A bumper sticker I picked up at our local pet store says that. It got me thinking. Dog is Good. There are so many things I have learned from dogs.
One thing I’ve found with dogs is no matter how domesticated, they are still pack animals. When they live in your home, you are their pack. It’s fun to watch dogs as they determine the pecking order of the pack. Dogs need a strong leader and will challenge you constantly to make sure you’re still the boss. The other thing with packs is every member is interdependent on every other member. Aren’t we all really? I can hardly think of a single person who is truly independent of anyone else – whether it is for moral support, items needed to live or do the things you want or need to do every day, farmers to provide food. We all need the rest of our pack.
There a lot of lessons dogs can teach us by observing their behavior. Most reinforced what I learned through the years as a leader and manager.
- Leadership has to be constant, consistent and customized. Wavering doesn’t work.
- Rewards must be immediate to be appreciated and to reinforce behaviors you want repeated.
- Correction must also be immediate to be understood.
- Size means nothing. Attitude is everything.
- Love is unconditional.
- Respect, trust and loyalty are earned and must be renewed regularly.
Leadership has to be constant, consistent and customized to personalities. Definitely a great life lesson. You need to be on your game with a strong willed dog, just like you do with strong willed people. This doesn’t mean you should be on guard all the time. Nor does it mean you need to be stern all of the time.
What it does mean is that you need to know where you are going and how you are getting there. You need to provide clear direction and manage your guidance to the personalities involved. Some people need a road map and consistent checkpoints to happily achieve company goals. Other people will bristle at being told each step to get where they are going; they just need the goal and deadline.
Whichever personality time you’re working with, consistency is the key. Waffling on where you want to go, what you want to achieve and when you want to get there undermines your credibility as a leader.
Rewards must be immediate to be appreciated and to reinforce behaviors you want repeated. You probably know this already. Rewarding for good behavior needs to happen as soon as you know it happened. This is great for a couple of reasons: One, it lets people know you are paying attention. Two, people realize there is benefit to doing the right thing, whether it’s verbal recognition or something more tangible, like a gift certificate.
Delaying rewarding positive behaviors and outcomes can sometimes lead to forgetting to reward or diluting the impact by comparing it to a longer time frame. For example, having an immediate reward like a gift certificate to a great restaurant for winning a key account versus waiting for a 6-moth or 12-month bonus that then is diluted by sales results on all accounts a representative manages. Which would result in more of the sales behavior you want to see in your company?
Correction must also be immediate to be understood. Corrective action must also be immediate. If someone in your group or organization is behaving badly, allowing it to continue without intervention can create problems and if you’re considering a work environment, legal and human resources headaches as well as negatively impacting everyone who has to work with the individual.
One client I worked with had a classic example of this. An person was brought on as a full time employee, despite knowledge of prior behavior that would alienate other people. After becoming a full time employee, the person’s behavior became progressively worse. No direct correction was taken to align the person with the corporate policy. Fast forward four years, my client now has an issue they cannot easily correct.
If it had been handled swiftly and immediately at the each instance of behavior that didn’t fit the corporate standard, either the behavior would have been altered to acceptable standards or the person would have found another opportunity in an environment better suited to her personality and behavior patterns.
Size means nothing. Attitude is everything. If you have ever watched a big dog with a little dog, you know this is true. The little dog is nearly always in charge. If you’ve ever met my mother you would have no doubt. She was a tiny, fiery Irish woman who got everything to go her way. It never mattered who or what was involved – including burly bikers at the Sturgis Rally back in the 1970s. I remember being in the back seat of the car when we pulled into Sturgis one August. Mom rolled down her window, pointed at a group of Harleys and shouted over at the men standing nearby, “Boys, you need to move these so I can park here.” They looked at each other and promptly did exactly what she asked them to do. No questions, no sass. She always approached situations with a friendly attitude that carried the message, “Of course you’ll do it my way, there is no other choice.”
The idea that size doesn’t matter, but attitude does carries over into life, leadership, management and business. There is not a single company that started out huge. But attitude and good business decisions got them there. The same is true for huge companies that still work with the agility of a start-up. Think of Google – their innovation and change is hardly the behavior of a behemoth blue chip company that their employee count or stock valuation would lead you to believe should be the case.
Love is unconditional. This is absolutely true with dogs and should be in our dealings with each other. Holding out qualifiers for someone to “earn” your love is not really love, that is control that you are rewarding with attention.
Real love doesn’t have qualifiers or parameters. That is how we should feel toward the people who are important in our lives. Give up control and just love them for being who they are. Everything will be much easier.
Heck, this is how we should approach everyone we know. But, like dogs, always trust your instincts. If someone raises your hackles, keep a wary eye on them, growl if necessary.
Respect, trust and loyalty are earned and must be renewed regularly. Respect, trust and loyalty must be earned. It also needs nurturing and care to stay and grow. Most people don’t realize how true this is when they get a dog as a puppy, but the relationship is built one bowl of kibble and one kind word at a time. It’s more obvious if you’ve ever adopted an adult dog, and especially if it was a dog that was rescued from an abusive situation.
The same is more so with people. Many people I meet believe that respect should be automatic based on title, position and/or perceived power. That’s not true. People will respect the title or position, but not the person until they prove themselves worthy of respect. Trust and loyalty are more so.
For me and many people I know, a basic level of common courtesy replaces respect, trust and loyalty until they are earned by the recipient. How do you go about earning respect, trust and loyalty? In my experience by showing the people you work with, live with and interact with that you care about them, their goals and their aspirations. When you prove you are looking out for them, they will respond in kind.
Like in the previous section, trust your instincts, if someone raises your hackles or proves they cannot be respected, trusted and are not loyal, keep a wary eye and growl when necessary. And I don’t mean literally growl. You might end up with a visit from the nice men in white coats taking you to be evaluated at the closest mental health facility. Let the person know what you are seeing and feeling from them. If they respond negatively, you know to avoid that person. Dealing with negative people isn’t good for you. It’s better to just move on and find people who are good to you and thus good for you.
Be good to each other. We’re all in this together.