Focus Like a Barn Swallow

Shawn Temple

A Barn Swallow is a little bird found abundantly across North America...and it has a strategic focus unlike any other. It’s recognizable by it’s cobalt blue and orangey-gold color, it’s long, forked tail unique to the swallow family and the annoying habit they have of building a nest in the eaves of my front porch every year.

They use mud, straw and grass to build a nest attached to walls, beams, eaves, and generally anything else that suits them including…you guessed it…barns. It’s a mess both on the walls and as you can imagine…on the ground just below the nest.

Well, this year I was having none of it. About a week ago, I heard them chattering outside my front door. I went outside to see that sure enough, they were starting to stick that mud onto the stucco wall at the top of my front porch. So, I begin having a heated conversation with the two birds about how they were going to have to find someone else’s porch this year in which to bring their little birdies into the world. They looked at each other, then back at me and laughed.

What are you willing to overcome for the sake of the mission?

I went for the water hose.

I turned the nozzle to “jet” and the nest crumbled like a dated casino being imploded on the Las Vegas Strip. Winner, winner. I went back inside with the last laugh. After another hour, I smugly walked out the front door to reminisce on my victory, but it was short-lived. The nest construction project had been resurrected. “You have GOT to be kidding me,” I say aloud. Water hose—jet.

This tennis match goes on for three solid days. They build, I destroy. I’m thinking, “Why don’t these bird brains get smarter and just go somewhere else…surely they are getting frustrated!” They were undaunted. At this point, I’m out of patience and water. I give up.

Do you have a strategic focus?

As leaders of credit unions and community banks, how focused and committed are we to accomplishing what’s most important? There are so many distractions in our day that it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. No matter what catastrophic consequences those birds faced, they remained laser-focused on the job at hand. Nothing was going to stop them from building that nest.

As we think about our own strategy, it needs to be focused as well. The best plans are the ones that get implemented. Too many initiatives create confusion about what’s most important, right now. Create focus and rally the troops to achieve the goals of your organization. But we must also connect people to purpose by always giving them clarity and alignment in all circumstances.

Clarity gets results...every time.

Clarity > Alignment > Focus > Results

The barn swallows will get one more year out of me. Next year I’m putting up those little spikey things that prevent birds from nesting on buildings and ledges. But I’ll also be watching to see how they achieve their objective—because, they will achieve it.  And if a barn swallow can have that level of focus and commitment, surely we can as well.

Shawn Temple
Strategy Director
Shawn Temple

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