Let me tell you a secret…
People are the same.
We need time to process information.
We need detail.
We need to feel in control.
We hate change.
And so the list goes on…
So if you lead a team, or if you are a parent, what can you do today to make sure you can communicate in a manner that will give you win-win results? You can become an effective zookeeper.
How to communicate effectively with your team
If you imagine your office is a zoo and that every morning you have to feed the animals so that not only are they easier to handle but are receptive to the fee-paying public, you wouldn’t feed them all the same food, would you? Your creative sales and marketing team are your monkeys, so they need “bananas”. They need lively interaction and colourful animation – just like a packet of Starburst – and they need it in short bursts, just as they do with praise. The strong, determined, persevering types are your lions, so they need “fresh meat”. They want the best quality, they want it on time and you definitely don’t turn your back on them while you are feeding them – just as you don’t when giving them praise. The analytical, detailed, questioning group are your elephants, and they need “fresh vegetables and loads of grass”. They need it on their own terms, in their cage rather than in public, and you will be amazed at how they perform, for a quiet word in their ear is all the praise they need. The caring, sharing and nurturing team are your dolphins, and they need to be fed “fresh fish throughout the day”. They need to know that they are making a difference to the community, the environment and their families. If you can share what a difference they’ve made to the organisation then that’s all the praise they need.
When we wrote our book It’s a Zoo Around Here we wrote from the point of view of an effective zookeeper. Many thousands of people have read it and are now influencing their companies, inspiring their staff in the right way rather than their way. Consider whether your company operates like a zoo, or are you operating in the old-fashioned way (it’s my way or the highway!)? The individual traits of each animal (department) can be broken down into a simple matrix. We can categorise 98% of people into one of the four cages, although this doesn’t mean you can’t have some of the other characteristics too. The writer of this article, for example, is a typical monkey. I was given quite a large lead time to write this piece and, in my normal manner, I said, “no problem.” Then I went on holiday and in the meantime the deadline was getting closer and closer. Now, my PA is a massive elephant, and she asked me many times: “What is the schedule? What is the plan? What information do I need to make sure the article will be ready?” The person who asked me to write this is a typical lion, and the conversation went something like this: “I need an article by 15 January and it needs to be 1,500 words. Will you deliver it by then?” It was more of a statement than a question. My wife (dolphin) asked if I needed any help with the article and what could she do to help. Also, would it interfere with our family time and perhaps we should ask for an extension as the children would be home for Christmas?
All of the above were deciding factors in putting this article together. Think about your teams. In everyday situations we need to consider them more than ourselves. So what could you do to become an effective zookeeper? Effective 21st-century leaders know the secrets of how to release potential in their people! Successful 21st-century sales professionals know how to build a lasting rapport with their customers! Engaged 21st-century workers know how to build positive relationships with their peers and managers! At the speed of change, the rules of success are a moving target. Intelligent leaders integrally understand that companies do not do business with other companies, but rather with the people they trust in those companies. They understand that a company’s people is its currency, and that if that currency should be devalued, their company will become one of the successful companies of yesterday.