Communication: Four Men (and Two Women) in a Boat

SailingI went sailing in the Solent recently. There were six of us in a 35-foot boat – four boys, two girls and varying sailing skills, plus varying degrees of resilience to the weather extremes we encountered!

As you can imagine, working and playing together in a confined space, often in challenging conditions, required us to work as a great Team. Above all, we needed to Communicate extremely well. Over a few beers on our second night (in Ryde) I explained our unique Communication model – “It’s a Zoo Around Here” – and within five minutes each person in the group was engaged in identifying their own personal Communication style:

  • The visionary, single-minded Lion
  • The playful, extrovert Monkey
  • The careful, analytical Elephant
  • Or the caring, supportive Dolphin

It turned out we had two Lions – fortunately perhaps, one was our Skipper (male). The other was female. Given our Skipper’s sailing experience and local knowledge, he was the natural, unchallenged Leader. All sailing decisions were his; route planning and evening activities were decided via the male Lion setting out the criteria, followed by a Team vote.

Zoo AnimalsWe also had two Dolphins: one was our Skipper’s brother. He was a competent sailor and took care to help and support others in the group with unfamiliar or challenging tasks. He also cooked breakfast for the whole Team every morning, AND did the washing up! Occasionally he became frustrated, feeling that others were not doing their fair share. Not everyone noticed this – however I did, and by showing that I did, and by helping out, the Dolphin was soon happy again and back doing his thing.

The other Dolphin was new to the group, so she did a lot of observation – Dolphins notice everything – and soon had the measure of all of us. She particularly enjoyed noticing animal behaviour and exploring the applications of Zookeeping.

We also had two Elephants. One (male) was a competent sailor, and enjoyed being on deck, either sailing the boat or checking that others were doing things right. He also kept a check on the weather forecast and made sure that someone was always on watch for potential hazards. In addition, he managed our money (we operated a “kitty” system).

As the other Elephant, but also as a Zookeeper, I was able to relax and enjoy myself – and indulge my inner Monkey. Most people have a preferred Communication style, but will adopt other styles depending on the circumstances, or the specific role they’re being asked to perform. We didn’t need two Elephants in our Team, so I tended to jolly everyone along, when I wasn’t Zookeeping.

All in all we made a good Team and we had a lot of fun. Understanding our inner animal and the principles of Zookeeping helped us to bond quicker and work and play more effectively. Now we just need to devise a system for managing the weather!

Find out which animal you are: take the “It’s a Zoo Around Here Quiz

To find out more about becoming a Zookeeper contact us

Its a Zoo SS SmBuy our simple, fun and practical guide, designed to help you and your Team become Zookeepers and dramatically improve your Communication outcomes!

Paperback. 100 pages. WEB PRICE £10 (RSP £15.99) + P&P

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Stephen Spencer is a keynote speaker, business coach and consultant, helping organisations create better Customer Experiences to unlock team and profit potential. He has over 25 years’ experience as a leader, trainer and experience developer with some of the UK’s most prestigious Retail, Tourism and Hospitality brands. Sign up for Stephen’s POSITIVE Customer Experience newsletter here.

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