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Five years ago we bought our new home. It came with a beautiful garden.

At first I neglected it. In our second year, I realized I loved gardening. When I took on the mantle of family gardener, I threw myself in with abandon.

"What does my garden need?", I wondered. I check out a stack of books from our neighborhood library to find out.

What I learned fascinated me.

Above all, what makes a great garden is great soil.

And what makes great soil? Rich black hummus that supports a thriving community of microbes that in turn makes nutrients bioavailable for plants.

So it's about community. Now I was hooked.

The heart of my work is building community. High-trust relationships with shared articulated values drive productive and thriving workplaces.

And the same is true for my plants! To thrive, my plants need a robust symbiotic community at work.

I could see this principle in play. When I placed my plants on top of poor soil, they withered. While I might get a season or two out of them, in the end they died.

But when I transplanted withered ferns that looked like they were on their last gasp to an area where I'd mixed in rich compost, within days they had pealed themselves off the ground and were standing tall and green.

It was like a miracle!

I see a similar thing happen workplaces. Leaders implement best practice programs, customer service trainings and other initiatives to build a culture of great customer service.

But when these programs are planted on poor soil--low-trust relationships, old resentments or high stress cultures, they regularly fail.

When your staff is secretly (or actively) resentful or frustrated, no training is going to give you award-winning customer service.

Trust and shared values is the currency of great culture. It is the soil that makes everything bloom.

Does your community at work share common articulated values? Do your staff and customers feel appreciated and heard? Do you trust each other? If you are wondering why a recent initiative did not produce the desired result, ask yourself, "Do I have great soil?"

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