Giving space and light for others to grow


Last winter, we had an old apple tree in the yard topple from sub-zero freezing temperatures and the weight of more snow than we’ve seen since we’ve lived here. When we lost that tree, we gained a patch of sun that we hadn’t had before. Excitement ensued when we envisioned the possibility of having our first vegetable garden in many years.

So in the spring we tilled and fertilized the soil. We shopped for starter plants. We made sure we kept the hungry vegetable-eating critters at bay. It was a spring of just enough sun and a summer of plenty of rain to foster vegetable plants that look like jungle growth. We have six-foot tomato plants and zucchini leaves that appear to belong along the Amazon River.

The problem is that in this harvesting season, the yields of edible vegetables have been less than ideal. We have more tomatoes than we can use, but they aren’t getting ripe. And if you’ve ever grown zucchini, most of the time you’ll have more than you can possibly eat* – not so in our garden.

Our poor yields are the result of not having enough space and light between the plants.


Your team needs space and light too

When you give your team enough space and light, it’s a win-win situation. They learn and grow while allowing you to ease up on managing them. This letting go of your need to control becomes a virtuous cycle that leaves space and light for you to become a better leader.

In other words, those you lead will be happier and more productive when you give them space and light. And you get to lead at your best.

Help your team to grow by:

Leaving space: Let go of the things that you really can’t control. Establish and communicate a vision for the work so your team has an understanding of what needs to be done to achieve success without your need to manage them with a heavy hand. Let them figure out the how the work can get done while you coach them to success. Set the expectations and stop meddling in their work or giving them constant advice. Have regular dialog where you listen well and ask questions that will guide them to find their own way to complete the work.

Letting in light: Illuminate the things that are important for the team to accomplish. Find ways to communicate the vision, goals and mission of your organization often. This will allow you to step back and count on them to do the work while they learn and develop. And remember to give positive feedback often; let them know that you’ve observed the good things they’re doing to achieve the mission.

Get feedback from your team on how you’re leading. Reflect on what’s working and what isn’t, and adjust to let more space and light into your leadership.


*Give your extra zucchini away this week. Believe it or not, August 8 is national “sneak a zucchini on your neighbor’s porch day”.


I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.

2 comments on “Giving space and light for others to grow

  1. Mary Jo, I love the garden metaphor – so many lessons to be found in a patch of ground

    Best regards,

  2. Thanks Carl. I live in a world of plants as my husband owns and operates a nursery and also cannot seem to stop making our lawn smaller (for planting beds). There are so many parallels between leadership and the natural world!

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