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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting metaphor with even better explanation
If you manage people at work or in any organization (even if you are a parent), this book offers a very helpful metaphor in discussing the difficulties in managing people. The title's use of the word growing refers to the idea of a manager as a gardener. The idea is that you can't make people "grow" or even do what you want them to do just because you want them to do...
Published on January 3, 2007 by Craig Matteson

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars It's ok but not too ground breaking
Ok, I bought this book based on it's great rating but I'm not sure it was all that valuable. There is some sound advice sprinkled throughout the book but nothing that anyone who isn't a novice to managing hasn't heard or seen. Yes, there are some great questions at the end of the chapters to ponder and work on but the actual material isn't that fresh. What is fresh is the...
Published 22 months ago by Robert Kirk


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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting metaphor with even better explanation, January 3, 2007
If you manage people at work or in any organization (even if you are a parent), this book offers a very helpful metaphor in discussing the difficulties in managing people. The title's use of the word growing refers to the idea of a manager as a gardener. The idea is that you can't make people "grow" or even do what you want them to do just because you want them to do it. The author covers the whole cycle of employment (although for families we don't actually hire or fire).

One of the things I like about the metaphor is that a gardener has to do a lot of work to prepare the ground to receive the seeds. If you have ever painted a room, you know that most of the work is in preparing to paint. In the same way, a successful manager has to do a lot of things to set up success in his or her organization before the actual managing of people begins.

Erika Anderson offers five sound principles for the manager as gardener:

1) There is no such thing as a successful one-minute gardener
2) Prepare the soil by listening (I would add that this isn't letting others talk, but actually requires hearing and understanding not only what is being said, but why it is being said.)
3) Maintain the right mindset (that is, just as a gardener doesn't give up or blame the plants if the garden is not coming in the way she wants, the successful manager believes in her ability to coach and develop an employee's potential and help him to develop into what is desired.)
4) Don't be afraid to prune. (This is done to plants to focus growth of a certain kind and direction - employees need this, too. However, just as you can't cut a plant too harshly, you cannot "prune" employees in a way that causes estrangement and anger and actually hinders development.)
5) Re-evaluate when it's not working. (Sometimes a certain kind of plant becomes noxious to the development of the garden. Managers have to be courageous enough to see this and make decisive changes when necessary. Sometimes you need to fire people.)

There is a lot more to the book in explaining these principles in more detail and the kinds of gardening techniques useful in succeeding with each of these principles.

Anderson provides some helpful illustrations, charts, checklists, and anecdotes from both gardening and business management. It reads easily. And if you like the metaphor, it will make the book that much more helpful to you. I think the book can be quite helpful for the person (manager) who finds the metaphor intriguing. It appealed to me.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best, January 2, 2007
By 
I review books for major business magazines, so I see virtually everything published. As anyone who reads business books knows, there is very little 'new' out there. This book breaks the mold. The author has a wonderful personal style, so the ideas are quite accessible, and the garden metaphor never gets tired. I particularly enjoyed her emphasis on the importance of listening, as so many male managers are taught that THEY are supposed to have the solution to every problem when in fact outcomes are often decided in tandem or in teams. If you can check out the companion website to the book it can be eye-opening.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, something helpful!, February 2, 2007
You know what distinguishes this book from pretty much everything else in this category: It's actually helpful. So many of these management books are filled with the obvious or the only-applicable-for-the-salesforce. This has stuff I was using the day I after I read it. My favorites:

1. How to really listen (sounds simple, but we're not usually doing it well). (chapter 1)
2. How to avoid with personality clashes when personalities/style differ, both between employees and between employees and clients. (chapter 6)
3. How to delegate and free up time (that's HOW to do it, not just that we're supposed to do this; already know that, of course). And -- this is what I began seeing just the other day -- how this gets employees to step up. (chapter 8)

Amazon's business book editor recommend the book, too (Titles for a Terrific 2007). Anyway, the book is good if you get to/have to manage people. I even ended up googling the author and found this podcast -- [...]
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book, August 17, 2007
By 
Meredith Wagner & Pat Langer (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
For nearly a decade, we have been the lucky beneficiaries of Erika Andersen's wisdom and counsel. Her communication style is clear and engaging, and we only wish we could type fast enough to memorialize all her wisdom. We consider having all her great insight in one book as not just a gift to us, but to anyone who wants to sharpen their own business skills and create an outstanding team.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Helpful, Engaging and Powerful Tool!, August 13, 2007
By 
Growing Great Employees is a helpful, engaging and powerful tool for managers to use in building building their staff and their departments. Erika's writing style pulled me in and kept me engaged in this concept of growing great employees. By the time I was finished reading the book, I felt empowered and prepared to better develop people and help them to develop themselves.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid, Practical, Usable Advice for Managers and Organizational Leaders, August 11, 2007
By 
K. Kesslin (Philadelphia, PA USA) - See all my reviews
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One of the few business books I've read that's not only useful, but a joy to read as well. Filled with practical information, it's clear that Andersen is a superb teacher. She not only shares information clearly, but includes many easy to use models, worksheets and assessments throughout the book. You don't just get to read about managing well, you are given ways to try thing out and practice new skills. This book would be great for new managers or for those more experienced looking to round out their people development skills.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How green is your organization's "thumb"?, April 13, 2009
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Note: The review that follows is of the paperback edition with a new preface.

Erika Andersen makes brilliant use of a number of horticultural metaphors when explaining "how to turn ordinary people into extraordinary performers": gardeners (i.e. effective managers), fertile soil, (i.e. a pleasant and supportive workplace), nutrients (i.e. constructive criticism, encouragement, recognition), and seeds (i.e. high potential workers with sound character and strong self-motivation). All are essential...and interdependent. Andersen's organization of the material is also appropriate. First, she explains how to prepare the "soil," formulate a plan, and select the "plants" (Chapters 1-3); then how to plant "not too deep and not too shallow," how to develop a "gardener's mindset," and what a "mixed bouquet" consists of and why it is important (Chapters 4-7); then she provides directions for "staking and weeding," letting [extraordinary performance] spread, and how to convert "plants" into "gardeners" (Chapters 7-9); finally, Andersen explains how to measure progress ("How does your garden grow?"), discusses why some "plants don't make it," and in the final chapter provides what she characterizes as "The Master Calendar" (Chapters 10-12). Just as almost anyone can learn how to grow grass, plants, fruits, and vegetables, almost anyone can help "grow" the people for whom they are primarily responsible as well as those with whom they are directly associated. As Barbara Kellerman explains in Followership: How Followers Are Creating Change and Changing Leaders, it is also possible to help "grow" immediate supervisors and even CEOs or their equivalent.

Through Andersen's narrative, she provides a wealth of information and advice about how to develop and consistently strengthen the mindset, knowledge, skills, and temperament that are required to establish and then sustain a "healthy" organization by continuous growth of its people throughout the entire enterprise. More specifically, she carefully explains how to:

1. Listen strategically to learn how to support employee growth in the workplace
2. Clarify and then communicate effectively an organization's needs and goals
3. Decide which people will "take root and flourish," which won't, and why
4. Decide where to "plant" new employees (i.e. level, area, duties, responsibilities)
5. Develop a mindset with both macro ("garden") and micro ("seed") perspectives
6. Provide customized attention (e.g. corrective feedback) to each "plant"
7. Support struggling workers who can improve, and "prune" those who can't or won't
8. Delegate authority and encourage prudent risk-taking
9. Help others to increase and strengthen their own skills as "gardeners"
10. Balance with others shared responsibilities for organizational and individual growth
11. Use the "management decision tree" to help identify hopeless "plants"
12. Apply the material in the book to the reader's own circumstances

Re the last point, Andersen invites her reader to check out the resources available at [...] Meanwhile, in the final chapter of this book, she provides a series of "Try It Out" self-diagnostics following a brief explanation of how to initiate movement toward mastery of the various skills identified and discussed in the previous eleven chapters: "Don't Stop Yourself, Honor How You Learn, [and] Practice."

Recent Gallup research indicates that only 29% of the U.S. workforce is positively engaged (i.e. loyal, enthusiastic, and productive) whereas 55% is passively disengaged. That is, they are going through the motions, doing only what they must, "mailing it in," coasting, etc. What about the other 16%? They are "actively disengaged" in that they are doing whatever they can to undermine their employer's efforts to succeed. There are dozens of excellent books in which their authors explain how to increase the percentage of positively engaged employees. I know of no other single source that provides better, more practical advice on how to achieve that worthy objective than does Growing Great Employees. I offer my congratulations to Erika Andersen on what I consider to be a brilliant achievement.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully Insightful, July 16, 2007
By 
Hair & Makeup Artist (Hudson Valley, New York) - See all my reviews
I purchased this book for all of my managers. It reads so well and leaves you wanting to continually pick it up again and again. I would recommend this book to anyone where challenging personalities are involved or if you need to inspire independent contractors to rise to their full potential.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear and Useful, August 13, 2007
By 
Clearly written, full of actionable insights and comprehensive. If you want to gain an understanding of what it means to be an effective manager of people, and come away with a framework for putting this knowledge into action in realistic and sensible ways, this is the book for you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An inspiring resource!, September 16, 2007
By 
J. Dire (new york, new york United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Tending the garden is metaphor and departure point for this brilliantly clear, wise and pragmatic book. If you aspire to be an effective leader, if you strive to achieve the potentiality of those who work with you or for you - whether you are a human resources professional, a CEO or newly minted supervisor - Erika Andersen's insights, tools and exercises will deepen your skills, give you fresh insights, and reinvigorate you.

GROWING GREAT EMPLOYEES reminds me that one's humanity plays a big role in becoming an influential leader. The importance of being a good listener, a mentor, being bold, honest, responsible and accessible to those around you are welcomed reminders in this era of myopic functionality, quarterly returns, and corporate liability.

Beyond trend, GGE will be a `perennially' relevant resource for the business community.
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Growing Great Employees: Turning Ordinary People into Extraordinary Performers
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