Confession of a Tree Hugger

gleaningIs everyone in your business a ‘tree hugger’?

In rural Washington state, where I grew up, there was an active community of ‘gleaners,’ people would travel the countryside picking up fallen fruit, which they’d convert to jam or preserve in jars. They’d get property owners’ permission to collect fruit which was otherwise unsalable and would likely go to waste.

One neighbor seemed to come home with more fruit – and better quality fruit – than other gleaners, and she always had a basket of apples or pears on her porch for anyone who wanted some. She explained to me that she collected more because she was a “tree hugger.” She’d see a tree full of fruit, and give it what she thought of as a good hug – though it was more likely a solid shake. The tree would return her rough affection by raining ripe apples, pears, or cherries.

Her ethics may have been sketchy, stretching the rules of gleaning and no doubt violating the spirit of the agreement with landowners, but there is no arguing that she was successful. While others were content to pick up damaged fallen produce, this lady was proactively ensuring that their efforts were, well, fruitful. She was popular with her gleaning crew.

In business, everyone is content to be a gleaner.  If a customer calls, they’re treated well. If a client returns, we’re happy to see them. When a guest walks through the front doors, we make them feel at home. We build on relationships that likely were initiated by someone else. We depend on “tree huggers” to put customers within our reach.  

“That’s the sales department’s job,” you say. “They are our tree huggers.”

True, but how much more fruit would fall if everyone on staff gave the trees a shake? In a tight economy, businesses are cross-training people to do more than just one job. In a competitive job market, knowing how to being new business through the door can be a matter of survival.

Especially in tough times, new business is everyone’s business, and sales training isn’t just for salespeople. It creates enthusiastic “tree huggers” throughout the company.


Scott H. Lewis is managing director for the CIS region of Signature Europe. A former journalist and public relations counselor, he has provided crisis, public speaking and presentation training to senior executives across Russia, Ukraine and Turkey. He is the author of The Kindness Cure: 52 Weeks to a More Fulfilling Life.  An American, he has lived in Kyiv, Ukraine for more than a decade.

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