Getting to Know You

By Glenda Mostek, CNGA Executive Director

Glenda Mostek
CNGA Executive Director

Hello everyone! I hope you are enjoying the warm days and the hope of spring! As I write this, I am in my eighth week here at the Colorado Nursery and Greenhouse Association (CNGA), and enjoying getting to meet everyone and learn about this industry.

While I am new and it is important for me to get to know YOU, the CNGA members, my column this month focuses more generally on the value of all of us getting to know people. As you are aware, we lost a board member, Michelle Krumdieck, very unexpectedly last month. The board and staff are still in shock. And I am so sad that I didn’t get to know her better.

In my last few years of working and studying leadership, I have come to believe that the greatest value of the workplace is relationships, and developing those relationships through getting to know your co-workers, staff, supervisors, and others in the industry. It is important to find out not just what makes people tick at work, but also who they are as a person. You don’t have to learn everyone’s whole life story, but digging a little deeper helps explain their personality, the way they do things, and how they approach others.

I met with one of our industry leaders just last week and toured his operation. Looking back, I realize that I learned a lot about how his business works, and some of the science behind plants and propagation, but I failed to ask what he does outside of work, and if he has a family. I will not forget to learn these things in the future. While we think that we separate our work lives from our family lives, they are inherently intertwined. What is going on with our family, home life and personal life can greatly affect our work life, and we also carry a great deal of our work life home with us.

Everyone has a story, and it is up to you as a boss, a manager or a co-worker to get to know those stories. You don’t have to grill people, just ask them a question. Ask about their kids. Ask about their pets. In this industry, ask about their home garden or yard. Asking one question can suddenly lead to a story that explains so much about the person and their personality.

One of my favorite questions is: “How did you get where you are today?” This can lead down quite a few paths, and is great for a fairly long car ride together. You can learn some amazing things about people. Not everyone takes a straight path in their career. Most people don’t – and it is those twists and turns that make things interesting. My brother went from being a vice president with a major bank to owning and managing a horse farm and fireworks business (one of his childhood dreams). I started out as a music teacher and ended up back in agriculture, and I couldn’t be happier.

You might think that this sounds a bit calculated – like you are going to ask questions so you can manage someone better. But I am genuinely interested, and I hope you are, too. Like CBS news reporter Steve Hartman, I believe that everyone has a story. Where you came from, who you hang out with, if you have kids, and what their ages are creates your story, and all the stories are different. From the frontline employees to those in the background, managing money or managing people, those stories shape our days. If you learn those stories, they can also shape your relationships and the way you work together, almost always for the better. I encourage you to learn someone else’s story, or a little more of it, this week.