Picture of Erik Van Alstine

Erik Van Alstine

Author. Leadership strategist. Expert in Perceptual IntelligenceTM.

My Grass, Your People: Cultivating Extraordinary Health and Growth

I love helping leaders build healthy work cultures, office environments where people get along, get things done, and get better together.

It’s a challenge because leaders are usually strong on strategy but weak on health, so their grand plans get sabotaged by people-problems they feel they can’t solve. The drama and division and resistance keep things from getting done. Groups sometimes get worse together, not better. Morale is low, and turnover is high. The best workers quit and go to competitors.

Organizational health is a big deal, which is why I love helping leaders get more of it.

I’ve also recently come to love something closely related to organizational health: grass health. The quality of my yard. For two years now I’ve been keeping my own lawn. I’m hooked. A total turf nut, obsessed with perfect grass.

It’s paying off. Here are some recent pictures.

My Front Yard
My Back Yard
My Back Yard
A close up shot: healthy elite perennial ryegrass from corner to corner.

Before this, I used a lawn service for decades. Didn’t think I’d know how to do it or had time for it. The guys in green came in like clockwork to mow blow and cut weekly in summer, monthly in winter. I was unhappy with the quality but couldn’t find better service, so I simply accepted status quo.

When I finally got sick of the guys in green and tried it myself, I was instantly hooked.

It felt primal to get out of my sanitized office and into the dirt. To buy mowers and edgers and rakes. To put on gloves and rubber boots. To smell like gas and grime. To rule every square foot of my yard, fully own it, be the last line of defense, solely responsible for excellence or disgrace.

Last September I got some expert advice and did a complete renovation, dozing the whole yard, leveling it, smoothing it, tilling the soil, perfecting the irrigation. Then I planted an elite perennial ryegrass that’s optimal for cool season lawns here in the Seattle area.

It was a mess. Here’s what it all looked like in the middle of the rework.

I dozed the entire yard, 7/10th of an acre, front back and everywhere. A mess!

Compare that with the pictures above just a couple months later. Big difference.

Before my newfound lawn-love, great grass was a mystery. I didn’t have it and didn’t know how to get it. My neighbors didn’t either. I had pretty much what you see everywhere. Sucky yellow grass with brown spots, moss and weeds. It was bumpy, lumpy, and dumpy, nothing to be proud of. Driving around town I’d seen some great yards. But even up here in the Pacific Northwest, where my golf course superintendent friend says “a monkey could grow grass,” great yards are few and far between.

Same with companies. Great cultures are few and far between. There’s way too much yellow and brown instead of lush green, too many weeds and too little pure turf.

What leaders need for organizational health is what I needed for my lawn: a good team of expert cultivators to help me with the transformation. I was fortunate to find a few guys with brains and boots to get down in the dirt with me and make things happen. Leaders need the same thing in their organization: Guys in boots to help get rid of the weeds and make things grow.

I’m a cultivator at heart, whether that be for my grass or your people. I want people to walk by your office and admire the greenery, say something similar to what they say to me over the fence: wow, nice company.

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