"Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath. Every moment is the guru." -- Charlotte Joko Beck

Friday, March 28, 2014

Just Call Me A Silly Goose

Several people have asked me recently about the image of the geese on my website and my professional Facebook page, and about the goose lapel pin I frequently wear.

My interest in geese stems from a paper I read a number of years ago about the behaviors of geese and how they interacted with each other. “Lessons from the Geese” originated from a 1972 lecture by Baltimore science teacher Dr. Robert McNeish. Although this idea has been floating around for more than 40 years now, it still provides profound lessons for each of us.

Here are the basic lessons we can learn from geese:  

1. As each goose flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock has 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.
  • 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 each other.
2. 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 the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

  • 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.
3. When the lead bird tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose takes over at the point position.
  • Lesson -- It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each others’ skills, capabilities, and unique arrangement of gifts, talents, or resources.
4. The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front.
  • 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 to encourage the heart and core values of others – is the quality of honking we seek.
5. 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 dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation to catch up with the flock.
  • Lesson -- If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we’re strong.

When I was a kid, it was pretty common to call someone a “silly goose” as a light-hearted insult. In retrospect, I guess it was a compliment all along.

Have you seen people acting like geese? I'd love to hear your stories. Please share them here or on my Facebook page.



Saturday, March 8, 2014

Back in Balance

There comes a time in everyone's life when they find themselves not listening to their own advice. Here I am a teacher of motivational leadership, interpersonal communications and work-life balance -- yet I let myself become frustrated by micromanagement from upper levels.

For a while, I became the weakest kind of leader where I gave up trying to create a better work environment and instead I found myself complaining to coworkers and subordinates. Even as I realized this was not the proper way for a leader to behave, I allowed this venting to become my dominant demeanor at the office and starting to creep into home life.

I finally took a page out of my own book and reevaluated the situation.

The secret to maintaining balance is knowing when you've lost it.

Senior managers, when looking to hire staff, go through an extensive screening process to find experts with the background and skills necessary to do the job. Some of these managers, however, do not trust the people they hire to do the job they were hired for. Some managers feel they are better experts themselves and insist on directing even the smallest aspect of a task. Sometimes, new managers come in to a position and feel they must demonstrate their authority by taking over every decision. Or they don’t feel the staff hired by their predecessors would be loyal to the new management, so they don’t trust them.

These are all signs of weak leadership. I would bet that everyone has had a boss like this at least once in his or her career.

Remembering the profound words of Maya Angelou -- words that I myself have cited in so many trainings in consultations that I gave to others -- "I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it," I realized that I did not have to let the incompetence of others reflect upon my own level of performance or lower my own standards. I did not have to get angry about what I felt were irrational demands or interference with the way I accomplished a task. More importantly, I did not have to let any of it get the best of me.

I set my sights on accomplishing whatever I could and letting go of those things that were completely beyond my influence. I sought solace in my family and refused to let the petty issues at the office impact my home life. Since we all need an outlet, I found new avenues for my creativity and made time for some artistic projects I had put off for way too long.

More importantly, I threw myself into efforts that would make a difference and would help others. In the past year I have taken on more speaking engagements and more clients for leadership and communications training. Helping others in this way validates me to myself, counterbalancing the way the micromanagers would try to make me feel.

With things back in balance, I can now find time to devote to important efforts, like getting this blog back online and hoping that someone will find benefit in the lessons I share.