If you live in Canada or the United States, you’ve no doubt seen the annual migration of flocks of Canada geese as they make the long journey each fall from the north to warmer climes down south. Maybe you’ve noticed that they always fly in a characteristic V-formation; perhaps you’ve even wondered why. The answer: because they know that teamwork pays!
When geese fly in the distinctive V, it’s because each bird is taking advantage of lower air resistance and the free “lift” that occurs in the air upwash zones directly behind the bird in front. Essentially, all the birds (with the exception of the leader) are saving energy by freeloading off the air flow created by another flockmate. But the frontrunner isn’t losing either. As the bird at the head of the pack gets tired, it falls back, and the bird behind takes on the leader role. Done repeatedly, it ensures that the flock is sharing the load. And as they make the long journey, the birds also honk at one another. Scientists hypothesize that they’re shouting out instructions and warnings, or possibly even offering encouragement to one another.
If Canada geese can utilize these strategies to get farther faster, then so can teams in organizations. Imagine how much more successful workplace teams could be at accomplishing goals and achieving objectives if individual members came together to take advantage of group synergies. What if team members rotated the role of leader to not only share the workload but also foster commitment? And not only encouraged one another, but were also on the lookout for hazards and pitfalls that might cause team members to stumble? Sure, it’s possible, I see it repeatedly with many clients in my leadership development practice. But in every case, it takes a leader who intentionally and deliberately creates an environment that cultivates teamwork, and consciously models what it takes to be a Canada goose.
So what is your experience? Are you (or have you seen) a leader who applies these lessons demonstrated by Canada geese on your team? Are there other lessons about teamwork that we can learn from our avian friends? Please share.