A Lesson from the Geese

by David Mills on December 16, 2014

In April 1997 Timm Stubbs and I were driving to Watkinsville, GA. Timm was the Director of Corporate Real Estate for Fred’s, a discount retailer headquartered in Memphis with about 400 locations when we met. He became enthralled with my interest in software for corporate real estate and was working with me to help buy one of only four software companies focused on the space. I had talked to the owners of the other three and Resource Partners was my choice. You can talk about a lot of stuff between Nashville and Watkinsville and we did. We were both interested in corporate cultures. I could go on and on about our friendship and travels but I’ll save that for another time. Timm reached in his briefcase and pulled out a piece of paper. His only preamble was to tell me that it had been given to him a short time earlier by his mother. And then he read it to me.

The Lesson from the GeeseA Lesson From The Geese
1. As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird following. By flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds 71 percent more 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 when they are traveling on the thrust of one another.
2. Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone, and quickly will return to the proper formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front. LESSON: If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are headed where we want to go.
3. When the lead goose becomes tired, it rotates back into formation and another goose flies a the point position. LESSON: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership interdependent with each other.
4. The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up from to keep up their speed. LESSON: We need to make sure our honking from behind is encouraging, not something less helpful.
5. When a goose becomes sick, wounded or is shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow him down to help protect him. They stay with him until he is either able to fly again, or dies. Then they launch out on their own to catch up with their flock, or with another formation. LESSON: If we have as much sense as geese, we’ll stand by each other like that.
The key is to build up, not tear down; encourage, not discourage; lift up, not pull down, then we can all share in the joy of reaching common goals and embracing our mission.

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