Bonsai Learning

People who come together consistently to explore ideas, share inspirations, encourage grand endeavors and re-examine goals are called a team.

People who come together periodically to mend bridges, fill potholes and put out fires are individuals on collective emergency life support.

Spring has sprung and I am tending to my gardens. It got me thinking, a team is much like a garden. Unattended it can grow wild and quickly get itself into an unwieldy mess. Cared for, managed, loved, trimmed, fed and shaped, it can be a thing of beauty that yields a bountiful harvest.

Like a team. Yes?

Out in my garden I have a beautiful Agave plant that I am training to grow toward the light.

It was crowded into an unhealthy space and position by some invasive plants. I removed the unwanted influences, but that wasn’t enough to redirect the Agave to move toward the newly opened space. It had developed some bad growing habits. It needed support and guidance to move it in a new direction.

I tried pulling on it’s thick trunk to move it. Two things became quickly apparent. 1) Once settled on a particular direction, old, thick, established and hearty habits are difficult to redirect. 2) If I pulled too hard and too fast, the trunk would snap and far more damage than good would be inflicted.

This was going to require time, patience, persistence and gentle firm effort.

“The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”

Animals, plants, humans and anything else that grows are driven by habits. Circus elephants chained to a stake in the ground become so accustomed to a limited radius of their freedom than even when the chains are removed, the elephant will not stray from it’s restricted belief system. Stories are told of circus tent fires where the unchained elephants will perish because they won’t try to escape. They simply don’t believe that the freedom is real.

I was determined to save this beautiful agave from growing itself into the dark and crowded corner for which it was destined.

Nearby to this hearty plant is a strong post anchored to a solid foundation. I secured one end of a rope to the post and the other end to the Agave. I tied a truckers hitch in the rope and cinched it as tight as I could to move the plant just enough to get it started in a new direction, but not too much as to break it in two. I took it to the edge of it’s ability to change in that moment.

A week later I returned and tightened the rope by another couple of tugs. The Agave moved few more inches toward the light. I retied the rope in this new position. A week later I again went through the same motions and again the beautiful plant found itself another few inches closer to open space and abundant light.

I have done this for a few months and the Agave is now thriving. When I told a colleague about the method I used, she said, “Oh, you Bonsai-ed it.” That got me thinking – again (I can’t help it).

Over 25 years of working with people and teams in transition, I have found an all too common and frustrating dynamic at play in many organizational training protocols. Stressed by the myth of not enough time and the rush to “get things done” companies are trying to force too much change, too fast and with too much inconsistently.

Teams get together once every six months or so, they explore an agenda full of bold change behaviors, they overload with change concepts and then they try to apply and sustain them all. As soon as they leave the training environment and the focus is removed, they typically revert back to what is comfortable, known and safe. Then six months later they try again.

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence then is not an act, but a habit”
– Aristotle

Effective, lasting and deeply rooted change happens over time and with patience. Just as with a beautifully crafted and lovingly attended Bonsai – focused, gentle pushes and pulls in the right direction applied with consistency and patience results in a artful form that mirrors an inspired vision.

Here’s the big idea: If you want to effect real, lasting and heartfelt change, engage your team with meaningful but limited content on a more consistent basis.

If you only got together with your spouse or partner twice a year to talk about how things are going in the relationship, there might not be all that many years to consider.

Teams have behavioral characteristics that are no different than those of people. Because teams ARE people. If you wanted to effect significant and lasting change in your own diet, exercise regimen, meditative abilities, relationship responses or any other habit based behavior, you wouldn’t get together with your coach or trainer once every 6 months. You would fail. To be successful, you would dedicate yourself to an intelligent, consistent, focused and easily managed program that would inspire you, motivate you and shift you without breaking you, frustrating you and ultimately causing you to abandon an unrealistic and overwhelming change.

Apply these simple rules and you will achieve grand results.

  • Shorten your training sessions.
  • Enthusiasm is reduced by time.
  • Less than 3 hour sessions will keep people engaged and involved.
  • Increase your training frequency.
  • People who gather together regularly and consistently substantially strengthen their sense of connection and trust.
  • Increased frequency makes learning and evolving an organizational habit and expectation.
  • Every parent, teacher, coach or behavioral therapist knows – frequent repetition is the key to success.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Stick to one or two primary concepts per session so that the learning is easy to digest and goes deep.
  • Don’t feel like you have to make a big ordeal and production out of every training opportunity.
  • Strong content beats glitz and hoopla.
  • Keep it fresh, exciting & bold.
  • Don’t be afraid to broach topics that will make people really think, reflect and have to dig deep. People who are challenged remember more of what they learned.
  • If your participants aren’t at least a little uncomfortable, you haven’t stretched them enough.
  • Frequent trainings provide many more opportunities for branching out and exploring lots of fascinating and relevant topics.

How we engage with the world around us and how we show up in our relationships is either a conscious choice or an unconscious reaction.

The route of conscious choice is not always easier or less confusing, but at least it is a choice that we can shape and hone with care and consideration.

  • Know your foundation
  • Get very clear about the foundational messages that you want at the core of all your training sessions.
  • Ensure that your core message is re-visited and woven into every other message you deliver.
  • Follow up.
  • Ongoing coaching and support is the most critical key to success in ANY endeavor.
  • A concept that is delivered but not further developed and supported loses credibility.
  • Coaching reinforces the learning in a very personal way that capitalizes on a participants particular learning style.

Your team will flourish in a well tended garden created with vision, care, dedication, focus and an eye toward consistently nourishing all the lovely peeps that are growing and thriving there.

An abundant harvest comes only to those that tend to their charges, with patience, persistence, commitment and love.

Share

One thought on “Bonsai Learning

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current month ye@r day *