After a long winter in Omaha, I’ve been trying to soak up as much of the outdoors as possible. Unexpectedly, I’ve become OBSESSED with gardening. (I think it has something to do with the fact that for the past 10 years, I’ve lived in places where seasons really aren’t a thing – so watching stuff sprout up is exciting!).  

Plus, life in the Midwest is new for me, and instead of a more traditional design, I’m embracing the beauty of the prairie and constructing my own little native plant ecosystem that will support a healthy balance of birds, bees, insects, and wildlife.  

Every morning and evening you can catch me out in the garden, either planting or weeding. It’s cathartic and peaceful. I find myself doing some of my best thinking and meditating out there.

My biggest “a-ha!” moment?

I realized that gardening is a lot like creating a positive workplace culture: you plant the foundational elements (mission, vision, values) add a bit of groundcover for order (systems and processes) and then you weed out the bad stuff. CONSTANTLY. It helps if you don’t let those go too long, because they get big and sow their seeds quickly.

You also have to think about each plant individually. Under which conditions will it thrive? Does it need sun, shade, or a mix of the two? Is the soil too rich or poor? And then you have to think about the plants collectively. How do they spread? When do they bloom? You want a mix of different heights so they don’t crowd each other out, and some require more tending than others.  

I’ll spare you an in-depth analysis of the analogies (you’re picking up what I’m throwing down, right?!) but hopefully, you found this as useful as I did for understanding workplace culture as a system.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when there are so many interrelated parts, but when you put it into the context of gardening, it becomes easier to assess and prioritize your next actions.

Still a little fuzzy? Reach out to me at and let’s start a conversation!

About the author…

Valerie Rivera is on a mission to help organizations create workplace cultures where people thrive. Above all, she loves the thrill of seeing people come to life at work – with renewed purpose, engagement, and initiative. Valerie incorporates best practices in organizational behavior, design thinking, and coaching for change that sticks, and partners with clients to develop practical strategies tailored to their needs.