Within the group of tag agencies that I help lead, there are 40+ individuals that call us home. I can sincerely say that we house a great number of “bulls” – fully engaged, passionate individuals with an admirable work ethic and even a pleasant demeanour. Industry-wide, I have also been around long enough to encounter those to whom I refer to as “cows” – these are grazers who are the exact opposite of their bovine counterparts. They like to coast, live between the cracks of accountability, whine about timelines, use process as a scape-goat (yay, more animal references), have no relevance or insight into our industry or the industries they serve and often put themselves before the objectives. Now before you start ranting on the bull, male versus cow, female thing, don’t – that’s not what this is about.
I like cows well enough, they generally do their bit between the hours of 9 to 5 and then go home to tweet about the game, post a pic of the restaurant or concert they’re at, or spend quality time with their family. All good and normal, I suppose. We all have our own personal goals and I’m not professing that you should’t do these things. For me personally, family is extremely important – and believe me – I do my willing and happy share of rec sports with the kiddies, help with the homework, quality downtime and playtime with family and even some adult time with my beautiful wife. If there is anything left, I hang with friends and play soccer with the guys on the weekends. It’s a busy life, so I get it. I also love it.
I think the main difference between a bull and a cow is that a cow roams aimlessly and stupidly. Just grazing on whatever is in front of it. They are not defined by what they do, they just do. They don’t see themselves as anything important. They could take a second look and realize that they are one of the most versatile and important animals on the planet for what they provide. That they have real value. But they don’t. So they’ll never graduate to “bulldom”. They’ll just mope around and do what they do everyday with only the “green” of the grass in mind. The pay cheque. Now, I’ve often said that those who chase the dollar rarely achieve it. Chase your passion and the dollars will naturally follow. I believe that to be ultimately true. That said, when you act like a cow you become a commodity, just like a, well, cow. You should read my previous post for some insight on that, but generally, the less you are engaged the more that your “tasks” can be done by others.
Now lets get to the bulls. These are the people who you want on your squad. Thought leaders, motivators, inspiring, strong, strategic and creative mind-blowing talent. Right? But they are actually more than that. These are the type of folks who still live very fulfilled lives outside of their profession and yet will define themselves in a way that is completely inclusive of their professional passion. They are never “off”. They inherently follow the industry and its trends, make fantastic contributions to the thoughts and commentary, dive deep into the cultures they need to influence, and think about stuff even when they technically aren’t required to. It might sound to you that I have just defined a leader, but I really haven’t. I have simply isolated some of the attributes associated to someone who even has the potential of becoming one.
So here is what usually happens. We put the weight of our daily and long-term objectives onto the bulls. After all, we can’t count on the cows to do it. And as it goes, when the bulls begin to run out of steam, we whip them. Hard. We milk them for everything they’ve got. Expectations for them are high and while they do give their all, even the strongest of creatures will buckle under the enormous strain. I’ve been guilty of this and in fact, still am. Sometimes I even whip myself (bite your tongue). But it is this realization that will become the catalyst for meaningful change. For me and for you.
And there are the cows over there. Cautiously glancing over and calmly grazing. Full of milk and potential – or at least meat.
Geez, Fab, what’s the point already?
Okay, okay. I know I’m supposed to keep this short or I’ll lose you – so here goes. The point is that we are too often surrounded by cows – and while we are completely aware of their existence, we do nothing to influence either finding the spark in them that would convert them into majestic bulls or simply taking out the hatchet and making steak. Whispers: “The horror.”
EVERYONE ON YOUR TEAM NEEDS TO BE A BULL.
It’s exactly that. The value of your organization, the potential for your collective success, exists in creating a bullish cult that is enthralled by what they will do for the rest of their meaningful lives. Yes, they might cost more. Yes, they will have an opinion. Yes, they will challenge and not be complacent. And yes, they will actually give a shit. And yes, it will put a lot less pressure on the bulls you are milking today. And we all know that you really shouldn’t attempt to milk a bull.
Does the world need cows? Sure. But you can bet that I’ll only be farming them in for the day when the bulls need their much deserved play time.
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