This is the English version of this post
The kick-off of the seventh cycle of the career development program for women in positions of leadership, led by the Cusanuswerk, took place in Bonn from 24-26 May.
All alumnae were invited to the parallel networking event, which I had the pleasure of co-organising. We focussed on „Leading without words“, with a visual communication workshop led by Carola Keitel (Bikablo), and a workshop on nonverbal communication led by Laura Klimecki (Re/Present).
I also had the honour and pleasure of giving a welcome address to the new group of mentees and mentors:
Dear mentees and mentors,
It is my great pleasure to speak to you today as one of the alumnae from the past round of this career development program. For me, the benefits of these two years and our network are still unfolding and form fertile ground for whatever may come.
each and every one of us is a strong, involved, passionate, intelligent, ambitious, and already successful person – each in her own way. Based on this history of success, it is tempting to focus on targets, top performance, growth, a stellar career, and to think of detours and challenges as problems and risks. I’d like to reinterpret some of the key topics of this weekend with a closer look at trees, to offer you a counterpoint.
Turning points – stumbling blocks – helping hands.
Trees undergo extreme changes over the course of the seasons: the first blossoms in spring, coming to fruition in late summer, withering and letting go of the old leaves in autumn, and the outwardly bleak phase of rest and recovery in winter. The tree does not suffer throughout these changes, not even the radical ones like losing its leaves. It knows when it is time to let go and make space for something new. All these phases are necessary for the tree to grow, and with every year it grows bigger and stronger.
The tree grows downwards into the earth, just as it grows upwards. Developing these roots is essential for the tree to stay stable and access all the necessary resources. Trees can be split into those that develop shallow roots, and those that develop taproots.
Those with shallow roots cast a wide net of thin roots fairly close to the surface. Their strategy is growth upwards – as high as possible, as quickly as possible. This also means they become quite „head-heavy“ and much more vulnerable to strong winds, adverse weather conditions, or drought than the taproots.
Taproots are those that grow deep down into the earth. They make sure that the tree can tap into water even in times of drought, and stabilise it when things get stormy.
If the tree hits „stumbling blocks“ it works with rather than against them and integrates them into its development. There is a stone in the way? The roots will grow around it. Another tree or a building are blocking the sun? The tree slightly adjusts the way it grows. And if a gardener grafts a branch of a different type of tree, the original tree is refined or ennobled – it integrates the new branch and can now bear different kinds of fruits.
There is a constant give and take between the tree and its environment:
The wind, birds, and squirrels help fertilise the blossoms and later on spread the seeds. Earthworms and other animals break up and loosen the ground. The tree helps us by photosynthesising, the leaves it lets go of nourish others, and different species flourish in its shade. Last but not least, trees form networks to exchange information over great distances, together with fungi.
The tree always remains the tree, no matter whether there are fresh leaves, whether the wind has broken off a branch, or whether it looks bleak and empty in winter. The tree grows, accepts and integrates change instead of suffering, and becomes bigger and stronger with every change of the seasons.
Dear mentees, dear mentors, dear guests,
I would like to invite all of us: Let us become a bit more like trees. Let us become a forest, a network of trees that stay in touch, even over large distances.
Let us become a bit more like trees.
Let us develop taproots, let us not only strive upwards but also cultivate our roots and networks. Let us be aware that change is part of life, that we need to let go of old baggage to make space for something new, and let us remember that there is always a new day, and that we are never alone. Let us become a forest, a network of trees, that keep in touch even over large distances: USA, Scotland, Spain, Germany, Singapore… communication uninterrupted!
All the best for your journey together in the next eighteen months and onwards.