I killed a plant today – Unintentional I swear!

After ten years of plants growing unchecked, beauty had morphed into chaos. Cute little gumdrop bushes had either died or grown into shaggy bullies to neighboring flowers. The elderberry had become a menace to anyone approaching our front door (Sorry, couriers!!). A small tree had made contact with our front window to provide creepy screeching sounds in the wind.

We had a bit of disaster.

We were ruthless in pulling out weeds, removing dead wood, and working around what we needed to preserve (don’t touch that rose bush!).

One of our favorites – the purple Lupine – had grown close to the garden wall and needed to be transplanted to a spot where it had more room. We carefully dug around it, give the roots a wide berth. We pulled away the garden wall to get under it.

But the roots ran deep, and we found a literal Gordian knot of interwoven plants under the surface. As careful as we were, we couldn’t help breaking a few roots.

We transplanted the flower to its new home which featured an arresting view of our front sidewalk and unobstructed access to the sun, supplemented with a number of vitamins and minerals in the soil to help reduce shock and encourage growth.

It didn’t make it. And that makes me sad.

Roots are relationships. At the surface, they are invisible yet critical to the health of the entire organization. They reach outside of ‘their zone’ and bridge distances we do not anticipate. They are serendipitous. They defy the org chart. They are more fundamental than trust.

Pruning and transplanting are necessary to grow an organization. As hard as we try, we will break some roots. Not everyone will survive, despite our best efforts to lead change well. It’s an important reminder that the intangibles of our experiences, connections, and relationships are some of the most real and important considerations during change. What lies beneath the surface can be the very thing that derails your strategy.

Know your people. Express care. Listen. Support. Act.

Thoughtfully yours,

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Jeff Skipper
Jeff Skipper is an expert in accelerating change. Clients such as Shell, Goldman Sachs and The Salvation Army have engaged him to achieve dramatic results during strategic transformation by wrapping complex change in motivating mission. He has been quoted in Fast Company, Forbes and HP’s enterprise.nxt. Jeff holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and is a Certified Change Management Professional.