I’ve really fallen behind with my writing. You could say it’s gone to the dogs. For the past three weeks finding time to write has been impossible. You see, we decided to get a puppy named Cassie. And, for those of you that have barked up this tree, you know that with a puppy around, finding quiet time to write is about as hard as finding your dog’s favorite bone.
But while my writing has suffered, I still think a lot about leadership. This morning I was thinking about the similarities between leading dogs and people. I know this sounds a little strange – but, people and dogs have a lot in common. Both have needs, personalities, and moods. They share a desire to learn, be challenged, feel secure, and receive recognition. Finally, both dogs and people react to different leadership styles.
I’ve think there are 8 leadership actions that drive achievement, growth, and happiness in both people and dogs:
Lead don’t dictate. Nobody likes to be told what to do. Barking orders produces activity but rarely is it optimal. The long-term impact is that people (and dogs) begin to tune you and your orders out. It’s far better to define deliverables, set expectations, provide guidance and coaching – and, let them figure out the rest.
Be clear and concise with your statements. Dogs don’t speak much of our language. When giving requests, you have to make them clear, understandable and easy to follow. People are much the same. Don’t assume that others understand your jargon – or can read your mind. Make it clear; keep it simple.
Be consistent. People and dogs like to know what to expect from their leaders. Moody behavior can create confusion and hesitation that limits productivity. The steady leader gets the most respect from the pack.
Establish boundaries. People (and dogs) often require a lot of your valuable time. Make clear to others that you have responsibilities that go well beyond them. It’s important you define boundaries or you will struggle with your competing priorities.
Keep calm. It’s easy to get frustrated dealing with a puppy – or for that matter employees. In times of stress you need to keep your cool. Take a breath, grab a coffee, or chew a bone. Step away for a few minutes and then return to the action. Employees (and puppies) respect a calm and controlled leader.
Have a plan. Almost nothing happens by chance. You need to have a leadership plan that defines goals, strategies, and actions. Leadership requires planning. You better get good at it because it’s core to delivering results.
Be creative. Like many people, Cassie the dog gets bored quickly. She tends to master commands and then lose interest. So as her leader, I have to constantly find new ways to motivate her. People are the same. Repetitive tasks and responsibilities often make people stale and robotic. Be creative, mix it up, keep it fresh – and, find ways to keep energy levels high.
Make it fun. Look work is mostly, well work! The pressures to perform never let up. So you need to mix in periods of fun – play time. Use your imagination to create fun activities, or better yet, ask your employees to come up with the ideas.
Well, Cassie’s waking from her afternoon nap. A yawn, stretch and tug on her favorite chew toy (Mr. Squirrel), tells me she’s ready for the next challenge. We’ve been working hard on the “stay” command. I’m leading the way with a positive attitude, firm commands and soft treats. She wags her tail and when I command “stay,” she insists on “rolling-over.” Oh well, leading dogs and people is often challenging. But, the reward in helping them to be productive, confident, and happy makes it all worthwhile. “Cassie no, that sock is not a chew toy!” Now, what did I write about keeping calm?
How about you? Do you have a dog? Are there any leadership tools and behaviors that you see get results? Cassie and I would like to hear from you.