Lessons from the Geese
Updated: Feb 24, 2021
It feels like it’s been a long winter this year! Thanks to restrictions and anxieties imposed by Covid, coupled with the recent bout of freezing cold weather, I’ve had to work, hard sometimes, at stepping into graceful acceptance of how things are.
Thankfully, it feels like hope is, quite literally, on the horizon.
Spending time with the horses, in the field and riding together in the forest, I’ve heard the welcome call of the geese returning. For me that sound signals the return of the warmer weather, a fresh beginning and another turn of the seasons.
Witnessing them flying in formation is both spectacular and touching. It also reminds me of a popular teaching story which celebrates the lessons animals have to offer us.
If you’ve ever wondered why geese fly in that iconic v-shaped formation, the answer is in the air currents. As each goose flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the other birds to follow. This V formation created by the flock working in unison can increase their flying range by 71% compared to one bird flying alone.
Likewise, if a goose falls out of formation, it will soon feel the drag of resistance from trying to fly alone. As an independent coach, I recognise the truth of this and the value of a supportive network.
Leadership in action
Geese take turns to be the leader. When one goose gets tired taking pole position it falls to the back of the formation and another lead goose takes over. Interestingly, I notice similar behaviour in my small herd of horses. Although one member of my herd is generally the most confident, there are situations where he feels uncertain and will defer to another member of the herd and invite them to take the lead.
Geese show nurturing compassion for their fellow flock. When one
goose gets wounded or sick, two other geese will fall out of formation and stay with the sick goose until he is able to fly or dies.
Geese also understand the power of positive motivation. They honk to encourage the other geese in the formation. Right now, when there is so much challenging news out there, it’s helpful to think of how we can offer words of appreciation and encouragement to the other members of our own flock.
The group velocity created by the geese working together has been likened, by coach and business guru Christine Kane, to the group velocity we gain by being part of a Mastermind group. This is a topic particularly close to my heart as I prepare to begin virtual Action Learning Mastermind programme for one of my corporate clients.
The Raison d’etre of Action Learning is to create a supportive peer group where skillful listening and insightful questioning enable individuals to review challenges and come up with their own action plans to move forward. Reg Revans, the creator of Action Learning believed that people have “an unlimited capacity to learn from experience.” This aligns with my own values and beliefs about coaching.
Lessons from nature
I think that for me, right now, the challenge is finding the balance between action, reflection and time to simply be. Which brings me full circle back to the geese. When I allow myself time to be, in nature, whether it’s walking the dog, looking for new growth in the garden or caring for the horses, I’m reminded of a different rhythm. The sounds of the geese returning for the warmer weather is an invite to stop, smile, appreciate and allow new beginnings to blossom in their own time.
Wild geese pass
The whole of heaven
Takaha Shugyo, translation by Tsunehiko Hoshino and Adrian Pinnington