Do you manage people according to their roots or fruits?

by Alan Hosking: Publisher of HR Future, South Africa's human strategy magazine, and a Leadership Renewal Coach for senior executives.
Managing people in the right way can energise them and encourage them to achieve even more than you or they could have imagined.

While every tree, plant, bush or flower starts out as a seed, one of the first things they grow is roots. If they don’t “take root” as we put it, they will simply not make it. That’s why roots are so important.

But roots are important in people’s lives as well. We all have roots and it’s important for us to remember our roots because they contain the essence of who we are and where we come from. Some people who come from humble roots and make it big are tempted to forget their roots and pretend that life was always wonderful. Others will always remember their roots despite what they have achieved or acquired, and this will be expressed in a form of humility. One cannot help respecting people like that.

Those who have made a success of their lives will be able to enjoy the fruits of their ideas, relationships or effort – the results of what ever it is they have done to achieve success.

How should we treat people? Should we treat them according to their roots? If so, then those who come from humble backgrounds will be looked down upon with disdain. They will possibly be considered inferior or lesser. If they have come from a privileged background we will possibly look up to them and admire them for what they already have. Are either of these options fair? Not at all.

On the flip side of the coin, should we look only at people’s fruit – what they achieve? This also, it would seem, would be a fairly superficial treatment because it would mean that someone who appears to have the trappings of success will be taken a lot more seriously than someone who doesn’t have such trappings. It would mean that their value is determined by what they have rather than what they are.

It would seem. to be fair to all, that we should treat people according to both their roots and their fruits.

Roots of trees and plants are usually not seen. They’re also not very attractive to the eye. They’re gnarled and twisted, covered in soil. They would never be sought out for what they are (unless they’re carrots, beetroot and such like)!

But roots are necessary to give a tree or plant life, nourishment, stability, security and sustainability. That’s why they’re to be recognised and respected.

People’s roots do the same for them and that’s why they should be recognised and respected.

Fruits, though, are the products of healthy roots which have nourished the tree sufficiently to ensure that, in due season, the tree produces its fruit.

It might be said that the fruit of the tree is the reason for the tree’s existence. That’s why so many trees and plants are named after their fruits.

Start treating people according to their roots and their fruits and you will get closer to engaging with the whole person. When ever you ask someone to tell you about themselves, you have the opportunity to learn about their roots. This will help you understand where they’re coming from in more ways than one.

By nurturing them and giving them an opportunity to grow, you will help them to produce excellent fruit, which then should also be recognised for what it is – a creation of value that can benefit their company, themselves and their families. By encouraging them to produce good fruit, you too will benefit more than you thought!

Useful resources:
HR Future
HR Future is South Africa's only independent, most forward thinking human resource magazine with the richest content wealth of HR related issues on the continent of Africa to help executives recruit, manage, train, reward and retain the best talent.
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