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. Nice Story, and thanks for your like.

  2. What a fantastic story, great job rescuing the ducks:-)

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed this one, once again it is the little things in life that give us the most joy. Finding and caring for a bucket of ducks becomes far more important than attending conference sessions. Last year my family spent a few weeks at a resort and a cat gave birth to 6 kittens under some nearby bushes. We and a bunch of other guests spent a heap of time each day watching these kittens play and sleep. A light bulb changer may have come in handy! Great post yet again, thanks Stuart.

  4. When there’s a true mission teamwork is good!

  5. Absolutely, awesome! I love this teamwork story! If only your instructor knew…

  6. Proper motivation was all it took

  7. Great read to start the day!

  8. I see (now that you’ve come over to look at my doors) that I didn’t comment even though yesterday I loved reading this story very much. It is very inspirational and evokes all the right reasons to be in a team. Thank you for it.

  9. Me

    Nice! I like the fact that you used the ducks. Good idea!

  10. Nil

    Great story, lovely writing! 🙂 Thanks for sharing…
    And thanks for the follow too 😉

  11. Great story! Very heartwarming. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Love this story Stuart! I find that teamwork happens best when the focus turns outward and in pursuit of a noble outcome. So, were you still required to complete the final “team” project?

  13. Wish there was a “love” it button. Awesome tale!

  14. This would make a lovely children’s book.

  15. Always love your stories. Thank you again.

  16. Wow Stuart, this is such a beautiful story. I was captivated by the title because I used to organize team building sessions for an organisation I worked for and thought I might get an idea or two but this is far more inspiring than I had thought. Life does teach you things in an unexpected ways. Funny how you were not feeling or acting like a team until you solved a problem and did a good deed together (Plus your grumpy leader turned out alright, taking leadership with placing the ducklings back with their mama 🙂 )

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  17. That was a brilliant story. i loved the fact that you did all manage to pull together in the end, not to mention the fact that you saved all the little ducklings. I had to laugh at the Instructor’s comment about you all ‘ducking out’ too!

  18. habisha

    Awesome story.

  19. I LOVE this !! ❤ Great writing with the suspense pulling us forward. The word play on "duck" in the end is spot on. The nine ducklings and their "tiger mother" did what neither the Instructor nor the members of your group could do. Hurah for Mother Nature ! 🙂

  20. Great stroy 🙂 And Thank you Stuart for following me & leading me here to your wonderful blogsite !!

  21. A lovely post! Well done on saving the ducks!

  22. Reblogged this on Eu, Renata! and commented:

    Real team building

  23. I really enjoyed the duck story. Well written!

  24. Heart warming story~ you all have helped mother duck reunite with little ducklings ❤

  25. freemoviedownloadhdmovies

    Very nice

  26. Great story. I liked the way you led the story to such a wonderful ending.

  27. Great story. A+ for teamwork I would say.

  28. Thank you for the follow and the marvelous story!

  29. That was such a lovely story!

  30. Got me thinking, how we need a bigger cause beyond ourselves to really come together.

  31. Hi, Stuart! I really loved this story. I’ve been to so many of these conferences (as a teacher) and I remember well the make-work assignments we’d have–and the annoyance so many people would voice, which always made getting these assignments done even more of a drag. Your story points out that real teamwork is a group response to a real problem. The “duck out” comment was soooo cute! I love your stories! They are so uplifting! I always look forward to reading the next one! I hope one day you put all your stories in a book and present it to your kids. Gloria Date: Wed, 10 Jun 2015 17:36:53 +0000 To: talcove@hotmail.com

    • Hi, thanks for such a great comment! Any of those “team” assignments make most people groan, but the baby ducks prompted an instant response. It was really fun (and actually very funny) to be involved in. Thanks again for the compliments!

  32. Red

    I enjoyed that story. I had a sneaking suspicion that those ducks were gonna bring you altogether! Thanks for sharing. I needed to read a “positive”. Have a fantastic day!

  33. Hey Nominated you for the versatile blogger award. heres the link.https://sunesiss.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/1057/

  34. Nice! I take it the conference didn’t help much. At least not as much as one good opportunity to genuinely express teamwork

  35. Loved this story. Made me smile.

  36. What a wonderful example of teamwork! We often don’t see the forest for the trees, eh? Your group was a team without even realizing it.
    Great story. Thanks for sharing.

  37. That was a great story…thanks for the giggle. There are many ways to be a team and obviously you have learned that…:) Thanks for checking out my blog too.

  38. Awwww. Team work. Nothing like it. 🙂 Thanks for the follow. Here’s hoping my brother continues with his team work approach to our reno.

  39. Awesome read! Just goes to show ya, we can all pull together when need be!

  40. Good story. I like how you used an “everyday setting” and made it interesting.

  41. Shery Alexander Heinis

    Wow! What a wonderful story about a practical teamwork exercise. Yes, we all dread it but what a great way to bring a team together.

  42. moylomenterprises

    Lovely story! Fear of the unknown always holds us back but we can all rise to occasion when challenged. Great lesson in teamwork. Curious to hear how your team did at the final project though 🙂

  43. I have found myself in situations such as yours several times during my graduate years and I can really relate to your tale. A fantastic story with a genuine moral in the end! Kudos!

  44. tellthetruth1

    What a beautiful story, Stuart. Takes me back to last week after visiting my hubby in a care home. Waiting for the bus, suddenly, this huge family of ducks: both parents and a brood of ten crowded around my walker. If only I’d had a camera!

  45. Lovely story, with the ah factor. Good teamwork. Proper example. Great.

  46. lisa d

    Love this one

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