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Border Collies : Who are your border collies on your team?

As a manager, look at your team members.

Some questions to consider:
What is their nature? Are you using their nature to achieve the best results?

Lets talk about border collies by way of illustration. Border collies are sheepherding dogs.

This info about border collies comes from a border collie breeder that I talked to at the Scottish Games on 9/3/16.

Border collies are very intelligent. Intelligence and physical endurance are the ONLY characteristics that are selected for by border collie breeders, not looks, not elegance: intelligence and endurance.

A border collie:

  • can have a working life into 12-14 years;
  • takes 2-3 years of training;
  • are only good when they are 4 years old;
  • want to do a job WITH you;
  • are eager to please by doing a job.

However, border collies:

  • need a meaningful job;
  • are not dumb like greyhounds (border collie breeder’s words :-);
  • are not content with being stuck in the house during the day.

Border collies can become OCD if trapped in a house. They can decided that their job is to “solve the couch” problem. or obsess about a corner. [Side note: My sibling had a border collie and man oh man did that dog fixate on its ball]

One border collie cannot train another. It annoys the old dog and frustrates the new dog.

Dogs are trained to go clockwise / counterclockwise around animals. (i.e. not left/right when compared to owner)

Basic commands are:

  • clockwise, counterclockwise around the dog’s focus ( the owner or the stock ),
  • lie down: which means stop and pay attention to what the owner is asking – but it also relieves the “pressure” on the sheep
  • get back: advanced command the dog backs off

Two dogs working together are called a brace. To give commands to 2 different dogs: might use name followed by command OR have 2 different sets of verbal commands.

In this sheepherding competition there was:

  • a three minute timed course with three sheep
  • The dog needed to bring the 3 sheep around the handler;
  • up through the center gates then back down through the side gates;
  • into the Maltese cross getting all the sheep to turn through the correct exit for this course.

With the Maltese cross, the hard bit is that if dog waits too long to turn the sheep: the head sheep goes the wrong direction. too soon and the back sheep scatter.

The handler can make themselves “big” with shepherds crook but can not actually push the sheep.

When watching the competition, the difference between the winning team and the other teams was clear. On the winning team, the collie was making the move almost before the handler called out the command. The collie knew what the next command was and was just waiting for the signal. On the losing teams, the collie was leaning the wrong way; or took a fraction of a second to understand the handler’s command.

Lets look at this competition as an analogy for managing a team.

With sheepherding, the handler needs to manage the vision and direction of the border collies.

As a manager, your job is similar. Your team is smart and capable. The manager can’t function without a team. The team needs the manager’s vision of the future. The border collies are the eager senior+ team members. They are eager to go. They are capable and want that next challenge. They are better at their job than the manager.

In a well-functioning team, the handler and the collies know each other. They are not interchangeable. A team and a manager are a single unit. The team knows the manager and can anticipate the manager’s next actions. The team can see the challenge ahead and they know the desired goal. The team is always set up for the next action.

In a out of step team, the team has no foreshadowing from the manager. At every decision point, the team is in the dark about what are the next steps. This is a sign of fundamental differences in communication style. The manager thinks they are communicating successfully, however, the team is not hearing the direction in a consistent way that makes sense to them. The border collies and the handler sense the world differently – yet they still coordinate to successfully herd the sheep. Similarly, the team senses the world and situation in a way different than the manager does. As a manager your job is to bridge your vision to the world that the team sees.

Posted in knowledge, management.

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