Human Beans

A handful of beans, fresh from my garden taught me something about my work, today.

It's been a frightfully, delightfully busy few weeks - meetings, networking, client projects, workshop delivery - all the usual business, of being in business. No complaints here - we love this work! But in the midst of it all, I looked longingly out the home office window at my wilting-in-the-summer-heat veggie garden, and chastised myself for not paying it more attention. All those long hours in the early summer, weeding, preparing the soil and nurturing those beautiful seedlings - surely this lack of attention over the last two weeks would mean that all my early labour was wasted. How disappointing! The thought passed as quickly as it arrived, and for two more days I forgot the garden in a whirlwind of projects.

Time to breathe

Eventually, an hour of breathing space opened up today between meetings, and I stepped into that garden, feeling sure I'd find wilted, brown, snail-sullied plants to torment me. I was right. The tomatoes have definitely seen better days (although to be fair, we had a pretty good early run). The zucchinis are all but annihilated by a voracious family of snails. The rocket has gone to seed and bitterly taken over an entire garden bed. As I searched sadly for some signs of life, I looked to the beans and herbs with hope - but again, wilted, browning disappointment. Although - a few flowers remained on the bean stalks - so I watered them in hope of a few late season beans, to soothe my troubled vegetarian soul.

Keep looking!

As I stood watering the only remaining garden bed with any signs of life, I noticed in the tangled, neglected vines, a single purple bean. I reached forward to pick it - and then noticed another. And another. And behold - my very first green bean of the season - with more there, and under here, and over there! Putting down the hose and harvesting with both hands, stuffing my pockets, I managed to pull out enough beans for a favourite dish tonight - and spotted even more baby beans ready for harvest soon.

Human Beans

As I left the garden, I reflected on the similarities between my garden and my business. In our work developing people, we can get caught up working on the next crop, and the next crop, without pausing to see the fruits of the early work we put in, sometimes years ago. We can sometimes scan the horizon and wonder in frustration - where did all those people go, who I nurtured, cared for, walked the journey with? Why can't I see the fruits of my labours?


Then, one day when you least expect it, you have a chance encounter or a long-overdue conversation, and see that with the good early groundwork, they have been growing themselves all along. The creative soul who started as a chef, but ended up running adventure tours all over the world and shooting amazing footage of his adventures, sparked by an idea from a conversation with you. The once-shy Mum returning to work who has blossomed through your early advice and encouragement. The executive who had truly hit a career roadblock, until he learned to manage and work through his negative emotions at work, who has progressed far, using the simple practices you showed him.

These are just a few of the conversations I've had in the last few weeks, and it just goes to show, that if you put in the good early work, then the human beans will take care of themselves too!

Nurture the delightful human beans around you. Eventually, you will see the fruits of your labours.

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About the author 

Catherine Bell

Catherine is a true believer in the power of people to transform organisations - and the world. An inspiring Speaker, Facilitator and Coach, Catherine has spent more than 18 years of her career leading teams and individuals to extraordinary performance. She has worked as a Consultant, Trainer and Human Resources Manager with some of the largest service organisations in the world, both in Australia and internationally.