Why correcting mistakes like a gardener makes you a productive leader

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“My team keeps making bone-headed mistakes!” As a leader, do you know why this statement is damaging? This style of leadership is what I call the lumberjack. You use broad, sweeping strokes with an ax to correct mistakes.

The result is a more hostile work environment. This type of environment not only slows improvement, it can seriously damage the relationship between you and your team.

A more productive form of leadership is what I call the gardener. The gardener corrects mistakes with gentle pruning and shaping—encouraging growth and stronger relationships.

Here are some tips on being a gardener instead of a lumberjack:

1. Avoid responding to first-time mistakes, as long as they’re not serious, life-threatening or illegal.

2. If a non-serious mistake becomes a pattern, step in and offer gentle guidance in a supportive manner.

3. If a mistake is serious, respond quickly with clarity, rather than allowing emotions to build up and become explosive.

As a productive leader, always focus on your desire to help them succeed, rather than the inconvenience their mistake may have caused you. By being a gardener, you’ll be rewarded with a highly-productive, dedicated team to lead.


A productive leader understands that their most valuable activity is growing a successful team. Learn more ways to be this kind of leader in my LinkedIn Learning course, Productive Leadership: davecrenshaw.com/leadership.

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