There is this beautiful tree in the garden of my sister-in-law.


Placed right at the centre its long lush branches almost touch the ground. Its trunk gracefully and timelessly reaching towards the sky.


As I stood there admiring it my father-in-law said, if it was up to him, he would cut it down.


I was taken aback. How could anyone want to cut down this picture of a willow? And especially him, who was such an advocate for wildlife and nature? Before I knew it the words ”How could you?” blurted out of my mouth.


”It’s non-native” he said matter of fact. ”It does not feed, shelter or otherwise benefit any other species in this garden.”




Suddenly I felt sorry for the tree. There it was in all its beauty and glory and yet it must also feel pretty useless and alone*. And it reminded me of our clients who had ended up in careers and roles where they felt as non-native and at times as useless or under-appreciated as this gorgeous tree.


* Questioning the notion of trees having feelings? Read The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. You will never see trees in the same light again!



Definition* of ‘non-native’ at work:


– working or creating in a workplace that is not the location of your natural ability or strength
– not born or raised for a work environment where a particular ‘language’ is spoken


*generously adapting the Miriam Webster meaning for non-native here


If our natural talents and strengths don’t serve or contribute to the teams we’re in, we can feel very much out of place. Doubting our value and worth.


The good news is that as humans we’ve got legs and many times we can proactively search for and move to an environment that deeply suits and benefits (from) us.


Especially when we know, understand, and own our unique strengths and talents.


But what when we haven’t got the luxury to move (yet)? When we might be stuck. At least for a while. What then?



Useless? Look again!


Which brings me back to my gorgeous tree. There it was. Apparently pretty useless for its habitat. Yet here I was mesmerized by it. Surely there had to be more to a tree which had the capacity to capture my attention every time I laid eyes on it?


I guess the universe works in magical ways and one day I might find out why exactly this Asian tree made its way all the way to Europe. I’m reminded of Gollum in Lord of the Rings but that’s a whole other story!


And in the meantime I feel compelled to integrate it at least a little bit in our humble human lives. Making it a precious memory in the minds of my daughters, nieces and nephews climbing it, swinging from it, and us adults standing in its shade, taking in its charms. Maybe even getting some nice fairy lights to hang on its branches.



Stuck as a ‘non-native’ at work for now?


Here’s a couple of questions for you to ponder:


– How can you widen the perspective of your contribution in your situation?
– Who/what else could you serve instead?
– What short, mid or longer term benefit might there be exactly BECAUSE you are the ”non-native” in your team?


And remember you’re worthy just because you are.


With lots of admiration,


Manuela Damant
Women’s Leadership Coach



At Azkua we are on a mission to turn businesses and organisations into a force for good. And we believe that it is professional women like YOU, who will be at the forefront of this transformation. Purpose driven, caring, grounded and influential women.