Jeff McManus | Growing Weeders Into Leaders

Cultivating a culture of trust and leadership

among people


…it’s the true leader who stops and says how can I add value, how can I grow this greatness in a person by just an encouraging word, by making their job important and making them feel important as it is…Jeff McManus

Oftentimes, most people think that what they’re doing is irrelevant and will not really affect other people. They have a small regard for their job and doesn’t think that they can actually do great things out of it. A true leader does one step ahead of the others when he thinks of how he can make his people feel valued and how he can help them grow and be great at what they do.

As a leader…that’s part of my role. I need to make sure they know what they do is very important.Jeff McManus

It’s not enough that these people that we work with feel that they are important and that they can do greater things. It’s also necessary that they believe that whatever job they’re doing, no matter how small it seems, it is as significant as the other jobs in the world. Jeff stresses how essential it is to make your members feel proud of what they are doing and develop the sense of ownership in what they do. It doesn’t have to be one big thing but it actually starts the little things – looking at them in the eye and saying good morning, acknowledging their presence and value, and slowing down and investing time in these people. Jeff has found out that when he does these, it actually multiplies out in the field and he gets more things done.

If we don’t trust each other, strategy means nothing.Jeff McManus

Jeff believes that a culture of trust must be developed in a workplace for it empowers everybody in the group. Even if a team has the best strategy, when members do not trust each other, it becomes ineffective. Building trust takes time as people have to know each other to understand one another. Leaders need to be reassuring and nonintimidating facilitators to make their members feel secure, to open up and to get them to talk. In this way, the trust will slowly grow and develop within the team.

I didn’t realize that I could really plant and help cultivate a great culture, but I did.

What You Will Learn:

  • The importance of creating a positive legacy
  • How you can make a positive impact on your team members as a leader
  • The importance of how we view our job
  • The importance of slowing down and investing time in your members
  • The qualities of a good facilitator
  • The importance of meaningful conversations
  • The importance of building trust in your team



Jeff McManus grows things.  As the Director of Landscape Services at the University of Mississippi, he grows plants….he grows people….he grows ideas.  Jeff is a problem-solver, understanding that doing more with less is a 21st century mandate.

After coming to the University in 2000, Jeff took on the challenge of managing a multi-million dollar landscaping beautification implementation project.  Faced with a demand for excellence and high productivity, and a stagnant budget, Jeff knew that growing the people was critical to growing the plants. Through that experience, Jeff developed his approach to managing resources and developing personnel – his GROW-theory; a management and professional development  approach based in the belief that all humans either strive for or have within them the elements of Greatness, Resiliency, Opportunity and Wisdom – they just need a fertile environment to GROW.

Taking his grounds staff, affectionately known as “weeders”, and developing them into “leaders” has been a joyous challenge that reaped acres of rewards in the form of national recognition by the Princeton Review, PGMS, Newsweek and every faculty, staff, student and visitor who has walked onto the Ole Miss Campus.  Building on that momentum, Jeff has designed a professional development plan for his Weeders called Landscape University – a replicable training program that promotes the individual’s innate ability to GROW.

Jeff holds a Bachelor of Science in Landscape and Ornamental Horticulture from Auburn University and is a PGMS Certified Grounds manager, and Certified Arborist.  His message rings true for any industry leader or manager looking to GROW a high-performance and dedicated workforce.  Jeff has spoken at Caterpillar Inc, the Biltmore Estates, Leadercast, SRAPPA, Trent Lott Leadership Institute as well as the SEC Ole Miss Athletics.  He has also worked with Memphis University, the University of Tennessee, the University of Georgia and private firms in developing their own training programs.

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