Blog

Trees & Teamwork – Leadership Reflection from Maxwell

Here’s a short article from John Maxwell that is a number of years old but has lasting nuggets of wisdom.

I think the points that stick out most to me this time around reading it are collaboration and debriefing.  Collaboration is so crucial or else you don’t have buy-in; you don’t have the best ideas; and you don’t engage the best of others in the pursuit.  As well, I think de-briefing is ignored far too often.  We do something and move on, failing to learn and glean wisdom from the journey because we fail to stop and reflect together.  De-briefing enables learning to occur; it enables the team to work through anything that came up during the process, and it allows relational bonds to go deeper.  So here is the article, I encourage you to read and reflect on it!   – Mike

TREES AND TEAMWORK

By Dr. John C. Maxwell

Leadership lessons are all around for those who know how to look

for them.  I’ve observed some powerful motives for leading

through teams from the trees around me.

A few winters ago, parts of the southeastern United States,

including Atlanta where I now live, endured a much tougher than

usual winter.  Following a wet, six-inch snowfall, pine trees

made a great parable of the need for teamwork.

Along the roads I noticed that where tall, young pine trees grew

in large stands, even though the branches were bowed with the

heavy snow, the trunks and branches were able to lean against one

another, thus providing support.  When the snow melted, those

trees that had support sprang back into their usual vertical

position.  But where that same species of tree stood alone, the

snow’s burden had a much different effect.  Branches bent until

they snapped.  Occasionally, the trunk even split in two.

Otherwise healthy, young trees lay broken on the snow.

On the West coast, where I previously lived, a different type of

tree provided another dramatic parable.  The giant redwoods only

achieve their great size in forests of redwoods.  The root

systems of these mammoth trees are relatively shallow.  Planted

alone, they will inevitably topple in high winds.  But in redwood

forests, their roots become entangled and bound together below

the earth’s surface.  Each tree is tethered by all its neighbors,

and together they can withstand hurricane force winds.

Leaders who go it alone will fail alone.  Collaborative

leadership takes more effort, but it yields greater results.

Collaborative leadership takes more time, but it provides a

greater probability of success.  The adage, “None of us is as

smart as all of us” becomes evident when your failure is a direct

result of failing to enlist the input of people on your team.

1.  Plan together.

This allows you to share the victory with your team, and allows

your team to share with you in the face of defeat.

2.  Prepare together.

Getting input from your team members not only improves your

chances of winning, it also prepares others for leadership roles.

When leaders and potential leaders work together, they learn from

each other new ways of processing information and planning

strategically.

3.  Celebrate together.

Never pass up an excuse to throw a party.  One of the most common

flaws I see in leaders across the country is when they reach a

significant milestone, they immediately set their sights on

another without stopping long enough to celebrate the victory

they’ve just won.  Do it!  Not for you, but for everyone else who

gave so much to make the win a reality.  And if you lose one once

in a while, celebrate the fact that it could have been worse!

4.  Debrief together.

After each win or loss, schedule a brief meeting to find out from

each participant what went well – and what could have gone

better.  You’ll see the situation from multiple viewpoints, and

you’ll also see first-hand who on your team is growing in their

ability to handle success and defeat.

When you apply the lesson of the trees, you’ll emerge from the

storms of life intact!