Like a flock of birds………

Caught in a traffic jam in Essex I watched the shifting, stunning sky made up of the most beautiful majestic purples, pinks, lilacs and golds. The light was drifting away from Dover, my goal, and I hoped to escape. The birds were swooping and dipping, scooping up great patches of the purple and settling like disturbed dust on some of the flat, fat fields. I watched them – it gradually occurred to me that they were like a team of people I know: they were moving together, making the same sort of gestures, there was a degree of flapping, some swooping, a bit of squawking, and I saw a few arguments taking place often settled by some wing-play and a bit of noise but with a good heart and with the best interests of the group in the frame.

They had a lot of different but similar ways of getting where they were going, but they shared the goal, the aim and the destination. They had a leader, but the leader changed depending on which direction they took; they flapped their wings but in different beats and in different places in the group, and that rhythm also changed; they made different shapes and different sounds, but stayed together as an identifiable entity with shared characteristics; the ones at the front never flew too far ahead of the ones behind so no-one ever got lost, but they kept up the pace and kept the group moving forwards, together, showing the way; the ones at the back were clearly making the effort to keep up, and when the direction changed they followed it as swiftly as the faster ones and kept the shape of the group even when that shape changed.

Those birds, in their flock, were together and separate, driven by shared expectations and needs, with shared but various talents and gifts. They made beautiful and recognisable shapes in the sky, and those shapes kept changing to accommodate the changing directions. If one of them left there would be a gap, but another bird would soon move over and maintain the shape and direction with a different rhythm and a new outlook.

I watched those birds with respect and awe. I learned a lot from them as well as enjoying their beauty and grace. By the time I reached the Dartford Crossing (pauses to spit) I realised that the values and principles we use to improve our services and our lives are not unique – they have their roots in human nature and natural science – not rocket science. The co-operation and warmth I see in the team I know are vital assets and attributes essential to the wellbeing and development of the individuals, the team, and the services we deliver. Those individuals are brilliant – as a team they are awesome.

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