Over the weekend, I decided it was time to transplant a couple trees that have been growing in the sun bleached pots on my patio. As I started to pull the trees out of the pots, I noticed the dirt in each pot had almost disappeared and had been replaced with a massive root ball. I had to completely destroy the pots to get the trees out. Both trees had stopped growing a year or so ago. They did not die, they just stopped growing - they were root bound.
In life or in business, if we stop growing, are we root bound? Do we become complacent in our pots on a sunny, warm patio? Some of us are lucky enough to start out with a nice big pot to live in and have someone to nurture us. We should be thankful. We also have to remember that even though we start out in a nice big pot, we can’t grow to our full potential if our roots can’t grow with us.
These trees made me think of my business career too, and as I look back, I realize that sometimes my roots needed a bigger pot. I focused on my own growth on the outside - like a tree, I reached for the skies. What I sometimes lost sight of was the fact that my roots were bound. I should have focused more on how to add the space I needed for creating new roots, not just the root ball I had.
Most organizations are excited about where they came from. This pride in what they have accomplished is well deserved. Success in business is a tough road and those who travel it remember every pot hole and dangerous curve where they lost control a time or two. When they feel like they know where all the curves are and they filled in all the pot holes, it’s easy to coast along. The coasting phase of business is when your roots will quickly fill up the space they had. This is the time you have to transplant, this is the time for growing new roots.
A business can become so entrenched in their roots they forget - without the space for growing new roots, your business, like the trees on my patio, will stop growing. Our roots help us grow, and our roots need time and to spread out. Over the years, I have seen and actively participated in focusing on the roots as they are today in a business, instead of planning for room for growing more. I call this the “root ball of business”. We become trapped in a pot that is too small and we just stop growing.
“Pigeonholed Leadership is believing your past successes will continue without change.”
A year ago I was talking with someone who said to me “we do it this way because it’s who we are, it’s in our roots.” I complimented him on their achievements, then warned him of the potential of being root bound. I don’t believe he understood the analogy. Their tree stopped growing, some branches have fallen off, and my hope for them is they will get a bigger pot and grow more roots.
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