“What makes us human may not be uniquely human after all”
David Attenborough – naturalist and TV compare
What kind of manager are you?
An ostrich or a meerkat?
Last year I travelled to Southern Africa and experienced viewing the amazing African wildlife from a canoe and a 4WD safari vehicle. African wildlife is best viewed quietly, early in the morning or in the evening. I love watching David Attenborough’s nature series. The most recent series I watched was about meerkats. Unfortunately, I did not see an meerkats on my trip. However, I did see some elephants, hippos, lions, wild dogs, jackals, crocodiles, various species of antelopes, buffalos, hyenas, monkeys and ostriches.
This got me thinking about management styles and the animal kingdom. On safari you have plenty of time to think and reflect. Watching the sun rise, lying under a tree during the heat of the day or drifting in a canoe. Some animals remind me of some of the managers and business owners I have met over the past 30 years.
Think of the ostrich. What do they do? They run, hide and avoid a problem. An ostrich does not actually bury its head in the sand when confronted by danger. However, they flop to the ground and remain motionless. This passive behaviour only exacerbates the danger and it becomes an easy target for a predator. Not much good if a lion or hyena is hungry and chasing you.
Ostrich managers refuse to recognise reality, do not listen, are often loaners, refuse to seek advice, don’t act on facts and resist change. They do things the same way they have always done and fail to adapt.
On the opposite side of the African animal kingdom, are meerkats. Meerkats are a species of mongoose. They live in colonies of up 40 animals in desert or semi-arid areas of Southern Africa. What are the traits of a meerkat? A meerkat sits up, scans the horizon to watch for danger, is constantly alert and addresses the risks and adapts. Meerkats also display altruistic behaviour and watch out for others in the colony and work as a team. This includes lactating to feed others babies. They nurture, mentor and teach young meerkats to hunt. For example, adults pull the tail of scorpions, a favourite food so young ones can safely learn to hunt.
Meerkat managers build strong cohesive teams, are always looking out for others in their team, mentor staff members, look out and adjust for risk, collaborate with others and continue professional education and…
So, some questions you may wish to ask yourself….
Are you an ostrich manager or a meerkat manager?
What are you DOING to become a meerkat manager?
What should you STOP doing to become a meerkat manager?