Leadership lessons hit home for landscaping exec

Dana Bech, VP Services Division, Horizon Landscape Contractors Inc.

Can a three-day course change your life? Absolutely, says Horizon Landscape Contractors executive Dana Bech.

For three days last fall, Dana commuted from Langley to Vancouver to take the first course in our Executive Leadership Certificate program. On his first trip, Dana confesses he felt a “bit judgmental” about the sea of humanity sweeping in through the SkyTrain doors. By the third day, he found himself observing his fellow passengers with a new sense of curiosity and compassion.

“I was more interested in finding out what their story was,” he recalls. “How did they get where they were? Everybody’s been through some trouble, everybody’s had difficulties they’ve gone through in their life that have helped develop and make them who they are. If we can understand where they’ve come from, we’re so much more open and willing to appreciate them.”

The class that made such an impact on Dana was Personal Foundations of Successful Leadership. “It gave me a chance to reflect on my work life, on my life outside of work, and to become a better person,” he says. “I really do think it’s a life-changing course.”

His deepened self-awareness and appreciation for others drove him straight to his fiancée to apologize for any pain he’d ever caused her. “I gave her a big hug,” he smiles. “I get emotional just thinking about it.”

In addition to nurturing his personal relationships, Dana’s new outlook breathed fresh life into his workplace. He had joined Horizon eight years earlier as a crew foreman before working his way onto the management team. In 2019, he was named a vice-president. Despite his rise through the ranks, he admits to feeling somewhat “stuck.”

“I felt I had reached my capacity to really develop the team and other executives around me, and that there needed to be some outside source to help me push those individuals to become better.”

Given the seasonal nature of the landscaping industry, Dana’s greatest challenges at Horizon included a high turnover rate and the difficulty of motivating temporary staff, challenges that would only be magnified as the company grew. The Executive Leadership program allowed Dana to connect with other professionals facing similar difficulties and gain different perspectives.

“Though we’re in such different sectors of work, we’re all dealing with the same issues, dealing with people and how to motivate them to get the best out of them. It was really great to see how one industry would deal with it, compared to how we would deal with it, and get that feedback.”

Today Dana is bringing what he’s learning back to Horizon, planting seeds of ideas that are already bearing fruit. Within the company, Dana is seeing a more cohesive team develop, thanks to a growing acceptance of ideas from outside the executive core, and a shift toward a decision-making process that now involves employee consultation.

Yet he’s reluctant to take any credit. “Leadership is not just me,” he says. “I’m a part of it, but leadership really is the team. So, getting us all on the same page, preaching the same things, is what’s going to drive that change, or drive us in the right direction.”

Years ago, Dana had joined the landscaping industry for the instant gratification it offers—for the simple joy of expertly cutting a lawn or preparing a garden bed. Occasionally, he still enjoys heading out to a job site and getting his hands dirty. But these days, he’s finding a deeper sense of satisfaction elsewhere.

“Now that gratification comes from watching individuals grow and develop and become better people, better employees and supervisors,” he says. “For me, that’s very powerful to see.”

By Kim Mah