Guest post by Mike Fransen
Wings and Roots… those are two of the key ingredients my wife, Stacey, and I were instructed to help grow in our two daughters in route to launching them successfully into the world. Developed wings help us reach and dream beyond where our gifts and talents otherwise might alone take us. Deep roots ensure we always remain anchored in key intangibles such as character, integrity, family, and an others-first mindset. Wings and roots, neither one just happen; they require caring and thoughtful intentionality from a special person who is part flight instructor and equal part gardener. Outside of the family (and inside it honestly), we call these people in organizations leaders. In today’s increasingly complex and demanding world, we need leaders to rise up and embrace these two critical roles of what I’m calling flight instructor and gardener.
The idea of growing employee wings, on the surface, might appear like a retention kiss of death. However, as someone who observed countless employees walking in and out of office buildings that we owned and managed, companies that failed to acknowledge and embrace the development of their employees beyond their immediate job description suffered. In those places, innovation is discouraged, culture stagnates, and turnover is high for the wrong reasons. Where leaders push and encourage their people to leverage their gifts, invest time mapping out personal goals, and look out past the immediate, teams and performance flourish. The risk of only focusing on wing development as a leader and company is that you lose necessary attention on the here and now and compromise the brightness of the future by neglecting core values and the needs of today.
Simon Sinek does such a brilliant job of diving into companies’ “why”… the root (pun intended) of this question and answer drives everything. It is the thoughtful careful attention given to the very core of why you and your team even exist. It is the effort you take as a leader to develop and enforce standards and definition in constructive ways that put employees at ease rather than make them feel constrained. It is helping them understand that “why” so well that it becomes a natural part of who they are. It becomes a lot easier to be the flight instructor and talk about dreams when the roots are deep, interconnected, and rock solid. The risk here of only being a gardener is tunnel vision and lack of growth that comes through dreaming and pushing.
Lead by Example:
If you asked me to use this analogy and pinpoint one of the factors that led me to leave my job as COO and kick off this next entrepreneurial chapter, I would say that my inability to continue my own wing development had me on a crash course. And that inability to lead out and live this balanced world made me less effective as a leader and I knew I had to move on. Without me setting the wing development tone, it stifled the wing growth of those who worked with and for me. Nothing is ever more inspiring and comforting than following leaders who model balance between these two different worlds. For our two daughters to grow their wings and roots, it stands to reason that they are most likely to do that if they have seen Mom and Dad live that out every day.
I recently mentored a small group of men, and the facilitator who prepared us to mentor talked about the need for accountability so that each group could experience maximum growth. He used the term “live in the tension” to describe it. And that, to me, is both the beauty and challenge of being the leader of a team and being half flight instructor and half gardener simultaneously. There is an unavoidable tension that will exist, but it is in that tension where individuals excel, teams flourish, and results follow.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mike Fransen, author of The Legacy Business, was in the US Army with the Finance Branch for 5 years at Ft. Hood, Kosovo with NATO, and in the DC area with the Defense Intelligence Agency. Following Yale business school and the Army, he worked for a commercial real estate company that owns and operates office portfolios. After leaving that company in 2019, Workng was launched after a large institutional owner asked Fransen to convert thoughts on the future of operating offices into an actionable platform to disrupt the industry. Workng partners with owners of work environments to strategize on how dedicated work environments can again become critical and necessary to both employees and employers, while still profitable for owners.