by Biagio “Bill” Sciacca
Last Saturday morning I helped my wife Jackie set up her stand at the Tamarindo Farmers Market in Costa Rica. We finished set up sometime around 8 a.m., so she was ready to begin selling her custom embroidered headbands from that time forward.
By the way, I told her I would give her a plug in my next piece, so here it is: check out monkeybusinessheadbands.com. She also does custom embroidered headbands with company logos. Caution: Some headbands may be “R” rated.
Okay, back to the business at hand. Since the farmers market was 15 steps from the beach, and I had a few hours to kill, I decided to go to a local coffee shop on the beach, sit and enjoy a wonderful cup of café Americano and a bottle of spring water. While taking in the sun, surf and beautiful tropical breeze I noticed several pelicans flying about 20 feet off the shoreline just after the crest of the waves.
If you have ever seen pictures of pelicans, they do no justice to the enormity of these great birds. When you get up close and personal to one, they have the wingspan of a B-52. They’re immense. What impressed me the most is the way they feed. From a height of 30 feet in the air they are constantly scanning the ocean for fish that may be in the shallow parts of the surf. When they see a fish, these birds make a rapid, vertical descent directly into the water and then proceed to go under the water for a distance of about two additional feet. More often than not they rise with a fish in their bill.
Many people were amazed watching these pelicans feed. Being a casual observer of people and circumstances, I noted their comments and, since I had several hours to mull over those commentaries, it occurred to me there are some striking similarities between how these massive birds feed and how we humans approach business and leadership.
So, here’s what I learned about leadership in business while observing pelicans feed:
1. Everyone around me was amazed at these pelicans.
They all watched them feed.
But I noticed no one was rooting for the fish. When the pelican came up empty-handed, or should I say empty-billed, no one said, “All right, another fish is saved.” Everyone wanted to see a fish in the pelican’s bill.
It could be because of our perception of the food chain, and what we as humans actually eat. I mean, let’s face it: you can find fish on the menu at any restaurant you go to, but I think most of us would be hard-pressed to find pelican on the menu. But I think the reason goes beyond that. The pelicans are battling the wind, the sea and the sun in order to feed. The fish are just kind of, well, swimming around. They open their mouth and smaller fish go in. The pelican has more at stake, and we like rooting for situations where the most challenged comes out as a winner.
Thus, the first thing I learned was this: the underdog, the challenged and the one who must strive the greatest, generally has consensus in terms of enthusiastic support.
The moral: never stop trying.
2. I noticed when one pelican divebombed and came up with a fish, it was soon joined by another pelican who would then divebomb for its own fish. Soon, there were half a dozen to a dozen pelicans all swarming around that same spot gainfully diving in the water and happily coming up with fish to eat.
I am sure the first bird found a school of fish.
While the other pelicans were scanning the surface of the ocean looking for a school of fish, they also found it easier to scan the air for a pelican that already found food. Each had to work at diving and getting its own fish, but they also found it less painstaking to search for a pelican that already found the opportunity, versus looking for a school of fish on its own.
So, the second thing I learned was this: opportunities come in bunches. There is no shortage of prospects. We can never be “edged out” because somebody got to the opportunity before us. We should use our strength to dive into opportunities, and we will have more strength if we can find opportunities that already exist.
By the way, where is it written that every opportunity must spawn from a new idea?
If that was the case, franchising would never exist.
And, as an aside to this point, where the pelicans flock, there are fish. Look for pockets of leaders. Because where the leaders flock, there are opportunities.
3. Every so often you will see one of these magnificent birds floating on the surface of the ocean. After battling the wind for a certain amount of time and diving to eat, they tire. If you observe one of these birds at rest, you will notice from time to time it will dip its head below the surface of the water and come up with the fish.
4. Thus, the fourth thing I learned about pelicans in terms of leadership and businesses was this: always be ready to seize an opportunity. That doesn’t mean you can’t rest, but your radar should always be on.
On a more expansive note, I am learning everyday situations can be tremendously rich with extraordinary leadership ideas. Let’s make it a goal to observe and think and apply these worldly concepts to our chosen professions.
Biagio Sciacca, known to his friends as Bill, is a Pittston native. He is the owner of Intelligent Motivation, Inc., a global consulting and training firm specializing in management and leadership training and psychological assessment for hiring and staff development. He is the author of several books relating to goal setting, and his third book, “Provocative Leadership,” will soon publish.
Now residing in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, he divides his time between his international clients, writing his next book and wondering aimlessly on the beach.
You can reach Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org or schedule a call with him by visiting intelligentmotivationinc.com and clicking on the “set up a call” tab.