Teamwork In The Formation

5 Lessons How To Improve Teamwork By Studying Geese

Teamwork In The Formation: Mother Nature’s Masterclass

We all remember the “Lessons from the Geese” – how they fly in formation and provide support to one another. This story first came out in 1991 in a speech given by Angeles Arrien at the 1991 Organizational Development Network and is based on the work of Milton Olson.

Goose Lesson #1 – Celebrate teamwork

NO COOKED GOOSE – As each goose flaps its wings it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

Leadership lesson – People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Goose Lesson #2 – Stay in Formation

WILD GOOSE CHASE – When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

Leadership lesson – If we have as much sense as a goose, we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

Goose Lesson #3 – Provide Support

WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE … When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

Leadership lesson – It pays to be supportive by taking turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents, or resources.

Goose Lesson #4 – Provide Encouragement

SILLY GOOSE – The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Leadership lesson – We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the production is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.

Goose Lesson #5 – Stand by your teammates

GOOSE DOWN! When a goose gets sick, 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 does or is unable to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

Leadership lesson – If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

How’s your teamwork?

We offer this story today as a reminder of what teams can be.

Think about your team. Where are the opportunities to learn from the geese?

TEAM EXERCISE: Read and discuss with your team. What specifically would the leadership lesson look like on your team? What behaviors might be introduced?

Interested in learning about leadership coaching options for your managers?
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