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High Performance: Surviving survival mode

June 14, 2018 -  By

broken mower

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve interacted with many green industry professionals who are in survival mode driven by a variety of factors. A compressed spring adds even more stress to a season that is challenging even in a normal year. On top of this, the labor shortage is especially painful when strong customer demand feels like adding fuel to the fire. Everyone is busy, way too busy. And the old saying, “That’s a good problem to have” doesn’t seem to ring true.

The question I have for managers is this: What are you doing to help your people survive survival mode? Do you know they’re in survival mode? Do they know that you know that they’re in survival mode? Are you sympathetic and supportive or are you ignoring (or unaware of) the situation? Having some honest conversations with your team is a good starting point. Even if there are not many immediate solutions, the fact that you are taking time to understand, listen and express sincere concern goes along way. Do your people know you care?

When people are in spring survival mode, sometimes they lose hope and begin to consider other career options. The pressure is more than they can bear and they can’t imagine going through another spring. The thing is they probably aren’t going to announce this to you, especially if you haven’t fostered a caring relationship with open, honest dialogue. You will find out when they resign for “a better opportunity.” Take time today to talk with and listen to your people. It’s probably the best investment of time you’ll ever make.

The reality is there are many things that may be done to reduce stress and to help survive survival mode. Managers would do well to educate themselves on these things, for their own benefit and to be able to coach their people through these survival mode seasons.

One of the ways to reduce stress that leads to burnout is to take time every day for yourself. Even if it’s only a small amount of time, this may be a significant investment in your emotional and physical health. When we “give it all away” we find ourselves depleted. But when we hold back something for ourselves we are better equipped to survive survival mode. This is only one of many best practices for reducing stress. To read more about this topic, please click here for an article from Mayo Clinic.

As professionals in the green industry, we need to learn how to manage the stressfulness of the spring season and also to be very mindful of the stress that your people are under, and to take seriously the threat of a career-ending toll that a tough spring may have on an individual.

Now go forth.


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About the Author:

Phil Harwood is a Senior Advisor with Tamarisk Business Advisors. Contact him at

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