Photo: Anne Lawrence, White Rock Lake

Duckling

I heard the squeak and urgency of constant chirping before I saw the tiny duckling zipping through the water. On a mission, straight ahead, quick little strokes that zoomed the downy little body forward. Among the reeds and bushes I could see the grown ducks, but this little duck wasn’t stopping. Onward. I followed. She zipped past another that was cautiously staying near the rushes, but then darted out and about. Now there were two tiny squeaky songs going, I stayed with the second, leaping up to the pier then taking a few steps stopping almost right over her. She darted under. I met the morning fisherman with his catch as he passed me on the pier, holding two big fish — not the biggest I’d seen here, but impressive enough. We chatted about the ducklings, he joked the catfish might eat them. I complimented his catch, he complained he’d slept in and should have been there earlier.

For a moment on the pier I had thought how easy it would be to reach down and scoop up the duckling, so tiny. But, then it would never find its family and they would never find her. Surely, they were all close by and our encounter was just a small part of their day. How would I know what is normal for a duck? I knew any intervention on my part would doom the duckling; I had to believe that it was going to be okay despite its constant chirping. It was not there for me to rescue.

I put my headphones back on and resumed my podcast and my run, picking up right at the part where the UX design expert was sharing her thoughts on leadership and the power of failure. The host chimed in about how hard it is let people fail. This is how we grow, build resiliency, take ownership, etc. — all of the catch phrases, but I understood it differently today. I know not to “rescue” the duckling because I am more likely to do more harm than good for that tiny fluttering heart. I don’t know ducks! Yet, I have a hard time applying that same logic to people. The podcast was specifically talking about the failure in the context of work, projects, and all of those special words we use around UX, design, and research, delineating the roles of manager and independent contributor. As I move into more of a leadership role, I will try to remember that my team is not there for me to rescue. How is fixing a perceived problem different from stealing an opportunity to succeed? Things to think about on my next run. It will be few days before I’ll have time to go back to the pier. I’ll look and listen for the little ducks again, trusting that they will make their way.

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