Honking Your Employees: Use this Method to Motivate Employees

Posted by Joseph Sherren on February 2, 2021

I am sure many of you have witnessed geese flying overhead on their migration south every winter and eventual return north in the Spring.  I also imagine you have heard them honking as they go.  Have you ever wondered why?

It is fascinating to know that there is much science to almost everything they do, including, when they decide to leave and when they come back.  They go north in the spring to have their offspring because there are less predators and a safer environment to raise their young.

And why do they always fly in a “V” formation?  Scientists have determined that the V-shaped formation serves two important purposes: First, it conserves their energy. Each bird flies slightly above the bird in front resulting in a reduction of wind resistance and less energy used for those closer to the rear.

Therefore, it is the ones at the front that are doing most of the work.  When they get tired, they move to the rear where they can rest.  Then in succession, all the others move forward.  This way all geese take turns both working hard and resting, which ensures a safe and efficient journey.

But what I want to speak about is – why are they always honking?  The belief is that it is the ones at the rear who are doing most of the honking.  They do this to keep the flock together and encourage those up front to keep up their hard work and speed.  This results in the ones up front not getting discouraged or slowing down.

As managers, we also need to be honking to encourage employees and motivate them to work hard and keep up their spirits.  However, this was a lot easier when we all worked in the same location and managers could see most of their employees and encourage face-to-face.

So how can we do this during the pandemic when our staff do not get to interact with each other in person?   The good news is that many organizations have found a variety of unique ways of achieving this.

For instance, my daughter Joey who works for Healthy Hooch Kombucha, a health drink provider in Vancouver says;

“The founders of this company have encouraged me by trusting me to get my job done without on-going supervision, consistently being accessible, and in sharing my wins with the whole team. This has fostered a remote environment where I feel I am really part of a work family.  This causes me to want to exceed their expectations.”

Gillian Corriveau, Commercial Lines Manager at Cooke Insurance Group, says,

“Overall we are still working through this one day at a time.  Although for us is this is not totally new since we have had remote workers for a while.”

In fact, it was difficult for me to get time to speak with Gillian since she was continually doing her (regularly scheduled) one-on-one Zoom calls with her staff.

She says for managers who like to micro-manage their employees this will be very uncomfortable, but we need to learn to trust our employees and measure what gets done, not watch what they are doing.

One point she made is that it will be an interesting transition when this is over and everyone comes back to the office.  She says “things have changed forever.  There is now a new model for working which will include working from home.” Those companies who do not embrace it will be left behind.

Continuing my Canada geese analogy, when a goose gets sick, or is wounded and falls out of formation, two other geese fall out with their companion and follow it down to lend help and protection. They stay with the fallen goose until it is able to fly, or until it dies, and only then do they launch out on their own, or with another formation to catch up with the group.

My question for managers:

What honking methods are you using to keep your employees motivated and encourage them to support their fellow workers during this time when we cannot be together in person?


Joseph Sherren, CSP, HoF,

Global Speaking Fellow

International Business Transformation Specialist.

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Photo: Depositphotos.com

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