What is a shelter belt, and why should you care?

I traversed the rolling hills of emerald and shamrock grasses. As we coasted at 50 miles per hour, my arm floated outside the window, palm down, riding the wind like it did when I was a child. The air was cool and fresh.

The grass looked soft. The wisps were no match for the wind. It bent variegated rows of mustard flowers and five shades of green. Funny—grass is so boring in the city. But, not here in the fields of the Dakotas. I imagined running my hand across the tops, walking through a field.

In the distance, a dozen bison grazed, glancing momentarily to maintain a safe distance. A lone bison rolled in the grass like a dog, kicking his legs high to swing all the way over.

As far as I could see were hundreds of acres untouched by more than grain, cattle and the anxious call of prairie dogs.

To the west was an expansive farm encircled by trees. At a glance, anyone would see they didn’t grow that way on their own. The circle of spruce trees stood like soldiers. The saplings must’ve seemed an utter disappointment when the farm was new. Now mature, they formed a shelter belt—green troops defending the farm from gusting winds and billows of snow during perilous winters.

I like that idea.

In many ways, a work team is like a shelter belt. You plan—you surround yourself with young talent. At first, they can’t accomplish much. You nourish them and give them resources to develop, knowing that years down the road that they will be worth the effort.

Then, one day—you are surrounded by tall soldiers. They stand strong, watching from all angles. They guard against the torrents that might come.

That is what teams do. The strength of the team is each member. The strength of each member is the team.

The pain in the ask is—how well are you growing your shelter belt? When the torrent of projects comes, will you find yourself shouldering the load alone? Or, have you invested in those around you so that you can move together in strength?

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