Book Review – It’s a Zoo Around Here and Zoo Keeper Rules for the Office, Nigel Risner

I’m an elephant …

I’ve been fortunate to be trained in personality profiling (Thomas International, DiSC and Myers Briggs) and always enjoyed the psychology around this.  I’m a people watcher. Not very appropriate for a HR professional I hear you say. It’s a theory I like to challenge of “not judging a book by its cover”.

This book however, is exactly what it suggests – a guide to how to manage personalities – “tame the beast, build a team and thrive”.  A simple and easy to follow read but one to keep going back to. 

Nigel Risner is one of the world’s leading motivational speakers and performance coaches.  He travels the world delivering his high-energy message, showing companies how to grow more profitable but improving their number one resource – their people! 

I attended a one hour session last year and was mesmerised by Nigel’s energy and entertaining delivery.  He inspired me to read a book that had been on my list for too long.

Essentially a good zoo keeper (leader) is observant, always looks for clues that will help explain why people behave the way they do.  Your role as Zoo Keeper is not to make the animals work harder, your responsibility is to help your team achieve their goals, let them know that their work matters and recognise and reward those who consistently help the team deliver timely, high quality and positive outcomes.

Referencing Carl Jung’s four functions (thinking, intuition, feeling and sensation) and four attributes (extrovert, judgemental, introvert and perceptive) it lead me to revisit the training I’ve had.  Nigel references Myers Briggs but for me it works with my recent Wiley DiSC training.

Anecdotes that resonate include:

  • Money’s why we go to work, it’s not what makes us happy and productive
  • Success is food for the soul, money is food on the table.

As with profiling, it’s not always easy to analyse yourself – the good, the bad and the ugly but I take it as an opportunity to work on something new to make me a better leader. In this case, not being too sceptical and obsessed with data … and not to let the inner Rhino loose.

Whether you’re a lion, monkey, dolphin or an elephant – we all bring something to the team and the success of its objectives.  We just need to find harmony and work together to succeed.

There is no ‘I’ in team … just a whole host of animals with needs.

Reference: Nigel’s Store (

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