C-Suite Agenda

A Metaphor for Healthy Growth

I regularly speak to CEOs, executive leaders, and employee work teams. Every one of them is talking about growth in one form or another. Personal Growth. Organizational Growth. Growth through meeting tough challenges. Financial Growth. Growing pains. You name it. It’s among the most common themes among group and team members alike.

When I think about my career and combine my personal experiences with those of countless other amazing people I’ve met in my life, there’s a recurring model for healthy growth that repeatedly plays in my head. Since I’m not much of an artist, at least when it comes to freehand drawing, I employed the services of Canva to help me create what I see in my mind. So, here’s my metaphor for healthy growth, and as far as I can recall, I have not seen it fail yet. So, for the purpose of this article, I’ll call it The Peernovation Tree.

The Peernovation Tree
The Peernovation Tree

I love the metaphor because trees are not only alive; they give us life. I’d like to imagine that because this is so, they exist for something larger than even the most magnificent giant sequoia or that impressive stand of Aspens, which share nutrition and work together to protect each other from the elements. Peernovation helps people explore personal and organizational excellence by comparing their aspirations to the life of a tree.

Values

As much as your WHY can be central to what drives many of today’s most successful people and organizations, your WHY is a product of what you care about, what you prioritize, and how you or your organization can add value to the world. Like tree roots, they feed our souls and evolve as we grow. The more we understand that our values keep us alive, the more intentional we will be about keeping them front and center in everything we do.

Purpose

If your values inform your purpose, then your purpose serves to clarify WHY you do what you do. It’s the trunk of your tree. Solid and unyielding.

Mission

Further up the trunk, you’ll find your mission. It’s not WHY you do what you do; instead, it defines HOW you will uniquely go about it based on your values, purpose, special talents, and aspirations.

Actions

Your actions will branch out in different directions representing the strategies, tactics, and specific stakeholder needs as you deliver on your mission. The branches are flexible and usually carry leaves and flowers that are as beautiful and majestic as they are practical. Your actions should express your values, purpose, and mission. If you’re looking for strategic guidance, consider referencing your roots and your trunk to find the answers about what to do next.

Outcomes

Healthy trees in the right environment flourish and, when they do, can live a very long time. At whatever stage of growth, people and organizations are typically well served when they reconnect with their origins and remember what feeds them. Adjust accordingly, remain ever adaptable to changing winds, and be true to what grounds you. By doing so, things will start looking up.

Vision  

The sky is the limit. Your vision should speak to whatever height you can barely imagine. If the Redwood named Hyperion can grow from a seed to 380 feet tall today, then maybe you can achieve new heights, too. Time to shed your self-limiting beliefs.

Summary

Among those remarkable people I’ve met in my life, Pat Hyndman would be among the most impressive. After a career with an incredible list of accomplishments, he embarked on a new venture at age 73. Pat decided to lead peer advisory groups for CEOs as a way to give back, so he joined Vistage Worldwide and became a Chair (CEO and Key Executive group leader). Here’s the kicker: Pat did this work for 25 years and regarded it as the most meaningful work of his life. Well into his 90s, I heard many people ask Pat: “What’s the secret? How is it that you’re so vibrant and active? Here was his standard response: “You don’t grow old. You become old when you stop growing.”

Pat Hyndman was as strong as an oak. Pat lived his values, understood his why, and was clear about his mission. This approach informed his actions (which delivered impressive outcomes), and as he grew in every way throughout his life, Pat never stopped reaching for the stars. It’s how Pat Hyndman lived and how any truly great company got that way. I invite you to share the tree metaphor and Pat’s story with anyone who is as focused on growth as the people I speak with every day.


Written by Leo Bottary.
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Leo Bottary
Leo Bottary is the founder and managing partner of Peernovation. He is a sought-after thought leader on Peer Advantage and Peernovation, emerging disciplines dedicated to strategically engaging peers to achieve personal and organizational excellence. A popular author of three books, including Peernovation: What Peer Advisory Groups Can Teach Us About Building High-performing Teams (Archway; October 16, 2020), he is also an author, keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, and thought leader on the topic of peer advantage.

Education
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) (ABD) in Organizational Leadership Studies at Northeastern University.
M.A. in Strategic Communication & Leadership at Seton Hall University.
B.A. in Political Science and German at Jacksonville University.

Books by Leo Bottary:
Peernovation: What Peer Advisory Groups Can Teach Us About Building High-performing Teams (Archway; October 16, 2020).
What Anyone Can Do: How Surrounding Yourself With the Right People Will Drive Change, Opportunity and Personal Growth (Routledge; September 3, 2018).
The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success (Bibliomotion; March 22, 2016).

Leo Bottary is a member of the External Advisory Board (EAB) for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.