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Trees don’t do growth plans. Neither should we.

As we feel our way back into business and ways of working post lockdown, I’ve noticed a transmitted sense of urgency amongst those keen for us to somehow make up for the lost time. Perhaps because coaching is an area that matters to me, I have noticed a trend towards scale and automation and efficiency, making my toes curl. This morning,  Dr Gerrit Pelzer captured it well in a post around an article in the Spectator. Putting aside the politics of the journal, it resonated. In the fifty years or so since it emerged as an area, coaching has become industrialised.

We each have a unique perspective on the world. We inherit the raw material which is processed through our upbringing, culture, and education to bring us where we are right now. Whatever we do, wherever we are, that perspective is invaluable. Nobody else has it, and we need it. 

Homogenising perspectives into a manufactured culture runs the risk of blandness at best and blindness at worst. Rather like having the instincts and potential of a chef and eating at McDonald’s to save time.

A tree doesn’t have a plan or a policy, and it won’t rush. It doesn’t decide it needs to be fully grown after three years rather than three hundred and adapts to its environment rather than rushes to shape it. Every single one is different in the detail of its shape, its root structure, and its connection network. It will spend roughly a third of its life growing, a third thriving, and a third feeding back into the ground that raised it. 

Suppose we try to rush into our return from a global trauma and fail to learn the lesson about sustainability, collaboration, and perspective it is teaching us. In that case, we will be lucky to get out of it alive – or, more accurately, our children and grandchildren will be lucky to get out of it alive.

Right now, it is a glorious Spring morning. What is emerging is joyous, and summer will happen at its own pace. 

We must, I think, learn from what happens when we obsess over forced scale and growth. We create businesses that lack texture, depth, rootedness and connection.

We have an opportunity to do better. We should take it, starting with how we grow people.

We can help people grow, but not tell them how to, how quickly, or in what direction. They can do that for themselves.

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About the Author

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Complexity and volatility create enormous opportunities for those willing to go beyond the boundaries of "business as usual" to explore the edges of their business. I am an entrepreneur, a coach, a creative thinker, and above all, an explorer of possibility.

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