Train Your Leaders to Grow the Next Generation of Leaders

Read Time4 minutes

AuthorAbby Hart

PublishedDecember 4, 2023

Train Your Leaders to Grow the Next Generation of Leaders


Table of Contents

The workplace can be unpredictable, no matter what industry you’re in. As landscape industry consultant Marty Grunder described in his IGNITE session, “Great Leaders Create More Leaders,” the pace of your work environment can be like water—tumultuous or tranquil.

“It could be a raging river. A raging river sounds fun and exciting for one day, but it's not fun for four straight days or more. You can't sustain it,” he said. 

“You don't want it to be a stagnant pond either. The ideal workplace is a babbling brook, where people are calmly going about their day,” he continued. “You ever go to Disney World and get into one of those little floaty tubes … that's nice, right? That's what we want in the workplace. And we want people to come into the organization and stay, especially in this hiring environment.” 

Grunder Landscaping Company is celebrating its 39th anniversary this year. The Grow Group, Grunder’s well-known landscape consultancy, has a robust list of companies representing $1.2 billion in industry revenues. Grunder and his teams have the experience and the influence to advise and educate the best in the business, and developing talent is part of their mission. 

“We've got to create an entrepreneurial environment in which folks feel comfortable running with the ball,” he said. 

It starts with culture, and building an outstanding company culture begins with three critical elements:

  • Vision—your ideal state; it's where you aspire to go. 

  • Mission—how you plan to reach that vision

  • Core values—the way you plan to achieve your vision

Don’t get hot—be HOT

Grunder offered sage advice from his therapist to those who react negatively when things don’t go according to plan.

“When you react with anger, no one hears your message. All they see, hear, and feel is anger; they don't want to be around you. They shut you off. And you're severing relationships for good when you demonstrate anger,” he said.

Instead, he recommended setting expectations, being aware of your team members’ progress, and giving specific, tangible compliments when warranted so the criticism is better received. 

“Take an interest in others, and they'll take an interest in you,” he advised. “That works with your team, with your customers, with your spouse, your loved ones, your neighbor, a member of your church, anyone you would benefit from having a good relationship with. It’s better to be interested than interesting—it can't all be about you.”

Finally, he encouraged leaders to be HOT—that is, be honest, open, and transparent. 

“The number one benefit of Aspire is that it's HOT,” he said. “You can't hide in Aspire. The clock is ticking, and I can see it. We have six boards on the electronic schedule board in the middle of our shop. If anything’s in the red, everyone can see it. The sales polls and who's behind for the month. It's an open book. We have Aspire open for everyone to see, and it's all right there.”

Grunder acknowledged this was a massive transformation from how he used to share information, mostly because he didn’t have confidence in his numbers before Aspire. 

“People can make better decisions with accurate information, and a well-informed employee is an engaged employee,” he said. “And an engaged employee doesn’t search the help wanted ads because they feel like they're part of the team.”

Do you have control or controls? 

There’s a crucial difference between control and controls when leading a team. Control is having everyone come to you to get permission. Controls are core values, beliefs, behaviors, and metrics that must be present in the organization. 

Grunder explained that bottlenecks are created when you don’t have controls and demand control instead. 

“We've almost tripled the size of our business in the last three years, and I can only attribute it to one thing. The guy onstage here will humbly tell you, ‘I was the bottleneck. I was in the way.’"

“I've gotten out of the way, and we've grown, and at age 55, I can honestly tell you that I'm having the most fun I've ever had in my business career,” he said with a smile. Now, Grunder can focus on business development and teaching, the areas he is most passionate about, while his team can continue building the company’s success without him holding the reins too tightly. 

  • Trust your people

  • Announce internal openings publicly. 

  • Lead by example

  • Give people the right tools

  • Share information 

“Good managers make good decisions with good information,” he stated. “We've done a 180 in information sharing since we switched to Aspire because we know the information is correct.” 

Aspire's transparency has led to better team engagement and greater literacy of the company’s finances.

“A year ago, two of our group leaders got up in front of our team and explained our whole comp and bonus program,” Grunder recalls. “I couldn’t believe we had two people on the second level of the org chart explaining with excitement and understanding what our program was all about and why they needed to get excited about it. Who could make a greater impact in front of the team? Me talking about the bonus program or them?”

The increased understanding has paid off in more ways than one: In the last two years, GLC has given out over $350,000 to their team. 

“When you share the real story with your team, and they know what's going on, amazing things happen,” Grunder said. 

In closing, Grunder reminded the group that celebrating wins and promotions, being honest, open, transparent, recognizing hard work, and creating controls are essential to developing your business's next crop of leaders.

It’s a lot to remember, but perhaps a recent interaction of Grunder’s can summarize his key takeaway.

“Someone asked me at a conference, ‘I need you to show me how to find team leaders.’

“You're not going to find them,” he replied, “You're going to have to make them.”

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