When dealing with the emotional aftermath of letting a much loved member of my team go my coach asked me to look at my team as animals. This process helped me to accept that I had made the right decision, because I get a better picture of how they work as individuals and what kind of ‘animal’ I need and don’t need working with me, how different personalities will interact and effect each other in the close quarters of the office.
A lion and a zebra may not be the best of friends, but looking at the way they behave, their defining characteristics and tendencies gives insight in how and why we as humans behave as we do and can be used as a reference as a way of managing the differences in personalities.
I knew which animals I would assign to my team but wanted them to know how they would describe themselves and have that conversation with them all so they would get a greater understanding of the team they were working within too.
Hilary Nightingale, my social media manager: A dog.
‘I have chosen a dog to represent me at work because I often feel afflicted with the need to please. I like to provide for others, am fiercely loyal and like to find the good in others - to find reason for poor attitudes and behaviour. I definitely do not like to make mistakes and always feel really bad after, if they are made.’
I had thought of Hilary as a meerkat, looking out for everyone around her, busy and efficient and working very well within a team – so the two were not so different!
Samantha Stonehouse, PR. An Otter.
‘The animal that I think I would be in terms of work ethic is an otter. Intelligent, communicative, popular, hard-working and useful. I focus on problems but can become easily distracted, I never give up, suffer from self-doubt, am determined, a good motivator whilst avoiding taking on leadership roles, perform well in groups, have good social skills and I am loyal.’
For me Sam is was a Flamingo. Wanting to be part of the team, delicate but strong and agile at the same time and trying to be the best she can be, just like Flamingos try to be as pink as they can.
Jo White, Finance. Dolphin.
‘My animal that I believe best represents me would be a dolphin. I am entertaining, stay close to my family group and can fight off a shark in one swift motion! I also feel that when I am in my domain, I am at the top of my game.’
Perhaps because of the Savannah theme I was going on, Jo was a Hippo to me. Happy in the water or the land, laid back and placid the majority of the time, but one of the deadliest animals when crossed.
Jess Yarnold, Graphic Designer. Another Dog
‘I am less of an adult dog and more of a puppy. I like to take on tasks that involve lots of things to do, to keep my interest up. I am creative and look for ways to get things done that aren't always conventional.’
I saw Jess as a lion cub, she is young and is learning and playing while doing so. As I work closely with Jess as an Art Director type I am quite often criticising, changing and sometimes rejecting what she does. She never sulks about a metaphorical clout from me, she just comes bounding back for more much like a cub would in a play fight.
And I was a lion. Not sure Lion or Lioness, the clichéd leader of the pack, provider of sustenance and security for my pack, always working and alert to opportunity and danger even if it looks like I am asleep under a tree. I can throw my weight around if I need to but let the pride get on with their jobs with me keeping an eye and taking the lead when I need to.
So there you have it
It seems that all of us fit perfectly into the 'African plains' of Push Start Marketing, we all have a role to fulfil and I can now think of the other types of animals I need as I grow the team.
Just talking about this and everyone’s animal sparked so much conversation. For example, it came out that Jo, as a dolphin, is skilled at balancing, but if she were to drop her ball, Hilary as a dog would happily bring it back to her! Thoughts and reminders of each others personality traits come up all the time and it helps to be able to think to ourselves, 'that's because she's a ....' it helps us to understand one another a little better.
If you’ve the inclination ask yourself what animal am I best represented by when I'm at work?
And what animal are my colleagues?
Share your thoughts with each other and I guarantee you will have one of the most enlightening conversations ever.
With thanks to Charly Cox for setting me that homework in the first place.