THERE ARE MANY THINGS MOTHER NATURE TEACHES US. Although they may seem like an unusual place to find inspiring lessons on Life, Leadership, Teamwork, and Business but the giant redwood trees have a lot to teach us. Mother Nature explicitly uses these trees as living illustrations for inspiration.
Muir Woods, San Francisco, is home to the majestic and magnificent Redwood Trees or giant Sequoias, the tallest and widest trees on planet earth. Redwood trees are mesmerizing and will never fail to impress you. This gift of mother nature is sometimes so wide, that it takes around 40 people to make a circle around it. You may have seen pictures of a tunnel carved in the trunk that cars can drive through. Wow!!
From a seed no bigger than a tomato seed, they grow as tall as 350 Feet. Being a figure, it might be difficult for you to wrap your mind around how tall is 350 ft. For better visualization let me give you a very simple comparison. 350 feet is almost 6 to 7 stories taller than the torch of the statue of liberty. It is one and half times the height of Qutub Minar. It is like standing under a 35-story tower phew! You can call it Nature’s “Skyscraper” or “Mount Everest” of trees.
Now, before you ignite your left side of the brain to recall some science lessons that the taller the tree the deeper its roots should be and also going by the law of nature tall trees need deep roots to keep them stable, let me impress and surprise you further. Research and studies show that the Redwood trees despite their massive and soaring heights have very shallow roots. In fact, their roots go deep only 6 to 12 feet. Yes, you read it right, the roots go only 6 to 12 feet vertically down. Imagine 350 feet upwards reaching the sky and only a few feet downwards. Now science is going to tell you that ok they might have length but the shallow roots would not give them longevity, meaning the trees cannot live long.
As far as their age is concerned the National Park Service says that redwoods are known to live up to 2,000 to 3,000 years. However, the average redwood tree lives to be between 500 and 800 years. A tree known as the “President” is believed to be the oldest living redwood tree which is estimated to be about 3,200 years old. Just imagine this tree reached its adolescence by the time Buddha and Mahavir were born and was in its teen when Jesus Christ roamed around.
Now over the past 2000 years, California has faced huge natural calamities like hurricanes, cyclones, windstorms, tornadoes, and earthquakes. Any other tree ecosystem would probably have collapsed long ago, but the Redwood trees are still standing tall and strong. Imagine a tree that is 300 feet tall, weighing 1200 tons, think about the foundation required for a building that size. Now visualize that tree swaying in fierce wind and storm time and again, but still standing for more than 2000 years. So, what is the mystery behind the strength of these trees?
How does a tree that only uses 0.010% of itself to stay anchored to the ground not fall over with every gust of wind?
A great example of interdependence and interconnectivity.
Do the redwood trees have some extraordinary mythical power? Yes, that power is called the power of interdependence and interconnectivity. They make up for their depth by their width. Rather than going vertically down, they spread horizontally. The roots rather than going deep inwards grow outwards sometimes extending up to 100 feet from the trunk. In doing so they come in contact with the roots of other trees often beautifully embracing each other. This intertwining of roots leads to roots wrapping around each other multiple times and locking together creating a webbing effect. and thus, form a very strong and unbreakable bond. This beautiful tapestry of joining and fusing together eventually leads to every Redwood tree getting connected to each other. So, their secret to survival and tremendous growth is the formation of, “Tribes”.
In this family of tribes, the roots of older and wiser trees hold on to the roots of trees which are just beginning to grow. It’s a form of hand-holding where the older and experienced trees are guiding them and basically telling them- “Don’t worry, I am there. You grow tall, big, and strong and we will help you get there”.
Can Leaders smell a lesson here?
The trees are announcing: “just look at us and learn how we empower and mentor our junior members. We let our younger members know that we have your back. Keep growing and connecting. We are creating a culture of interconnectivity and interdependence for them to emulate. We lead by example.”
Teams don’t lose heart. Redwood has learning for you too!
Every organizational ecosystem can mimic Redwood’s Tribe culture. Each and every individual team member should connect and collaborate with all other members so that the entire team grows together and rises higher and higher. This interconnection helps each individual member of a team to learn, grow, and inspire each other. It lays the foundation of trust and transparency and also creates a feeling of psychological safety and security. Psychological safety is the foundation of inclusion and team performance and the key to creating an innovation culture.” It’s that which gives individuals and teams the freedom to explore, experiment, innovate, and in the process create excellence. The intertwining makes teams stronger together and thus are able to handle challenges and adversity that come your way.
Sequoias stand tall together. They need one another and they almost seem to know it. In fact, it is very rare that you may see a lone Redwood tree, if so, be sure it will almost certainly not flourish. It might survive. It might grow to a decent size, but it will never be a giant. To flourish and thrive these trees need a community. Similarly, it’s true that as an individual you may survive, grow a bit, but if you want to thrive and flourish you need a community called: “Team”.
Conclusion: People need people to grow the way redwood need redwoods.
Business Resource Optimization
Redwoods survive long dry seasons just by drinking fog. In fact, their height helps them live on the moisture they are able to extract from the dense fog that blankets the forests. Condensing the mist against their trunks, they create fog drips that cool and roll down the grooves in their bark flowing down the length of the tree down to the roots that nurture it. In Fact, Redwood trees get up to 40 percent of their water needs from fog during the dry summer months. A big reason for the long lifespan of redwood trees is their adaptability and efficient utilization of available resources.
Other resources like sunshine, soil, water, and sand are also beautifully shared by the entire redwood community. By sharing their resources with the other trees and plants in the forest, they make a deep investment in the team,
Isn’t it another great learning for Businesses? Be it a small company or a large organization, there is nothing called unlimited resources. Resources will always be scarce and limited. Now either the various teams in an organization can compete for these resources or learn to share and utilize the available resources to the fullest. What if the individual team members were more open in sharing their resources (their talents, ideas, feedback, and workload) with one another? Another powerful learning.
Leaders leave a legacy:
Even after giant sequoia trees die, they continue to play their role, often providing a source of sustenance to the young sequoias around them. As we navigate these tough and uncertain times, just pause and think about the legacy you want to leave for your team and for your organization. As a Leader ask yourself: Am I creating a foundation that others can build upon in the near future? Am I creating more Leaders? Legacy is often created by how you empower your people to develop resilience for overcoming challenges and how you lead during tough times. Tell me, could there be any better time than now to forge a legacy and leave a mark on your organization.
It’s no wonder that redwoods have inspired the latest “organizational culture” model, a new Fish Philosophy,
The coast redwood environment recycles naturally; because the annual rainfall leaves the soil with few nutrients, the trees rely on each other, living and dead for their vital nutrients. As a redwood tree dies, it decays and the nutrients it has absorbed over the ages are released back into the community through the roots, nourishing the other trees. And the community replaces that member by sending a new sprout up from their roots.
How to convert adversity into opportunity.
The Redwood has a unique way of protecting itself from calamities like forest fires, and at the same time has mastered the art of using those fires for growth. The bark of a mature Redwood tree can be up to three feet thick and contains tannins which makes it fire resistant and protecting it from almost any fire. This thick skin of tannin makes the tree resistant to insects, able to withstand fires and floods, bear storms and winds, be almost disease-free.
The intense heat of fire actually helps the cones to open up in order to release the seeds and germinate. Interestingly the fire then clears the way and burns off any other competing plant undergrowth so that new seeds can flourish at the base of the old tree. This leads to the fires and tree working together displaying some of the keys to the tree’s resilience and endurance: thick skin, ample pruning, and new growth.
The hard times of the global pandemic are nothing but fires for our businesses. Can’t we use this intense heat of the fire as a perfect change opportunity to help us open up and release the seeds of learning and experience to fuel growth and rebuild our company? Just think! How many wars, revolutions, empires, and contentious powerplay has the Redwood seen? How many nations rise and fall? How many economic recessions? How many crises? How many viruses and diseases, it has witnessed and withstood? Can’t we emulate Redwood’s resilience and bounce back? Of course, we can.
The redwoods are a prime example of Leadership, effective Teamwork, and efficient Business. Just stop, pause, think, and reflect! How much we can learn from nature. How much stronger can we make our Leadership, Teams, and Business if we were to implement some of the same survival strategies found in the redwoods? By trying to become a little like the redwoods, we can all help to create environments where teams and businesses can unlock their true potential and achieve “world-class” results.
Just close your eyes and say to yourself, “I want to be a giant redwood tree.”
Do let me know your opinion and view on how we can learn from mother nature in the comments box below!