December 26, 2019

What Do Marketing Teams and Fruit Trees Have In Common?

They both need to be pruned. I’m not making an analogy about firing people. That’s probably what your thinking after reading the answer.

One of the things I learned from my mother, the Shazam of horticulture, is that when you prune a fruit tree by cutting off the apical bud (top bud) this activates the axillary buds (side buds) by eliminating a hormone produced by the apical bud called auxin.

A lot of people really hesitate to do this, they feel like they are hurting the plant.  A the result many end up with much leggier, tree with less bountiful harvests.

The act of pruning produces a more full, balanced, nourished, and bountiful tree… So what does pruning look like in a marketing org? How do you simulate this?

The short answer is I’m not 100% sure…. but let’s backpedal a second.

I came up with this idea after a couple things happened at Nexthink…

The first thing was that when my team started to grow I started limiting my individual contributions to actually start directing. I noticed my direct reports starting to grow more than they ever could have if I was there with my dirty little hands in everything.

The second thing was that my go-to report left for maternity leave. I was very afraid that I’d be up shits creek, but it was fine. Another amazing employee on the team stepped up and grew more in 6 months than she ever would have if my right hand had still been there.

This led me to a realization… sometimes your presence as an employee prevents others from growing. I spent a little while after this realization feeling guilty, wondering if I still belonged at Nexthink. Would my team be better without me? Should I leave? Would that benefit them!? Does my ass need to get pruned?!?!

The answer, no… not quite.

I’ve invested a lot of time in my team, and they are incredible. For the most part they are self governing. That’s great, it frees me up to do other things…

I think this is what pruning looks like in a marketing org. When an individual starts inhibiting growth by their presence they need to become absent. Maybe that is by limiting their presence partially OR by removing it altogether.

This could come in the form of starting a new function, getting more involved at the strategic level, or in some other way moving on… I guess that includes getting let go. Shit, I guess I did kinda make a firing analogy.

BUT I have an idea in this next post on what marketing teams could do to start pruning their orgs on a quarterly basis…. it’s called … “SpecOps”.

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