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The Top 10 Tips for Herding Cats: Techniques for Managing People

Herding cats - picture that scenario in your mind and think about what a difficult task that would be if that were your job. Cats are independent, try to be in control of the situation at all times, and definitely don't like to be told what to do! Managing people can be equally as challenging. Substitute the word "people" for "cats" as you practice the following Ten Tips, and you'll be well on your way to successful people management while maintaining your sanity, a sense of humor, and perhaps a shred of your dignity.

1. Lead without commanding.

Ordering cats to do anything is a waste of everyone’s time and talents. Cats usually respond better to non-threatening, non-aggressive leadership, and are more likely to accept leadership if it is offered and not imposed.

2. Earn their trust.

Cats need to know that their leader can be relied upon to be truthful, fair, consistent, and supportive. Respect must be given before trust can be earned. Respect who the cat is and you'll eventually be rewarded with its trust. Trust is mutual - you must also trust the cat.

3. Be real.

Be yourself, and be genuine about it. Kids, dogs, cats - they all can spot an impostor from a mile away, and they always seem to know who really doesn't like them, no matter how you try to disguise it. On the positive side, they also sense who does like them.

4. Give them space.

Cats do things for their reasons, not yours. Cats need freedom to move about without restrictions or judgment. Cats need space just to be cats. They need permission to explore, wonder, learn, and to take charge of their own actions and responsibilities.

5. Provide lots of rewards.

Cats need to feel valued and affirmed for who they are and what they do. Rewards, even small treats, mean a lot and are always appreciated. Be generous with praise and don't expect any in return.

6. Take time to play.

Cats like to relax, stretch, and find ways to play. Playtime helps provide cats a positive way to relieve stress, to refresh and renew themselves, and to turn on their creative juices. Just watch a cat imagine that a feather on a string is really an exotic bird to be hunted.

7. Land on your feet.

Develop a win-win attitude in all your interpersonal relationships. Never back a cat into a corner, and allow everyone (yourself included) a safe exit with grace and dignity.

8. Read the signals.

A growl, a hiss, an arched back and a ruffled tail mean "back off!" There is usually a very good reason why a cat senses danger or is reluctant to go in the direction you want it to go. Pay attention, and try to find out what's causing the problem. Sometimes it's not a good idea to force the issue.

9. Be clear about boundaries.

Cats need to know their limits. Be clear, consistent, and firm about the rules and boundaries. A spray water bottle and a loud "NO!" work wonders if used only when necessary. (NOTE: the spray bottle technique isn't recommended for people, even though it may be tempting at times...)

10. Keep the litter box clean.

Well, there are some messes that must be cleaned up as a part of any manager's job, aren't there? Maintain a clean, safe environment in which to do your business, and you'll have much happier cats!


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