Mark Richardson: Are you a thoroughbred or a donkey?

People are not only your most important asset in your business, but they are also the most complex and complicated creatures.

August 15, 2013

As a columnist, I am always looking for new ways to communicate. Sometimes we use case studies. Sometimes we use numbers, facts, and figures to make a point. Often, we will use metaphors to help a reader understand a concept. We also use metaphors to get someone?s attention and read our work.

Let me begin by saying I am not an equestrian expert. Nor do I have anything for or against any type of horses. To be truthful I can barely ride a horse. However, I do find this particular comparison of this animal interesting as I attempt to communicate the importance of how you look at people on your team.

Recently, I attended a board meeting for a company related to the remodeling industry. One board member asked if Bob, a team member, was a thoroughbred or a donkey. My reaction was to perceive the thoroughbred as a Top Gun and the donkey as the lesser. This question led to further discussion that an organization needs the right blend of both type of team members. It is critical to understand that you don?t have a donkey run the Kentucky Derby and that you don?t feed a thoroughbred the same food you would a donkey.

People are not only your most important asset in your business, but they are also the most complex and complicated creatures. While you may intellectually understand the thoroughbred vs. donkey metaphor, and how it relates to people in different roles, do your employes see themselves as a thoroughbred or a donkey?

Do you feed them differently? Does your investment in training fit their role in the company and who they are?

As human beings, and especially as Americans, we are taught that everyone was created equal. We are taught not to discriminate. We want to give everyone a fair chance to reach their dreams. But as business professionals, we know the world is much more complex. As business professionals, we need to understand the role in the company that requires a great donkey. We also need the ability to identify who the thoroughbreds are in your company.

The following are a few thoughts/tips for understanding this subject.

1. Institute metaphors

Use this metaphor (or another metaphor such as pick-up trucks vs. race cars) to begin to classify the roles in your business. Don?t make it painful or literal. Have fun with it and make it a discussion topic among your senior management team. Business is a game, the greatest game in the world.

2. How employees fit in

Try to list some attributes and qualities of your present team members and how they fit this metaphor. If you are creating new roles, then use this exercise to understand better whether you are looking for someone to win a race or pull a wagon.

3. Discriminate

This is not a nasty word. If you feed donkey food to the thoroughbred, their performance may be below expectation. If you feed a sales person the same as a production person, it may not only reduce his effectiveness and he may leave your company. The key to healthy discrimination is that it needs to come from an understanding of how both roles fit into your company vision.

4. Buy in

Business is more than ever a team sport. The player must not only to work together effectively but also be motivated to work hard and achieve goals. Get buy in from your team to not only see the roles but also the differing requirements and skills needed for each role. Create a buy in plan for this and everything you are trying to roll out and you will likely be more successful.

5. Celebrate the donkeys

Being a donkey is what it is, a fact of nature. Being a great donkey needs the same degree of importance and celebration as winning the big horse race. What is important is not what you ?are? but what you ?do?? I would take a great donkey over an average thoroughbred any day. The key, however, is to not forget to celebrate the great donkey.

In closing, I hope I did not offend the horse industry. I hope I made you think about people and roles differently. And I do hope I made you smile. If you understand the subject of business a little more, and not just the product of the business, you can make it even better. PR


Mark Richardson, CR, is an author, columnist, and business growth strategist. He authored the best-selling book, ?How Fit is Your Business,? as well as his latest book, ?Fit to Grow.? Richardson will also be a speaker at Professional Remodeler?s Extreme Sales Summit in September 2013. He can be reached at mrichardson@mgrichardson. com or 301.275.0208.


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