Compassion Wins – Every Project Team Needs a Whale

This post was originally published in October, 2016.  With the current COVID-19 pandemic affecting all of us world-wide and the much closer-to-home mass killing in Nova Scotia, it was time to talk about compassion.

Every project team needs a member who can add the most important element to the success of any team: compassion.

I was introduced to a very simple model for understanding the human dynamic within teams by Troy McClain ( I met Troy about eight years ago at a conference where we were both speaking.  He comes with a lot of ‘street smarts’ and general wisdom about people and team dynamics.

Troy’s model presents a fish tank with four species: shark, whale, dolphin and sea urchin. I love to touch on this model briefly in some of the workshops I do because it provides us with a very simple way to understand the different personalities we are dealing with, both professionally and personally.

Troy suggests that each one of these species plays an important role in the team dynamics within any project environment. But the one that I think is so important, not just to the success of the project but more importantly, to the culture that our projects are contributing to, is the whale.

The whale brings compassion and empathy to our environment. The whale softens the direct approach of the shark and gives the whole team someone to go to when they need advice, assistance or just an understanding ear.

Nurturing, social, non-aggressive, open, honest and friendly. What would we do without them?

If you are the whale at work or at home, God bless you. If you have a whale in your life, take a moment to say thank you. Without them, our lives would be a lot different.


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2 thoughts on “Compassion Wins – Every Project Team Needs a Whale”

  1. I woudl be interested in more information on Troy’s model can you point me in the right direction?

    Also do you recommend a conflict / Problem resolution methodology that you have seen work well in customer facing issues?

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