My Trees, Your People And Three Lessons Learned

When we moved into our home, a row of six tall and bushy pine trees provided ample shade and privacy for our back yard.

Pine trees have a reputation for killing most things beneath their branches, including grass, and the needles falling from the trees quickly collect and become a fire hazard.

Apparently, residential developers like to plant pines because they grow quickly and they give a neighborhood that “lived in” established look that home buyers admire.

While we were not thrilled with these trees they were there and the only other short term option was cutting them down and having the hot summer California sun pound hour after hour, frying everything that lived in the yard.

The years passed and the trees grew. You look at how tall they and large they have become, and while you are proud on one hand, you start to wonder what the return on investment is. What the breaking point is. What the removal and replacement cost will be.

Pines look nice from a distance and in our case continued to serve their shade function but we knew that there was a cost involved in even a so-called low maintenance tree species.

How do these pine trees relate to your employees?

For starters, we did not choose to plant them in our yard. Perhaps in your company, you have employees that you did not personally hire. As a result, you may not be thrilled with the choices your hiring managers make. But you live with the decision. You rationalize that the people you have hired to help you run your company know what they are doing.

Second, once on board, the employee needs to be oriented and on boarded with the culture. If a person does not take root in the company culture or if it is not a good fit for with the environment (policies and procedures), or with the people already working, the newly hired leave on their own accord or are asked to leave.

In either case, there was a lot of energy expended with all the recruiting, training and meshing with the team and to learn how things are done at work.

Even more energy is spent when it becomes clear that a person is not working out and even greater amounts of time and focus are used up when a person is asked to leave the company.

So, for the last twenty plus years, we had assumed that everything was okay with the trees, that they had strong roots, got plenty of water and sunlight and although we were concerned when the strong Santa Ana winds blew that a tree or trees might fall, for many years nothing eventful happened.

Third, I have noticed when it comes to unhappy employees, when things get ugly, it tends to happen very quickly. It is like a light switch, almost instantaneously.

To those who observe, and your managers are supposed to be watching, it is becomes clear when someone is not working out.

All too often owners stick their head in the sand and trust, that the management team will address the issue, save the employee and everything will return to normal. However that is defined.

Over the decades, I have learned that this rarely happens and once an employee who likely did not want to be working in your company is either terminated or leaves of their own accord every employee who has been paying attention wonders “What took so long?”

We had long known about the pine trees and the potential damage they could do. But one of us was in denial (me). I was going to get around to having those trees removed, someday. But like the manager who hopes the employee will turn it around, I waited too long to act.

One morning a branch crashed into the yard, damaging our home and the back yard. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

I could say that an ounce of prevention is less expensive than a pound of cure. But it would be more appropriate to state that when something needs to be addressed, take care of it right then and there.

The longer decisions and action is delayed the more resources are needed to get things back to normal.

In our case, it has been over nine months since that branch fell. Once making the decision to get rid of the rest of the trees, they were out in less than two days.

The lessons are clear; when you see something needs to be done take action. Every day delayed means more cost and greater damage to something valuable.