When I moved to Iowa ten years ago, I was the first house in a former field that was plowed over to create a subdivision. There were no trees on the multi-acre tract and even a decade later, the individual trees planted in me and my neighbors’ yards seem isolated and sparse. Fortunately for me, in my backyard is a robust line of trees that have all evolved naturally. Wind and birds took the acorns and seeds and deposited them on the fertile drain stream that runs along my fence, and these trees have grown much taller and faster than the ones I purchased.

I enjoy these “volunteer trees” and am reminded that what happens naturally – or in the case of humans, happens by choice – is always stronger than that which is forced. If we allow our staff or volunteers to choose their roles, chances are better that they will thrive more heartily than if they are placed somewhere by fiat. The synergy of a group creates a grove that flourishes and requires far less energy than forced pairings. If we allow for spontaneity and flow, like spirits will gravitate toward each other and create an abundance that does not occur in isolation.

My natural row of trees creates a wind barrier, a privacy fence and a view outside my window that I welcome. I didn’t do anything to create it, but I have taken measures to preserve it. Several times during adjacent construction or utility upgrades the contractors have wanted to clear the area – and they have done so in every other yard but mine. But I’ll keep my row of trees as an omnipresent reminder that we should respect the natural order of things and allow for some self-selection rather than imposing a structure on all that surrounds us.

What element of your organization would you be better off leaving alone?


I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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