Herding Cats vs Leading the Pack – How to Guide the Pride Like a Zookeeper

Zoo animals in a business meeting

Wrangling a team of different personalities, skills, and communication styles sometimes feels like rounding up zoo animals at feeding time. Trying to get everyone headed in the same direction while avoiding stampedes and pecking order battles is a major win. 

The trick to keeping your team from running wild? Great management.

What You Can Learn From Your Local Zookeeper

Curious about what makes a solid pack leader? Here are some vital skills every animal handler has in common. 

  • Attention to detail. Zoo animals all have their specific dietary, routine, and habitat requirements. A great zoo keeper monitors what their animals need and keeps a close eye on any changes. Paying attention to the details means that animals remain safe, content, and healthy. This is true when managing humans as well. Keeping an eye on the little things ensures smooth sailing – and means small things won’t turn into big ones. 
  • Intuition. Data is important, but trusting your gut matters as well. Zoo keepers know their animals well enough to feel when something isn’t right. The more time they spend around their animals and environments, the more likely they will develop a solid spidey sense about when to act or react. Human managers can take note – the better they understand their team, the more they can step in or make snap decisions. 
  • Patience. Animals march to the beat of their own drum. Things don’t always go as planned, and sometimes a plan B (or C) is needed to get to where you need to be. Human managers can take note of this skill – and the adaptability and flexibility that go hand-in-hand with it.
  • Communication skills. Animals speak their own language, and it takes time to learn to communicate with them. Great zoo keepers are skilled at “speaking” animals through their body language, tone, gestures, and routines. They’re also pros at speaking with other animal experts, zoo personnel, and the public. The same goes for human leaders – those with great interpersonal and communication skills are able to build trust and get things done. 

Humans and Animals: Not So Different

Just as humans have their own quirks and ways of thinking and acting, so do animals. In fact, if you’ve ever had a team member describe something as their “spirit animal,” there just might be something to it! Let’s take a look at the Myers-Brigg personality types as animals – and how you, as the office “zookeeper,” can manage them.

  • ENFP – Dolphin. Smart, outgoing, and inventive, these team members are the life of the party, and always bring enthusiasm and joy to their work. Just watch out for the practical jokes!
  • ENTP – Chimpanzee. These smart thinkers are all about inventing and innovating – and love to share their work. They’re adaptive and communicative and make great leaders. Keep them challenged and engaged, and they’ll reward you for it.
  • ENFJ – Dog. Loyal, caring, and compassionate dogs are great pack members. They’re mindful of everyone else’s emotions and are the glue that holds things together. Show them some attention and appreciation, and they’ll never forget it. 
  • ENTJ – Bear. Strong and logical and never afraid to speak their minds, bears are powerful team members who never back down from a challenge. Let them stand tall – but ensure they’re not showing their teeth to other team members! 
  • ESFP – Seal. Chatty, adventurous, and quick on their feet, these team members are a joy to have around. They’re great at adapting to their surroundings and love to be in front of an audience. Tap them for presentations or sales. 
  • ESTP – Cheetah. Adaptive and quick on their feet, these team members love to run at any challenge at full speed. They’re a massive asset to your team if you’re in a fast-paced, changing environment. 
  • ESFJ – Horse. Focused and dependable, this team member is great at relationship-building and tends to be popular with other colleagues. They’re loyal, with a respect for authority, and tend to follow the rules. Pair them with a dog, and you’ll have the friendliest team around. 
  • ESTJ – Lion. A natural leader. This team member is loyal, steadfast, and great at rallying a team. They tend to lead with logic over emotion, but their goal is to achieve the best for their team. They’re generally highly respected by others.
  • ISFJ – Deer. Quiet, dependable, and harmonious, these team members can always be relied on to put their heads down and pod along. They’re kind and friendly and will stick around long-term if you look after them. 
  • ISFP – Sloth. Calm, relaxed, and unflappable, these team member does their thing without rushing or dwelling. They have a strong moral compass but tend to live in the moment. They’re a great mediator and bring balance – and chill – to your team. 
  • ISTJ – Bee. Industrious and methodical, this team member is all about structure, routine, and getting things done. Keep their work and surroundings predictable, controlled, and with clear goals and objectives, and they’ll get right to it. 
  • ISTP – Cat. Self-sufficient and curious, cats like to do things their own way. They’re not bothered by what other people think of them and love to work alone. Give them space to think and work, and learn to be okay with them communicating via email instead of in person. 
  • INFP – Elephant. Wise and thoughtful, these team members are as empathetic as they come. They’re great problem solvers and creatives but don’t like to be the center of attention. Give them people-centered questions and problems to work on, and they’ll do you proud. 
  • INTP – Owl. Logical, analytical, and precise, these team members are best left to their own devices. Give them your most challenging problems to work on, then leave them be. Avoid putting owls in the spotlight or making them work in groups.
  • INFJ – Whale. Quiet and empathetic, these gentle giants put their team first, approaching problems in a compassionate, insightful way. They lead with intuition over knowledge and work best in smaller groups. 
  • INTJ – Octopus. Extremely smart and aware of it, your team’s octopus is a pro at solving tough questions but doesn’t have time for “wishy-washy” social stuff. They’re extremely driven and determined, so throw those tough questions at them!

Did you spot any of your team members in the above list? Consider what “animal” attributes your team displays and how you can best keep them looked after – instead of running wild. 

It Takes One to Know One: Which Animal Are You?

Great zookeepers all have a bit of Doctor Dolittle in them, but they all have their own management styles. Want to find out whether yours aligns with how a wolf or a whale does things? Take our quiz to find out what animal language you speak best – and what it means for your team! 

If you need help leading your pack, we are also here to help. Give us a call

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