A Landscaping Pro’s Play Book

by | Feb 1, 2021 | Business, Featured Slider, People

Leadership expert and Ole Miss director of landscape services Jeff McManus shares his keys to success

The Hail Mary is football’s equivalent of a million to one odds, the over the top, back of the endzone strike to win the game as time expires. 

While those single, spectacular plays create highlight reels, they don’t keep coaches employed or ensure players strive for excellence every day. The best coaches know the game is won with first downs—steady, rumbling drives of short, hard runs of three yards, clearing room over the top of the defense for the deeper touchdown throws.

In my role, I’ve noticed that consistently achieving little victories is the foundation of excellence. Since I began 20 years ago, I’ve seen our workplace culture help transform Ole Miss into a campus that wows those who visit. The work our landscapers do complements the work of many departments to create a welcoming environment with beautiful buildings and landscaping. It’s a total team effort built on a dedication to small details to build the big picture.

My new book titled, “Growing Weeders into Leaders,” covers the fundamentals of leadership and how we’ve built a winning landscaping team. Among the lessons are defining your wins as an organization and capturing the low-hanging fruit that ultimately builds the team morale crucial for reaching greatness.

Little wins are identified easily. They’re the dead weeds that don’t come back, expertly edged patches of grass or popping azaleas. They’re the emails from administration, a prospective student’s parents, or campus visitors who see the good work our people do. Little victories come from a continued focus on what needs to be done. Doing things the right way, being diligent in making sure your team is engaged, valued, and happy in their work, is what leads to the big wins.

If employees feel their investment of time and energy matter, the culture of leadership begins to grow. Individual employees with initiative and pride in their work will push your organization to new heights. Take Denise Hill, a hardworking, front-line staff member. One day, I noticed she was expertly operating a weed whacker. She paused to let me walk by, smiled, nodded, then went back to work. With very little formal training, she energized those around her with her enthusiasm. I then placed employees under her supervision. She built collaboration and called her work crew “Delta Force,” because her team would do things no other team wanted to do.

Denise is now our superintendent of Landscape Services. With a relentless focus on little wins each day by leaders like her, our team has parlayed their work into major successes. Ole Miss Landscape Services has become an elite unit of professionals who strive for excellence. Their end result is little wins, first downs, that add up to major accomplishments. Thanks to leaders like Denise, our 1,500-acre campus is consistently recognized as “the most beautiful campus in America” by the Princeton Review and the Professional Grounds Management Society in Newsweek.

As you identify little victories for your organization, keep this quote from author Richelle E. Goodrich in mind: “Small steps may appear unimpressive, but don’t be deceived. They are the means by which perspectives are subtly altered, mountains are gradually scaled, and lives are drastically changed.”

About Jeff McManus

Jeff McManus is Director of Landscape Services at Ole Miss, a keynote speaker, webinar leader and author of the book Growing Weeders into Leaders. To get your free copy of 21 Ways to be an Inspiring Leader, visit jeffmcmanus.com

The University of Mississippi’s Jeff McManus will serve a one-year term as president of the Professional Grounds Management Society. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

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