It’s been cold. Icy. Snowing.

And the winter birds that flock to our birdfeeders know it’s been a hard winter here in the Northwest. I’ve had to fill the three feeders every week. It’s been a cold one, and it’s not over yet.

I watch them from my office window as they dance, cavort, and “muscle in” for the suet and seed.  And then the squirrel bounds into the scene wanting to get in on the action.

At times, I’m mesmerized and forget about the emails and texts flashing.

Nature teaches and as I view their antics around the feeder I’m reminded of our own work culture-- the hierarchy, the pushing, the showing, and the collaborating  and trust that can occur.

Here is what I’ve observed about the “pecking order” and hierarchy of this avian ecosystem. Perhaps you will see the similarities in your own  workplace.  Here are some lessons that fly with me:

1.  The bigger birds, like the jays, with power and dominance scatter all the other birds and begrudgingly allow a few birds to share the seed.  They don’t come often, but when they do, the other birds fly away… in deference, in fear.

2. Many of the mid and smaller-size birdswill often flock to the nearby bushes and wait.  When one ventures to the feeder, then the others follow… as if it is “now safe.”

3. Often one species of bird, be it Rufus, Chicadee, Junko or Fitch  fly in as a group and take over the feeders. They feel safe among their kind.

4. The smaller birds, particularly the Chickadees, as if understanding the power of the “team,” always seem to huddle together with  12 or more sharing  one feeder, causing it to swing with their collective weight.

5. The squirrels can’t reach the feeder, but know there is scattered seed on the porch below the feeders.  When all is quiet, they swoop in and grab a cheek full of shells with a few nuggets and stay in charge until the dog comes out!

6. Over time, many of the birds learn to overcome their fear and remain at the feeders, when I quietly step out to observe them as they begin to trust the outsider.

Six observations, call them Mother Nature’s lessons, that remind me of our work culture, and who doesn’t love a bit of anthropomorphism to shed light on behavior.  

Anthropomorphism: an interpretation of what is not human or personal in terms of human or personal characteristics (Merriam/Webster)

What is important, is not the facts or realities of my observations of winter birds at a feeder, but rather that their presence caused me to think.  It provoked a stream of conscientious … to ponder the porch bird feeder, as a metaphor for the real culture in our workplaces.  

Lessons for Conscientious Leaders abound in Nature, if we open our eyes, ears and hearts.

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