Are You Leading Cats or Dogs?

Ah, pets.  Aren’t they wonderful?  Well, until they mess up your place, but other than that, aren’t they the best?

Ah, employees/associates/team members/whatever you call yourself.  Aren’t they wonderful?  Well, until they mess up the place, but other than that, aren’t they the best?

As a leader, I’m always analyzing the world, looking for new ways to accomplish the same ole tasks.  I’m the one that when I cook, I like to add off the wall seasonings, just to shake things up a bit.  Recently, I was watching a show highlighting the epic age-old battle between cats and dogs.  Then, it popped in my head, this is a lot like teams I’ve led in the past.  There are cats, and there are dogs.

Disclaimer: I am not trying to bash one animal over the other so before you or PETA decide to send outrageous comments on any of the notations in this post, please know ahead of time, I will not read your email or comments.  This is simply to drive a bigger point home that is obviously too big for you to comprehend.  Thank you.  (Now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on!)

Cat-Like Employees:

One thing I have noticed about cats, is they are their own animal.  They could care less about schedules, routines, doing tricks to impress people.  Most of the time, they come and go about on their own schedule, not thinking about much but what they want to do.  In general, they come around when they need food or when they want you to show them some affection.  Another observation about cats is that they cover up their “messes” in the most polite manner possible.

Cat-like employees act in much the same way.  They are their own person, usually caring less about schedules and routines.  If you were to ask a cat-like employee how they would characterize themselves, they would gladly say they are just someone who “marches to their own drumbeat”.  Let me translate that for you: “I am not going to do what you want me to do, I am my own boss.”

Another way to look at cat-like employees is how they come around for one of two reasons: a check and praise.  These employees or associates tend to do their own thing until something is needed of someone else.  Then, for no apparent reason, their focus changes.  All of the sudden, they become very helpful, nice, and often appear to be team players.  Don’t be fooled, they are only after one thing and it will be something for them.

Finally, the nice/nice so nice thing about cat-like employees is that when they mess, they tend to hide it.  They’re nice and neat about cleaning it up and then walking away like nothing ever happened.  Not sure if you’ve ever tried to discipline a cat for messing on your floor, but it doesn’t really work.  They appear to care less.  Same is true with the cat-like employees.  They like to hide their mess ups and if you try to discipline them, well, it doesn’t really stick.  So if you find yourself with a bunch of cats for employees, my advice would be to watch where you step!

Dog-Like Employees:

Dogs too, are their own animals but there’s something different in how they are wired.  It seems to me they are wired to serve.  If you watch a dog show, you will often hear the announcer discuss how the particular breed came to being by describing what service the animal was bred for.  For instance, the golden retriever was bred to, um retrieve. Regardless of the breed, it seems dogs are naturally bent to help their human masters.

Now dogs can be clumsy, too playful, and let’s not forget destructive, but when you get down to it.  They come around seeking your direction and wanting your approval.  If you want to play, they’re ready to play.  If you want to bum around, chances are, they’ll bum right there with you.  They like to fetch and bring things back to you.  Under the right supervision, they can be trained to do all kinds of things, all they seek is your approval.

Employees in this realm are fairly the same.   You have to deal with their clumsiness, playful attitudes and sometimes unaware destructive natures, but overall, they’re on your team.  They’re ready to go wherever you see fit and truly have the heart of a servant.  They seem to have a smile on their face while completing a task, knowing they will have your approval shortly following.  All they need is a simple pat on the back and a square meal and they’ll come back for more.  These are the treasure employees to have.

Now, one down side is that I’ve never known a dog to cover up their mess.  They’re almost proud of having that mess openly displayed.  You can train them not to do it in certain places, but can’t really train them to cover it up when they’re complete.  Employees how are like dogs are similar, they won’t attempt to hide their mess, often because they don’t really see it as being a mess to begin with.  The good thing is, you can actually train them whereas with cats, training can be a futile effort.

All of this is in fun.  Like I said before, I am not a cat or dog lover/hater.  I just enjoy taking something normal in life and using it to help understand what goes on around me at work.  Hope you enjoyed this post.

Trent Cotton has spent a number of years in management and business consulting. After spending some time in the field, he joined the HR department, beginning in recruiting and eventually serving as the Department Head of HR for one of the major lines of business. With such a varied background, he works to bring all of these together to help organizations incorporate best practices into their business to help them succeed. In his free time, he also writes a lot on his other blog, Christian Men, Christian Warrior.

For my professional resume, click here.

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