Friday 12th February marks the Chinese New Year and the start of the Year of the Ox. The Chinese Zodiac is based on a twelve-year cycle, with each year related to an animal – rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.
Each sign has reputed attributes and we thought it might be fun to look at how the various traits could contribute to a successful team by examining them in the context some of the key requirements for effective teamwork.
Shared Vision and Goals:
- Productivity is higher where there are clearly defined and agreed objectives. Everyone needs to understand the overall goals even if they have their own sub-goals.
- Determined at the outset, objectives should clearly account for the expectations of the organisation and have a defined process for monitoring progress. Feedback on progress is important for understanding the team’s achievement and informing future activity.
- Clarity of individual roles and responsibilities is also important.
Goal-setting will be an easy sell to the oxen in a team. Before taking any action, they will have a definite plan with detailed steps, to which they will apply consistent effort as they work towards goals. Similarly, pigs have great concentration and once they set a goal, they will devote all their energy to achieving it. Goats on the other hand, can be disorganised and monkeys may lack self- control so persuasion as to the benefits of structure action planning may be needed.
Communication & Collaboration
- Equality of communication between team members is a must. Everyone needs an opportunity to contribute and be heard; dialogue should be open, honest and two-way. Agreeing communication structures at the outset (e.g. for progress updates, raising issues) can support collaboration further.
- An understanding of different communication styles in the team, with a willingness (and capacity) to adapt as needed, will enhance the effectiveness of interactions particularly when collaboration is needed.
- But collaboration cannot occur without a willingness to be open to others’ views and perspectives based on their specific roles in the team. Active listening is vital here. As is respect for other’s contributions.
Be mindful of your roosters! They are outspoken, frank, open, honest, and loyal but they expect others to listen while they speak and they can become agitated if this doesn’t happen. Typically, snakes are good communicators but say little. Dogs find it difficult to convey their thoughts to others and can give an impression of stubbornness. An awareness of such differences can help with understanding variation in approaches and responses in the team setting.
- The greater diversity of skills, knowledge and working styles, the more likely the team is to be innovative in its approach and the better equipped it will be to meet different challenges and overcome obstacles.
- Considering how the different skills and strengths of team members may be complementary is important for understanding how the team dynamic may function.
- Diversity helps with trust and collaboration as individuals understand the value they add, as well as where the capabilities or skills of their team members can be relied on.
Compassionate and popular rabbits make excellent team players. Horses love to be in a crowd and are extremely animated and active – which brings a great energy to a team situation but could be overwhelming for the snakes who prefer to work alone. Team scenarios may be more demanding for snakes, but a little time and space usually allows them to rebalance. In terms of team leadership, it may be worth looking to the Dragons who are natural born leaders. Alternatively, confident and authoritative tigers also make competent leaders, although they can be stubborn and tough in their judgement.
- Individuals and the team as a whole must feel able to make decisions.
- To work innovatively, by trying new things or considering different approaches, people must feel able to ‘fail’ without fear of consequences. Failure promotes learning and, if viewed positively, will encourage the team to bounce back from setbacks.
- Individuals must feel empowered to bring their own expertise and insight to the table, to support their willingness to influence the group’s thinking and potentially its direction.
In terms of thinking and working creatively, rats are quick-witted, resourceful and versatile. Tigers are courageous and so more inclined towards trying something new, although not necessarily in a planned manner. Monkeys too are creative, quick-witted and astute. Dogs, however, can criticise sharply when making comments which is not conducive to making people feel confident in sharing their thoughts and insights. The compassionate and sympathetic nature of pigs and goats could be beneficial in supporting those in the team that need encouragement in feeling empowered to take action.
- Whilst the objectives of the team are shared, recognition for individual contribution is important to avoid social loafing.
- The team needs to be aware of the progress of individual team members to understand the overall progress towards team goals.
- The more accountable individuals feel, the more likely productivity will remain high and the team’s progress and momentum will be maintained.
Compassionate, diligent and generous pigs will be disinclined to shirk their responsibilities. And the same applies to sympathetic and amiable goats who have a strong sense of justice. Having great patience and a desire to make progress, oxen will be totally on board with accountability. Roosters can tend to brag about themselves and their accomplishments however, so whilst the scope of their individual contribution will be clear, they can be irritating to their peers. And monkeys enjoy pleasing self before others so may need persuasion when it comes to avoiding social loafing!
At WPG, our team comprises rats, oxen, roosters, snakes, horses, goats, pigs and dogs. Some of the character traits we recognised, and some we didn’t! But the exercise did spark a lively conversation around the different ways people operate, how they prefer to receive information and the circumstances in which they do their best work.
Click here to find out more about the Chinese zodiac signs and start your own discussion. And happy Chinese New Year!