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Speaker shares leadership GROW concept

Staff photo by Zack Steen

Commission on the Future of Alcorn County Chairman Greg Williams gets his copy of "Growing Weeders Into Leaders" signed by Community Forum guest speaker Jeff McManus.

BY ZACK STEEN zsteen@dailycorinthian.com

Jeff McManus knows what it means to grow.

He does it everyday not just with flowers, trees and bushes, but also with people.

As the director of landscape services at The University of Mississippi, McManus needed something to engage his employees. He needed to discover a way to engage his staff to work harder and care more. In a crowded Pizza Grocery banquet room on Tuesday, he shared his leadership lessons at the Commission on the Future of Alcorn County Community Forum.

"I don't take credit for coming up with this. I just listened to some wise people and I started figuring out some things," McManus said. "It's really a simple theory."

The man behind the beauty that is the Ole Miss campus developed an approach to managing resources and developing personnel called GROW.

"It's a management and professional development approach based in the belief that all humans either strive for or have within them the elements of Greatness, Resiliency, Opportunity and Wisdom - they just need a fertile environment to GROW," he said. "How do you get front line employees to care about their work? You show them how to GROW."

To further engage his landscape crew, affectionately known as "weeders," he began working to develop those "weeders" into "leaders." He designed a professional development plan called Landscape University that promoted an individuals's innate ability to GROW.

It started by having employees read team building books and encouraging them to find purpose in their job.

"Being able to develop 'weeders' into 'leaders' has been a joyous challenge that reaped acres of rewards in the form of national recognition by the Princeton Review, Newsweek and everyone who has walked onto the Ole Miss campus," added McManus. "Because what you plant is what you grow. If you don't plant anything, you get weeds. When you don't intentionally plant into your team what you want to grow, you'll get the same thing. When you start developing leadership skills in your people, you start developing leaders and they think different - try it."

(McManus is the author of "Growing Weeders into Leaders." For more information, visit his website at jeffmcmanusspeaking.com.)