In 2010, portions of the Atwater bluff along the shores of Lake Michigan collapsed due to excessive rain. The flooding eroded the hill and cut off access to the beach for Milwaukee’s residents.

Instead of creating a wall to secure the sands, local engineers realized that utilizing natural plants would provide a more sustainable solution. Organizers stabilized the bluff with over 3000 native plants whose deep roots serve to hold back the hill and provide a natural habitat for area birds and insects. The area is now designated as a Monarch Butterfly Waystation and many other creatures benefit from the plants and shrubs. The native vegetation also provides a scenic vista to line the Lake while allowing natural sand dunes and grasses to develop.

Sometimes, it takes a disastrous event to cause people to stop and reassess what is best on the path forward. I doubt that people would have invested the effort to intentionally create a natural ecosystem on the bluff if the stormwater had not severely damaged it but the end result is an enhancement.

As you live through your own version of bluff collapse, take advantage of the opportunity to rethink what comes next. You have a chance to rebuild in a way that is better.


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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