Why a dog matters to your leadership style
I’m in the midst of redesigning my website. One of the primary goals is to integrate this blog so it has the same look and feel as the website. Which means I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how to articulate why this dog-inspired blog should beintegrated to my consulting practice. One might wonder how they are related at all!
I’ve had dogs most of my life, but when I found Grace in 2005, something was different. There was almost an immediate – and ongoing – connection between my experiences with her and my work. It was kinda strange, but also very intriguing. At the time, I wrote a few articles for my monthly newsletter, but I never published those stories. Time passed but the feeling I had about this connection didn’t.
Fast forward to February 2011 when a marketing consultant and I were having a conversation. After I told her that I just kept thinking of all the parallels, she encouraged me to write about Grace. So I did. (Thank you, Annie.) When I sit down to write these posts, the inspiration comes so easily. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m going to say before I start; somehow the ideas find their way effortlessly from my fingers to the keyboard.
The person helping me with the website redesign suggested I come up with a list of 20 reasons why the connection between dogs and leadership were important to me. That list quickly outnumbered 20! But the list was wordy and not very clever. I felt stuck (and still do) with coming up with a catchy, meaningful phrase. (I welcome any suggestions!)
Mostly, I feel that all things are connected in our lives. The way we approach a problem with our dog is going to be the same as the way we approach a situation as a manager. (I can see some of you shaking your head in disagreement about that one. That deserves its own post where I can share lots of examples.)
We learn best from real-life experiences and will have a greater appreciation for those things that are familiar and dear to us. I’ve had people tell me that even though they don’t currently have a dog, they understand the connections I’m making with situations in the workplace.
I also believe that our learning doesn’t happen in isolation. We don’t have to attend a seminar on leadership to learn about leadership. We can witness situations with other people – or dogs – and gain valuable knowledge and skills.
One obvious example is how Grace’s fearful nature impacts her interactions with others, especially small children. She will either cower or strike, depending on the severity of the situation where she feels backed into a corner. And that is no different in a workplace. When an employee feels threatened, likely in more subtle ways from something that may appear completely benign, such as receiving constructive feedback about their performance, they may shut down or act out. Understanding where they are coming from will help navigate the best outcomes.
Watching this video makes me laugh at how simple it seems on the surface — what dog wouldn’t follow your hand for a treat? But often we forget that the simplest things must be mastered before we can learn more challenging tasks. This easy exercise was recommended by our agility instructor to get Grace familiar with moving in different directions. If managers skip the foundation, nothing worthwhile can be built.
I’ve always loved facilitating strong and constructive relationships in the workplace, whether as a manager or a team member. I’ve made mistakes and had some grand accomplishments.
And with Grace, the same is true. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve also had some big successes in her development. It’s been a rewarding journey that has a long way to go.
My hope is that as I share these events, we can benefit and learn together. As we enter this new year, I look forward to discovering new experiences with Grace — and with all of you. Your perspective, feedback, ideas, information, and support that you offer is so helpful, not just to me, but to others. Combining shared wisdom is much more powerful (and fun)!
That’s a model I’d like to set for workplace environments, too.