Bring the Redwoods Indoors

One of the many benefits of living in the SF Bay Area is that I’m nearby the ocean, the mountains and all that’s in-between. One of the amazing in-betweens is the magnificent redwood.  Learning about them might inspire you to bring their magnificence into your team.

Foundation:  Root Systems
You would think that a 350 foot-tall tree would need deep roots – not so for redwoods. Their roots are very shallow, often only five or six feet deep, extending up to 100 feet from the trunk. Redwoods thrive in thick groves, where the roots can intertwine and even fuse together, giving them tremendous strength against the forces of nature. They can withstand high winds and raging floods. Their intermingling root systems help them remain upright for millennia.
Diversity:  Differences needed
Because these trees are so tall, the treetop needles are exposed to more dry heat than the needles of branches in the dense canopy below. To compensate for this, redwoods grow treetop needles with tight spikes that conserve moisture, due to little evaporative surface. The lower branches, on the other hand, produce flat needles in order to catch additional light through the thick canopy of branches. (If you research these needle differences, you’ll see that the lower needles are called “senile”. No kidding.)
Sustainability: Surviving challenges
Fire is the quick destroyer of forests. Because redwoods have an asbestos-like bark that contains tannin and grows to at least one foot in thickness, fire seldom is able to kill these trees. There is a lot of water contained in the wood itself, and pitch, which is very flammable, is not contained in the tree.
Renewal: Regeneration
One of the keys to the survival of the redwood is its regenerative abilities. One of the regenerative capabilities of the redwood involves the burl, a lumpy outgrowth from the tree’s trunk. A burl, composed of dormant redwood stems, grows when a redwood is cut, damaged, or injured, or diseased. Saplings may sprout from these burls.

Foundation: Relationships   

Leaders and teams alike often have their attention focused on the grand results desired and forget to ensure a healthy foundation for results:  authentic relationships.   Leaders committed to people first, then product, strengthen the team’s “root system” with skills to challenge the status quo, raise issues before they become serious problems, acknowledge mistakes, create trust and rebuild trust when it is broken.  The breadth and depth of their relationships create a foundation that can withstand the swirling winds of change that are the new normal of business.

Diversity:  Differences needed   

Any system involves linkages and interactions between its components.  The more the interactions are in alignment, the less friction and wasted energy. Understanding the diversity of talents, skills and motivations needed for the organization to perform well leads to creating the best person-to-role fit.  Test this out in your own experience:  Are the career goals and life aspirations you had as a 20-year-old the same as you have today?

Sustainability: Surviving challenges

A burning platform is a term that seeped into organizational leadership conversations that describes crises that are either natural or engineered to force change. (The story about the 1988 burning oil-drilling platform in coast of Scotland) . An engineered (invented) burning platform implicitly refers to the active use of panic and fear to bring about change in an organization.  (“The plant is going to close in 4 months unless we hit targets of   …”)

When relationships, the foundation for results, are aligned and committed to achieving shared commitments, engineered burning platforms are not needed to bring about change. In root-strong organizations, leaders at all levels can share challenges openly and honestly and tackle them together.

Renewal: Regeneration

When an organization generates a strong, resilient foundation of relationships, the challenges it experiences – key leaders retiring, continual competition, reputational disasters from IT hacks stealing customer information – are greeted from a context of partnership and used to move toward the desired future, not abandon it.  When the foundation of relationships is broad and deep, new possibilities can sprout from the burls of setbacks.

Isn’t it time to bring the redwoods indoors to your organization?

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Camille Smith

Fueled by her unwavering commitment to unleash people’s potential, Camille helps leaders and teams work together in an environment of respect and accountability to solve tough issues and produce business-critical results. Combining her business experience in high-tech start-ups and Fortune 1000 organizations with her experience as an educator and international management consultant, Camille provides knowledge and support that enables people to create the Foundation for Results – authentic relationships defined by shared commitments.


  1. Bonita Banducci on June 21, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    What an absolutely beautiful lesson. Possibility arises from your pictures and words.
    I bring all my world travelers to see a special redwood tree with a powerful root system exposed. It is in Portola Valley. I will send you a picture.
    Thank you!
    I will share your post with my students and friends!
    In partnership/relationship.

  2. Silver Rose on July 6, 2017 at 7:29 am


    Absolutely brilliant. I love these kinds of metaphors/examples. Well done.


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