Are You Asking a Cat to Bark?

There have been countless moments in important leadership settings where I have used this funny but powerfully true statement, “We are asking a cat to bark.” Last week we focused on the “you” horse and how everyone has a unique self they must learn to master. In a similar manner, we each have strengths and weaknesses based on who we are, what we want, and how we are wired. Likewise as we learn the discipline of focusing on structure first and defining the role around best practice, and then picking the right person for that specific role, our enterprise blossoms and prospers. We get healthy.

The seats are defined, and we want the right person in that seat. Somebody out there is praying for that seat that is perfectly suited for it. We want that person!

Three ways to apply the best practice of asking a cat to bark:

  1. Culture: Many of us have read that culture eats strategy for breakfast. Our culture is like the aquarium we build for our business. We live in it, and it is designed to sustain the health of all of us living within that culture. Just as with an ecosystem, certain living creatures and organisms will prosper in that culture, and some will wither and die. Imagine putting a cactus in an arctic setting. What would happen? Our culture is designed for people who want to be a part of that culture. It is also designed to grow and sustain them. Likewise, some people may wither and die in this culture, yet they may prosper and grow in another culture. We should know our culture. We should recruit and hire and edify those that fit and prosper in our culture. Otherwise we are putting someone in our culture that will not thrive. This is asking a cat to bark.
  2. Specific Roles: Getting the right people in the right seats is extraordinarily powerful. It is stunning as I work with really good companies, with really good brands, with good leadership teams that have wrong people in wrong seats. They live with it. They do not address the people issues until they blow up. At any level, from executive to entry level, getting the right people into the right seats is the single most powerful thing we can do to build our team. When we move people around who should be terminated, we are asking a cat to bark. When we put people in roles they will not be able to performing at a high level, we are asking a cat to bark. When we re-purpose a team member that has no legitimate role within our company, we are asking a cat to bark. It does not work.
  3. GWC – In the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) we have what we call GWC. Get it. Want it. The Capacity to Do It.
    • Get it implies that the team member absolutely gets our culture, core values, and the specific role he/she has to accomplish the team goals.
    • Want it implies that the team member really wants his/her specific role, wants to hit the goals and wants to be here right now to work together with this team.
    • The capacity to do it implies that the team member has the ability, training, experience and education required to exceed expectations for the role.
    • By assessing every member of the company from executive to entry level with the GWC People Analyzer, we get past asking cats to bark, and we proactively get the right people in the right seats.

Imagine putting a cactus in an arctic setting. What would happen? We should know our culture. We should recruit and hire and edify those that fit and prosper in our culture. Otherwise we are putting someone in our culture that will not thrive. This is asking a cat to bark.

Have you ever been in meetings where the leadership team is exposing a team member who is late to work, has a poor performance track record, and is unreliable? So a steady bashing of the team member ensues and the decision is made to part ways. People have been complaining about this person for months. No counseling or PIP has helped. Then one of your peers says, “Well, can we move him to customer service? We have an opening there?” Then some of your other peers say, “Yeah. That might work. Maybe we should try it.” What? There is nothing logical, wise or best practice about this. This is an example of problem worship. This is where you can use the phrase, “Team, we are asking a cat to bark. This is futile. We need to part ways with this person.”

When we move people around who should be terminated, we are asking a cat to bark. When we put people in roles they will not be able to perform at a high level, we are asking a cat to bark. When we re-purpose a team member that has no legitimate role within our company, we are asking a cat to bark.

In closing I have always felt it is best to part ways with team members that do not fit our culture, do not fit a solid role in the company, and who are not GWC. We can part ways with kindness and empathy, and offer a runway of severance to help them. The decision to put the right person in that seat is the driving best practice. It is the most humane thing to do with our solid team members who do fit. It is the solid thing to do for our customers and partners. Many times I have reminded the leaders on really good teams, that we do not want to shuffle cats around into dog seats. It will not work. The seats are defined, and we want the right person in that seat. Somebody out there is praying for that seat that is perfectly suited for it. We want that person!

Call a meeting with your leadership team and ask this simple question, “Where in our organization are we asking a cat to bark?” Look into EOS and GWC to see how tool-sets already exist to help the leadership team address these and many other best practices. If you need some help, call me. Cheers!

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