Why great teams fly like geese

The below blog post was written by Rochelle Dancel, founding member of Bats in Belfries, and it struck such a chord with me that I just had to share it with you (with her permission of course!).

It is such a fantastic, simple analogy that will really help you to define which role you currently play in your team. For success to happen everyone needs to play their part – whether you are the goose leading to the geese on the outside supporting the rest of the team. The key is that the team needs to be adaptable and be willing to shift the roles to play to people’s strengths so that success can be achieved.

As Rochelle says,’I have yet to meet or be in a team where this analogy didn’t work or couldn’t be applied’.

I do wonder though how many Managers have the willingness to use this method….because I’ve certainly not been in a team where this has been applied….


I made this analogy in passing today, and I don’t think I explained it very well, so I thought I’d blog it instead.

I should disclaim this first by saying that I don’t genuinely know how and why geese fly in a v formation; however, this is how it was described to me years ago and, when applied to teams, the analogy stuck with me, so here it is:

It may seem like the goose leading the v is the most important, but actually, in order for the geese to get to where they need to go, each goose has to play its part.

The job of the goose at the front is to cut the wind for everyone else. Because of this, they have the most difficult job, flying into the wind.

The geese behind are really loud as it’s their job to make as much noise as possible to support the goose at the front.

The goose at the front will inevitably get tired, so will drop back into the formation and let another goose move forward to take their place, and then the rest of the geese will support the new leader goose. Likewise, the geese that fly to the extreme of the formation will also get tired, so they need to move to the middle of the formation where it is easier, and other geese will take their place.

By now, you should’ve gotten this analogy.

I often think of one of my old teams in this way. My boss at the time told us that it was her job to help remove the obstacles that were stopping us from doing our jobs effectively, because no one did our jobs better than we did. Equally, we worked very hard to make sure that she could report positively on the department’s performance, recognising that, apart from being super lucky to have such a manager, if she looked good, we all looked good together.

The goose that needs to be in front isn’t always the most senior
Given shifting priorities and organisational focus, the person best suited to leading a particular project needs to be out in front – and the rest of the team needs to support them. Priorities – and their project leaders – may change, but supporting the person in front is to everyone’s benefit.

The goose in front needs to be strong to get the rest of the flock to the destination
If you’re out in front but you need support, or you need a break, don’t be afraid to say so, and support someone else in coming forward.

The geese in the middle may be called upon to lead
Make sure you’re ready, in case you need to step up. Equally, the flock needs to ensure that the people in the middle of the team are trained and capable of moving up when the time comes.

Don’t forget the geese on the outside
In every team there are people that sit on the fringes of the core for any number of reasons: they work different hours, they have a skillset that no one else understands or they have a workplan that isn’t as integrated as everyone else’s. They need support too, so be sure to pull them in closer every once in a while.

If the flock stays in formation, the flock arrives together
Success for the whole team only happens if everyone plays their part.

I have yet to meet or be in a team where this analogy didn’t work or couldn’t be applied.

Happy flying!

*artwork by Penny Parker

One thought on “Why great teams fly like geese

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s