Organization needs few goats, many sheep

We found a cool place to vacation in Rhode Island this year. The owner calls it Goatopia. She has created a little slice of heaven beside the Sakonnet River.

She is a former dancer who took her dance studio and her artistic style to create a unique and comfortable guest house for visitors.

The house is surrounded by beautiful gardens where she also tends to chickens and goats daily. The goats have names and you can tell the Billy because he stands proudly on the tallest stump in the pen.

This place got me thinking about how employers tend to their flocks. As employers, we have a responsibility to understand who works for us and what we want people to do for us. Results can be achieved when understanding how employee traits translate into achieving goals.

But here’s the thing — do you need a herd of goats or do you need a flock of sheep? They may look all the same but there is big difference.

The owner of the house likes goats because they are independent thinkers just like her. There is nothing ordinary about her place and it’s as colorful and whimsical as she is.

Goats are curious by nature and are quite independent. Goats can produce some wonderful side products like milk and cheese.

Sheep on the other hand prefer to stay put, gather together and give us things like the wool off their backs.

Many people respond to goat-like behavior from leaders and entrepreneurs. We expect the Billy to dominate.

While goats are wild, sheep are domesticated, suggesting that sheep have a greater ability to build close relationships. Goats like to browse and go for food that attracts them even when out of reach, while sheep love to graze close to their surroundings.

Some of our most notable leaders began with wild thoughts, and people would say the person was as crazy as a goat. Some have dominated emerging technologies by going for it.

And the side effect of those ideas has been equally enjoyed by many. Those leading companies need lots of sheep to cultivate their ideas and work in teams to do the work and bring the ideas to life. Both animals are beneficial to mankind but it’s the sheep that create the fabric of the organizations.

Troubles occur when confusing the two species. You may have admired and sought out a goat when what you really needed was a team of sheep. Freethinkers are a pain. They don’t like being told what to do. They would rather have it their way, or at least be made to believe it was their way.

Conversely, sheep will begin to act like goats if they are unattended. My Italian mom used to say, “If you want your kids (pun intended) to follow you, you shouldn’t let them wander around like goats.” Italian village wisdom — you just can’t beat it.

And goats play a crucial part too. Goats are fearless. There are plenty of examples where a leader brings about profound change and builds an exciting company. Then something happens — the leader is gone. Someone says, we are fine. We don’t need a replacement.

Over time, the organizational structure begins to fracture, and silos develop because no one is there to pull it all together.

Handled correctly, a company can leverage a free spirit to lead their teams to fulfill the innovative ideas, opportunities and industry changes. And there are still large flocks of sheep to tend. The goat will need people who will stick around and work to make it all happen. People need gentle guidance and to be shown appreciation for their ability to work together harmoniously.

In the best scenario, a company’s organizational structure will contain some free thinkers and more followers. A few fearless goats and a whole lot of sheep.

We need to be continually challenged by independent thought and we need to learn ways to get the most out of our teams. Ewe can even create your own unique Goatopia.