Most of us think of dolphins as playful and cute. They’re also very smart.
In fact, Dolphins can teach us quite a few lessons about teamwork, leadership, and life that can help us grow as leaders—and as members of a team.
How dolphins can teach you lessons in teamwork and leadership.
Dolphins usually live and travel in pods, or groups of up to a dozen individuals. This social behaviour serves many purposes, not the least of which is foraging for food.
There are two types of techniques dolphins use to be more effective and efficient in their hunting. These techniques are called herding and corralling.
When dolphins are herding, they behave much like sheepdogs.
They circle and herd a school of fish into a tightly-packed “bait ball”, and if possible, even corral them into shallow water. Once there, the dolphins then take turns plowing through the bait ball, gorging on the fish as they sweep through.
When dolphins practice herding, they work together to take full control, making it almost impossible for the fish to escape.
The dolphins work together as a team to accomplish this feat. Dolphins instinctively know that when they work together they’re all more successful at getting the job done.
And much like a fortune cookie can teach us lessons in accountability, dolphins can teach us lessons in teamwork that can help us work better with our team.
So, what can we learn about teamwork from dolphins?
1. Strength in numbers.
When dolphins work together, they are able to herd and corral fish.
In much the same way, a group of people working on a single task can create synergy, to a degree that could never be achieved by one person alone.
When I mentor my clients, I remind them that their individual strengths are amplified when they work as a group. Strength in numbers has the power to bring different minds, ideas, and talents together to reach a common goal. Working toward a common goal creates positive energy that allows them to work in harmony together.
2. Focus on a common goal.
When dolphins hunt, they are concentrating on one objective: food!
In much the same way, when a workplace team is clear about its goals and can clearly articulate its purpose, then it is much easier for the team to attain its objectives. There are always going to be distractions and red herrings that tempt us to stray into low-value objectives.
More time invested clarifying goals before launching into a project can help steer your team away from distractions.
3. Everyone gets a turn.
Each dolphin gets its chance to swim through the bait ball and feed on the tasty fish.
When people are working together on a team, every member of the group needs to have their turn in the spotlight—an opportunity to be recognized by others for the contributions they make.
Everyone takes a turn to contribute to the overall goal.
The next time you are working with a team, or leading a team, think about these three lessons from the world of dolphins.
To learn more about other animals that can teach us a thing or two about teamwork, click here.
Are you putting these three principles of teamwork and leadership into play in your workplace team? If not, perhaps it’s time to learn from the dolphins.
What are two thoughts you have on these three lessons in teamwork from the world of dolphins? Let me know by commenting below! And don’t forget to take a look at my Featured Products for everything you need to know about leading a team, working with others, and more.
This article was originally published on May 10, 2010 and has been updated
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