By Pr Ay Nee Ng
Teamwork truly enables common men and women to do uncommon things. The flight of geese shows true teamwork. Have you seen geese flying? Have you ever wondered why geese and other migratory birds always fly in a distinctive V-formation? Why are eagles and geese so different?
Eagles are birds of prey of majestic stature known for their bravery and freedom. They mate for life, but they are not “flock birds”. Eagles are solo leaders. They fly solo, swoops down on their prey, go for the kill, and don’t hang out with other eagles or support them. On the other hand, geese are flock birds. A flock is like a team; one goose leads, and the rest of the geese follow it and share leadership with the leader. There is always a flock flying with the lead goose.
Sompong Yusoontorn came out with 7 principles of teamwork from studying the geese. Also, Len Wilson delivered a message called “5 Things Geese Can Teach Us about Teamwork” in January 2012, which includes an excerpt of the book Lead Like Butler: Six Principles For Values-Based Leaders by Kent Millard and Judith Cebula (Abingdon, 2012). This book looks at the six principles that have driven the success of the Butler University Men’s Basketball team.
Every fall thousands of geese will fly from Canada to the southern part of the United States to escape the bitterly cold Canadian winter. As soon as a flock of geese take flight from Canadian waters, they quickly form a V-shape flying pattern, with one rotating goose in the centre lead and all the other geese trailing behind in two close lines.
Wildlife scientists have conducted extensive studies to determine why geese and other migratory birds always fly in a distinctive v-formation.
1. When geese fly together, each goose provides additional lift and reduces air resistance for the goose flying behind it. Consequently, by flying together in a V-formation, scientists estimate that the whole flock can fly about 70% farther with the same amount of energy than if each goose flew alone. The whole flock increases their flight efficiency by 70% to just one bird flying alone. Geese have discovered that they can reach their destination more quickly and with less energy expended when they fly together in formation. It is said that the geese can make an annual round trip journey of more than 5000miles at a speed of 50mph or more!
As geese to fly south every year, we also should remember that teamwork happens every day inside and outside of business, family, and ministry. Our life groups and ministries are the life source of teamwork to our health and wealth in and outside the Church.
Five Important Results from Teamwork
1. Achievable goals
a. The achievers or strong team players. The lead goose sets a pace and will fly at 50mph or more as it picks up speed. Likewise, when we the Church works harmoniously on teams, sharing common values and a common destination, we share a sense of community and focus and build trust in each other, which will help us to achieve each other’s goals. Moreover, we can all arrive at the destination more quickly and easily because we are encouraged by the faith and enthusiasm of one another. Thereby, it becomes not just “my ministry” but “our ministry”; it is interdependent on the other ministries.
b. The laggards, the slow coaches, the sick, the injured, the fall out, and the slothful. When a goose drops out of the V-formation, it quickly feels the drag and the resistance of flying alone. What happens then? That goose will quickly return to the formation to take advantage of the lifting power that comes from the birds that are flying together in front of it. Sometimes people playing on teams will drop out of the group because of fatigue or problems following the coach and then try to accomplish their goals on their own. However, like the geese, they usually discover that they miss the synergy and energy that comes when they are an active part of a cohesive team, moving toward their destination, and they want to return to the group.
2. Empowerment from long lasting friendships, commitments, and responsibilities.
Empowerment implies being mentored to rise to the occasion when the need arises and to share the responsibilities of taking the lead. It is hard work to lead any organisation, family, church, or team. It is also hard for the goose flying in the front of the formation, which expends the most energy being the first to break up the flow of air that provides the additional lift for all of the geese who follow behind it.
Sometimes another rises to lead, but respect of high esteem is always given to the leader like in the Korean and Japanese society. There is always mutual respect for each other. When the lead goose gets tired, it drops out of the front position and moves to the rear of the formation, where the resistance is lightest, and another goose moves to the leadership position. This rotation of position happens many times in the course of the long journey to warmer climates. Thus, each goose can rise up to the leadership position when the opportunity to lead arises. For the tired goose, it would be better to stay in formation with the flock heading to the same destination. The thought of flying solo never occurred to the leader as it knew it would not be possible on its own.
As members of the Church, we need you to fully participate in and be committed to the objectives of our team. We all must realize that the goals are important and be fully committed to achieve them.
a. Long lasting friendships. We all must understand that each other’s contribution will be valuable for the team to meet its goals. As we work together and build trust, we will also build friendships. The beauty is that friendships will be made along the way that will last.
b. Commitments. When the lead goose falls back to the rear, two other geese will fall back with it as when any goose falls back. They have such a commitment that once they wait until the lead goose is back on its feet again and catches its breath again to fly with the rest of the flock. Whenever any goose falters, the two geese backup until the fall out goose is back on track.
c. Shared responsibilities. The geese were all given shared responsibilities of taking the lead and leading the flock when needed. As Christians, we too are given the responsibility and opportunity to lead and shepherd Jesus’ flock when He fell out of the screen by dying on the cross for our sins. God has given all believers an important responsibility of making disciples in all countries. “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’” (Matt. 28:18-20).
Achieving this goal alone is beyond anyone. We need God’s power, the Holy Spirit, to preach, to teach, to nurture, to give, to administer, to have fellowship, and to do numerous other tasks. Trying to achieve this objective by ourselves or by yourself would be extremely difficult, impossible! God has asked us to work as a team for He knows this is the best way to be successful. The Bible tells us of people in teamwork: “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: theapostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12).
Each person in a team has his or her own special abilities to offer. Some of us can do one task and someone else can do another task. Together, the united team can serve God more effectively than the individual team members can do alone. When a team is functioning well, various members of the team may take the leadership role for time to time because of a particular expertise or experience or skills.
Church, we believe in mentoring and empowering people. We would love to see each and every one of you rising to the occasion of sharing, leading, ministering as we serve, love, and honour our Lord Jesus Christ. As we serve to fulfil the Church’s goals, vision, and mission, we will achieve our own goals and walk in the destiny (purpose and direction) that God has mapped out for each of us! Everyone has the opportunity to serve as a leader or as a follower.
3. Encouragement, empathy, and understanding
a. Honking at each other. Geese frequently make loud honking sounds as they fly together. Scientists speculate that this honking is their way of communicating with each other during their long flight to encourage the ones in front. Thus, they can keep the same speed. Similarly, when working on teams, it is exceedingly important for each team member to communicate regularly with all the other team members. Teams frequently fall apart because of the lack of adequate communication among the various members of the team. We have leaders’ meeting to hear each other’s heart.
Definitely, we human teams can learn from flying flocks of geese. Constant communication among members is exceedingly important in moving effectively towards a common destination as encouragement is for nourishing one’s soul. Somehow when you are accepted and happy, you get the job down with twice the less effort.
b. Helping each other. Scientists have discovered that when one goose becomes ill, is shot or injured, and drops out of the formation, two other geese will fall out of formation and remain with the weakened goose. They will stay with and protect the injured goose from predators until it is able to fly again or dies. Such commitment and a desire to want another sick, injured goose to get better and be back on track with life! Likewise, human teams work best when they do more than just work together but care for the wellbeing of each other. Church, let us have the sense and the integrity to stand by each other in good times and in difficult times, making sure that our “honking” is encouraging and not damaging or criticising someone. As we encourage and empathize with each other, our production will be much greater. Individual empowerment and the knowledge that we are working for God’s glory results from quality honking.
4. Rejuvenation or refreshment
Geese fly south for the winter in the Northern Hemisphere to a warmer climate to escape the harsh winter months. Likewise, we also need to have a rest. The Bible tells us to rest in the Lord: “He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noon day sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil” (Ps. 37:6-8).
5. Survival and multiplication
The Church can be strong if its members are strong. It is not about size. A larger group, whether of birds or humans, may not always be effective. Some smaller teams are able to manoeuvre much more quickly and efficiently in life without being eaten up by competition. The geese do not spend time thinking about team building and leadership. They assume position and formation once on flight. It is inbuilt in them to know what to do: to survive and to look for the safety of the whole flock. They teach us that we can accomplish more when we work together as a team.
God has given each of us abilities and giftings. Individual talents and giftings, as impressive as they may be, will only be multiplied when used together with others. “You will chase your enemies, and they shall fall by thesword before you. Five of youshall chase a hundred, and a hundred of youshall put ten thousand to flight; your enemiesshall fall by thesword before you. For I will look on youfavorably and make youfruitful, multiply you and confirm My covenant with you”(Leviticus 26:7-9).
Teamwork is set out by God to bring efficiency, effectiveness, and success in our work, studies, sports, business, and ministries, especially in our service to our Lord Jesus Christ. Teamwork will help us to foster a stronger relationship with God and each other and to encourage a new level of passion and energy in ourselves, our relatives, our friends, our colleagues, and our teammates.
If you believe in the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins and rose again on the third day, you are a believers and living stones, being built into a spiritual house. God made very clear the purpose of His believers. “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by Godand precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:4-5).
The believers are a team of living stones that, when put together, will build a spiritual house. In the same way, all the individuals become a team. In our individualistic society, we can easily forget our dependence on other believers. Yet, when we are given a task, we must never forget that God is also calling others to work with us. Together, the team’s efforts will be multiplied. We believers are in training to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices to God. This means to sacrifice our own self-interest and to give our life in dedication to God. It is not enough to just believe; we must put this belief into action on a daily basis. Knowing God’s expectations, we can now, as a team of believers, work together to achieve His purposes.
The individuals must understand the meaning of the team’s existence to glorify our Lord and to evangelise the lost, the poor, the sick and the needy. “If we bond together and support each other, if we make true the spirit of teamwork regardless of our differences, we can rise to meet our challenges. If we are aware of the feeling of sharing and caring, life will be easier and the passing of time–years are more fulfilling” (Sompong Yusoontorn, “The 7 Principles of Teamwork from Geese”)
Let us strive in our teamwork in building the Church for our Lord Jesus Christ.