A Gardener’s Guide to Difficult Decisions: Spring Pruning

My garden has been one of the few solaces during this time… A reminder that life goes on and there is still beauty and hope.

I’ve always equated gardening with hiring. I have never been a practical gardener. I’ve been accused many times of overplanting and favoring showy flowers over vegetables. I grew up in Texas where only the hardiest plants like marigolds, tomatoes, and zinnias could weather the heat of the summer. My garden was full of roses that need lots of sun, air and good soil to flourish and iris that stun if only for a short time.

Times have changed.

This past week I found myself making decisions about pruning. What should I pull because it didn’t do well? Which aren’t surviving against the wildlife in my yard, and my thoughts have recently gone to planting a victory garden if you will… So which plants should I remove in order to make room for tomatoes or zucchini that will help sustain my family and result in less need to travel to the store which can be  – at this moment in time – a stressful trip.

I realized that many of my clients are facing the same decisions when it comes to their staff. I’ve had many difficult conversations these past few weeks about pruning, who to keep, who to let go, to furlough or not to furlough.

There are the salespeople of the garden—showy and reliable. They bloom if they are to succeed. The best of the sellers are the flowers who bloom consistently, even if the soil and conditions are not ideal. They survive, bloom, and do not choke out the other plants. They are symbiotic and respectful. They help attract the bees so the other plants flourish too. I think of the operations people as the evergreens of the garden who are not showy and do not dazzle. You may not notice them but they are essential. They provide shelter for the birds. Their roots keep the soil from eroding and create a backbone and infrastructure for the garden.

Almost every company and garden has a temperamental plant who while not being easy is worth it — the show-stopping dahlias or the magnolias who bloom only for a short time. These may be the employees who are known for candor and upset the executive leadership saying that a project isn’t on a realistic timeframe or someone isn’t really adding value. These may be employees who are not cheerleaders but go into a client meeting and dazzle with their brilliance, credibility, and expertise. They may upset the star seller but are respected within the organization. They may be more sensitive and more expensive but they are critical to the value of a company. These are the employees who add value and should be retained.

Pay attention to your team.

Who contributes to client meetings or strategy? Who are the employees who bring out the best in other team members and collaborate? Who is nimble, flexible, and able to navigate uncertainty?  There are the plants who may be beautiful but choke off other critical players and resources in the garden. Vines that are choking off prized roses. They may be popping up and creating shade preventing valuable seedlings from flourishing.  Every company and garden needs something that makes it competitive and extraordinary. These are the times to evaluate and make the decisions for long term health and growth.

These are hard times and in order to save a garden or a company, sometimes tough decisions need to be made. Water and money have to be conserved in order for it to survive into the next season. In evaluating an organization look for the players who are critical to survival and who can reliably produce. Make sure to also recognize and retain the iris and magnolias of your company. Who is the talent that differentiates and takes your breath away with their dazzling contribution? Who are the up-and-coming perennials who with room to grow and nurture will become your company’s most impactful leaders?


Note: this article originally appeared on LinkedIn here.

Avatar photo

Kelly Herrick

Kelly Herrick is the founder of Searchlight, a digital recruitment firm specializing in media, advertising, and emerging technology. Originally from Texas, Kelly has made NY her home and lives with her husband, son, dog, and three cats in Westchester.