Behavior may surprise, but there’s a reason for it

Last weekend was the Great Backyard Bird Count. The annual event is sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society. I usually participate in one or more of the four-day observation period. I find 12 to 20 or more birds. Friday, I saw 13.

As much as I love birds, I have had unfortunate experiences with a couple. One such experience occurred as I arrived at a client’s site in South Carolina last summer. The last few moments of dawn clouded the western sky as I left my car in the parking lot. Five steps led me to the front door of the main office. I turned my head to see a large mockingbird land on the top of my car. Seems it took an immediate dislike to the car and began to vigorously peck it. I returned to rescue my vehicle and found I almost had to physically brush the bird off. It was more angry at the invading car than it was of me.

I was a little early for my meeting and the building doors were locked. Again I returned to my car to wait for my client. Four more times I had to get out of the car to remove the bird from its intentions. When I returned to my car at the end of the day, my outside driver’s side mirror, as well as, the black paint across the car was smeared with the aggressive bird’s saliva. You would think it would have broken its beak with such repetitive energy.

A few weeks later on another trip to this client’s site, I parked the car in the same visitor’s spot and immediately the mockingbird was back for some more ill treatment of my car. I moved the car to the far side of the building, which was evidently out the bird’s territory since I saw none of its leavings on my car when I returned.

Some of you may remember the male cardinal that spent a large portion of last year bombarding the windows and glass doors on the back of my house. All summer long I battled this bird by running to the window each time it began eyeing its adversary.

This year either the cardinal gave up its battle strategy, died, or forgot the previous perceived danger my windows posed to it. The occasional Carolina wren or tufted titmouse bombarded the window when a sharp shinned hawk flew by looking for supper but nothing with the determination of the cardinal or mockingbird.

I am often amazed at the determination and behaviors of animals. However, I believe each behavior has a purpose in the mind of the animal demonstrating it. Likewise with people, sometimes their behavior surprises or exasperates us. When I experience such unexpected behavior, it calms me to understand there is some reason for it. Each behavior is not an accident. It has a driver or reason. Therefore as a leader, my job is to try and understand the other person and then explain my needs or modify them to meet the needs of both of us. My job as a leader is not to argue but to gain consensus. You often can’t problem solve like this with animals but you can with people.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of “The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success,” visit his Web site, Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.