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The phrase cat herding or herding cats was use by the columnist David Brook to describe Doug Lemov, Managing Director of Teach Like a Champion. In his column in NY Times, Brooks writes, Lemov is talking about the skill of ‘herding cats.’ The master of cat herding senses when attention is about to wander, knows how fast to move a diverse group, senses the rhythm between lecturing and class participation, varies the emotional tone. This is a performance skill that surely is relevant beyond education.

These skills go way beyond the classroom, where a small business entrepreneur or project lead has to be alert to sense when his employees or the team members are showing the tendency to move away and wander from the vision, mission and goals of the organization or project. Cat Herding skills are nothing but the sensitivity and situational skills that are used to influence and persuade the team to work together in a synchronized manner to achieve the project milestones and goals. Businesses are looking out for people who are good in cat herding because these people know how to get things done.

Cat herding is a critical skill that is most sought after by many firms and the skill sets possessed by these people include the following-

  • Acute listening, focusing and attention skills- Being present and responding to the clients, and team.
  • Courage- Being courageous enough to clarify when a doubt arises, understanding as well as taking the required action as per the demands of the situation.
  • Flexibility- Being open-minded and non-judgmental with the people you are dealing with.
  • Language usage- Using words and phrases that puts the listener at rest and also that resonates with listener.

Why Is Cat Herding An Invaluable Skill

Imagine that you need to get a complex project done and this is going to turn the tide of your business in the near future. Your employees have disparate skills sets and personalities. This means the firm need to have a good and wise manager who is experienced enough to handle people with differed creativity and mindset to successfully complete the turnkey project.

  • Bring people together deftly- An effective cat herder can bring together the people with various personalities, turn the enemies into colleagues to help complete the project.
  • Replace personal goals with team goals- Adapt at making individuals keep their personal goals aside and focus on the team goals.
  • Collaborate- An effective cat herder will encourage collaboration not only between people of the same team but also among the various teams.


The Questions A Cat Herder May Ask A Small Business Owner

Simply put, cat herder competency is the ability to herd cats. However, the biggest challenge is how to develop this critical competency at the organizational level. To determine the cat herding competency at the organization level, the following are the possible questions that an effective cat herder may ask the hiring personnel.

  • Am I empowered to make decisions? Or do I have to submit business cases before getting a green signal to go ahead with my agenda.
  • Do I have to ask permission always? Or am I allowed to take action and apologize when I am wrong?
  • Can I change the process as per the situation or do I need to seek appointments of the seniors or hold meetings?
  • When my subordinate manager sends in a requisite for hiring someone, am I allowed to open a requisition? Or do I have to get the approval first.

It’s a fact cat herders are in great demand and afore mentioned questions are some of the frequently asked ones by a cat herder before he joins an organization. The reason is if the culture of an organization is not liberal and wound too tight, it will be a herculean task to retain them.

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