The wellbeing tree

Sheeba Jefferson tells Isobel McDowell’s story

At a recent workshop, the Inspire Improvement fellows were paired up and asked to listen to and record each other’s recent experiences. This is what Sheeba wrote.

As part of our Inspire Improvement Fellowship Journey, we took a pause to listen and reflect on each other’s ‘Golden Moments’ during the past challenging year. I was paired with Isobel McDowell.

The pandemic altered the landscape of many teams. In response, Isobel initiated a wellbeing tree within her department as a way of checking in and promoting connectivity and belongingness within her team. The team were asked to complete a tag which contained the questions ‘What is important to me?’ and ‘How can you support me?’. This was completed anonymously and put up on the wellbeing tree.

Isobel expressed that she felt apprehensive setting up this wellbeing initiative, but she felt the team would benefit and appreciate having something very visible and tangible to encourage connectivity and understanding with each other in a time of such uncertainty and instability.

The wellbeing tree was soon adopted by staff, who engaged with it, regarding it as a place where they could share what was important to them as an individual and their needs during this challenging time. It allowed for further connection and respect amongst the team. It also developed a trusting relationship between team members and leaders as it gave them an opportunity to open up and tell their own story. The wellbeing tree became a source of fun, joy, laughter and happiness at work as it continued to evolve with more decorations and celebrated as a seasonal tree!

Isobel McDowell

As Isobel reflected on these golden moments of collaboration and togetherness with great pride, I was reminded of the great Banyan Trees that are native to India. At first glance, a banyan tree looks like a group of smaller trees beautifully and carefully placed to grow together, however, it is one 

large tree. The branches of a banyan tree grow out laterally and new roots grow out from the branches which provide support and nourishment to the main tree. It is the perfect sight of unity and strength.

Banyan trees are large and majestic, and able to stand firm through great tropical storms. The aerial roots intertwine and add stability and connectivity as it grows deep into the ground. The features of a banyan tree create an amazing symbol of the power of community. The branches are a ‘community’ which provide strength, knowledge and stability to each other, promoting infinite growth.

Can our teams grow outward and upward like the banyan tree?

This well-being tree initiated by Isobel has given the opportunity for individuals to open up and allow them to be real and human. It goes further beyond a well-being intervention and creates a space where individuals are encouraged to learn, share and grow. It has helped to continue to build and strengthen the type of caring teams we inspire to be. It has enabled Isobel’s team to listen to each other with kindness and compassion and by doing so, has cultivated a shared purpose, understanding and a trusting relationship between all team members.

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