Lessons From A Sarus Crane

We humans tend to think we are the superior creation of God. But look around in humility and with a keen eye – and so often, I think – we would question that arrogance!

I had written 3 such stories, in my earlier blog post, which was around Team lessons from the wild. Here is one more such story. This one comes from the Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary in India – a great place for spending an extended weekend away from dusty New Delhi. A perfect home for many local and migratory birds, it is considered a paradise for bird watchers!

In the nesting season here, the sound of birds can be so loud as to drown out human conversation! And the buzz of insects pervades the air, always. Grass grows out from the still waters of the many wetlands, together with lotus, duckweed, water fern and sedge – food for countless living things such as frogs, snails, mosquitoes, dragonflies, fish, water snakes and birds that collectively conspire to make the Keoladeo Ghana National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, a World Heritage site.

The sanctuary is a favorite nesting place for one of the very beautiful birds, the Sarus Crane. The Sarus Crane, incidentally has always been much quoted for its many behaviors and practices – as a role model for corporate teams! Read on to find out why…

Team Lessons from Sauras CraneThe Sarus Cranes are gifted with an amazing talent. Whenever a female crane lays eggs, she inspects each and every egg carefully. She looks for interesting, yet specific information. She checks whether the chicks in those eggs are male or female. She understands well that crane culture can only be followed if she takes some hard, yet very important steps at that initial stage itself. So, if she lays only one egg, she immediately destroys it. If there are more than one egg, she carefully checks each and every egg. She keeps on destroying her eggs until she finds two or more eggs with matching number of males and females. The curious thing is that after birth these male and female cranes, so selected – stay on with each other for the rest of their lives. It is almost as if, they have taken a pledge to live and die together. Not just that – This magnificent bird takes this remarkable story to a breathtaking end. When one of the partners dies, the other one gives up food and water too – almost as if in anticipation to meet his/her partner in heaven a little sooner!

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In the path-breaking book, Good to Great – author Jim Collins talks about a concept called, “First Who – Then What”. The point being really that in the quest to achieve greatness, teams should first ensure that the right people are on the bus. Conversely, the wrong people need to be quickly asked to get off the bus too. As difficult as this step may be, what it ensures is that people onboard the bus stay the full journey, because of who else is there. Issues of trust, shared vision and conflict, get worked out that much more easily in a team like that. The Sarus Crane apparently understands this wisdom intuitively, without having to read the book!

There is one other interesting learning from the Sarus Crane. While clicking some pictures I noticed that these birds look down when they eat. I saw one such group of four cranes together – Mom, Dad, Son and daughter perhaps – who were searching for food. When food was found, I noticed three of them starting to eat, while one kept its head up – watching out for any danger. In a little time, another one looked up and without saying anything, the duty to watch over – moved to him, giving the first crane a chance to enjoy his meal.

We talk about trust in teams. Wouldn’t it be nice if we intuitively knew that our team mates would always watch out for us? Wouldn’t it be even nicer if we proactively started doing it within each of our teams, without an expectation of that dreaded term – ROI !!!

A small family of cranes, going about their daily chores – without any fanfare taught me small nuggets about building trust within teams & building effective teams. Look around yourself, there is much that we humans can learn – from watching nature!

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