This past week one or two brave weather forecasters casually suggested a “little bit of wind” was heading our way in Central Texas. Since everything is “bigger” here, it came as no surprise that the “little bit of wind” turned out to reach near hurricane levels.
Normally wind alone doesn’t phase a Northeasterner like me. We have often typically prided ourselves on having had to trudge through miles of blizzard conditions just to reach 4th grade…or at least that’s the story we tell our kids. So a little wind?…piece of cake.
Bravado aside, the wind we had this week was a doozy. So much so, that the proud and noble 25 foot high Italian Cypress trees standing at attention like sentinels on either side of my driveway where bending and bowing as if the Emperor of Japan was strolling down their path.
That’s the way I imagined it must have looked anyway before “it“ happened.
“It”, as it turned out, happened - of course – while I was some 30 miles away in downtown Austin at a business meeting.
Sidenote to all those who have ever traveled for business and who already “know” theses general rules of thumb.
1) When we get an unexpected call from our wife or children in the middle of a business meeting it is either very good or very bad…. hardly ever in between.
2) When we get an unexpected call from our neighbor in the middle of a storm it’s going to be bad…and so it was.
As it turned out, my wonderful neighbor called to tell me 2 of my proud soldiers had bowed too far and fallen. They were in fact literally uprooted from their very souls. One, he said, was lying across my driveway and would prevent me from entering my driveway when I returned. “Call (him) when I got home,” he invited, “and we could move it together”.
Needless to say I ended the meeting and hurried home. To my delight, my dear neighbor took it upon himself to move it for me…. What a great guy! Byron Zinn is his name and – bottom line - they don’t make neighbors any better than Byron!
The arborist said the trees that fell were “toast”. There was no way to bring them back. He said, although they had been growing for more than 10 years, they probably were wrapped tightly in bowls for too long before their initial planting. He said trees like that would – my words – create their own “bowl minded DNA” and never drop roots deep enough to really take. So the root systems were too shallow and the first strong wind toppled them over like dominoes.
Now I’m no arborist but somehow this far fetched explanation made some sense to me.
The landscaper said there was a slim chance we could save them.
Being the perennial optimist I am now in the process of trying to save them. The landscaper came today and his men hoisted the 2 trees back upright, replanted and braced them.
Time will tell who was right but I started to think about this as it might apply to people in our companies.
How many times do we recruit young 5-foot seedlings from the best schools and industry, plant them in our companies, provide them plenty of sun (ie: earned money, compliments and encouragement), and rain (ie: earned constructive criticism) and hope/trust they will grow to 25 foot giants, exuding the culture, behavior, skills and experience we have so carefully nurtured.
How often do we see them grow and believe their roots are digging deeper into the company culture and mindset we provide.
And how often are we so devastatingly disappointed when some of them fall, like my Cypress trees, at the first strong wind, and run to others (including our competition) without regard or consideration to how much we appreciated them and provided for their needs year after year.
So the real questions are, how deep are the roots of the tall Italian Cypress trees in your company? Are they braced for storms. Or are they stronger in appearance than in reality?
I hope and encourage you to find out soon before the winds blow again.