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BirdsEye View

teamwork - learning from the geese

I have learned some interesting facts about geese. In addition to mating for life, geese have figured out key elements about corporate culture and teamwork that we have yet to learn. Here are the facts:

As each goose flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird following. By flying in a V formation, the flock has 71% greater flying range than if one bird flew alone.

Lesson: A company whose people share a common direction and sense of belonging can get where they're going more quickly and easily because they're traveling on the strength of the whole group.

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, and if the leadership of the company provides as much lift as the goose in front, we will "stay in formation" with those who are ahead of us to get where we want to go, and be willing to accept their help as well as give ours to others. There is nothing altruistic about it. Making your boss look good is an effective way to get ahead, and if your boss indeed is supportive of you she will bring you along with her. This is true for whole departments and the bank as well, but it assumes that there is a corporate value placed on cooperation and that back stabbing does not get rewarded.

When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies at the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and to share leadership. Sharing power is an effective way to mobilize support and get the most out of your people.

The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Lesson: When a colleague is doing a good job, the culture should encourage employees to support him and not be envious. In such a corporate culture, if we support him while he's in front doing the hard tasks, he will support us when it's our turn.

When a goose gets sick or wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it is able to fly again or dies. Then they launch out on their own or with another flock until they rejoin their own.

Lesson: Cooperation and standing by each other in good and bad times sounds very idealistic, but it pays off in overall employee satisfaction and by effectively using and motivating employees.

The geese tell us that strong identity and clear strategic direction are the secrets to making the most out of each member of the organization. An explicit, unifying mission creates organizational leverage and builds momentum. When all employees know where the company is going and believe they will be taken care of by their bank when times are bad, they will give 110%. The gains in productivity and customer satisfaction could potentially outweigh the cost of time and money invested in employee motivation manifold.

We should all learn from the geese: there is strength in team playing. Working together does not necessarily mean sinking to the lowest common denominator. It could mean raising everyone's performance to a higher standard and working in unison toward a common goal. Today's successful SuperCommunity banks (and the geese) demonstrate teamwork in action.