About 2 weeks ago, I had the privilege of riding motorcycles with 6 close friends from Portland OR into Canada. Riding bikes with a group of alpha- males can often provide a few “teaching moments” for cultivating teamwork, especially when everyone wants to lead simultaneously. This scenario reminded me about lessons learned from Canadian Geese.
Wildlife scientists have conducted extensive studies to determine why geese and other migratory birds always fly in a distinctive v-formation. They found some fascinating results:
- When geese fly together, they fly 70% further. This happens as each goose provides additional lift and reduces air resistance for the goose flying behind it. Work cultures that prioritize the relationship produce teams that succeed together at higher levels. Teams that share common values and cultivate a climate of mutual respect are lifted up by the energy and enthusiasm of one another. Does your company create a climate where teams are experiencing these types of relationships?
- Geese rotate leadership. The lead goose, if he is really leading, is going to get tired, and even drop out. Flying at the front consistently requires the most energy. Consequently, rotating another goose into the leadership position accomplishes 2 things: it keeps the leader fresh, and it develops other future leaders. When a team is functioning well, various members of the team may take the leadership role for a while because of a particular expertise or experience. Does everyone get the opportunity to serve as a leader as well as a follower on a project?
- Geese honk at each other. They also frequently make loud honking sounds as they fly together. Scientists speculate that this honking is their way of communicating with each other during their long flight. Similarly, when working on teams, it is exceedingly important for each team member to communicate regularly with all the other team members. Teams frequently fall apart because of the lack of adequate communication among the various members of the team. What tool does your team[s] have in place to facilitate consistent and valuable dialogue?
- Geese help each other. Scientists also discovered that when one goose becomes ill, is shot or injured, and drops out of the formation, two other geese will fall out of formation and remain with the weakened goose. They will stay with and protect the injured goose from predators until it is able to fly again or dies. Likewise, human teams work best when they do more than just work together, but care for the well being of each other. Does your leadership structure embody a compassionate position toward their employee’s as they strive to hit their goals?
Joel Landi, is Founder & CEO of The Performance Group [TPG]. TPG is a performance based coaching company that partners with clients in specific areas to achieve measurable outcomes.
The above article is excerpted and re-formatted from an article written by Len Wilson entitled: “5 Things Geese Can Teach Us about Teamwork”.