How to Effectively Manage Daily Challenges at Work - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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How to Effectively Manage Daily Challenges at Work

Every landscape company encounters daily challenges, ranging from tiny workflow hiccups and minor snags to major issues and complete disasters. The question is not how to eliminate these challenges — you can’t – but rather, how to leverage them for your benefit.

Phil Harwood, managing partner for, will cover insights and strategies for new and seasoned industry professionals on how to more effectively manage themselves and others through even the most challenging days during his session at LANDSCAPES 2020: The Virtual Experience.  

His session “Managing the Daily Disaster” will encourage professionals to embrace problems when they occur.

“I’m really challenging the attendees to consider their role is not necessarily someone who just checks off all their to-do items for the day but really sees their role as a problem solver,” Harwood says. “I think this applies to every single person in the company. There’s not a certain position this session is best for. This is a session for owners, for managers, for salespeople, for crew leaders and people out on the crew as well.”

Expect Things to Go Wrong

Daily disasters are unforeseen incidents that can catch you off guard. They aren’t rainy days, which you have protocols for. Rather these disasters could be anything from property damage to an accident on the road to a disgruntled customer.

Any number of things can happen every day and people can be frustrated that their day doesn’t always go as planned.

“People can just get worn down by that, and kind of get an attitude,” Harwood says. “But if they tend to reprogram the way they think about this, and really start thinking about their job is being a problem solvers and when those things do occur, they have a better attitude and they’re able to manage their way through it. They see that as a very important part of their job, not as a disruption to their job, but part of the job.”

In the session, Harwood says he’ll ask attendees to think about their schedule for the following day. If they had to assume something that’s going, what is it going to be?

“You probably have a pretty good guess if something’s going be getting messed up tomorrow, you probably already know what it is,” Harwood says. “You can probably do something about it if you want to put the effort into it.”

He says don’t be surprised when things go as planned. Go one step further and anticipate when things are going to go wrong.

“If you can predict the problem, you can get out ahead of it,” he says.

Everyone Is a Problem Solver

“My philosophy is everyone is a problem solver, no matter what your role is, we all have our own things we have to work with,” Harwood says.

One way to encourage this behavior in your company is to highlight good examples of employees who did the right thing and were problem solvers in a situation. Harwood says anyone in a supervisory capacity would do well to not give the answer away without asking the person calling what they think they should do with the current problem.

“Turn it around on them, ‘What do you recommend?’” Harwood says. “I used to do this all the time. ‘Call me back in five minutes and think it through. Tell me the pros and cons. Give me a couple different scenarios and tell me what you think we should do and I’ll tell you whether or not I agree.’”

When Disaster Strikes

Most of the unforeseen incidents of the day are when a customer isn’t happy.

“Best practices are don’t be defensive, really try to listen and try to learn and try to understand where they’re coming from and really be forward-thinking, and forward-focused,” Harwood says.

Harwood says it’s important to let the customer know you hear them and get them moving towards a resolution. Share what you’re going to do to fix the issue.

He says often when a problem comes up there’s typical the thought of ‘Okay, here we go again. Now my whole day has gone sideways’ but having a different mindset about issues makes it easier to deal with them as they occur.

When a daily disaster strikes, Harwood says stop what you’re doing, get your head clear, get something to write on and identify specific things that need to be dealt with.

“Take the time to kind of readjust your expectations for the day or your game plan,” Harwood says. “Get out ahead of it. Reschedule meetings. Fire off some emails. If you’re not going to make it to your next stop and it’s a super important thing that you need to get to maybe someone else can take care of that for you.”

He says it’s important to have a specific plan for every day before the day gets going that way things don’t fall through the cracks.

Want more information about managing daily disasters? Attend LANDSCAPES 2020!

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.