A Bucket of Teamwork

Several summers ago for work, I attended a week-long team-building conference held on a college campus. Attendees were divided into groups of five and members of each group were to collaborate on various projects for the duration of the conference. Small assignments began on day one and we were informed that the conference would culminate with a day-long special teamwork exercise. On the last day of the conference a project unique to each group would be assigned and required to be accomplished by day’s end.

“To demonstrate how your group has become a solid team.” the instructor explained with an evil grin.

Groans echoed through the classroom. My group’s leader was the most vocal.

None of the five in my group had met before the conference. In fact, we each came from a different state and attended the conference for various reasons. My group leader made it clear that he had been told to attend and he voiced his annoyance often.

“Is the teamwork project on the final day mandatory?” he frowned as he asked our instructor.

“Yes.” the instructor said sternly. “Don’t skip the final project.”

In spite of a rocky start my group worked through the assigned projects for the day. Everyone got along and was very nice but there was little interaction besides working together on the assigned tasks. At the end of class we left together but nothing was said as we walked from the conference hall across campus to our quarters.

The campus was beautiful. It was well landscaped, surrounded by woods, and a huge lake was its centerpiece. As my group neared the lake on the route to our rooms we passed a small dilapidated brick shed tucked into the edge of the woods. One side of the shed had collapsed to expose what was once a cellar. We got closer and heard a slight rustle from inside. Two of us stopped to peer over the edge of the brick wall that surrounded the old cellar hole. When we did, a duck flew up and out, nearly hitting us in the face as it headed towards the lake. Down in the cellar hole, surrounded on all sides by the tall brick wall, was a nest with several eggs. Interesting, we thought, and continued on to our rooms.

The next morning my group met at the conference hall to begin our day’s assignments. Once again my group leader voiced his opinion about the massive project scheduled for the last day.

“Don’t ignore the final project.” the instructor reminded.

Each day that week was pretty much the same. Our group met, completed our tasks, said little else to each other, and returned to our rooms. We did well with our assignments but it was difficult to see progress being made towards becoming a cohesive team.

We stayed very late, almost until dark, on the eve of our final day. My group leader once again grumbled loudly about the next day’s massive assignment.

“Don’t dodge the final project.” the instructor warned.

We left the conference hall to head to our rooms no more a team than on day one. We approached the old shed, something we’d done every day, where one or two of us would peer into the cellar hole to look at the eggs. This time we heard the mother duck before we saw her. She paced along the brick wall, quacking loudly. When we got closer she hesitated a second before flying away, not to the lake, but to an old azalea just a few yards away. She quacked frantically as we, this time as a group, peered over the wall and into the cellar hole.

Huddled together in a corner were nine tiny ducklings.

They were hard to see since it was late evening but we clearly made out nine fluffy balls of duck. We weren’t sure how they would get out, but darkness, preparation for the final day’s project, and the hope that the duckling’s mother knew more than we did swayed us into simply heading back to our rooms.

The next morning we met to head down the path one last time to the conference hall. The only sign that we were a team was our mutual dread of that day’s final project. We ourselves weren’t even convinced that we’d come anywhere near being a “team” capable of working together when presented with an impromptu task.

In a fog of dread we marched towards the conference hall. The loud and frantic quacking we heard near the old shed snapped us out of it. The mother duck once again paced back and forth along the brick wall and flew to the old azalea when we approached. All nine ducklings still huddled at the bottom of the cellar hole. We as a group peered over the edge of the wall together.

“They’ll die in there” our group leader announced unceremoniously.

I looked around the collapsed shed for a board the ducklings might use as a ladder but found nothing long enough. Inside the collapsed portion of the shed though, was a gripper used to change light bulbs on a rusted, but very long pole. I pulled it from under bits of the collapsed roof and took it back to the group.

“Maybe we can use this.” I said.

The pole could actually reach the ducklings – which scattered and peeped loudly causing the mother duck to quack more frantically than before. Rust prevented the light bulb gripper from closing, so it was impossible to actually grab a duckling and raise it from the hole without it falling from the gripper. They could be scooped out maybe?

As we planned our approach there was a crash in the old shed. Another group member emerged with an old bucket.

“Can you scoop them into this?” she asked.

As the mother duck quacked incessantly, the five of us looked at each other and launched into action.

I used the long pole of the light bulb gripper to herd the ducklings into a corner closest to me. One group member, held tightly around the waist by another group member, leaned into the opposite end of the cellar hole as far as she could, the old bucket dangling from her hand. I leaned into the hole, scooped one duckling into the light bulb gripper, and passed it into the bucket. Success.

One by one I scooped ducklings into the dangling bucket manned by two of the team members. With each scoop, the remaining ducklings scattered. The other team members, using long sticks they found in the woods, leaned into the cellar hole to herd scattered ducklings back towards me. It took quite some time but we finally had a bucket of ducklings. The mother duck continued to quack frantically from under the old azalea as her babies peeped louder and louder in the bucket.

Together, the five of us walked towards the mother duck with the bucket. She backed away, frightened by so many of us, so our group leader went alone. He made his way slowly to within a few feet of the old azalea and gently dumped the nine ducklings onto the ground. They huddled motionless. The mother duck kept up the frantic quacking, moving closer to the fuzzy huddle, until one by one each duckling stood to run directly to her.

Her frantic quacking ceased instantly. She waddled slowly but steadily towards the lake with a mass of ducklings following closely between her legs. We actually applauded!

“Now that was teamwork!” our group leader said.

And with that comment we realized we were late for our last day’s mandatory project.

We hurriedly made our way to the conference room. Covered in rust, mud, and duck poop we mentally prepared ourselves for what the instructor would say about our tardiness. A feather floated silently in the air as we opened the door. The instructor turned to face us.

“Well!” the instructor began. “I was certain your group was going to duck out of this final assignment.”

“We did duck out!” our team leader responded.

The instructor didn’t understand why we five laughed in unison, as a team.

Stuart M. Perkins



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152 responses to “A Bucket of Teamwork

  1. Jay

    Well it’s nice to pull such a sweet story from something so terrible as a mandatory teamwork conference.

  2. What a lovely story. Thank you for putting a smile on my face. Xoxo

  3. This is a great story. You’re an excellent writer, I’m happy you saved the ducks, and I look forward to reading more. Thanks for that!

  4. It never ceases to amaze me how the Universe puts in our paths exactly what we need at the right moment. I think you have yourself a short story there complete with metaphor and message.

  5. Great write up 👍 just awesome 🙂

  6. Reblogged this on millie anne lowe and commented:
    An Exceptional Story to Share!

  7. What a wonderful story! I loved it – captivating!

  8. I really enjoyed your anecdote! Your whole story is predicated by awareness and caring. It is my sincere hope that we can be aware and willing to serve anyone or any thing that stands in need.

    Be seeing you,

  9. This is amazing and exceptional story.You are a amazing writer.

  10. Great story. I attended quite a few of those team building workshops and sometimes it was awkward to work with people that seemed disinterested. Luckily when we are faced with a difficult situation teams are formed unrehearsed and unexpectedly. The instructor had a goal but the outcome was definitely more authentic. Thanks for stopping by Poemattic. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  11. Great story! I love your writing style. It really captures the reader’s attention. Have a lovely and inspiring weekend 🙂

  12. I love the depth and the humor. Thank you for liking my post.

  13. Simply Amazing. It’s never easy for mama. Deeply moved by your writing. Happy Father’s Day.

  14. Great story. Thanks for visiting and following my blog. I will be watching yours as well. Very well written; poetic in some ways. Beth

  15. I love it! Hope all got A’s!

  16. What a gorgeous story…thanks for sharing! Somehow I knew you guys would save the day! Here’s one of my ditties that I think resonates for this one. Much love xx
    Life’s an experience
    I’m sure that you know
    But how do we continue to grow?

    By living a life
    So live it right now
    Not tomorrow or Wednesday
    Right now that is how

    How to be free from the concerns that we show?
    They really really really must go

    They ground us and hold us
    From greater pursuits
    They even can have us all dressed up in suits!

    Suits to suit others
    Not ours at all
    When will we ever remember the call

    The call to our greatness
    That’s really all

    This time like no-other
    Can help you relate
    To having a go at the things that can’t date

    Like laughing and crying
    And smiling too
    These are worthwhile things to pursue

    Take a look at a child
    And then you will know
    This is the very thing we should sow

    Sow in some fun
    Some happiness and love
    Mix it all in
    And don’t use a glove!

    Get down and get dirty
    From this day till the next
    Then maybe we won’t be so perplexed

  17. I loved this post. I love nature and really feel good when people help nature to survive and blossom. Of course, nature what I mean here includes flora, fauna and the environment on this earth. Very well written.

  18. Reblogged this on Live Your Dreams and commented:
    I really loved this experience of rescuing the baby ducks and the team work demonstrated by the group. Giving priority to saving life than to reach conference in time, is really commendable. Flora and Fauna also teaches many good things in life, like here the ducklings taught ‘team work’ to the group who had almost lost the essence of a team in the conference. Thanks Stuart for sharing this experience.

  19. lifestyleproblog

    Such a lovely story! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  20. Hi there. So I think your blog is awesome and I nominated it for the Liebster Blog Award! I can practically your excitement, lol. Congratulations! https://jazmynmatthews.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/well-i-didnt-really-prepare-a-speech/

  21. Great storytelling. Lights up a smile, and that’s always good.

  22. This is great! I loved how the story progressed and the finale was fabulous! You and your team saved nine lives 🙂

  23. Hi there… I nominated you for a One Lovely Blog Award

    You can check it out here, if you are interested:


    All my best wishes! Aquileana 😀

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