Management Lessons From the Wild

Every year in July, I spend a few weeks in the Adirondacks of upstate New York enjoying the cool lakes and deep forests as a source of true rest and regeneration. As an amateur wildlife photographer, I spend quality time with my long lens watching and waiting for opportunities to capture a great photo. But I'm not just lolling around on my kayak and deck watching the ducks paddle on by as I hope for a loon to appear. Carefully watching the weather and the wildlife has contributed to some of my most durable management philosophies.

Here are a few points for managers to ponder -- lessons from the wild:

  • No matter how much the photographer wants the beautiful birds to fly on your schedule, they will do what they want on their own good time. Beautiful results require a great deal of patience and respect for the habits of others.

  • To get the best photos, study your targets, know their rhythms and timetables, how they eat and where they hunt -- it's Wildlife Marketing 101.
  • A long lens is essential to see what the wildlife are doing. If you get too close, don't be surprised by the angry reaction. Wild things like freedom, not surveillance.
  • When wildlife know they're being watched, they run away or freeze in place. Stay out of sight in order to capture the real behavior of your quarry.
  • Never interrupt an eagle biting off the head of a fish.
  • Eagles are everywhere, and they're watching you even when you can't see them.
  • Riding the crests of waves across the lake, the greatest dangers are not what the paddler can see on top but the rocks that lurk beneath. A good paddler always looks ahead for underwater dangers.
  • Even the sunniest of days can turn stormy very quickly. Don't go onto the lake without a good plan for a storm. And a life vest.
  • Fresh, clear air and bright sunshine follow almost every storm. Enjoy the storms for the beauty that follows. To see rainbows, look away from the sun to the storm clouds departing.
  • Never taunt a wild thing -- even the tiniest fly has a wicked bite.
  • Everybody has a bit of the wild within them. Let your colleagues show that wild side, the part that loves freedom, risk-taking, has endurance and fearlessness.
  • If you spend vacation on the couch, you'll never hear the call of a loon at dusk.
  • It's time to come home again when a meal at "The Frisky Otter" seems like fine dining!
  • I highly recommend a little "wildlife watching" for all managers. If you can't get to the Adirondacks, marvelous opportunities about locally, including the Patuxent River Park, Blackwater Wildlife Refuge, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, and even Rock Creek Park!