by Arielle Essex

Group dynamics: a new twist on meetings

At most meetings you will have a mixed group of dogs and cats. Remember that the highly people-skilled, competent dogs usually get along with everyone and they are likely to be willing to listen and want to know what everyone thinks. This means that dogs present few problems at meetings. They value team work and will probably contribute most of the data involved in a project. Dogs also look up to powerful cats for approval and they will be watching the cats in the room to see who will take the leadership role. They will tend to follow the influence of the cat they agree with and concur. Cats may contribute the least, but they hold the most power through their silence.

Meetings of dogs

Whenever only dogs are present at a meeting, you will have excellent team work, high participation, good brainstorming, productive planning, bags of competence and lots of camaraderie. Conflict is rare, as understanding, compromise and mutual cooperation are so highly valued. Care will be taken to honour and preserve good feelings. Everyone’s input will be sought, heard and taken into consideration. This kind of team may operate and perform extremely well out of loyalty. The dog with the most cat-ability will preside, but everyone’s opinions will be aired and shared before mutual decisions are voted on. Productivity may be slow, but there’ll be a lot of fun.

Meetings of cats

The word meeting may be an overstatement here. In a room full of cats, the vying for competition and power will barely be disguised. The jostling for position in the hierarchy of biggest to smallest cats can be brutal. Little time will be spent on social graces. Preference is given to delivering bullet point reports – fast, direct and to the point. Expect open challenges, criticism and conflict over ideas, values, perceptions, judgements, facts and events – from all sides. Any display of feelings has no place at such meetings and results in an instant loss of face and power. More civilised versions of these meetings may conceal these dynamics in a more passive-aggressive style: using courtesy and protocol, with polite gestures of pretending to listen, to cover the underlying dynamics like a sugar coating.

If you get to thinking you’re a person of some influence, try ordering somebody else’s dog around.

Will Rogers

Meetings of dogs and cats

Cats at these meetings will probably hold the focus of power. If you win the alignment of the cats, you will also command the following of obedient dogs. Dogs will probably dominate the air time and may even preside over the meeting as facilitators. Dogs may challenge on technical points, but the quiet cats will contribute last and make the final decisions. Cats at the meeting may vie for power. Dogs will look to the cats for approval, support or contradiction. The cats will have the final say. Conflicts between different cats at the meeting need to be predicted, pre-empted, and handled with care. If possible, cover solutions to all potential challenges before the cats have time to object, in order to take the wind out of their sails. If you can’t appear to be the most knowledgeable and biggest cat in the room, be sure to acknowledge who is, and then align yourself with them.