It's a Project Manager's World Newsletter with Dr. James Brown
      August, 2013 Full Moon Edition      

Leading People with Seagull Mentality

I went fishing last week and while gathering bait fish with a cast net, I placed the net on the dock and shook out all the small menhaden.  I put the largest ones in the live well and before I could throw the remainder back in the water a seagull began eating them.  There were over 50 small menhaden left and then another seagull arrived.  Now… both of these seagulls could not have eaten all the remaining fish.  But instead of each seagull eating as fast as they could, they cackled and tried to prevent each other from eating.  The result of their screeching attracted other seagulls. In about two minutes there were over a dozen seagulls at the dock.  All the menhaden were all gone in less than a minute and the two battling seagulls were still hungry.

In the Absence of Leadership, Seagull Mentality Flourishes

A lot times we have tasks that need to be accomplished in the work environment that would quickly be achieved if people would simply join in and work.  But instead they argue or bicker about whose work it is (lack of accountability), why does it have to be done, is it necessary to do it this way, often to the degree the arguing takes more time and energy than the work itself.  Just like the first two seagulls that missed the opportunity for a full stomach, groups that have "seagull mentality" miss the opportunity to move forward quickly, painlessly and spend a lot of unproductive time in meetings.

Richard Hardy, author of the book The Program Manager stated:

Recognize that the hardest part of forming a team of smart, competent aggressive managers is keeping them from fighting with each other and with you. Good program managers spend a significant portion of their time on team building” 

Hardy is essentially stating, seagull mentality is likely. He also stated “Nothing makes the managers on a program fight with each other more than fuzzy overlapping assignments.

Seagull mentality is expected but prevention is easy, provided you are willing to create clear lines of accountability and invest a significant portion of your time in team building.  Leading People! Additionally, differences of opinion are healthy and should be welcome.  The key to making differences of opinion healthy is to quickly resolve them.  As Joe Sutter, program manager for the 747 stated in his book 747, “If we had differences, I made sure we resolved them on the spot.

Three things to minimize "screeching and cackling" in your work environment:

1.    Clear lines of accountability

2.    Invest time in team building

3.    Resolve differences quickly

Leading people is not complex, but it is time consuming.  Be careful not to let all the other less important, but seemingly urgent demands on your time cause you to neglect the three important things above.

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