A Tree Stops Growing When It Gets Root Bound

A tree stops growing when it gets root bound, and so does a business.

Over the weekend, I was thinking of the importance of tree removal such as by and I decided it was time to transplant a couple of trees that have been growing in the sun-bleached pots on my patio. As I started to pull the trees out of the pots, I noticed the dirt in each pot had almost disappeared and had been replaced with a massive root ball. I had to completely destroy the pots to get the trees out. Both trees had stopped growing a year or so ago. They did not die, they just stopped growing – they were root-bound.

Do we become complacent in our pots on a sunny, warm patio? Some of us are lucky enough to start out with a nice big pot to live in and have someone to nurture us. We should be thankful. We also have to remember that even though we start out in a nice big pot, we can’t grow to our full potential if our roots can’t grow with us.

These trees made me think of my business career too, and as I look back, I realize that sometimes my roots needed a bigger pot. I focused on my own growth on the outside – like a tree, I reached for the skies. What I sometimes lost sight of was the fact that my roots were bound. I should have focused more on how to add the space I needed for creating new roots, not just the root ball I had.

This pride in what they have accomplished is well deserved. Success in business is a tough road and those who travel it remember every pothole and dangerous curve where they lost control a time or two. When they feel like they know where all the curves are and they filled in all the potholes, it’s easy to coast along. The coasting phase of business is when your roots will quickly fill up the space they had. This is the time you have to transplant, this is the time for growing new roots.

A business can become so entrenched in their roots they forget – without the space for growing new roots, your business, like the trees on my patio, will stop growing. Our roots help us grow, and our roots need time and to spread out. Over the years, I have seen and actively participated in focusing on the roots as they are today in a business, instead of planning for room for growing more. I call this the “root ball of business”. We become trapped in a pot that is too small and we just stop growing.

“Pigeonholed Leadership is believing your past successes will continue without change.”

A year ago I was talking with someone who said to me “we do it this way because it’s who we are, it’s in our roots.” I complimented him on their achievements, then warned him of the potential of being root-bound. I don’t believe he understood the analogy. Their tree stopped growing, some branches have fallen off, and my hope for them is they will get a bigger pot and grow more roots.


Ray Stasieczko
Ray Stasieczko
THROUGH my creativity and passion for innovation, I help organizations navigate through needed changes. Over the past thirty years, I have had successes and faced challenges. The challenges organizations face today, I not only recognize them, I’ve experienced and navigated them firsthand. Delivering services to all marketplaces continues transforming. Competition is coming from places no one would have imagined. My innovative thinking benefits organizations who recognize change is needed, and more importantly, recognize the value of creativity fueled by experiences. The future of the business to business or business to consumers marketplace will require unique collaboration. I understand the importance of collaboration and have the imagination to bring uniqueness in delivering it. I believe successful innovation and transformation only happens “When an organizations focus is on bringing the future to the present, instead of bringing the past to the future.”

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