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Habits and Consistency in Behavioral Leadership

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Behavioral leadership

Birds of Prey

I listened to a radio interview about falconry – the hunting of wild animals in their natural habitat using birds of prey.

The person interviewed owned several hawks and was describing how you come to acquire a hawk and how to care for it.

I hadn’t thought much about this fascinating field before, and the obvious question to me, seemed to also have an obvious answer.

The answer to “why do the hawks come back to you?” must have had an answer relating to operant conditioning or animal training. The owner must train the hawk to come back.

I was shocked to find that this is not exactly the case!

What I learned was that if you don’t treat the hawk in the right way, it flies away and does not return.

It goes deeper too – they are creatures of habit and consistency and so too must their owners be.

The woman being interviewed described a time when she left the care of her hawk to her husband and gave him very specific instructions, including things like:

  1. Quietly enter the room;
  2. Gently remove the cover from the cage;
  3. Insert the food into the cage; and
  4. Slowly back away, facing the animal.

When her husband followed all steps except #4 (and turned his back), the hawk nearly took his eye out!

It made me think that there are some behavioral leadership analogies in this story:

  • Employment is a voluntary act. Don’t treat them in the right way and they will fly away and not return, and
  • People appreciate consistency. We can’t always give them 100% certainty or consistency, but we should recognize that they want to know what to expect from day to day and try to eliminate uncertainty whenever we can.

Did I miss any other lessons from this story? What did it cue for you?  Please comment below and let me know!

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