My wife and I were sitting on the deck one evening, reviewing the day and enjoying the crisp fall air. The incredible noise overhead grabbed our attention. A flock of geese flying south for the winter was honking at one another. My “coaching brain” immediately began thinking of leadership and lessons.
Several years ago, Bill Mann, one of my mentors and “radio dad,” gave me Dr. Robert McNeish’s Lessons From Geese article (1971). I’ve added commentary:
As each goose flaps its wings it creates ”uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a “V-Formation,” the whole flock adds 72% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.
Lesson 1: Share a Common Goal: People who share a common direction and goal can get where they are going quicker with less effort. Make sure your team and company are aligned towards a common goal.
Flying in “V-Formation” increases visibility so every goose can see what’s happening in front of and behind them.
Lesson 2: Increase Visibility: Make your organization visible in both directions -- the bottom up to ensure that employees see the bigger picture and are empowered to align themselves with the mission and top-down to ensure leaders stay connected.
When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the friction of flying alone. It quickly adjusts its mistake and moves back into the formation to take advantage of the lifting power.
Lesson 3: Have the humility to seek help: Most likely if you’re having trouble, others either are or have had the same trouble and can help. When you get stuck, ask for help - the sooner the better.
When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back in the formation and another goose flies point.
Lesson 4: Empower others to lead: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership with people. As with geese, people are interdependent. People can depend on and feed off each others’ skills, capabilities and talents.
Geese honk from behind to recognize each other and encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
Lesson 5: Recognize great work: Make sure you praise people and give them encouragement and recognition. Teams that encourage each other are more productive teams. Achievement is very motivating. Being recognized for your achievement by your peers and managers is priceless.
When a goose gets sick or wounded, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again.
Lesson 6: Offer support in challenging times: It’s easy to be a part of winning teams, but when things get difficult and people are facing challenges, that’s when your teammates need you the most.
Geese must have companionship; you will never see one alone.
Lesson 7: We need each other: Surround yourself with people you admire, love, trust, and who will accept you for who you are; imperfections and all. Be that kind of companion to your friends.
Sales is difficult. It can be challenging and rewarding, frustrating and elating, but it doesn’t have to be lonely. It’s a shared experience. Don’t have it all by yourself.
It might appear that geese seem to be smarter than people, but I think we can catch up. Recognize that we are in this sales game together. Some have been where we are now; others are going where we want to go. Know that plenty are willing to help us along the way.