Zuzu Dog-Inspired Leadership Lessons

Zuzu: A whirlwind of lessons helping me celebrate 20 years at PeopleSense

Last December, my husband and I agreed to foster a young dog described as both “sweet and wiggly.” She was being transported to our local area in Pennsylvania from South Carolina. She had been staying there for a short period with a couple who found her as a stray, but they couldn’t keep her. That was about all we knew.

We picked her up at our local shelter on a Saturday night, and she was indeed sweet and wiggly! She started to settle in beautifully. She was estimated to be about 1 year old, perhaps a mix of hound, beagle, and/or pointer. She was energetic but also (mostly!) obedient, and we started getting into a few routines. Weeks turned into months, and we decided to adopt this fun, energetic pup.

And that’s when things changed.

A different kind of dog

Many of you know the special and close bond I experienced with Grace. A timid, shy, and fearful dog, Grace rarely left my side. She and I were devoted to each other, each always watching out for the other. We certainly had our tough times, especially at the start. Learning to navigate her anxieties was a consuming job but one we forged and managed well over time.

Zuzu was different. Dog at desk

She brought contrasting energy to our household, starting with confidence and independence. These were desirable traits but created unfamiliar issues. I began to realize that I had no idea how to deal with her. Before long, her energy turned into destructive chewing and out-of-control antics. To keep her both exercised and entertained, I felt like she had become my full-time job, and one that was exhausting, both mentally and physically. I started having feelings of resentment and I knew this was not a good path to be headed down.

After weeks of trying to make things work, it dawned on me that (once again, just like with Grace), Zuzu wasn’t the problem. Yes, she was presenting me with a challenging situation, but the outcome really depended on how I approached it.

How to be a better person 101

Pete and I talked through some ideas and little by little, we are making progress together. I started to appreciate Zuzu’s high energy and direct it in positive ways, and ones that didn’t necessarily require me to be in the mix. For example, she spends two days a week at doggie daycare — giving her a fun and exciting way to expend her energy while giving me a much-appreciated break. We found a trainer and now have a number to tools to help us understand and have fun with Zuzu. (That’s something that’s really at the heart of Zuzu – having fun. And what could be wrong with that?!).

So over the last nine months, I’ve had the privilege to learn from this small but mighty dog how to be a better person.

And as is true with all of us, how we approach one area of our lives ripples to others. The tough times I experienced with Zuzu were a way for me to strengthen myself. She constantly reminded me of my own tendencies and of the reality that how I react (or act) ultimately impacts our relationship. The same happens in our workplaces. Managers and co-workers are quick to blame others for issues. But looking inside is where real change can happen.

Circling back this fall

It seems fitting that I celebrate my 20th anniversary of founding PeopleSense Consulting by bringing to life what Zuzu has brought into mine, just like Grace did for me years ago. A new dog, a new set of circumstances, but the same awareness-building that creates real impact in our personal and professional lives.

During the month of September, I’ll be sharing what Zuzu has taught me. Watch out for her energy and exuberance; it’s exactly the right tone for a big celebration! The best place to hear more is right in your inbox. Each week in September, I’ll be sending out a little series of Zuzu-inspired insights. I hope you will join us! Not part of the PeopleSense Consulting Community yet? You can sign up here. We look forward to welcoming you!


Smart Tips Served Straight to Your Inbox

Want to build healthy, productive workplace relationships??? Join our community of Graceful Leaders/Managers and get access to tips, insights, and resources right in your inbox.

BONUS: Sign up now and receive a FREE animal-inspired gift: “3 Management Tips from Dog!"

Share with a friend using one of the buttons below. Then sign up so you can receive stories, tips, and guidance to help you develop healthy workplace relationships in your organization!

Leave a Comment