Leadership Lessons from People Who Work the Land – Loggers

Our post this week is written by Jim Davis.  Jim is a trusted colleague whom I have worked with for nearly ten years creating and delivering leadership development training programs.  He draws from a wealth of unique experience, and has a passion to inspire people to be confident and authentic leaders. ~ Todd

During the second half of my 20’s, I had one of the greatest jobs one could have at that age. I was a television reporter assigned to travel the country telling the stories of regular folks who were working the land and living in rural America. My “region” was the entire northwestern quarter of the U.S., and I traveled four to five days each week with a crew of two other “TV guys”- a videographer and a sound technician. We had a blast. We met many fascinating people, and we learned much from them.

Looking back, I’ve realized some key leadership lessons from that time. I’ll share three of them with you over the next few blog posts.

The First Lesson is: The importance of recognizing your impact.

I learned this first lesson from loggers. If you are a logger you WILL have an impact on your work environment. You can’t avoid it. Different loggers approach their work from different perspectives and utilize various tools, but they all impact the forest every time they go to work. Cutting down a tree impacts the forest. Not cutting any trees also impacts the forest. The logger’s impact on the forest is pretty clear; at least the immediate impact is. As a leader, you will impact your environment. The actions or inactions you take will influence the people around you.

As you consider your “forest” of influence, there are three primary areas of focus: strength of relationship, work environment, and output.

Strength of Relationships

Assess the strength of relationships. Trust is the cornerstone of productive relationships, and of high performing teams. When I trust and believe that other people on my team are as committed as I am, we are all freer to focus on what we’re here to do…together. Creativity is enhanced and innovation can flourish. If we are clear on goals, plans, and roles there is less space for doubt or insecurity; which, if left to fester will inevitably erode trust from the inside.

Strong relationships also fertilize the growth of meaningful and consistent feedback. It becomes easier for you and others to offer and receive feedback as the gift it is, and it will help you help your “followers” give you useful feedback. The higher up the organizational hierarchy you climb the more difficult it is for people who report to you to feel “safe” offering you meaningful and honest feedback. And you know how essential that feedback is! You will need to be creative in the ways you seek it from them.

So…what is the strength of relationships in your work group? Where might there be a need to build up trust, or create a productive feedback culture? What can you do to have an impact?

Work Environment

Observe the work environment. Most of us want to be happy at work! We want to create and be great together. We want to build a work culture where we help each other and take advantage of each other’s experiences and perspectives in the best possible ways. As the leader you can see this culture happening…or not. You can see it in the ways people talk to each other, joke with each other, and prop each other up (or tear each other down) through challenges both professional and personal.

One way to impact your work environment is to create clear definitions of what we do and how we do it. Help the team define and recognize what is happening when we are functioning “at our best”. When that condition exists (and it DOES exist!) what are we doing, how are we relating to each other, and how does it feel? Write it down. Identify when it is happening, and acknowledge people on the team are “being us at our best”.


Measure the output. This falls under the category of “necessary but not sufficient”. It is absolutely necessary to measure and track our production and output, and that measure is not sufficient to nourish sustainable high performance. Strong relationships and energized, engaging work environments create the conditions necessary for teams to produce at their highest levels.

Output is simply an indicator. It tells us how well our forest is growing.