In our latest article with inspirational leaders, Natasha Volkk at Moon Consulting talks to Chris Farnsworth, Head Shepherd and Founder of Raising the Baa, which challenges corporate teams to come team building with sheep. They discussed whether Natasha is a Sheep, a Dog or a Shepherd, and how understanding different people’s profiles can help you to work as an effective team.
Starting at the beginning, can you explain the concept of Sheep, Shepherd, Dog?
When you ask most people if they’re the sheep, the shepherd or the dog, they will say “I’m definitely not the sheep because I’m not a follower, I’d like to think I am the shepherd because he’s the one in control but actually thinking about it, the dog is the one who actually does all the work. The dog is the one really at the coal face, moving the sheep, getting the sheep and doing everything and that’s how I feel. Therefore, I must be the dog.”
But as a shepherd I see it very differently.
How many people go off to work, sit in the same train carriage in the same seat, they have the same routine every day and at the end of the day they say, that was a terrible day at work, but they do nothing about it? It’s that’s exactly the same with sheep.
Sheep don’t care what’s going to happen in the future, they don’t really care what happened in the past, they live in the now moment and are very focused on having an easy life. They’ll only push the boundaries when they’ve eaten all of the grass in the field they’re in. When they find a little hole to go through, one or two sheep will get out first but there has to be a critical mass before all the sheep go into the new field. Nobody wants to be last, nobody wants to be first, they want to be in that middle group. And that’s what most people will do - they just go for the comfortable zone.
Dogs are athletes who want to go higher, faster, longer and whatever it takes to make them do that is what they’re interested in. Give them a challenge and they will do it. Just think of them jumping over a sheep hurdle or a gate. It’s four times higher than they are and yet they jump it because you’ve given them the confidence to do it.
The essence of the dog is being very focused.
They are also real team players. In people terms, they’re ones who want to get everything organised, the ones you can just trust them to get on with it. They’re also the highly efficient people because part of the dog mentality is that everything needs to be in the right place. You ping them an email and say come back to me in six months-time and there they are six months later, because they’ve got an efficient system with everything in its place.
The shepherd is the really interesting one in that the shepherd does three things.
Firstly, they deal with the detail. It’s not always obvious if a sheep is ill or not, just like some people who are very guarded, you have to read their energy. So the shepherd has to look for the slightest signs to interpret their state of health.
The second thing, the shepherd needs the big picture as well. They know what is happening next week, next month, next year, in 10 years’ time. In a breeding programme, it will be a lifetime’s work and so it’s really important to have that longer vision of what’s going to come up.
The third thing, which is really important, is being able to see things from the sheep and the dog’s point of view – what’s in it for the sheep, what’s in it for the dog. In business this might be how your put yourself in the shoes of your customers and your workforce.
Are most people a sheep, a dog or a shepherd or a mix of all three?
To be all three is rare and people might strive to be all three, but they will find their tendency is to be more one area than the other. For example, they might be mainly sheep but have a time or a period where they are very dog, very focused, but then slip back into the comfort zone. The adventure zone is scary and why do you want to go there, why do you want to keep pushing out of the field and challenging it?
The interesting thing with sheep, is we put them behind electric fencing but it’s actually more of a psychological barrier. They get a momentary shock, but they don’t understand where it’s coming from. People are the same - if they don’t understand it, they are less likely to challenge it and will simply accept the same thing time and time again.
The interesting thing is, even when one sheep gets to the far side of the fence, the others will go ‘no it’s too painful’. How many times have we heard that in business? I can’t do what you do because you’ve already bitten that bullet. Whereas the other person is on the far side of the fence saying, if you just do it, get over the pain, then you too can be in this massive green field and you can eat what you like. But most people are not prepared to take the pain to get through the metaphorical electric fence.
Do you think people change throughout their lives – they start as one thing, then develop their careers and personalities – and then change into something else?
For me, it’s rather like training a dog. You can’t train a dog that doesn’t want to chase sheep but if you have a dog who does want to chase sheep then you can develop it.
Sheep on the other hand are naturally curious – they’ll think ‘I’ll have a nibble of those roses’ and go ‘mmmm they taste different and are actually quite nice, now I’m just going to eat all the flower heads.’
I think most people start out with a set of skills and then develop them. However, you need to keep curious just like a sheep, because once you stop asking, the adventure zone becomes very big and scary. But if you keep asking what happens if I push this button, does the rocket go up in the air or does it just fall over? How can we test that? That’s good because asking questions is how you develop.
If you’re not curious then you tend to be more dog, not so much curious just more focused.
How can you apply this principle to problem solving as a team?
That is an interesting question. When faced with a problem most people tend to want to hand the problem to someone else, so they are dissolved from any responsibility, but that isn’t a team player.
When teams come team building with Raising the Baa, we make sure that there is no handing over. When you are working with the sheep it’s your responsibility to put them in the pen and to achieve that you have to work together as a team. You can’t phone someone up and say great I’ve got hold of you, it’s now your problem, now I can blame you for the sheep escaping and all the roses which have been eaten.
The truth is if you continue to take responsibility for something and encourage team work, you’ll get a better result. The sheep will be in the pen not eating the neighbours’ roses!
Moon Consulting work with our clients to build teams which work together. We understand the importance of recognising how different people’s personalities and attributes - be they sheep, dog, or shepherd - impact on the dynamics of the team.
We have an extensive network of high-calibre, pre-registered and fully vetted candidates on our database. Our large professional network means that we are ideally placed to identify new team members who can bring the expertise and client base required to grow the business whilst positively impacting the local environment that they operate in.
More importantly – after the meeting, Natasha was found to be a cross between a dog and a sheep and though she thinks she’s more sheep than dog.
For more information about Moon Consulting speak to a member of the team on 01275 371 200.