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Hare, owl, turtle, or squirrel? Recipes for building and running successful teams

Updated: Aug 27, 2019

The book The One Minute Millionaire by Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen is at times enlightening. One chapter elaborates the - Together Everyone Accomplishes Miracles - TEAM concept. You do not need to read the book, if you just read the basics that I summarize for you here.

Success is not a solo project. To achieve success one must build a diverse team. The diverse team consists of four different categories of persons, known as the Hares, the Owls, the Tortoises, and the Squirrels. Each type has own strengths to leverage on to make the team successful.

Hares - Creative Types, but bad at follow-through. Filled with multiple ideas. They hop around from idea to idea, excited more by possibilities than by execution. They generate ideas. Their mind is never still.

Owls - They are wise and measured, and while they may also generate ideas, they are best placed beside the Hare to recognise and catch the ideas as they spring forth. Team leaders should be Owls. They identify and support great ideas, but can also see the big picture and component parts needed for execution. Planners and go-getters. Quick thinkers, slow (if not concise, often boring) talkers.

Turtles - Cautious and conservative types, who point out issues and problems ahead of time. These are the people who troubleshoot harebrained ideas and cautiously suggest that most of them are impractical or too expensive or too risky. They are needed to turn ideas into plans because they can prune the tree of options, see the problems ahead of time, and - sometimes but not always - suggest possible solutions. A Hare would describe a Turtle as negative and pessimistic. A Turtle would describe themselves as realistic, and a Hare as lunatic and unstable. They may be slow to change their mind, but when they do it is because they have measured all the options. If a Turtle supports a Hare’s idea, you know you are on a winner.

Squirrels - Details oriented person who get the job done. They love taking action. Give them a list of tasks and they are the happiest animal in the forest. Getting things done is what drives a Squirrel; get them to think big picture and they tend to disappear. We need detail-oriented Squirrels to keep machines running and make sure the bills get paid. Managers and implementers are often squirrels. God bless them.

These are in principle the four personality types you should look for when building a team.

However, if you bring them together without knowing what you are doing, you may disappoint them and go towards a failure, because without a guidance they would just quarrel with one another. For instance, Hares don't get along with Turtles.

If I have to coach young persons, I explain that they can identify with more than one animal if they like, and most of them do, but in a group situation they have to embrace their spirit animal 100%. If you are majority Squirrel, in a group situation you must be 100% Squirrel. If you are a Hare, have fun, go wild, and be a great Hare. Understood?

This is the process to follow.

Phase 1 - The first step when running the team is to get the Hares and the Owl together without Turtles and Squirrels. Hares can be sensitive, and the Turtles' practical attitude tends to deflate the energy levels needed for creative ideation. The Owl is more able to be supportive and feed the Hares' idea-generating ego. At the brainstorming stage, the Owl needs to encourage a lot of hopping around from idea to idea. Brainstorming sessions are disastrous if a Turtle is allowed input too early. Idea-generation sessions should better be Hare and Owl only.

Phase 2 - Once the idea generation or divergent process is facilitated, the Hare is sent out into the fields to chase further ideas (they love that) and the Owl - the team leader - brings the Turtle into the room for a convergent session. The best ideas are presented to the Turtle, and they are asked to flag any issues, devise solutions, and identify the best idea to move forward.

Phase 3 - The Owl and Turtle then strategise an action plan and give the list of tasks to the Squirrel to execute. The Squirrel needs to be quiet in the beginning, to get a feeling of ownership of the tasks at hand, but then has to be given freedom.

Phase 4 - Only a Squirrel can execute a plan, as the Hare would run away, the Owl would fall asleep, and the Turtle would get scared of mistakes.

In other words, the process goes like this. Once the Harebrained ideas are out and on to the page, get the Owl brain to sort through and decide what to act on. Organising, planning, writing... When the creative brain is exhausted, and the to-do list is done, it is time to solve problems and engage with the reality of other people. This is where the Turtle comes in. Meetings, face-to-face discussions, email clearing. The execution is a Squirrel's business. They love routine. They are energised by routine. They would open and close a shop at regular times for years with great satisfaction. The world needs a lot of squirrels to go by.

Are the basic ingredients right? Is the process execution right? Boom! Then you have it. HOTS teamwork in action.

There are other types of personality schemes if you are interested. One of them is Meyer-Briggs scheme. Another one is the Keirsey scheme. I love the Keirsey scheme. I actually do no need the Keirsey test, I just observe the person in front of me.

Each animal hangs out in a different location. One thing I know, the Hare loves coffee shops and the Owl loves the library. I recognize the Turtle by the concrete and often pessimistic language. I recognise the Squirrel by the routines.

Not only it is interesting and useful to know about oneself, but it is also interesting to know about the other types of people that we have to work with.

Ideas without execution are a waste of time (think of a group of architects without builders). A group of doers without a vision is just as grave a situation (think builders without an architect).

We all have to deal with each other differences and to improve ourselves. For example, one may need to create like a Hare, be detailed like a Squirrel, look wide and far and then plan like an Owl, and be able to anticipate problems like a Tortoise.

To master such knowledge gives great satisfaction and happiness.



APPROACH: Conceptual/Spontaneous

DESCRIPTION: The Hare love generating concepts and ideas. They like to reframe the problem and look for solutions that may be unusual, unique, or outside the boundaries of traditional thought. Hares are good at exploring alternatives and perceiving the "big picture". Hares want freedom from constraint, and when a rule exists they may break it. They may act impulsively, letting their feelings guide them. They derive satisfaction from the process of creating, discussing concepts and ideas, and overcoming obstacles. When everything is in its place, the Hare may become restless, get impatient, and have a tendency to move from one subject to another. There are different types of Hare. Some are introverts, some are extroverts.

CONTRIBUTION: Fresh, original concepts that go beyond the obvious, and are not constrained by fear of failure. As a Hare is rarely responsible for the implementation of their own ideas, it is easy to get away with it.

WEAKNESESS: Because the Hare enjoys generating ideas, they may move from one idea to another without stopping to evaluate the consequences. If left alone to refine concepts, they will solve the problem within the problem within the problem, and eventually lose sight of the objective.

INSTINCT: Reframing problems to achieve breakthrough solutions, moving in new directions, examining possibilities without regard to risk.


APPROACH: Methodical/Practical

DESCRIPTION: The Squirrel, more interested in protecting the system than changing it or being active part in it, follows-up on team objectives, and implements ideas and solutions. They focus on ensuring the implementation process runs in an orderly manner, and achieving high quality outcomes. Squirrels prefer proven, familiar ideas over the novel and untried. They pay attention to details, and see that plans follow an orderly process. The Squirrel is comfortable being methodical. They tend to be cautious in trying out a new approach, and prefer to think things over carefully before acting.

CONTRIBUTION: The details. Spotting easily overlooked problems before they occur, and minimizing inefficiencies and errors during implementation.

WEAKNESESS: If working without clear and focused objectives or guidelines, the Squirrel may lose sight of the goal and pursue irrelevant details, loosing the bigger picture.

INSTINCT: To finish what they start, and do things right.


APPROACH: Conceptual/Methodical

DESCRIPTION: The Turtle challenges concepts under discussion. They can be sharp and nasty. Believing that consequences matter, the Turtle will want to plan how new endeavors are implemented and prepare for surprises. They strive to create order from chaos, which they abhor, by improving the process by which ideas are implemented. The Turtle may play "devil's advocate" to test the soundness of an idea and try to improve it. The Turtle may do this prematurely. They prefer order, and are comfortable being methodical. They derive satisfaction from the mental exercise of the debate, and may lead others to examine the merits of an idea, using a systematic process in generating and exploring ideas.

CONTRIBUTION: Making sure that the concept is thought through, and examining how it can be improved and implemented.

WEAKNESESS: If allowed to control the group or the process, the Turtle may lead the team toward choosing low-risk ideas, filtering out ideas that may have greater risks, but also bigger payoffs.

INSTINCT: Prediction of the problems caused by new or unique ideas; improving ideas before implementation.


APPROACH: Spontaneous/sometimes Practical sometimes Conceptual

DESCRIPTION: The Owl recognizes ideas and new directions in their early stages and develops the means to promote or advance them. When presented with an idea, they think of how to get it implemented, using insightful planning based on past experiences and successful methods. They are often long term thinker. The Owl may initially respond to ideas with skepticism, but will let accepted norms and their feelings guide them. They derive satisfaction from instilling a sense of purpose in the team, and promoting that purpose with single-mindedness and determination. Their actions are directed to achieving objectives by the most direct, efficient means, and they are not inclined to let rules and boundaries discourage them. The Owl is able to focus on many things at once, and may move from one subject to another. They enjoy respect and influence.

CONTRIBUTION: Energetically promoting team objectives. Recognizing the value of a new idea or trend, and actively carrying it forward.

WEAKNESESS: If left alone or working only with someone with a strong Conceptual Approach, the Owl may move ahead to implement concepts that aren't completely thought through, ignoring danger signs and realistic barriers to successful implementation.

INSTINCT: Choosing the highest priority ideas, and moving swiftly to see them implemented.


Hare/Owl - Leader

APPROACH: Conceptual/Spontaneous/Practical

DESCRIPTION: The Hare/Owl is an idea generator who is also a true entrepreneur. They are good at exploring alternatives and concepts, and they are also more comfortable with an insightful plan. The Hare/Owl is able to generate ideas and develop a plan, based on past experience, to promote those ideas successfully. The Hare/Owl derives satisfaction from identifying good ideas and developing solutions and strategies to overcome obstacles to implementation. They enjoy working on multiple tasks and like to be involved with the creation and advancement of ideas. When everything is in its place, the Hare/Owl may get impatient, ready for the next challenge.

CONTRIBUTION: Development of new concepts and ideas that can be advanced within a known process or structure.

WEAKNESESS: The Hare/Owl may become frustrated with the details of an orderly implementation plan, and may pay little attention to the danger signs and barriers associated with implementation.

INSTINCT: Creating new ideas and advancing them in pursuit of team objectives.

Owl/Squirrel - Manager

APPROACH: Spontaneous/Practical/Methodical

DESCRIPTION: The Owl/Squirrel develops methods and approaches to promote and implement new ideas. Armed with the skills to develop a plan to successfully implement a solution,and the desire to think things through and work out problems before implementation, they will work quickly to achieve the team's objectives. Looking for early trends and familiar ideas, the Owl/Squirrel streamlines the process to accomplish their objectives.The Owl/Squirrel prefers familiar, proven ideas, and demands a rational and orderly implementation plan.

CONTRIBUTION: Promoting team objectives by setting priorities,advancing the concept and finishing the job.

WEAKNESESS: The Owl/Squirrel may not allow others on the team to continue to create ideas and solutions before selecting solutions and moving forward with an implementation plan and process.

INSTINCT: Advancing new directions and developing detailed implementation plans.

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1 Comment

Guido Cortese
Guido Cortese
Aug 28, 2019

Very interesting Leo. To be honest, I'm not sure to suite in only one animal. But I think to be Hare, sometimes I am a Turtle, sometimes (very less, but) an Owl. I wish to be a bee. Bees as they born they are cleners. But in 2 o 3 days they becomes feeders, storagers, warriors, fun producers, they also self develop particular glands to produce wax and royal gelly. Those glands, then, becomes atrophied. Then becomes explorer and can fly outside to provide food. They can restore their previous role, in particular case. This means a chemical transformation, inside the bee, that evolves in its short life to be useful for the Hive.

I'm not sure if it's clear,…

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