As I have recently been training a new staff member, I have been trying to strike a balance between the pragmatic and the contextual topics that we cover.  It is important for her to know the nuts and bolts of the job, but equally as important for her to understand the “why” behind the way we currently do things and the larger purpose of our work.

For a new employee, it is a hard balance to achieve.  There is so much to be learned seemingly simultaneously and the work still needs to be done while learning.  I think the same is true after the initial learning curve, and many people let the developmental side slip away in favor of the urgent.

I am reminded of the Peach Tree Analogy created by Dee Groberg.  If you think of the “peaches” as the results you want to achieve or the projects you need to do, and pay attention only to them, your tree will eventually die.

You must also pay attention to the trunk which is the “means”.  The trunk is tangible intervention that you can see:  training, meetings, infrastructure, etc.  You need to tend to the trunk, yet you can’t have sustained success with the trunk alone.

Groberg advocates paying attention to the roots as well, likening them to the source of alignment.  The “roots” are philosophy, vision, values, character, culture that need to align in order for the trunk to thrive and for the peaches to be plentiful.  His analogy maintains that water is trust and that it must have a continuous flow throughout the whole tree for the fruit to blossom.

It’s a simple analogy, but a good barometer for staff to follow.  Everyone must pay attention to all the parts of the tree in order to be truly successful.  You need to spend the time getting to know colleagues and mission as much as you need to dedicate time to improving the process.  You need to avoid the drought that comes with a lack of trust and damages everything.  

Tending to the whole tree, instead of focusing only on the fruit, will make life more peachy in the long run. 

— beth triplett


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