August 26, 2014

Topic: Management & Leadership

Work like a dog

From the title, you probably thought this blog was going to be about how if you work really hard you’ll get ahead and succeed. While that’s true, that’s not where I’m going. I’m thinking more about how you can succeed at work, and life in general, if you mimic the lovable traits of man’s best friend.

I live in the land of bumper stickers, and my favorite one is, "Lord, Help Me To Be The Person My Dog Thinks I Am." No matter what you’ve done good or bad, your dog - without fail - will greet you when you come home like you’re the greatest thing they’ve ever seen. That positive attitude is a reason many people love dogs so much. And now think about what kind of people you like to work with – it’s most likely the ones with that same positive attitude. It’s infectious.

Similarly, dogs live in the moment. They don’t fret over what happened yesterday, and they don’t worry about tomorrow. They are totally focused on and excited about whatever is happening right now, whether that’s greeting someone, taking a walk, or finding something to sniff. Having that short memory and lack of worry will keep you positive and productive in the present, rather than dwelling on past set-backs or the possibility of future scenarios you can’t control. Dogs are focused and curious, two traits we all would benefit from.

When it’s time for a walk or to chase a ball, a dog is always ready to go - full speed and with enthusiasm. Even if they don’t know where you are taking them, they are raring to go. They have energy and a sense of adventure. Bringing that energy, whether it’s for the everyday tasks or for taking on change and new challenges, clearly separates high performers in the workplace.

The list of dogs’ attributes wouldn’t be complete without loyalty, as this is the trait most commonly associated with dogs. Quite simply, to succeed at work, or in any relationship, you need to be committed. Committed to the people, committed to the cause – a dog is unwavering in their loyalty and commitment. If you’re not able to demonstrate that kind of commitment at work for whatever reason, you should leave. Without loyalty and commitment, everybody loses.

If you’re a supervisor, think about the lessons you can glean from the amazingly trainable dog. How does training a dog work? The key is immediate and consistent feedback, for both positive and negative behaviors. Unless you’re a musher of a dog sled team, your employees probably aren’t actual dogs. But, the same principles apply. One of the hardest things on an employee is having a supervisor who is inconsistent (in expectations or mood). People also want constructive feedback so they can learn and improve, and everyone desires positive recognition for a job well done. Oh, and treats work almost as well with people as dogs.

To succeed at anything, of course you need to work hard, but add in the positive attitude and commitment of our four legged role model and you’ll be on your way.

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