Chickens Cluck and Eagles Fly


I will come back to the relevance of the title “Chickens cluck and eagles fly” later. First, let me recount a story that relates to it.

I was asked by a CEO, whom I am working with on a one to one program, to sit in and observe his senior team’s monthly meeting. This company is highly successful in their marketplace.

The first thing that struck me when I went into their meeting room was that the table was circular rather than the traditional rectangle. So, there was no “top” of the table place. Interesting, I thought!

The second thing that impressed me was that the meeting was scheduled to start at 9.00 and it did - bang on time!

It was clear from the start that my CEO client was not chairing the meeting - he had told me previously that he never does.

One of the team members arrived about 5 minutes late, to be greeted by another (not the chairperson) with - “we all agreed that meetings would start on time, so why are you late?” It certainly got my attention! The response was not discussed and the meeting moved on.

The next item on the agenda was sales and the Head of Sales was sharing recent performance, which showed under performance against some metrics. The interesting thing for me was that the CEO said nothing!

The challenges, which were robust and blunt, came from all the other members of the team. The challenging was, as I said, robust and blunt, but it was also supportive and constructive. It was all about what “the team” could do to correct the situation.

The conversation was between peers in the team - not between the CEO and the head of that function.

You see, the CEO had created an atmosphere of accountability - peer to peer. He had created a culture where it is expected that your peers will challenge you - for the good of the overall team. If it is the best interests of the team, then it is expected that everyone gets challenged.

What strikes me when I reflect upon this experience is the following:

• Underperforming teams have a culture of no accountability

• Average performing teams are where only the boss holds people accountable

• High performing teams are accustomed to peer to peer accountability.

You see, high performing teams deal with problems quicker and don’t allow a drag. It is always interesting to evaluate the length of time between highlighting a problem and having an open discussion about it.

In high performing teams, that gap is short!

So, why the title “Chickens cluck and eagles fly”? I have borrowed it from the author Steve Maraboli who said, “If you hang out with chickens, you're going to cluck and if you hang out with eagles, you're going to fly.”

To me, the chickens are the average and the under performers, the eagles are the high performers. Don’t we all want to be eagles?

John A Murphy


John Murphy has been running his own consultancy business, John Murphy International, for over 10 years.

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