By Russell Zwanka
How many times have you looked up at a flock of birds and seen that beautiful V-formation as it almost effortlessly glides across the sky? Most know that the birds fly in the V-formation so they can feed off each other’s energy and fly further than any birds could fly alone. As the lead bird tires, it will drop back and let the next bird in line take the lead. Each bird behind the leader is using the “upwash” of wind from the bird ahead of it to save energy and maintain altitude. In fact, birds in a V-formation can fly 70% longer than a bird flying on its own. 70%!
What would you do with a 70% increase in productivity, effectiveness, or efficiency? Is it possible to make your company or team fly like a V, where each team member gains strength from the other team members? Where every bird in the formation has bought in to the direction of the team? Where success for the team outweighs individual performances?
Here are four steps to a V-formation in your company:
Set a path and communicate the goal. Establish a company strategy, define the tactics needed to ensure success, and communicate the plan to the company. Communicate it again. Then communicate it again. You cannot over-communicate your company strategy, goals, and how you define success. Communication is the key to success. You are communicating your mission. Nothing is more important.
Make sure you have the right birds in the flock. You don’t normally see geese and eagles in the same formation. They are not compatible, and it just doesn’t work. Not everyone has to be the same in your organization, but they do have to be bought into the direction. Employees are your advocates. The proper measures and accountability will ensure you have the right birds in the right formation.
Share your strength. The lead bird has to drop back and re-gain energy at some point during the trip. This bird does not fight to stay in the front because of ego, and this bird does not stay in front until the whole flock flies into a mountain due to fatigue. The lead bird knows the mission, knows when to let someone else take the lead, and knows that the success of the team is more important than individual accolades. Delegation of activities means the team can go longer, stronger, and faster.
Celebrate successes along the way. A “thank you”, a pat on the back, a public report of a measure exceeded….they all go a long way towards pushing your team to the finish line. Look at the geese when they stop for the day. They frolic in a puddle like it’s the best waterpark ever! They had set out to make it a certain distance, they worked together, they shared each other’s strength, and they made it to their goal. Success! Splash down! Spread your wings and play a little. Do not be afraid to let your team feel good about a milestone reached. It pays back in spades.
The birds in the sky, the ones all flying together in a perfect V, have a unified approach, know their team’s goals, understand the tactics needed to succeed, and trust that each teammate will do their part to make the team successful. And when they reach milestones, they celebrate success. Come to think about it, we all have wings, right? The secret is in making sure we all flap at the same time, in the same direction, and for the same reason. Successful companies fly in a V-formation.
Russell Zwanka is CEO and Partner at Triple Eight Marketing. Russell has led the merchandising, marketing, advertising, procurement, and all customer engagement areas for multiple organizations in the United States and Canada. Russell holds a Doctorate in International Business from the International School of Management in Paris, France. He also holds a Masters of Science in Management from Southern Wesleyan University, and a Bachelors of Science in Psychology from the University of South Carolina.
Russell has spoken at various events, including the Carnegie Mellon Social Media Conference, the University of Manitoba Marketing Conference, and the Argyle Executive Forum in New York City. Additionally, he has served on the IGA Retailer Advisory Board, the Consumer Goods Forum Marketing Committee, the Topco Operations Board, and the Nielsen Retailer Advisory Committee. Russell can be followed on Twitter at Rzwanka.
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