Greenhouse Canada

Business Management
From the Editor: December 2011

November 23, 2011
By Dave Harrison


Are you a good boss? And how do you know you are? Are you a better boss
today than you were last year, and better than when you first were put
in charge?

Are you a good boss? And how do you know you are? Are you a better boss today than you were last year, and better than when you first were put in charge?

“Labour” is a common conference seminar theme. However, it’s usually focused on ways to hire and retain good employees, or improve their efficiencies.


I’ve been blessed with a career largely punctuated with good bosses, and that’s great because I’m hardly the poster child for high intellect and/or deft proficiency.

There have been exceptions. Early in my career, I worked for a managing editor at a small newspaper who threw things off his desk to make a point with his young reporting crew. What I remember most about those experiences was just the display of anger; I don’t recall what prompted the outbursts. So if the point of the outburst was to make a constructive point …  well, I’ve made my point.

In our October 2011 edition, columnist Melhem Sawaya wrote of the importance of delegating responsibilities. “Delegation teaches foremen, growers and lead-hand people to think and act like senior managers and owner/managers.” He also recommends managers provide “regular feedback, whether it is positive or negative.” For businesses to succeed, owners and managers “must learn to let go,” he noted.

Since July, we’ve been running the “growing lean” series of articles on how Lean manufacturing principles can be applied to horticulture. The articles emphasize the importance of teamwork in identifying cost-saving and time-saving changes; in fact, employees are the main drivers of change, with the encouragement of managers. “In all our years of process improvement,” writes Lean specialist and series author Dale Schattenkirk, “we have not yet had to add people as a solution. We stand by the mantra, ‘there are no bad people, just bad processes.’”

A “wikiHow” website lists a number of suggestions on “How To Be A Good Manager.”

Communication ranks prominently. “What makes them (employees) stick with the organization after a bad day or a bad week? Don’t assume it’s money – most people aren’t that one-dimensional. Ask the employees how they’re liking their job on a regular basis. Encourage them to be honest with you. Be a good listener. Then take action based upon what they tell you.”

The wikiHow article also emphasizes the importance of letting employees make mistakes. “In order for people to think for themselves, they need to learn, and in order to learn, sometimes we need to make mistakes. Trust them, and give them a fair margin of error.”

In a related wikiHow feature on “How To Be A Good Boss,” the authors say to “never hesitate to pat your employees on the back.…  When your staff feel valued and appreciated, their job means more to them than simply a paycheque.”

Success in this industry is as much about people as it is about plants. Both need constant nurturing and attention. But take either for granted and you’re guaranteed to fail.