It takes guts to be a gardener.
Pruning, I have learned through trial and error, is not for the faint of heart.
You’ve got to be resolute, and determined. You’ve got to want to do it.
Sometimes the prospect of pruning a horribly overgrown plant is so daunting you wonder how to even get started.
First, it helps to have an understanding of what’s happening – is the bush healthy or sick? Overgrown? Producing fewer fruits or flowers? Next, get clear on your vision – how should the plant look? What does it need to be healthy? Then, you have to have determination to start cutting – and to cut quickly – and get rid of the straggly branches and overburdened boughs.
Sometimes after a particularly hard pruning I’ll look at the resulting stubby little bush and think “That’s it, I’ve done it. I just killed the thing.”
And yet those are the same plants which look absolutely fantastic a year later.
So, I have learned to prune and prune hard as an investment in the future.
[Here comes the analogy - you were waiting for it, weren't you?]
Last week I was working with a client on managing a particularly difficult relationship at work. I listened as he told me all about this other guy’s lack of performance, and how he got on everyone’s nerves, and how badly he affected team morale.
I said, “Why don’t you just fire him?”
My client, who is the CEO, says, “Well, we’re all kind of hoping he just quits.”
Because, boy, wouldn’t that be easier! So much easier than taking the pruning shears in hand and making that decisive cut.
(BTW, if I had a dollar for every time someone mentioned waiting for an under-performing employee to quit, I’d be rich enough to join Gates and Buffet and give away my fortune.)
I’m telling you, pruning of any kind is not for the faint of heart. And it’s fraught with worry – maybe you’ll do it wrong, or maybe you’ll cut off a blooming branch, or kill the plant.
But if you don’t do it – quickly and decisively – you run the risk of creating an overgrown, weak and spindly plant. Which is even more susceptible to breakage, disease, loss and even death.
Sometimes office-type pruning starts with having that difficult conversation, calling someone out on their destructive, negative behavior. If you’re the boss, you’ve got to use your figurative pruning shears and snip, snip as you talk. Tell the person what’s not working, how they can make it work better, and the consequences if they don’t.
We don’t train enough people to do this well, but it sure needs to be done more often.
And, if there’s someone who needs to go, let them go. Immediately. Be kind with a severance package if you want, sure – I’m all for it. But be firm and determined, too.
Snip, snip – you’ve got a healthier office. Snip, snip – more efficiency and productivity. Snip, snip – a less stressed you.
I’m guessing, because you’re human and this stuff is hard, that there are probably other places in your life besides the office that need a little pruning. A relationship which no longer bears fruit? A habit in need of shaping up? Clutter to cut back?
Approach these situations with the same vim and vigor, the same focus and intention – get the vision of what you’d like it to be like, focus on maintaining the health of the whole – and start snip, snip, snipping.
It may look a mess in the moment, but a year from now you will be amazed at how astoundingly gorgeous your world has become – and how brave you really were to put on your garden gloves and start pruning.