increasing my harvesting to several cycles.  Your plan should include immediate, intermediate and long-term action items. But don’t be afraid to start on your action items rights away.  Take advantage of situations where early activities will yield early results, or establish a strong foundation for later activities.

Harden the Plants Before Planting:

Plants grown under controlled conditions need to be exposed to the cooler air of the great outdoors before they can be safely planted.  We call this hardening the plant.   I equate this to communication.  If you are on the cusp of rolling out a new process, idea or campaign, make appropriate people aware, get them on board if needed.  Ensure that once you’ve launched whatever it is you are launching, you’ll be surrounded by supporters.

Aerate the Soil:

We’ve all seen plantings where the ground is stomped down around the base of the plant.  In fact, it’s best to leave some air in the dirt to allow the roots to breath and have a place to grow. That’s why we dig a hole twice as big as needed – to loosen that soil in anticipation of root movement.  As you implement on your business or career plan, allow it the space to develop organically.  Give your actions some time to dig in.  Don’t judge the value of these efforts immediately. Most marketing initiatives take six months to two years to come to fruition.

Water the Roots

Immediately after planting, ensure the roots merge with the earth around them by watering the area well.  Change is hard.  It needs recognition and support.  If you are implementing change, be kind to yourself.  Be open to the help and support of others.  If someone you work with is trying to initiate a change, recognize and encourage them.  Give them the conditions they need for send out roots and strengthen their resolve.

Monitor Development:

Plants can’t talk, so they can’t tell us when they need more or less light, more or less water, more or less nutrients.  We need to observe them carefully for signs of what they need.  People, on the other hand, have an amazing ability to speak out.  Ask for what you need to continue on your pathway.  Ask those around you what they need to continue to implement whatever change they are undertaking.


The best way to prolong the lifecycle of a flower (other than watering it!)  is to remove the dead blossoms from time to time. This gives the plant more energy to concentrate on growing and blooming new buds.  We should always be looking for ways to deadhead our own activities.  Get rid of elements that are obviously not working.  It could be that a well-placed cut will actually make your initiative blossom.

Whether you are nurturing a garden or your career, remember that the outcome often depends on the commitment to the details of its care.

Heather Gray-Grant is a business strategist, marketing expert and executive coach for law firms, lawyers and administrators.  She can be reached at