"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much" - Helen Keller
Every spring a beautiful treat awaits those who look up to the sky: The flight of the Canada Geese! For centuries, the magnificent flight of the bird has heralded the arrival of spring. The teamwork displayed by the birds consistently every season is a paramount example of the powerful impact of teamwork. The flight of the Geese illustrates mutual respect, and collaboration within teams.
As our workforce continues to grow and develop, a shifting landscape and priorities require for a lot more to be achieved. In such a scenario, the saying, "All of us are smarter than any one of us" becomes apt. We begin to rely on teams even more. Teams have been a norm in work settings, with about 68% of work getting done in teams. Nijstad (2009) describes teams as a very special group characterized by interdependence and sharing of responsibility on task outcomes. Subsequently, there are factors that become critical in ensuring effectiveness within these special groups. Some of these include having the right talent and successively matching that talent to fit the role. Inability to resolve these challenges, often leads to reduction in performance.
How do we deal with these and many other challenges to ensure effectiveness of teams is not affected?
I have drawn some lessons from the flight of the Geese (based on studies conducted by Wildlife scientists) to help counter some of the challenges existing in teams.
1. Sharing a Common Purpose: When geese fly together in the V-formation their performance is enhanced by about seventy percent. Each bird in the formation takes support of the lifting power of the bird in front, thus staying within the team and continuing to perform their best.
2. Rotate Leadership: The lead goose, flying upfront has to put in maximum energy as it breaks up the air flow to provide the lift in-flight. Thus, when it gets tired, it is replaced by a comrade and it can move to the back of the formation.
3. Constant Communication: Geese make frequent honking sounds even while in-flight, to ensure they are connecting with each other during the long and harsh flight.
I have felt these lessons to be applicable even amongst human teams and observe teams to be more effective when these lessons of teamwork are leveraged.
What are some best practices that you have employed and is helping your team be successful?
· Morgeson et. al. (2010). Developing team leadership capability. In Velsor, E.V. et. al. (Eds.), The CCL Handbook of Leadership Development, pp 285-312. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass
· Nijstad, B. A. (2009). Group performance. New York: Psychology Press.
· Wilson, L. (retrieved online on May 23rd, 2014). http://lenwilson.us/5-thing-geese-can-teach-us-about-teamwork/
· Woolley, A. W., Hackman, J. R., Jerde, T. E., Chabris, C. F., Bennett, S. L., & Kosslyn, S. M. (2007). Using brain-based measures to compose teams: How individual capabilities and team collaboration strategies jointly shape performance. Social Neuroscience, 2(2), 96-105.