This last weekend marked my Meyer Lemon’s annual trip into the house for Winter. Since lemons require a long growing season, I always bring it in just before Thanksgiving laden with lemons while silently praying that none fall off while being GENTLY coaxed through the door, where it will stay until February. Then it’ll go back out, pruned and shaped, while the first round of Spring fertilizer (8-2-10) will goose it back into production.

Now it will live in the breezeway, surrounded by light and warmth while 12 large lemons finish ripening. This is the first year in forever that I’ve gotten flowers early enough to generate fruits, and MAYBE have lemons before Christmas. I’ve had this tree for approx. 17 years — I call it my firstborn — and it’s lived here at home until 2016 when I moved it to the Atrium at the office, and now back home in 2019 where it’s been repotted, re-oriented, and is having the best year in quite a few. COVID and WFH have been very good for its health.

There have been years of accidental neglect, bad placement experiments, automatic sprinklers whose batteries failed, etc. where I was sure it was the end. But with care, it’s always come back.

Being a lemon farmer always reminds me of the caretaker roles we have in organizations, and the old term “husbandry,” meaning to care and cultivate crops, animals, etc. As leaders, we have to provide the resources for our teams to grow and thrive. Find out what they need, put them in the right places.

In my early days as a leader, one of my colleague managers was a great proponent of the philosophy of Leave Your Problems At Home. I tried that tack but realized that I worried about home things at work. Surely I’m not special, and being a receptive ear to problems would perhaps be helpful. While one’s work team is not one’s family (and shouldn’t be) there’s nothing to keep one from exhibiting humanity, compassion, and kindness.

Over the years it’s worked both ways for me. I say often that sharing one of my pesky home engineering problems with a smart colleague resulted in me saving over $12,000 at a minimum in plumbing costs. I remain convinced I can pay it forward to others, either directly or in providing a work environment that’s a good medium for growth.

Lastly, everyone needs to find what they do best, and be true to who they are. I’m better at certain things than others. If I’m a Lemon, I cannot be a Tomato. I’m constantly learning that part.

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