Business Lessons from Blackbirds

It has given me immense pleasure over the last ten days or so to watch a family of Blackbirds grow to maturity, having left the nest about 3 weeks before. For the first ten days the chicks were hidden under a bush, kept out of site by protective parents, but as they have grown in confidence they have been running around our garden testing their wings and soaking up everything that is new around them. Their father has been caring for them and feeding them as Mother Blackbird is not around. Unfortunately I don’t know why. Every morning and evening as I watch them it has made me think about the lessons we mere humans can learn from the Blackbirds.

There are both people management and people development lessons to be learnt from the Blackbirds so in this blog I am focusing on the HR or people management lessons that came to mind as I have been watching the chicks grow up.

Daddy Blackbird has been totally focused on his task, his objective being the rearing of his two chicks to adulthood. Nothing has taken his focus away from that task. It made me think about business - isn’t that what good managers and business leaders should be? Focused on achieving the objective(s), which should be clearly set out and communicated to all involved. As leaders and managers, keeping that objective in mind all the time, whatever distractions come our way.

It was easy for Daddy Blackbird – he only had one objective. But when his chicks got too much for him as they followed him everywhere he went and hung on his every move, he simply flew into next door’s garden, had a bit of peace and then went back to his task. The lesson I thought about when watching him was that we should all take a bit of time out to rest and recuperate before we go back into the fray. Being a leader or a manager is hard work and it takes energy, especially to be positive all the time when you might not feel like it. Taking some time out without feeling guilty is something we should all do to allow us to maintain our energy levels and our focus on the objective.

How many companies ban people from answering emails in the evening? I know one or two who do but they are in the minority. The lesson for business leaders here is to make sure your managers and staff have some home time where they are not expected to pick up emails, and in fact, would be frowned upon if they do. Many managers have chicks of their own that they need to raise outside of work so they should be given the freedom to focus on that personal objective. Another benefit of having time away from work is that it gives the mind freedom to wander, which increases creativity and brings new ideas and innovations. All businesses can benefit from continual innovation, even if it is just baby steps to improve processes and make things better for everyone.

The final lesson I have learned from watching the blackbirds is the importance of staff retention. I made it very easy for the blackbirds to stay in my garden by throwing meal worms around the lawn and the flower beds for them to eat. Daddy Blackbird had a hell of a task on, to bring up his chicks on his own so I decided to help. Every morning I would throw out handfuls of meal worms so that Dad did not have to work so hard to find food. My actions resulted in sparrows, great tits, robins and chaffinches enjoying the feast too. My actions attracted others. That got me to thinking about how easy do we make it for our staff to stay at work or to join us? Are we doing the right things to aid retention strategies within our businesses? From the example of one business we know, probably not in most cases. They have lost all their young talent because there was no plan for their career development.

What lessons can you learn from the blackbirds? There are so many parallels to be drawn with regard to how businesses are led and managed that I think we can learn a lot. And of course, the CHaRM team is here to help any business that is striving to be better at people management.