The following post comes from an ongoing training/consulting project we have with a large client organization here in Hawaii. We are in the midst of developing the custom-designed training curriculum, which began with a strategic planning and leadership training session. The Story of The Geese is a part of our “teamwork” module. It provides a perfect example of the importance of teamwork and how it can have such a profound effect on a team.
The Story of The Geese
This fall when you see geese heading south for the winter flying along in the “V” formation, you might consider what science has discovered as to why they fly that way.
As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an “uplift” for the bird immediately following it. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds at least 71 % greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.
Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go through it alone. It quickly gets back into the formation to take advantage of the “lifting” power of the bird in front of it.
If we have as much common sense as a goose, we will stay in formation and share information with those who are headed the way we want to go. We should be willing to accept their help and give our help to others. It is harder to do something alone than together!
When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into the formation. Another goose takes over and flies to the point position.
It is sensible to take turns to do the hard and demanding tasks. It pays to share leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skills, capabilities, and unique arrangements of gifts, talents, or resources.
The geese flying in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
People who are part of a team and share a common direction as well as a sense of community can get where they are going more quickly and easily because they are traveling on the thrust of one another and lift each other up along the way.
The Importance of Encouragement
We need to make sure our honking is encouraging – Words of support and inspiration help energize those on the front line, helping them to keep pace in spite of the day-to-day pressures and fatigue. In groups and teams where there is encouragement, production is much greater. ‘Individual empowerment results from quality honking’.
When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two other geese will drop out of formation with that goose and follow it down to lend help and protection. They stay with the fallen goose until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out on their own, or with another formation to catch up with their flock.
The Importance of Empathy and Understanding
Albert Schweitzer tells the story of a flock of wild geese that had settled to rest on a pond. One of the flock had been captured by a gardener, who had clipped its wings before releasing it. When the geese started to resume their flight, this one tried frantically, but vainly, to lift itself into the air. The others, observing his struggles, flew about in obvious efforts to encourage him; but it was no use.
Thereupon, the entire flock settled back on the pond and waited, even though the urge to go on was strong within them. For several days they waited until the damaged feathers had grown sufficiently to permit the goose to fly. Meanwhile, the unethical gardener, having been converted by the ethical geese, gladly watched them as they finally rose together and all resumed their long flight. For this reason, I aptly named this article: “No Goose Left Behind”.
Finally, if we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by our team members in the good, as well as, the challenging times. So, the next time you see a formation of geese, remember…it is a REWARD, a CHALLENGE and a PRIVILEGE to be a CONTRIBUTING MEMBER of a TEAM.