My husband Dan and I live by a lake and are in the flight pattern of the geese that come and go twice a day. When it’s warm outside, we sit out on our patio. We discuss how our week went and talk about what we have coming up, plan out our weekend or upcoming home improvement projects, all while watching the birds fly over.

We’ve all heard stories about the perfect V-formation that geese use to fly efficiently. When geese fly together, they provide additional lift and reduce wind resistance for each other. When they fall out of formation, they require much more energy and effort to stay airborne. Geese rotate leadership, giving others a chance to lead. Rotation and cooperation strengthen the group and provide rest for the entire gaggle. (Yes, a group of geese is called a gaggle.) They communicate, encourage each other, and stay connected by honking at each other and when one is struggling, they work together to keep that goose safe. This is a great lesson on teamwork and has been shared many times in our organization.

I want to share a different story about geese, one of patience, persistence, and of course, teamwork. Watching from our porch over the years we’ve noticed that when the birds are less experienced, they don’t stay in perfect V-formation. The geese that are still learning can be seen trying to crowd up to the front, often bumping into each other. These groups are noisy and disorganized. The more-experienced geese stay true to their course and the things they’ve learned, communicating constantly to encourage others along the way, staying patient as they teach and coach. We may be a lot like the geese that are learning as we begin to work on a new project, with a new team, or in a job. We are all learning to work together, fly together, figure out how to do the best we can, and utilize each other’s strengths and experience. We have many teams within our “One Associated” organization that have already or are now figuring out how to fly in perfect V-formation.

It’s quite possible that a few of you may be smiling, remembering a time when you were one of the less-experienced ones, possibly flying awkwardly, maybe flying out of turn. (I sure can!)  I’ve been extremely fortunate to have worked with many great leaders in this company, leaders who have shown me patience and set examples of persistence and teamwork, leaders who remember a time when they too were learning.

On warm summer Sundays, as I’ve watched these birds fly over, getting more and more in sync with time and practice, displaying patience and teamwork, I’ve often thought about the leaders I’ve had in my life and the example they set for me. I also think about how proud I am of my own family members, coworkers and friends, that I now watch excel as leaders in their own lives. As our company evolves and expands, let’s be the team members who encourage, communicate and lead by example. Let’s all train the next group of leaders for Associated Food Stores.

We are all students, and we are all teachers.