Updraft Principle #1: Achieving Formation with a Better “Flapping Pattern”

[This is part two in a six-part blog series on the principles of Updraft Leadership. Read part one here.]

Beliefs determine behavior. Shared beliefs create trust, cohesion, and stamina.

Geese obviously believe that the “V” formation is the best way to fly. Whether genetic disposition or learned behavior, there exists a deep internal conclusion. People do not act in a vacuum. We act in response to what we have embraced as true and valuable. We sometimes hold beliefs as true that are not actually true. They are locked inside of our subconscious.

Beliefs determine behavior regardless of their location in the conscious or subconscious mind. The truth is, the subconscious mind drives more habitual behavior than our conscious mind does. The subconscious mind captures and catalogues every event that happens to us. Everything we see, hear, taste, touch, or in any other way experience, is stored in our subconscious mind. Our worldview is constructed, to a great deal, in the subconscious. This is where our comfort zone is defined. Psychologists refer to this factor as mental homeostasis. From a biological perspective, homeostasis maintains vital chemical, electrical, and pressure levels in the body and monitors major internal functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, etc. The reason you can go to sleep at night and still wake up in the morning is that, when the conscious mind turns off, the subconscious continues to maintain vital body functions. This is good!

We also have homeostasis of the mind. The subconscious seeks to define for us what we are comfortable with and what we do based on all past data. The problem with the subconscious is that it is non-discriminating. It accepts whatever messages the senses and the conscious mind sends it. Our self-talk in response to certain life situations begins to program our subconscious. For example, if we grow up in a home where a parent tells us, over and over, that we are lazy, before long we are embracing that message as a true statement and thus defining our reality. Traumatic events and caustic relationships can also define our self perception and limit our potential.

Your Flapping Pattern: Do You Create an Updraft or a Downdraft?

While the design of the goose’s wing only generates the beneficial updraft, people, on the other hand, have the ability to create an updraft or a downdraft. In other words, we can lift up our team members, or we can bring them down. Our individual “flapping pattern” is our interaction style.

We all know what it is to experience a downdraft. Some people have the ability to create it just by walking into the room. Mean, bitter, reactive words, body posture, facial expressions, and even silence—these can all create a downdraft. As I discussed earlier, one of the roles of the subconscious is to store information and define our reality. I ask groups of people all the time: where do we get our “flapping pattern?” The number one answer… sure, you know— our family of origin. We learn, over time and with much practice, certain ways of interacting that pull people down around us, instead of lifting them up.

Here’s a good example of downdraft behavior.

In preparation for some long-term training, I asked the president of a construction company to define the workplace culture with a phrase or a word. He said, “Old West.” In the subsequent months as I worked with his leadership team I came to understand the brutal reality of that description. It was all there: showdowns at high noon, ruff talk, and the occasional hanging from the highest tree. It took an entire year to help the leadership team learn some new “flapping patterns.” One of the best compliments I ever received came from the president’s wife when the three of us were at lunch and she sincerely thanked me because her husband was a “changed man at home.” She was in favor of continuing the training indefinitely, no matter what the cost. Her unbridled enthusiasm was affirming for me and a little embarrassing for him. It was a powerful reminder that authentic, lasting change from the inside-out affects every area of our life.

Henry Ford was once heard ranting in a loud voice on the assembly floor of his auto manufacturing plant, and this is what he said: “Why is it when all I need is a pair of hands, I get the whole person?” We do get the whole person and their learned “flapping pattern” or interaction style. When we utilize the will and energy of our institutions to effect change at this level of the person, it is truly a win-win-win situation. What is the extra “win,” you ask? We know the benefits on the job as well as at home. The third win is for the person who is changing. Changing and growing people are happy people.

[Stay tuned for the next post in this series: Updraft Principle #2: The Power of Directional Encouragement.]



As an organizational psychologist, Dan McArthur has worked with owners and top executives in a variety of organizations for 30 years. He is at his best when the obstructions to growth and harmony are not readily observable. He has an amazing ability to quickly build trust with all key players and support them as they move toward better self-management, leadership, healthy team dynamics, and increased productivity. (Learn more about Dan…)

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