Finding real solutions: are you doing the right thing?

Grace knows her boundaries and used her body language to let me know she was too frightened to handle our walk route. Finding real solutions will require a collaborative approach, but it’s the right thing to do.

Here in New Hampshire, the weather forecast is calling for four straight days of sunshine. I couldn’t be happier after all the consistent off-and-on (more on) cloudiness we’ve had, culminating in a thunder and lightning storm last night that frightened the wits out of Grace.

Sunshine just makes me happy. It seems to bring out a cheeriness and certainly an ease in enjoying outdoor activities. This weekend, I’m yearning to find a new place to walk with Grace. Regular readers will know that our walks are a much awaited-for and treasured part of our day. But for the last several weeks, Grace has not been asking for her walks. Whether sunny or overcast, she naps quietly as the afternoon rolls on, silence coming from her instead of her normal exuberance to get outside.

She has become unhinged by the noises associated from randomly timed target shooting that have become a frequent occurrence from a home on our walk route. The first few times it happened, her body tensed as we carried on. A few times, the shots were so loud she trembled, and I picked her up to carry her past the worst of it. It didn’t happen every day, but enough that as we walked by, she started to shake just in anticipation. And finally one day, as we left our house and neared the edge of our yard, she tugged at her leash and sat down. “I’m not going on that walk, Mom. It’s too scary down there.”

On that day, and the days that followed, we have played in the yard instead. I set up some agility jumps and we spend a little time with that. She meanders along the river’s edge, and nibbles on the taller grass that borders our mowed lawn. It’s nice, but we both know we miss our walks.

The man who enjoys the target shooting is doing nothing wrong. It’s a hobby that appears to make him happy, it’s legal in the area we live in, and he has every right to do this on his own property. I’ve met him on numerous occasions, always with Grace, and he’s kind, enjoys dogs, and is a very pleasant neighbor.

If I walked at the same time every day, I would talk with him about some options that would allow us both to do what we enjoy. I know he would work with me. And I think there are other solutions we could brainstorm, even to the extent of enlisting his help to retrain Grace’s fear of the sounds. But first I need to give Grace some space and not make her go where she doesn’t want to go.

What can leaders take from this experience? Finding real solutions requires that all parties work together.  It’s the right thing to do.

It’s all too common where one person or team decides something is broken and goes off in an isolated effort to find solutions, without engaging those that are involved. For example, a manager has an issue with an employee’s performance but doesn’t ask the employee for their perspective. They just tell her that she needs to change. Or leadership of an organization puts out a directive that customer service is a priority without truly listening to the employees about what obstacles they face to meet the expectations.

On Monday, I was a presenter and attendee at the New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility (NHBSR) conference. Andrew Winston was the keynote speaker and was the highlight of the conference for me. He shared data and stories that confirmed my existing belief: companies that accomplish great things are the ones that understand — and live — the principles of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). These companies understand we need to care for our planet, but it’s oh-so-much-bigger than that. It’s realizing the need to do the right thing in all aspects of your business operations. Winston said these companies achieve success by asking the tough question: “What’s your heresy?” and then they do something about it.

One of the many examples detailed by Winston is a shipping company that slowed down the transport time of selected products by decreasing the speed of the shipping vessel. This lessened the fuel consumption, decreased carbon emissions, and saved millions of dollars. Rather than perpetuating a more acceptable, even revered, practice of providing the fastest delivery possible by a shipping company, they took a risk with slowing the process, but it was the right thing to do. There are lots of examples of environmentally focused initiatives, but I believe examples that illustrate the successes (or failures) of our human interactions have equal (perhaps even more) impact on our outcomes.

Leadership, all too often, takes the easy route. They switch out people or products without examination and involvement of all stakeholders towards a more successful outcome. Finding real, sustainable solutions is not always easy. It takes courage, time, and effort.

If you’re in NH, I encourage you to learn more about NHBSR. Wherever you are, I hope you’ll explore how CSR can improve your organization’s bottom line. There are amazing and prevalent examples of how companies are changing the face of how we interact, for the better.

CSR starts in our own neighborhoods: I need to work with this gentlemen instead of against him (or without him) if I want to find a real and lasting solution for my walks with Grace. The same is true in our organizations. We need to be mindful of how we are impacting those with our interactions, and that doesn’t just mean our employees and customers. It extends to those in our supply chain, service providers, stockholders, community members, and indeed, even those outside the local community of where we work and live. That shipping company had me in mind when they put in place processes that would impact air quality, and quite possibly reduce the price of the product they were transporting.

I hope you’ll be a part of doing the right thing in all aspects of your life. It’s like feeling the warmth of beautiful sunshine all around you.

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6 comments

  1. Judy Ringer says:

    I love your stories and examples, Robin! I think it takes some courage to say: It’s the right thing to do. And I agree, sometimes it just is the right thing to do. Like partnering with people to solve problems instead of taking positions. I hope lots of people are reading your posts! Good ki!

  2. Great post Robin! I’m sorry Grace is struggling with thunder and gunfire. Webster is also fearful in those situations, so I understand how hard it is. Once again, your topic is a timely one for me. I was recently asked for advice on how to handle a difficult situation. The “right thing to do” is an incredibly difficult path to take in this case. It was a complex problem to talk through, but once we set our sights on “doing the right thing”, the right path was clear. Difficult and painful, but clear. Now the hard work begins. Good luck with Grace and getting back to her walks!

    • Robin says:

      Thanks, Laurie. I always feel so sorry for Grace in those situations, just wishing I could ease her stress. And I’m certainly not surprised that you would do the right thing in the situation you mentioned. It certainly can be difficult, but the way I look at it, doing anything other [than the right thing] is much more difficult. When the path is clear to me, it makes it easier to move forward, even through tough times. Good luck to you and others as you move forward. Always grateful to have your voice here.

  3. LeeAnn says:

    Hey Robin – wonderful post!! Poor Grace – do you think she was exposed to loud noises (or gunshots) before she came into your life? I always wonder how those fears develop. I am so amazed at how expertly you relate yours and Grace’s experiences to those in the workplace. The examples are so helpful in understanding the situation. I know that I have become a better employer and employee by reading your blog. Thank you!

  4. Robin Eichert says:

    LeeAnn, thank you so much for your kind words. You absolutely made my day! I am sure it would be great to work alongside you! As for Grace, I didn’t notice noise aversion so intensely when she was younger. But when I attended that workshop with Suzanne Clothier, she observed that Grace was very auditory-oriented, so not sure if age has made it more pronounced or not. I do hate to see her (or anyone) so frightened. It is so painful to witness when I feel helpful to comfort her.

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