About Graceful Leadership: My First Blog Post

This picture was taken on the first night Grace and I were together, June 1, 2005. She was wearing a collar and a harness because she had slipped out of a collar at her foster home.
This picture was taken on the first night Grace and I were together, June 1, 2005. She was wearing a collar and a harness because she had slipped out of a collar at her foster home.

People said I should have a blog for my business. But I resisted. What would I write about? How could I ever narrow down the immense number of topics about working with people? It felt overwhelming. I said I didn’t have time. There were lots of reasons for not blogging, but mostly I wasn’t inspired.

Then I realized my inspiration was right at my feet. Grace, who can often be found by my side, is constantly raising my awareness of successful (and, yes, unsuccessful) leadership interactions. With—or without—her by my side, she is constant reminder of how effective communication and leadership requires two participants. Sometime she talks and sometimes she listens, but all the time, we’re communicating.

Nearly six years ago, I found Grace. She was about eight months old at the time and living with a foster family who had rescued her and transported her to New Hampshire after her start on the streets of Puerto Rico. They called those dogs ‘sato’ and many have a similar look: small, wiry, scared. Despite a timid appearance, she was a survivor, finding food when and where she could and avoiding the kids who yelled and threw things at her. She had learned to be cautious with strangers. Picked by up a local shelter at 4 months old, she was given the name Tammy, and I didn’t think it suited her.

Even though this mutt was a street dog and had some nicks and signs of distress, she had an unassuming grace. She quietly watched and observed me as I entered the house to meet her, tail between her legs, and a soft tremble as I neared. I sat down, and upon the advice of her foster mom, I ignored her, giving her time to reach out to me. I really wanted to pull her in and give her hugs, gush over how happy she would be living with me, run outside and throw a ball with her. But she was not even close to being ready for all that fanfare. She needed to move slow, sniffing and seeing if I was going to lunge or frighten her. So I wisely followed the advice offered to me and Grace and I began our journey of learning about each other.

When I remember that day, I see how effective–even necessary–it was to wait for her to take the first step. We don’t always have to be the one talking to effectively communicate. We must remember to listen, to observe. It worked. We had a long way to go, but we got off on a good start.

So this is my first blog entry and I’m excited to write more and to write often. But I’m not writing because people said I should. I’m writing this because I think Grace has a lot to offer us. It’s my way to reinforce the lessons she teaches me, and to get better at communicating, not only with her, but with everyone. I hope readers find it enjoyable, perhaps even helpful. And I invite you to share your stories so we can learn together.

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2 comments

  1. Hi Robin, excellent blog and good luck with it. As an avid student of people watching, dynamics always fascinate me. I found myself wishing your posts were longer. I for one would not get bored reading them if they were.

    If you know any reliable quiet children, you might want to schedual a regular ‘get aquainted ‘ date between Grace and child. It will help Grace to understand that not all small people are threats. I am thinking that as grace gets older (reallyolder) she might have a tendancy to ‘fear bite.’ I can understand her point of view though. Too many children are never taught the proper way to aproach a strange dog.

    • Thanks so much for the feedback! Glad you would like more! 🙂 It’s hard to ask a child to be quiet for too long, but Clayton (the 2-year toddler I mentioned) does an excellent job of being calm around Grace when you ask him to. Grace has known him from birth and they do get along very well, all things considered. As you mention, repetition is helpful for her to get past her fear, and that’s a good lesson for us as people, too. I too often see in the workforce a manager who will say, “But we talked about that once.” And the assumption is that the problem will then automatically go away because it has been discussed once. It takes time for change, with lots of reinforcement to change behavior. Thanks again for adding to the conversation!

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