Outlook Fall 2018 - Changing seasons

By Rose Epperson on Tuesday, September 25, 2018

It’s been one long, hot, and tedious summer, and I’m longing for cooler days and a change of pace. Fall will be a welcome relief. I’m hoping a change in weather will help firefighters battling wildfires that continue to burn around the West. I worry about the safety of friends and family, and pray for them, as well as the firefighters and those who have lost their homes or lives. I’m hoping that Fall will bring calmer, cooler, and moister weather. It’s hard to be prepared for whatever nature throws our way… But I feel we should be doing more.

With respect to wildfire, I think our best approach is to recognize the inherent risk associated with living in or near the urban/rural interface where natural forests, woodlands, or wildlands dominated by chaparral, brush, grasslands and urban development meet. Many people want to live in the foothills, close to nature, but they don’t understand that wildfire is a natural and common event there. Living near the interface requires careful thought, planning, and preparation to minimize risk from periodic wildfires. We have no real control over environmental factors such as wind, humidity, and temperature. We do have control over fuel levels and maintenance practices for trees and large shrubs. A change in forest practices and management strategies is also needed. Arborists that work in the urban/wildland interface and those who provide fire-safe landscape advice can better serve their clients by learning more about fire behavior and modification of  vegetation to promote a community-wide approach rather than on a single property basis.

I spent many days on the road this summer. First stop—Sacramento for the California State Fair that ran from July 14-28th. Arborists of all ages gathered under the ‘big top’ of the Whale’s Tail exhibit – sharing the gift of What Trees Give Us. Side-by-side with the TreeCircus was the “Ask the Arborist” booth. This year’s message was “Don’t Top Trees” – certainly not a new catchphrase, but definitely something we just have to keep hammering away on, as well as the need for professional tree care. The WCISA Board met with partners from CalFIRE, California ReLeaf, and the Sacramento Tree Foundation to celebrate our 10th year of partnering to develop and present a unified message at the state fair. It was a great time to be an arborist!

Then it was off to Columbus for the ISA International conference. Once again, the program included many Western Chapter members. I’m always so proud to represent the Western Chapter. This year, our own ‘Dr. ‘D’ (Dr. James Downer) received the prestigious R.W. Harris Award of Education. I’ve worked hand-in-hand with Jim for more than a decade. His commitment to excellence and providing technology-transfer to the arboricultural and green industry communities, is quite remarkable. I’m so happy to see him recognized at this level! The conference was well-organized and well-attended. Columbus is a really outstanding city and the Ohio Chapter did an amazing job hosting the conference there. Just days before the conference, ISA announced that the Board of Directors had voted to move their headquarters from Champaign, Ill. to Atlanta, GA in the coming year. The move will facilitate travel and access to greater partnering opportunities. The timing got me thinking about how we deal with change, I dug around a bit in my notes and came up with some great ‘pearls of wisdom’ on change.

Whether it be in our businesses, professional organizations or even our personal lives or relationships, change is inevitable. With the rapid changes in technology and continued competition for natural and business resources, we all need to revise our strategy for dealing with needed change. It’s not a choice, but a prerequisite for success. With some prep work, you can introduce change without causing anxiety or major problems. By focusing on the positive side, encouraging support and consensus, and preparing carefully, the likelihood of success in your endeavor or business is much higher. I know that change is not easy for everyone, but the saying - “keep doing the same thing and you’ll get the same results” doesn’t account for changes that occur over time. To survive you must adapt to new trends, technologies, current market, etc., by regularly analyzing and updating your business or business practices. Let’s look at some ways to make dealing with change easier.   

Begin by defining the situation and why change is necessary. Make sure your plan is focused on the results you want. It’s important to keep it simple but effective. Consider the viewpoint of employees, business partner(s), managers, office staff, etc., and include that in your discussion with them. Discuss the need for change and how it will affect those involved at the office, job site or in general meeting. Answer questions and discuss ideas and comments that surface and how the change(s) will be introduced. Try to develop consensus.   

Get organized - Be sure to have your ducks in a row. Have buy-in from your advisors and outside financial and organizational partners. Be an ‘open book’. Use the planning process to help outline what changes you are going to initiate. Many business leaders invite a group of employees in for an appreciative survey. Getting information and intel from all levels of your organization help you make better decisions. Make sure to document your plan and have room for some fine-tuning along the way. Don’t forget to build in measurements for success. 

Be consistent - In times of change, consistency is important.  If you do your homework, and prepare in advance when introducing changes into the organization, you are more likely to succeed with little pushback. There may be barriers or obstacles along the way, but don’t allow them to detour you too far from your goal. Remember the problem-solving and decision-making process I have written about in the past - this would be the time to dust it off and put it to use. 

Lastly, communicate the change clearly. Consider the best method of sharing the information with the organization. Choose words that are appropriate for the knowledge level and understanding of those receiving the information. Start with the ‘why’ and give solid statistical information. End with the assurance that all is well and that by working together the change will bring bigger and better results (for ALL). Be open and compassionate. Take questions and find answers if you don’t have them at hand.  Follow up with organization-wide communications on progress and successes.  

As part of the ISA leadership, I will be working with both the board and the staff (many of whom will not be making the move) to be a positive agent of change within the organization. I am committed to the continued success of the organization not only at our Chapter level, but globally. I’ve made many lifelong friends during my involvement with the ISA leadership, during my career as an arborist, and my involvement with WCISA. They have been mentors and students, sounding boards and guinea pigs but mostly colleagues and friends – it’s made for a great community.   

We all change with time, much like the seasons. The point is that change is constant and we have to adapt to move ahead. Change is not always beneficial, but it does bring about personal and professional growth. Our success is largely based on how we embrace change and how well we prepare ourselves to take advantage of new opportunities. To this end, the Western Chapter offers a wide range of educational workshops, and credentialing programs designed to help members position themselves for success in their respective areas of interest. We are working on several great upcoming events and a fantastic learning opportunity in Honolulu next Spring.  We can’t wait to share it with you.

Keep Growing,

Rose Epperson, CAE

ISA Certified Arborist # WE-1045A

714/264-9793 mobile

559/784-8733 office