ImageMy wife and I are cat owners. We have three of the little rascals, each with very different temperaments and personalities. I thought I’d share a little about each of them with you today.

First, there’s Scooby. He has been with my wife since he was a tiny kitten, and was a very important (feline) person to win over when I first met her. He is absolutely devoted to her and follows her around the house all day long. He is a very sensitive soul and likes to stay close to home, climbing onto laps for a cuddle and a snooze. His favourite toy in the world is a folded up crisp packet that he loves to play fetch with. Yes, you read that right, he is a cat who loves to play catch. Having been the only cat in the house for quite a long time, he is also used to being spoilt and has developed a taste for some very un-cat-like foods, like Doritos and hummus, for example! He wants to share whatever you’ve got on your plate.

Then came Alfie, a little bundle of energy and fluff who we got as a kitten nearly two years ago. He is the smallest of our household and the one who is very much in charge – pushing the others off their food bowls so that he can eat what they’re having, starting fights with them both even though they’re twice his size, and curling up to sleep right in their personal spaces till they get fed up and move! He is the bravest of the three, venturing off quite far and spending as much time as he possibly can outside, often curling up under a bush for a snooze. He’s extremely independent and usually takes himself off into a different room for a sleep, popping back every now and again for a quick tummy rub. He’s a skinny wee thing, clearly a fan of the supermodel look, and is only really interested in actual cat food – he can’t usually be tempted by any scraps from your plate, perhaps making an exception for bacon fat every now and again.

Finally, Phoenix came into our world. He actually adopted us, showing up in our garden over a period of time, starving and petrified. To cut a long story short, it turned out that he had run away from his previous owner’s home 6 months previously and had been living outside on his own. He decided to move in with us and, by agreement with his previous owner, we kept him, and has been with us about 6 months now. He’s a big, muscly, butch boy, but he doesn’t seem to know it and he’s such a big softy and extremely gentle. He absolutely loves cuddles and enjoys getting as close as he possibly can to your face, including laying on your head in the night. He is extremely timid and doesn’t like it when you’re standing up or walking around, especially if you’re wearing shoes. He prefers you to be sat down and then he’ll come to you and climb all over you until he’s comfortable and ready for a tummy tickle, thank you very much. He’s got a big appetite, enjoying both actual cat food and scraps, but he’s become just as fussy as the other two, well and truly leaving his scrounging for food days behind him!

Before being a cat owner, I assumed that cats all sound the same. They go “meow”, right? What I didn’t realise was that they actually have very distinctive voices, to the point where I can tell them apart just by hearing them. Scooby is generally quiet, but when he does talk it’s a real heart-rending desperate cry. He knows how to get his way! Alfie is ridiculously talkative with a very high little squeak of a voice. And he uses it over and over and over again until he gets his way! Phoenix’s voice is quite unusual, best described as kind of a cross between Frankie Howerd and Marge Simpson. Yes, really.

So why am I telling you all this about our cats? Well, we have learnt that treating all three of them in the exact same way just doesn’t work. We have to tailor our approach to them, calling them in the particular way that works for them, cuddling them in the way they like, fussing those that like it and leaving those alone who are quite happy chilling out on their own. It strikes me that their little foibles are not just influenced by their personalities, but have also been shaped by their experiences.

I think that lessons can be drawn from this and applied in the workplace. It is very important to treat all your staff equally, but this absolutely doesn’t mean treating them all the same. If you are able to get under the skin of your staff and understand what makes them tick, you are then able to tailor your approach to managing them and communicating with them in a way that suits them. In this way, they will feel individually valued for their contributions, understood and appreciated. They will feel better able to meet your needs and understand what is expected of them, and will feel respected as individuals. Applying a one size fits all approach to management just doesn’t achieve the best results because – just like cats – people are not all the same. They have different personalities, experiences and preferences, and demonstrating an understanding of this will go a long way. Just don’t ask if they prefer Whiskas or Go-Cat, or give them a tummy tickle.