What our Animals mean

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23 September 2019
Written by Speak First Linked-in icon

What our animals mean

If you’ve spent any amount of time on our website, you’ll be aware of Speak First’s Animal Quiz. In short, the test asks you to select a number of words or phrases that match how you tend to act and feel, in order to define your preferred behavioural style, or styles. These are based on four animals – Owl, Lion, Horse and Monkey.

We’re very proud of our quiz, using it in many of our workshops and training sessions to discuss and explore different people’s behavioural styles and to find ways of working and communicating together. It’s a unique model, heavily researched and based largely on Carl Jung’s work on archetypes. It’s simple to use but complex behind the scenes.

We’re all a combination of all four styles but will have one or two animals which best represent our most dominant behaviours. One day you can be the caring horse and the next you feel more like the excitable monkey. You’re not fixed to one style, and which behaviour you exhibit will be a mix of your mood, your priorities and what you value most in any given moment. This is why your results are four percentages, rather than just one single answer.

By understanding the animals and the behaviours they represent, you can be aware of your own styles and start to recognise some of these traits in the people around you, being mindful of different styles and how best to interact with them. This is relevant for any time you’re around other people but is especially useful for knowing how to work most effectively with people that have different styles. For example, someone who works slower in order to be more precise (owl) needs to be able to work alongside colleagues who work faster and rely more on instinct than research (monkey).

It may also be that your results indicate you’re about equal in two different animal behaviours. This means, for example, the owl side of you might prioritise doing a lot of research and being accurate, but this doesn’t stop you wanting recognition for your hard work – which is quite a monkey-like attitude. Again, you’re able to control your behaviours and you aren’t fixed to one or two styles. Having a very small percentage of one of the animals means that even though it might not come out very often, it’s still in there when you need it.

It’s important to remember that no animal is better than the others, and there is no 'correct' way to live and work. Some people are more focused and results-driven (lions), and others care more about group cohesion (horses), but no one person is better or worse and no one is 'good' or 'bad' based on these results. The trick is learning how to use your skills in the best ways, recognising any potential weaknesses and adapting around them.

A way to think about how your four animals interact is to imagine them going on a road trip together. The monkey doesn’t feel a need to follow directions because they’re sure they know the way; the owl finds the route on the GPS and packs an extra map; the lion just wants to get on the road because they’re impatient to get there; and the horse doesn’t really mind who drives as long as everyone else is comfortable with it. They’re all able to drive and they’ll always arrive at their destination, but the journey will be a different experience depending on who’s behind the wheel.

Many of the best leaders show elements of all four animals. A lion’s focus to achieve, mixed with an owl’s information gathering, a horse’s empathy and a monkey’s contagious enthusiasm can be a powerful concoction.

In this blog, we’re going to outline the different meanings behind our animals, what yours say about you and some key points to consider when interacting with other people.

Before reading on, make sure you know which animal you are by taking the test.



OwlOwls are the most reliable and methodical of the four animals. They’re analytical, motivated by absolute accuracy and careful about getting things right. They prefer to work more slowly than the other animals, but only because they find their confidence from being fully prepared with all the facts and data, knowing they’re getting things right the first time.

Where the bird has keen eyes to hunt small prey, the owl behavioural style means having keen eyes for the smaller details. This tends to come at the expense of spontaneity, but their attention to detail more than makes up for it.

This tendency towards perfectionism makes them very useful for identifying and solving problems that others might have missed, being able to use their research and knowledge of a situation to find creative solutions to a problem. However, this can frustrate other team members – particularly the faster paced monkeys. For this reason, many owls work best on their own. Owls don’t like surprises or unpredictable situations, requiring patience and space from those around them. Personal Effectiveness training could help stop them from always getting bogged down in details and to work more efficiently.

The owl’s style of information gathering and knowing they’re correct can work quite well with the lion, who are also driven by results and getting things right the first time helps them achieve this. Although their relationship might be strained by working at very different paces.

Learning Networking Skills or how to Influence with Impact will help owls to be more personable and be more effective in a team.



LionIn the wild, lions are confident, dominant and hard to argue with, and those with the lion behavioural style can be similar. Lions are results-focused, independent and usually believe they’re right. They like to take ownership of a task.

They enjoy leadership roles and will move quickly towards their end-goals, needing to see tangible evidence of progress to know they’re on the right track. This is a positive trait when it comes to showing assertiveness, making quick decisions or facing challenges.

Lions tend to be happy working with anyone who will help them complete their tasks, although their self-assuredness can mean others find them difficult to slow down or co-operate with. This is of particular note when on a team with a monkey, who they’ll likely consider vague and insubstantial. On the other hand, they may work well with owls, appreciating their dedication to a fact-based approach.

Those with a dominant lion behavioural style should work on their patience and humility and would do well to develop their active listening skills. This would make them more personable and less authoritarian when it comes to collaboration, realising that their way is not necessarily the best way.

Lions are at their best when nothing stands between them and their goals, so in stressful situations (including when they come across another lion with opposite opinions) they become restless and irritable. They like being in control and feel powerless when they can’t immediately solve the problem or find a solution.

Learning to Influence & Persuade people would give the lion more ways to work with others and bring them along to their way of thinking and making sure they understand Empathy will help them to see things more from other points of view.



HorseThose with the horse behavioural style are friendly, sensitive and nurturing towards other people. They make excellent team players because they prioritise relationships and harmony between people and tend to avoid conflicts and disagreements.

Like the owl, horses approach risks with caution and will go through a process of information gathering before making decisions. The difference between them is that the owl looks for facts and the horse seeks out other people’s views. This means that when they’re working in a team, they’ll be the one actively listening to, and considering, other people’s opinions before making up their own mind, perhaps asking for a vote on the next step. In an uncomfortable environment, horses will become quieter or will agree with the majority for the sake of ease. When they feel safer and more confident, they’ll be much more open with their own thoughts and opinions.

Similar to their animal namesake, horses are kind and gentle but can become anxious and startle easily. They prefer to keep to the background of a strong team, rather than actively standing out, finding confidence and comfort in relying on their close relationships. Horses are eager to please and don’t like to see other people pushed around or disrespected.

When faced with challenges, horses can appear indecisive and hesitant. Without the time and space to listen to other opinions, they may act passive and submissive, waiting for someone they trust to make decisions for them. This gives them the sense of safety that they haven’t upset someone else by doing something unpopular, but means they’ll have the most trouble working alongside a lion. By learning to develop their personal impact and to assert themselves with confidence, horses can make decisions faster and become much more effective.



MonkeyThe monkey behavioural style represents enthusiasm and a preference for moving at a fast pace. Like the horse, they prioritise relationships but differ from them because they like to be the centre of attention. It’s important for them to receive recognition – the more public it is, the better they feel.

Monkeys put a lot of faith in their instincts and can be incredibly optimistic – arguably too much. They’ve been known to volunteer to stand up in presentations, even when they have nothing prepared, because they’re so focused on what could go well, with little consequence for what could go wrong. Furthermore, being very sociable and very persuasive, monkeys can often inspire others to join their excitement for one of their new ideas, to inevitably mixed results. Horses are likely to appreciate having a charismatic monkey that can bring a team together but will want the monkey to keep everyone on board, rather than racing off ahead on their own.

Craving excitement and newness, monkeys thrive in situations where they can be spontaneous and flexible. This can make them wonderfully creative and imaginative, but means they lack focus and attention to detail. Due to this attitude, both owls and lions are likely to find monkeys lightweight, preferring accuracy and being correct more than the monkey’s over-reliance on making things sound exciting without a plan to back it up.

Monkeys want to jump to the next exciting thing before they’re done with the task at hand, particularly if it’s a boring or solitary job. Conversely, if they’re enjoying what they’re doing, they can lose all sense of time.

When faced with tough situations, monkeys are often impulsive and unrealistic. Their imaginative ways of thinking can be useful in relaxed settings but may hinder more than it helps in times of stress, with inconsistent and time-wasting thoughts. They would benefit from Impact training to help them with these situations.

Learning Time Management can also help monkeys to focus on their priorities and limit their distractions.


Discover more tips to help you succeed by checking out our full range of learning solutions.