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Team Building Analogy: Learning from Geese


Analogies can be an especially strong means of engaging employees and creating awareness and understanding of complex behavioural principles. This team behaviour analogy has been around for years but is a useful way of engaging a new team in understanding and exploring the behaviours that enhance team performance.



Geese fly long-distance; they’re big birds and so they have developed a means by which they work together to reduce the effort required to achieve their long-distance migrations:


Geese fly in a v-shaped formation, with one bird at the front and each other in the slipstream of the bird in front of them benefiting from the reduced drag; by doing this, the effort required by the entire flock is reduced and they are able to fly far greater distances.


For people working in a team, heading in the same direction can be made easier for the majority by one team member taking the lead; all team members benefit from their effort;


If any of the geese change direction they experience a massive increase in drag, which enhances the likelihood that they stay in formation taking advantage of the easier flying in the same direction as the leader;


In a fully-functioning team, following a common direction has distinct advantages and when a team members choose not to follow that direction, life becomes tougher; positive leadership by example is a critical factor in keeping the team on the right course, but more important is making sure that all team members know what that course is and are willingly supportive;


Whilst flying in formation, a lead goose will become fatigued more rapidly than those following and will, in time, drop out of formation enabling one of the fresher geese to take the lead position;


In any extensive task, sooner or later the person spearheading the team effort will become less able to maintain the pace making it advantageous for a fresher, more energetic team member to take the lead. Sharing the effort is critical; expecting one team member to take the greatest load indefinitely will result in performance reduction. Succession planning has significant benefits and can be introduced in almost any lengthy task;


Geese honk as they fly; this is unlikely to be what we consider to be encouragement, more likely to be a signal of presence and commonality giving comfort in numbers; “I’m here, I’m doing the same as you”; it might even act as an interruption to the monotony of flying and a distraction from the effort;


In a tough team task, showing your presence, your involvement and your contribution can have a very positive effect; when every team member shows their presence, involvement and contribution, the effect can be staggeringly positive and can result in long periods of tough work seeming far less arduous; sing, chat, entertain, even honk to show your team members that they’re not alone, they have you!



More Team Building Resources

See also Building Exceptional Teams: Critical Factors: Part One by Simon McElroy



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