Lemon Tree

A hard winter freeze in Arizona of all places has left my lemon tree with dead, dry, brown leaves. When I first saw what had happened to this formerly prolific bearer of good fruit, I wondered if it could, or would, come back to life?

Was this the end of the line or did it need a severe pruning? Fertilizer? Water and sun? Or, would the only solution to its ‘deadness’ be its removal and replacement?

How could something that had been so bountiful, simply lose its usefulness?

It makes me consider how easily it is for workers to lose their fruitfulness through an unwise act of their manager, or leader. A Bureau of Prisons employee once told me of the tears in his co-worker’s eyes, when the new warden decided to ‘clean up the entrance’ to the prison by having its row of trees cut down, and burned. “I planted that tree,” he said, in great pain and sadness. Years before, a tree planting initiative had been a morale builder in that workplace … now, it had become a morale buster for that employee. The warden either didn’t know, or worse yet, didn’t care.

The result was a worker who became broken, and bitter. A hard freeze set in.

This happens way too often as employees experience decisions, self-serving motivations, or just plain poor methods by their leaders. Once healthy relationships between worker and workplace are strained – possibly damaged beyond repair.

In 1964, Trini Lopez sang a hit song entitled ‘Lemon Tree’ – a story of loss, bitterness, and disappointment. It chronicles how fragile relationships are, and how easily things can be harmed.

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to promote growth … not only to the bottom-line or the results on which you are measured … but to the people you need to produce those outcomes. Try to be aware of them, how they feel, if they’ve gone cold, or what their response is to their work environment. Some warmth toward them, understanding and a sincere recognition of their conditions, will help keep them from losing their productivity.

“Lemon tree, very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet. (lyrics)”

I’m beginning to see some new growth.

– Jerry
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