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Pruning and Growing

I enjoy working in my garden and my favorite flowers are roses. My love for flowers came from helping my mom in the garden and watching her care for each rose and hydrangea bush.

Most evenings she could be found pulling weeds, deadheading geraniums or pruning one of her flowering trees.

As I plucked the dry spent geranium blooms and watered my roses this week, I thought about the benefits of pruning and cutting off dead things to encourage growth of the plant. I thought about how the right placement of a plant in a yard and the proper nurturing of a flowering bush could bring it back to life.

The same is true in life and work. In life you may need to prune yourself from friends and habits that are no good for you. At work, you may need to end programs that no longer fit the mission or meet the needs of your community. Or, you may need to let some people go who are no longer productive or allow the organization to grow.

Either way, the process of pruning can be difficult. Just the word pruning brings on an image of cutting or snipping something off. In the gardening circle, we understand that it's a healthy process. So, why do so many leaders have a problem making changes to cut away unfruitful or damaged things and people that no longer meet the needs or mission of the organization?

Particularly in nonprofits, leaders have a heart for people. That's why we chose the field. We naturally want to help, to serve and improve the landscape of what ever circumstance we find ourselves in.

I've been asked several times over the course of my 20-plus nonprofit career, how am I able to make hard decisions to terminate someone or discontinue a program. My answer has always been the same.

"The mission is bigger than any one person or thing, and certainly bigger than me."

I would further explain that I am a legacy holder and a legacy builder. The purpose of Goodwill was set forth over 100 years ago by our founder, Rev. Edgar J. Helms. I am a holder, a keeper and a protector of his legacy. I have been entrusted to ensure that Goodwill Industries continues to provide good in the community and in the world.

Therefore, my personal feelings about a person or a program don't matter. I will do my best to find the right fit for a staff member if possible, but not at the expense of doing what's best for the organization.

I will fight hard for our program participants and the community, but if a program is burning through resources and producing unsatisfactory results, I will prune it like an unhealthy stem of a rose bush, so that other needs of the community can be met.

Pruning can be difficult and it can even appear to be counter productive to growth, but it is necessary to ensure that the purpose of the organization and it's positive impact on those it serves continues for years to come.

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