We can acquire business lessons from the most unlikely sources. For example, in the natural world one can find countless examples of effective teamwork, good communication and more.

I was talking to a mentee recently. The person concerned is smart, diligent, personable – just the sort of employee most businesses should want. However, like many people, he suffers from a slight lack of self-confidence. I would argue that this is generally a much better trait than overconfidence. Overconfidence can result in jumping to conclusions, not taking on board views of others, pressing on regardless and causing major problems. (Recognise that one in any business leaders or politicians?)

Anyway, the person concerned started a new job a few months ago. A brief induction, thrown in at the deep end then heavily criticised, particularly by his boss, for a few mistakes – leading to a further loss of confidence.

Flying in Formation

It reminded me of how much we have to learn from nature at times. When Geese migrate, they fly in formation. I have no idea whether they have a natural propensity towards regimentation but it’s highly effective. They share the burden of being in the lead, setting the pace and dropping back to be assisted by others when they have had enough. Aerodynamically, it works well (flying just above and behind another goose reduces drag), and they pull each other along.

A “V” formation is also a near perfect way of being able to see your fellow flock members, so fantastic for communications and understanding. A perfect demonstration of effective collaboration. There is a little additional twist to this system: if one of the geese starts to flag, one or two of its “colleagues” fall back to help it – again with moral and aerodynamic support.

My mentee had not really experienced this from his boss – he had been thrown in at the deep end and prodded hard when he struggled. Fortunately, with the help of a few friends (out of work) and one new colleague, he has journeyed through his baptism of fire, learned the ropes, regained their confidence and is now starring.

What Can We Learn?

Now I would not go so far as to say flying in geese-like formation is always the way to work – radical ideas, innovators, people who approach things in a different way can all contribute massively. Likewise, people who can just crack on and get stuff done can be great.

But geese definitely have the edge in a couple of ways:

1. Great teams working in unison can make life so much easier, so much more fun, and deliver so much more.

2. When someone falls off the pace a bit (particularly someone new to the organisation or new to the role) sometimes they just need that friendly, reassuring hand to pull them along and get them into the stride.

If your organisation is not providing this support, chances are it’s missing out on some great staff, leaving teams feeling demotivated. You’ll probably have a higher turnover of staff, and will be spending far more on recruitment that you ever need to.

Final Thought

Do you think you would ever know if you weren’t getting this right? Perhaps you should ask your team(s).