Friday, December 12, 2008

COMMENTARY >> Benefits of teamwork

By Master Sgt. Charles Doan
314th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron First Sgt.

Canadian Snow Geese possess an innate sense of “team” that illustrates a striking example of just how important our Wingman concept really is. Have you ever wondered why geese fly in that “V” formation and are continually honking? Well, it’s because geese can fly an average of 6 percent farther when flying in a “V” than they can individually. By taking advantage of the wing tip vortex of the bird in front, each bird can save energy by reducing drag. The energy savings in flight can be as much as 50 percent so they literally use half the energy they normally would. Also while in flight, all geese in the formation “honk” encouragement and motivation to each other, and especially to the leader. And when the leader becomes tired, it simply falls to the back and another one moves up front to take its place. The flock continues this pattern and is able to cover distances of nearly 200 miles in a single day. Indeed, the strength and endurance that takes geese south for the winter is impressive, but there’s nothing like good, old-fashioned horsepower.
The giant Belgian draft horse gives us another powerful example of teamwork. These horses weigh an average of 2,200 pounds and can pull about 5,000 pounds, more than twice their weight. And if you hook up two Belgians together they can pull around 12,000 pounds. But wait, it gets better…the true potential of these magnificent animals is unleashed when the same two horses are trained to pull in harmony. When taught to pull as a “team,” two Belgians can move more than 17,000 lbs! Think about that for a minute, 4,400 lbs of horses pulling nearly four times their weight…incredible! As you can see, effective and efficient teamwork goes beyond individual accomplishments. The most effective teamwork is produced when individuals harmonize their contributions and work towards a common goal. When a harmony exists in the workplace and a collective, focused effort is the priority, quality of life improves, morale skyrockets and our mission is completed more efficiently and safely.
So, I’d like you to consider which of these examples resembles you. Are you like the goose, naturally a team player who supports and relies on the team? Or are you like the giant Belgian, strong on your own, but needs to be taught how to be a team player to really reach your full potential? Either way, the good news is that the concepts of teamwork and being a good Wingman are available to you whether it comes naturally or is a learned skill. This means that it’s possible for everyone to be good teammates and become more effective in the process. But, I’d like to leave you with one more interesting trait about geese. When a goose falls out of the formation because of injury or illness, two others follow it to the ground. And these two geese stay with the injured one until it is either able to fly again, or dies. Yes, even geese understand the Wingman concept. So, do you have the sense of a goose?


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