The quick response to the question would be a fighting spirit that doesn’t show mercy and does exactly what it needs to survive. But, what about negotiating skills, building a rapport, understanding people’s needs and presenting a united front. There is so much more to business than meets the eye and a lot more to the animal kingdom than a single glance portrays. From the family orientated, resourceful ant, to the selfless journey of the penguin to provide food for its babies, black and white stereotypes are as ignorant as they are shortsighted.
There are times when human spirit and human characteristics just do not seem enough for triumphing over life’s obstacles. This is no exception when it comes to business. We could all ‘roar’ on occasions when a superhuman strength feels necessary to advance past the pressures and stresses our working day throws at us. In fact, we often turn to animal instincts when we feel backed into a corner or challenged beyond our coping mechanisms.
There is something very primitive at the core of business. When someone challenges it or issues threaten the survival of your business, your baby, you fight for it. You throw everything including the kitchen sink at it. There are different challenges and different skills required to combat each of them. Does it require?
- Decisive action
We are looking to the animal world to draw out five characteristics of five animals that could help you face any battle your business encounters.
An honourable, solitary, independent, strong and powerful animal. The pack is led by the leader or alpha who can be male/female. An alpha male usually controls the activities of the other pack members but in some cases a very strong female can usurp control from him and lead the pack. Equality has been there in nature all along! The structure of the pack is beneficial to all wolves in it as they survive in the wild away from human interference.
The pack mentality is that there is power in numbers and this also holds true for business. Whether that means you build a team of loyal and complimentary employees or you build a network with other local businesses and exchange business/skills/information with them. These two models can both give you security and strength where it would not exist if you were operating as an individual.
Wolves hunt in a group and collectively care for and teach their puppies. Hunting as a group means they can take larger prey. They also relay in the chase so they can conserve their strength by taking charges in turn. This is delegation operating at a very simplistic level but its message is a powerful one. If individual wolves tire there will be less present for the kill and the chance of no food retrieved from a kill at all increases. By sharing the workload they ensure their bounty, create equality, and stay safe. Businesses survive when a team or a pack can suffer some losses and work together for the biggest of gains.
You may be thinking that this is an odd choice but there is something about loving animals that make them all the closer to their human counterparts. A golden retriever wants to please everybody. They tend to be loyal, warm, and always there to comfort you. If we humanise them, they would likely find it hard to make tough decisions for fear of upsetting someone.
But every workplace needs characteristics of the Golden Retriever. They are trusting, open hearted and loyal individuals. This leads clients/customers to feel appreciated and cared for which is a quality that can never be overlooked. They also gel a team together because they thaw out colder colleagues and continue to demonstrate what a loving and loyal character can bring a workplace. Their relentless efforts are endearing to those around them and they probably make great huggers too!
As the cartoon suggests, avoidance is the roadrunners chief skill. Some problems just need to be prevented, ignored, or for want of a better strategy, run from. Roadrunners usually have very sharp observation skills. In the wild they will see a problem immediately and be changing direction almost instantly. They are fast so their solution may be impulsive but they are far from indecisive.
Roadrunners in human form will try to avoid conflict at all costs. It is difficult to find out what their problems are because unlike an Emu that is stationary when it plants its head in the sand the roadrunner disappears from view. They will always avoid petty and meaningless conflicts making them a great remedy to overly dramatic personalities. However, they will allow problems to remain unresolved. Their logic and sharp observation skills will alleviate conflict in a tight team. Given the right time to prepare they will choose not to flee and contribute a very valuable insight into any issue that arises.
What do cobras demonstrate in the wild that is a skill useful for business? Possibly on of the core strengths of any successful business leader. It is not quite as obvious as it may first appear. Cobras do not just strike at their opponent with lethal effect. They assess a situation, circle their opponents, and only ever enter conflict if they are certain of the outcome. Unless they are unnecessarily riled or threatened in which case they can have quite a deadly temper!
Cobras in human form are calculating and if they can insight others to retaliate for them they will. They can sometimes come across as manipulative and scheming but the heart of the cobra is to resolve conflict and constantly oversea the entire landscape instead of getting distracted by small details. Cobras work well when time is put aside to talk everything through, plan the road ahead and let them have their say/give their input.
Eagles relish the opportunity to select their prey and decisively put it down. Their hunting strategy is brutally efficient. They have a complete overview of every situation, flying at distance from their target until the perfect opportunity arises. We associate Eagles with nobility, pride, power and prowess. There is something masterful in their skill set and simplistic about how they get what they want and get the job done.
Humans who have an Eagle spirit are flawless. They understand how conflict can be valuable and use conflict management techniques (listening, repeating what’s said to avoid misunderstandings, calmly stating multiple opinions and being open to other solutions). Eagles are often at the core of a business but are very rarely the leader as that is a difficult position to keep neutrality in. If you have hired an Eagle then you have a flawless fighter that should be used in the capacity of mediator and mentor to other members of the team.
Ultimately, everyone is different but if you are going to create a sustainable team a good mix of the above is best. Take key characteristics from the animal world and build a team that can handle itself when conflict arises. Do not view every team member as identical to the next because they will each have unique, skills, strengths and failings. That is just the way they were made and it is your job to utilise them so that you are getting their best performance. They are happiest when they are using the characteristics they have naturally acquired:
The Wolf unites
The Golden Retriever supports
The Roadrunner sees everything
The Cobra analyses
The Eagle mediates