To prune is to grow


Image: wsj.net

If you were a gardener, you will know that to keep a plant growing well, you would have to prune its branches. Sometimes the branches are withering, and that is not a difficult decision to make; other times, the branches are still healthy. However, if these branches are left to grow through their own pace, the plant would not grow into a beautiful shrub. However, if the branch were cut off, each incision point will sprout more new branches. Hence, out of one branch, many more will grow, leading to a healthy head of new branches. If the branch had not been pruned away, growth is stunted. So to achieve more growth, healthy branches need to be cut off.

As in botany, so too in business. If you want to grow your business, you too need to prune it. Here are three areas to look into…

1. Sub-par performers

This has got to be one of the most difficult decisions a business leader has to make, yet this is also one of the most essential. Oftentimes the people who need to be pruned are also very nice people. You are stuck in a conundrum between head and heart. Just like having to cut off the healthy branch to lead to an even healthier plant, you are faced with having to let go people who are not exactly “dead” but are also not leading to healthy business growth. Especially in the Asian culture, it is very difficult to let them go. You need to have the right justification for doing so, and because he is still performing (it’s just that they were under-performing), then you err on the side of caution.

Which is all well and good if you were flushed with money and you were a charity. For most businesses, they are revenue-generating first, and are judged by their financial performance. You don’t have the luxury of keeping them on staff if they are not performing at the right level.

2. Bad habits

Another area to prune is in habits. Bad habits have a nasty way of stifling the good ones. If habits are allowed to fester, they might grow out of control and subvert the good ones. It is important to ensure that these habits are pruned at the budding stage. To do this takes effort, because we need to be aware of what is happening, take actions and excise the misconceptions. This requires someone to sit on top of matters, to see things in a macro level.

3. Self-limiting doubts

Finally, the one key element business leaders need to prune is self-limiting doubts. The funny thing about this is that it can affect any businessperson, even when they have been successful in the past. When a business faces changing environment, and catches a once-successful businessperson off-guard, they suddenly freeze, and doubts start to creep in and fill the person’s once-expanding mind. Excising this is also key to keep the future bright, the energy levels up, and the focus on growth. There is a need for self-confidence when we reach out to the future, and self-limiting doubts don’t have a place in this.

Pruning is a natural part of organic growth. And leaders need to take this on with resolve because it is easy to fall into a sense of complacency. It is never easy, but it is important.

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