Sunday, 6 October 2013

Gareth the Tree Man, Leadership and Not Seeing the Noise

The gardens at the house in Horwich contain a great number of trees, many of which are fairly mature. They look lovely but require a great deal of work in looking after them, and that’s before the leaves fall and need to be swept up and composted. These days I have been banned from climbing trees with chain saw in hand, so every year Gareth the Tree Man comes and gives a number of them a good trim and sorting out. 2 weeks ago he came and worked on the trees in the back gardens.

2 year old Jack, who is fascinated by all things agricultural, botanical and mechanical, insisted on going outside and watching Gareth do the business. He ended the day with 2 new words learnt (‘Gareth’ and ‘trees’) and a new found love for chainsaws and ladders. Last Friday, Gareth returned and started to work in one of my neighbours gardens. Little Jack heard the chainsaw noise, and immediately wanted to go and see Gareth again.

Coat on he kept going to the back door only to be told Gareth wasn't there. Pointing at the door and repeating ‘Gareth’ and ‘tree’ he became increasingly upset. Aged 2, he really didn't understand why it was he could hear the noise but not see what was causing it (Gareth) - because he was looking in the wrong place. Finally he agreed to go the front door as the garden Gareth was working on was in front of the house. As soon as Jack realised where Gareth was, he was back outside and once again in ‘ladder and chainsaw heaven’.

Jacks upset resulted from a simple 2 year old little boy misunderstanding or mis-perception of events, which was both amusing and easily resolved. In an organisational context, sometimes misunderstandings and mis-perceptions of events are not so amusing or so easily resolved. Avoiding such situations and/or dealing with the consequences require effective transcendental leadership, particularly from an organisations senior leadership group. Where such leadership is absent, the result can be catastrophic in terms of developing and maintaining a motivated and committed workforce.

I was reminded of this during the week when I took part in the @WeNurse Twitter chat last Thursday. @WeNurses is a weekly Twitter chat mainly aimed at nurses (but all are welcome) and takes place every Thursday at 20.00 on Twitter using #WeNurses. Last Thursday the focus was on leadership and the chat trended 6th in the UK with 1500 tweets from over 200 participants. A summary of the chat can be found at

The conversation was fast, wide ranging, informed and informative. The fact that it could be shared with so many was truly amazing. I believe that such opportunities can lead to a greater understanding of what makes for an effective leader. And I think there is an important lesson here for anyone in a leadership position. For me, it's critical that before making a judgement about a situation  or a person, their performance or contribution we should ensure we have heard as many sides of the story as possible. If we don't we will end up like Jack,seeing (rather than hearing) the noise as only coming from one direction and that doesn't make for an effective leadership.