Tame the Tiger of Teamwork
By Dan Stockdale
ever felt like a tiger tamer without your whip and chair when you’re
in a meeting that has degenerated into chaos? Most team breakdowns
happen because of a lack of communication; the team members are simply
not listening to or respecting each other. Instead of trying to
achieve harmony and work effectively and collaboratively for the
team’s interests and goals, they’re hostile, territorial, and
committed to their own individual agendas.
leaders and participants can learn how to achieve team harmony from
professional animal trainers. By using their strategies, you can get
each team member to deliver the results that will fulfill the team’s
mission and work effectively.
Remain calm: When you’re dealing with large animals, like a 300-pound
tiger, you must stay relaxed and composed, no matter how the animal
behaves toward you. Showing your nerves can cost you your life. In
business, you risk your job, or possibly even the whole company, if
you lose your cool. At the very least, you risk losing control of the
meeting and losing the respect of peers and superiors.
things get heated, petty, and distorted, you need to solve problems in
a rational, focused manner, rather than letting them grow further and
further out of hand. Take immediate steps to restore order by
restructuring scheduling and taking steps to strengthen communication.
First, remind the group of the reasons they were brought together, and
be firm that each person take on the responsibility of remaining calm
and staying focused on the issue at hand. Then, keep the group focused
while acknowledging and respecting whatever has driven the team
off-course. Calmly and quietly say, “I understand XYZ is a
significant issue, and we will be sure to address XYZ later in the
meeting. Let’s finishing
talking about ABC right now so we can get to XYZ as soon as
Tigers, like people, love consistency; they eat, sleep, play, and
learn at generally the same times every day. Like animals, we are
creatures of habit and simply function better when we can anticipate
what’s next. Knowing what to expect and when to expect it makes us
feel safe, and if we’re in conflict with our team members, routine
will comfort and calm us.
proper protocols from the project’s or meeting’s beginning and
follow them so that everyone’s expectations are the same, and each
individual knows what his or her role is on the team. Ensure that
lines of communication within the team are clear, and implement
back-up systems as necessary to ensure that routine can be followed to
the greatest extent possible.
Animal trainers recognize that each animal learns at its own pace;
some catch on extremely quickly while others learn more slowly.
Teaching certain behaviors takes a long time, and the trainer must
remain tolerant and flexible, trying new approaches as necessary to
accomplish the needed results.
your human team, you must allow enough time to accomplish the business
at hand without rushing slower team members. The team will be more
effective with sufficient time to accomplish the work, and you will
achieve more buy-in from all members. Because they all have their
areas of expertise, individual team members will also have their own
issues that need to be addressed.
Be indulgent and let each team member take the time they need
to effectively present their concerns.
remember to exercise your
own patience with the team, and require all team members to exercise
patience to each other during the process.
Anticipate and plan:
Trainers know they must stay one step ahead of their tigers. When
working with large, dangerous animals, trainers always have an escape
plan in mind that will protect them by removing them from the work
area. They know to always
keep the worst case scenario of a possible attack in mind and to have
an escape plan at the ready.
in mind all possibilities of what could happen is key when you’re
working with your team. Anticipate as much as possible what road
blocks might arise. Given the issues you’re working on, what things
are likely to happen? What could
happen that might be less likely but is still a possibility?
Respect personal issues:
Male tigers, especially, are territorial and may not necessarily like
to be near each other. And
if they’re having a particularly bad day, the trainer can tell and
will probably choose another time to work with them. Exotic animal
trainers must respect the tigers’ personal issues about territory
and space, and you should do the same thing with a team.
all team members for what they bring to the table, as this
understanding will keep the atmosphere of the meeting less negative
and aggressive. The team members must simply agree not to get in each
other’s faces! Even when they disagree with one another, or confront
inevitable differences in personal preferences, personality, style,
and views, they must all recognize the value of each individual to the
Behavior breeds behavior:
If a trainer were foolish enough to be aggressive toward an animal,
the animal may respond aggressively toward the trainer. Likewise,
within a team, the way you approach someone determines how he or she
reacts to you and how that person approaches you in return. Be aware
of your behavior, tone of voice, and any latent hostility or other
issues that might influence others’ behavior negatively. Whatever
behavior and attitude you put out there will very likely be the type
of reaction you get back from your teammates in response. Approach one
another with a professional attitude. The Golden Rule holds true: If
you want people to be nice to you, you have to be nice to them.
Taking One for the Team: If you try all of these techniques and
share them with other team members, chances are good that your group
will be more productive and effective, and therefore generally
happier. But what if you feel you’re doing everything “right,”
and the team still refuses to work together or follow these tips? You
should try to keep the team together and share what you’ve learned,
encouraging the other team members to try it, but also realize that
sometimes the team simply may have to disband and re-form with new
tigers don’t work out in one performance group but may excel in
another group. And there
may be rare occasions when a tiger goes into a retirement program or a
sanctuary because their personalities are just too aggressive. You
shouldn’t literally have to send any team members out to pasture,
but, depending on the situation and how far off track it is, if a
single individual is keeping the team from performing, eliminating him
or her from the team could do the trick, and the remaining team can
get on with the work at hand. By implementing these team-building tips
in your organization, you’ll quickly find that your group
accomplishes more in less time, thus showing a positive contribution
to your company’s bottom line.
Read other articles and learn more about
[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis.
Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and