On July 29, 75 intrepid cyclists embarked on a seven-day, 585-mile trek through the Buckeye State. The riders are participants in the Tour des Trees, an annual biking adventure that is the primary outreach event of the Tree Research and Education Endowment Fund.
This was the fourth tour for J. Eric Smith, TREE Fund’s president and CEO, and he says it was a tough one. Three “century” days in a row, with the longest being 116 miles, plus hilly Northeastern Ohio terrain made for a challenging ride. Still, for many of the riders the challenge is part of the fun.
The Tour des Trees was founded in 1991 by a few arborists who wanted to use their passion for cycling to promote their love of trees — and create a source of funding for tree research. The first tour was a grueling 900-mile adventure, cruising the West coast from Seattle to Oakland. Some of the 13 riders that made the inaugural trip still take part in the tour 26 years later.
Ward Peterson was one of the three arborists who hatched the idea at an International Society of Arborists conference in 1991. He looks back fondly at the first tour.
“Between the route, the amazing scenery, the startup and the friendships that were formed, that first ride was my favorite,” he says. “It was an unknown frontier.”
He says the event has grown from those early days, but the principles have stayed the same.
The Tour des Trees has dual purposes: fundraising and community engagement. Each full-time rider commits to raising $3,500 for research and education programs. Tour expenses, like meals and lodging are covered by TREE Fund’s corporate partners. That way, all money raised will go to fund tree research. TREE Fund is a 501(c)3 charity devoted to sustaining the urban forest and funding research and education grants. It has funded $3.4 million in research projects since 2002 on topics as diverse as plant health, root and soil management, and tree transplanting.
Jeff Edgar, owner of Silver Creek Nurseries rode his fourth Tour des Trees in 2018. He has been involved in two research projects which were funded in part by the TREE Fund. The first dealt with shipping B&B trees — specifically, if the handling caused any damage to the trees. The other project, Edgar says was “near and dear to my heart” — whether wire baskets should be left on or removed in the planting process. He says the research funded is a great reason for nursery growers to get involved with the tour.
“Many tree health issues can be addressed in the beginning, at the nursery, such as planting depth, growing methods, initial trimming and variety selection,” Edgar says. “The trees start here. Everyone who has a stake in the tree business, should be at the table, yet it seems we operate separately most of the time. The TREE Fund grants and webinars are helping to start that conversation.”
Edgar believes the Tour is a strong catalyst for fundraising. During the Tour, riders meet with groups of state and local dignitaries for tree dedications, educational programs and book giveaways. Arriving at these sites in matching jerseys promoting their love of trees tends to boost enthusiasm for the cause. Smith agrees.
“With funds raised by the tour, TREE Fund researchers have discovered better ways to propagate, plant, and care for urban trees, making them more resilient, more resistant to pests, and less prone to failure,” Smith says. “The tour also funds programs to connect young people with the environment and foster careers in the green industries.”
Educating the public
That need for community engagement is one reason the Tour moves around the country.
“We're an organization that funds research internationally from a small office in the suburbs of Chicago,” Smith says. “And every year we take the Tour des Trees to a different part of the country. It gives us a week of literally taking our show on the road. I'm going into schools, going into municipal spaces, going into libraries, meeting people along the road to talk about the importance of tree research.”
The road show starts with the basics. The stops are hosted by local tree stewards, and may include tree plantings, book donations, and children’s environmental education programs for local youth. At major stops like Cleveland’s Public Square on Aug. 1, Smith and his fellow riders hold forth on topics like putting the right tree into the right place, understanding species selection, how certain trees thrive in different environments and climates. Or they may present findings from one of their research projects. The focus is on getting people to think about the science behind the trees in their yards, parks or public spaces.
“Everybody understands, on a very obvious basis, the benefits of having trees within the cities that we live,” Smith says. “I think sometimes people are somewhat surprised to learn how much it costs to keep them healthy and how difficult it can be to keep them healthy. Trees didn’t evolve to live in cities with us, and there’s a lot of science behind making sure that we get all the benefits that trees have to offer us when we live with them in our cities and our suburban spaces.”
One of the big events that took place on this year’s Tour was the planting of a Liberty Tree at the Columbus statehouse. Each of the early colonial capitals had a Liberty Tree, a place that was a gathering point for revolutionary patriots to share information. Many were cut down by British soldiers, as they were seen as political symbols. The last of those original Liberty Trees stood on the campus of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland. In 1999, the nearly 600-year-old, 96-foot tulip poplar was damaged by Hurricane Floyd and was felled. An organization called The Providence Forum has helped preserve and clone this tree through a bud grafting program. A tulip poplar cloned from that tree was planted and dedicated Aug. 4 in Columbus.
Not every rider makes every stop, and riders spread out according to their abilities. To make sure everyone is in the same zip code, tour support team members in vehicles help riders who stopped for an event to catch up with the main group.
“It really is like a big sort of rolling family circus,” Smith says.
Edgar stopped this year to make several tree dedications for trees he had donated to the 2018 tour. His Silver Creek Nurseries is the only grower of Johnny Appleseed Apple Trees, certified by the Johnny Appleseed Museum and Education Center in Urbana, Ohio.
“Seeing that John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) spent many years in Ohio, and most of that time in areas where we traveled, I thought the tour would offer a golden opportunity to donate some of my trees for these dedications,” he says.
Johnny Appleseed trees were dedicated at three sites: Ariel Foundation Park in Mount Vernon, Ohio; Heritage Corridors of Bath (Akron area), Ohio; and the Selover Public Library in Chesterville, Ohio. All of these sites will soon receive an arboretum tag, which will include a QR code with links to the TREE Fund, the Johnny Appleseed Museum and Education Center, and Silver Creek Nurseries, as well as a certificate from the Johnny Appleseed Museum.
Riding into the sunset
Tour riders come from all areas of the green industry and several allied industries, as well. They ride for different reasons. Edgar started training for the tour in early 2014, when he made some lifestyle changes and worked to build up his personal fitness. His goal was to get heathy, lose weight and build up stamina for the next tour.
“The tour riders have become a second family to me,” he says. “There are so many people associated with this group who are the ‘cream of the crop’ in the green industry.”
Peterson recently retired from The Davey Tree Expert Company, but still makes the tour a priority. And Davey has done the same, pledging $250,000 in 2018 as event sponsor.
“Over time it has attracted a lot of people and it’s built a really strong fraternity,” Peterson says. “There are people out on this year’s ride that have done it 20 times.”
“You’ve got a mixture of people that have ridden together for a long time, look forward to getting together with old friends every year and the other half are people looking for a challenge and seeing this ride and saying ‘what’s this about? What are these guys doing? Could I do that?’ For some it’s just a bucket list, but other people get pretty well hooked up in it and say ‘This is great group of people. This is a great cause. This is a great ride.’ This is something you want to keep doing.”
If either of those sounds like you, here are the details on the 2019 Tour.
TREE Fund plans to host the 2019 Tour des Trees Sept. 15-21, 2019, with a planned hub in Nashville, Tennessee. The route will take riders through Kentucky and Tennessee.
The International Society of Arboriculture’s Southern and Kentucky chapters will be jointly collaborating with TREE Fund on the 27th annual Tour des Trees event next year.
After three particularly long tours in a row, future route designs will have a target distance of about 425 miles over five full days of riding, slightly shortening the travel commitment required to participate in the event.
Love the mission and want to help, but not sure you’re ready to take on a 425-mile bike trip? Part-time and virtual tour options are also available.
Next year’s opening check-in and dinner will take place Sept. 15, 2019 with a closing dinner celebration on Sept. 20, followed by check-out and bike shipping on Saturday, Sept. 21. A full route will be announced in December 2018, and registration to ride will open in early 2019.
Joan was sitting at a round table when a hand descended over her right shoulder and slapped a piece of paper down on the wooden surface. A permission slip lay before her. Joan wondered, “Why do I need a permission slip?” She glanced up at her colleague, Cheryl, who said, “It’s a permission slip. You’ve been thinking about honing your presentation skills for decades. Why haven’t you?”
“Why hadn’t I?” Joan thought. She was right. It was her choice to dream but never act. It was her choice to exist but never take the risks to improve her life. Joan was expected to give presentations at work. Her presentation style was somewhat lacking—she sometimes appeared nervous, and it was obvious to others that it wasn’t an area in which she was particularly confident.
Joan noticed that her self-limiting routines and beliefs were affecting both her personal and professional life. She had to remember that her presence was significant, and she began creating her own permission slips to succeed.
1) Her first permission slip to becoming significant and successful was allowing herself to do make mistakes. This is the natural growth and learning process when we’re children. If you’re not willing to allow yourself to do something badly you are not allowing yourself to change—you are not allowing yourself to grow. You are not allowing yourself to master new skills.
Do you feel uncomfortable placing yourself in unfamiliar situations? Have you avoided seeking new responsibilities at work because you didn’t want to look foolish? Research shows that it is important to become perpetual beginners. This is especially true as we age. Learning new skills makes you more flexible and ready to compete in this chaotic world. Successful working professionals are willing to become a beginner over and over again. They are willing to let go of being the expert.
There are strategies which can help you undertake new challenges. One is to break your routine. Do you find yourself on autopilot often? Are your days carbon copies of each other? Set the intention to try something new. You might speak up more in a meeting or seek new functionalities at work. Find a friend or coworker to support you.
2) Joan’s second permission slip to becoming successful and significant was letting herself be heard and seen. She was practically non-existent during her early years at the office. Her first presentation was a moment of silence—she literally could not speak. Her struggles with connecting at work or in networking situations were drastically impacting her professional life. She needed to give herself the permission slip to speak up and speak with confidence.
How would being seen and heard change your business life? Would you gain more respect from those around you? Would you be able to build trust and relationships? If you are not seen and heard, you are not known—and opportunities and promotions will pass you by because you don’t stick out in people’s minds.
Deciding to be seen and heard can take courage. One way to begin is to set your intention before you attend a meeting or meet a client. Know what you want to contribute. Know what ideas you would like to share. In a meeting make sure you speak up early. The longer you wait to speak the harder it will be. Make eye contact with others in the room and use open body language. Be sure you are not creating a barrier between yourself and anyone else in the room. Remember: you want to be accessible at this time. Celebrate your victories so the next time it will be easier for you to speak up.
3) Joan’s third permission slip to becoming successful and significant was learning to say no. In the office she was very accommodating—the supervisors loved her. Basically, she never said no. They got into the habit of bringing her rush files, just before 5:00 PM. They would drop them at her desk and head home. Joan learned how important it was to shorten her yes list. Do you have too many Yeses in your life?
Have your forgotten the benefits of saying no? Learning to say no when appropriate gives you more control over your life so you don’t overextend yourself. It is a way of learning to respect yourself which will lead to others respecting you as well.
Saying no gives you more time to yourself which is a precious commodity in today’s chaotic world. You will have more energy and time so when opportunities appear you will be available to take them. When you have time to yourself you have time to determine your priorities and make better decisions which cut down on daily stress.
Before saying yes ask yourself these following questions.
Is this something I truly want to do?
What am I saying no to if I say yes to this?
What will I gain by going to this event or doing this task?
When I need help will this person reciprocate?
If I don’t do this how will I used my time instead?
If you decide to say no to someone, let them know as quickly as possible so they can made other plans. Maybe you can help the other person out by suggesting an alternative.
What aren’t you giving yourself permission to do?
What are the dreams which have escaped you until now? Since Joan began following her three permission slips she began enjoying her work life more. By allowing herself to make mistakes she felt less pressure to be perfect. She gained the confidence to learn new skills which made her more valuable to the team. When she began speaking up at meetings she learned that she had good ideas to contribute. She was more valued by the team. When Joan said no to excess, unexpected work she was able to focus on her responsibilities.
If you’re struggling like Joan was, write yourself her three permission slips. They will better your work life, and make you a more valuable contributor to the team.
About the author: Sarah Bateman is a widely-recognized speaker, coach, and author of, Speak Up! Be Heard! Finding My Voice, www.SpeakUp-BeHeard.com.
Departments - View Point
Turns out millennials are shelling out money for houseplants.
It’s likely too early to tell if it’s a short-lived fad or a trend with some meat to it, but independent garden centers are finding more millennials in their stores looking for houseplants. Could that be their “gateway” plant? I certainly hope so.
The stats show that millennials (roughly ages 18-36) are putting off homebuying and many are in rental property. Charlie Hall has often discussed the success of multifamily development thanks to that group. Thanks in part to so-called online influencers, as well as some national coverage on the healing benefits of plants, millennials want plants in their living space.
The LA Times deemed that more millennials are becoming “plant parents” or “plant addicts” and interviewed a number of SoCal-based IGCs about their new younger customer set. You can read the entire story at: www.latimes.com/home/la-hm-millenni als-plant-parents-20180724-story.html#.
LA Times writer Lisa Boone interviewed one 30-year-old plant lover who, instead of buying furniture, was spending money on plants. “Everyone made fun of me because I was sleeping on an air mattress and buying plants. But having living things to care for soothed me,” he told Boone.
The article also said that LA’s median home price just hit $615,000 [who is buying these houses?!] so millennials in their rentals are “cultivating a sense of home with plants.”
With continued targeted marketing, these gateway houseplants could create gardeners for life. Although I’ve heard from several sources that “gardener” is not the appropriate term. Perhaps “grower” or “nurturer” would work. (Don’t roll your eyes – we do what needs to be done to get people to keep buying plants.)
A story by Caroline Biggs in the New York Times found some East Coast millennials who have taken plant keeping to the next level. Summer Rayne Oakes of Brooklyn cares for nearly 700 houseplants. She’s an environmental scientist, so she’s not the typical plant consumer. However, she’s touting all things horticulture and health on her blog (homesteadbrooklyn.com) and on her YouTube channel. She’s introducing plants and the joys they bring to people across the world.
Biggs also interviewed consultant Ian Baldwin who told her that millennials were responsible for 31 percent of houseplant sales in 2016. He added that the 2016 National Gardening survey found that of the six million Americans who took up gardening that year, five million were ages 18 to 34.
And major businesses who employ large numbers of millennials like Etsy and TED Talks, incorporate plants throughout their headquarters.
Even if you don’t currently grow or don’t even intend to grow a houseplant, you still need to pay attention to this group of buyers and their interests. They may eventually have a spot to landscape, and they’ll be looking for trees, shrubs and flowers. Will they make the same connection to those products as they did to foliage plants? I am hopeful.
What message are you sending?
Departments - Heart of Business
Fine-tune your employee break policy to foster a motivating work environment.
What’s your position on employee breaks? Do you believe they are necessary and helpful? That they improve employee morale, job satisfaction, creativity and productivity? That individuals, particularly those laboring in the heat, need recovery time? Or, do you see breaks as a necessary evil?
Think back to your previous jobs. How were breaks and meals managed? Did the rules apply consistently across the board, or did each team leader determine how breaks would be handled? Have you worked where it felt like the “Time Police” monitored your every move? Did you appreciate everyone being treated equally or was being closely watched demotivating?
What about the flip side? Have you ever worked in an organization where people could do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, however they wanted? What was your reaction? Did such a policy improve your morale and productivity? Did employees ever take advantage of the trust afforded them?
Beyond the laws of your state, there aren’t hard and fast rules about breaks or meals. Research by Dr. Hunt and Dr. Wu of Baylor University indicates that the right type of breaks increase job satisfaction and commitment to the organization, while decreasing burnout. Specifically, mid-morning breaks boost energy, concentration and motivation better than waiting until lunch or mid-afternoon. Additionally, allowing employees to do something they like and choose while on break, including non-assigned work tasks, provides greater rest, promotes better recovery and empowers employees to return to work stronger.
While it may be easiest to have hard and fast rules concerning breaks, you run the risk of conveying distrust and creating unintended consequences rather than conveying fairness. When it comes to policy, the questions you must ask are: “What message is being sent?” and, “How is it working?”
Years ago, a group of us visited the Cross in the Woods in Northern Michigan. The stairway leading up was roped in the middle with multiple “Keep Off” signs. All of us but one dutifully stayed on the permitted side. Our friend, however, tapped her toe on the other side. When asked why, she replied, “The best way to get me to do something is to tell me I’m not allowed.”
I can’t help thinking that rigidly monitored breaks provoke the same response. While you can dictate when and how long breaks will be, you might not hear the complaints or see what happens when your back is turned. Additionally, it’s extremely difficult to measure if someone is working slowly to prove a point or because they feel resentful.
Having no rules, on the other hand, generally creates chaos. While your employees might enjoy the freedom and appreciate the implied trust, some will take advantage of the opportunity to slack off.
I believe the best policy is to empower your employees to take mini breaks as needed, and to encourage and ensure they are actually taking their breaks. Your team will appreciate the freedom and respect of being treated like adults, and you’ll avoid burning out your high performers.
As you lead, routinely ask yourself:
Does everyone have enough work to do, or do I need to make adjustments?
Am I holding employees accountable for their results?
Am I over-relying on or over-burdening my best performers?
Am I adequately rewarding results and behaviors that lead to success?
When you treat employees respectfully, monitor workloads to ensure each individual pulls their weight, and protect your team from burnout and overexertion – especially in extreme heat – you win their respect, admiration and loyalty. Who wouldn’t go above and beyond for a company and fantastic leader who cares for them and rewards great work?
Sherene McHenry is a widely acclaimed speaker, author and coach who demystifies how to lead, motivate and resolve conflict for optimal results. Learn how Sherene can empower and equip your team to boost engagement, enhance effectiveness and raise productivity at sherenemchenry.com.
Make the right HR decision
Departments - The Human Resource
4 components to consider when making ‘people’ decisions at your nursery.
For years I have watched business owners, CEOs, and managers make “people” decisions — good and bad, big and little, and difficult and easy people decisions. Often, I have been privileged to participate in their decision-making by providing advice and counsel. In some cases, I learned of the decision and outcome too late to impact the results. While most leaders can recall the ramifications of their bad choices, many haven’t analyzed where their HR decisions went wrong.
Some people are able to make effective people decisions, while others are plagued by the turmoil their choices create. After much analysis of good and bad HR decisions, I have some insight to share.
First, let’s define a “people” decision. Simply put, it is any executed choice made by a leader that impacts the organization’s human resources. The most obvious people decisions involve hiring and firing. Those that are not so obvious — such as the decision to coach a 20-year employee with intolerable and declining performance, the decision to terminate an employee with a medical condition that cannot be accommodated, or the decision to rely on the credibility of one employee over another in a harassment investigation — are often more complicated.
I have found over the years that nearly every business problem has at its core a human resource problem. The reality is that leaders make a multitude of complex HR decisions every day, sometimes without even knowing it. And, when it comes to dealing with people issues, most of the time these leaders are operating in the twilight zone. Rarely are decisions involving human resources black and white.
Having watched brilliant leaders make terrible people decisions, I have concluded that it is not brains that make the difference between a good HR decision and a bad one. Nor does one’s longevity in a given role correlate favorably with making good people decisions.
Good HR decision-making is dependent upon some very simple, practical principles. These principles may not apply to financial or operational decisions, but they impact the quality and outcome of HR decisions. Also, although it may seem obvious, it’s worth mentioning — before you apply these principles, you must first have adequate knowledge and concrete facts about the particular matter. In the absence of relevant details, one can never make a good HR decision.
Four principles for effective HR decision-making
1) The right choice. None of the other components will matter if you can’t get this one down first. Making the right HR decision is dependent upon choosing the right option for action. Example: One of your employees gets injured outside of work and presents you with a doctor’s note that includes some vague limitations. The employee says he’s fine to work. Do you (a) let the employee go back to work because he says he is fine; (b) send the employee back to the doctor with a copy of your job description, the physical requirements for the position, and a letter requesting more details; (c) terminate the employee because you have no “light duty;” or (d) place the employee on a leave of absence until he is ready to return to work? Answer: It depends. The right choice hinges on a host of considerations, such as the employee’s job duties, the medical restrictions, coverage under state and federal employment regulations, company policies, past precedent, and others.
What should you do? Get professional advice. Today in business, the wrong choice will cost you much more than getting the right advice. If you don’t have the experience or knowledge in human resource decision-making, be wise and ask for help.
2) The right words. This is a biggie. When it comes to executing a decision involving your people, you must choose the right words to communicate your message. As Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the right word and the wrong word is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” To select the right words, consider the personality of the individual you are communicating with and take the time to determine how to communicate your message clearly, directly, respectfully, and with confidence. Stick to the facts and don’t beat around the bush, make excuses, or blame yourself for something that has nothing to do with you.
The best communicators have learned how to convey even bad news with honesty and sincerity, and without delay. (Hint: Unless you’re one of the few gifted people who always seems to have the right words at any given moment, you’ll need time to prepare your communication.)
3) The right time. This one can be difficult to control and, many times, human resource decisions must be made quickly in response to untimely events. Some of the HR decisions that we can usually control the timing of include recruiting, hiring, coaching, and terminating employees; compensation changes; performance evaluations; and conflict resolution. When possible, plan to execute your decision at the right time. Let’s say, for example, it is necessary and prudent to reduce the commission schedule for a position, and you’ve eloquently prepared your communication. The question is: when do you deliver the news? Answer: Not when the employees are looking at their paystub with recalculated earnings. The proper timing would be well in advance of the effective date (normally, one to two months prior).
Advance timing in this example may not be “legally” required, but failure to provide it can negatively impact morale, leading to a series of events that could be more costly than legal action. Choose your time wisely. There can be a significant price to pay if you act too quickly or delay essential action.
4) The ability to execute. This one relates to leadership experience and personality. I once had a client — nice guy — who often called for HR advice. He dealt with tough issues on a regular basis. We would brainstorm together and review all the facts and details. I would then provide my recommendations for action. I knew he was the kind of guy who needed details, so I described every point and made sure he wrote it all down. Time after time, I would learn that our strategy did not play out correctly. Why? Because (and my client would admit to this) he simply could not execute the plan. He did not have the assertiveness or the willingness to follow-through to the end. It always fell apart about halfway. The reality was that this fellow was a great technician-turned-business owner, but he did not have the will or “stomach” to implement the tough HR decisions.
If you cannot or do not execute on your decisions, your life as a leader will be stressful and the success of your business could be compromised. If you’re one of these people, build your team with talented people who can help you execute effectively.
There you have it: four simple-sounding but not-so-easy-to-implement interwoven principles necessary to make effective HR decisions.
In my experience, I have found that leaders with a void in any of these areas will be limited in their ability to develop the business. I apply these principles to every consultation, and I’m certain that if you do the same, you will enhance the quality and outcome of your people decisions.
Jean Seawright, CMC is president of Seawright & Associates, a management consulting firm located in Winter Park, Florida. firstname.lastname@example.org