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08TH July 2011

Culture - Entrepreneur - Leadership - Timeless - Vision

Lessons from the dog park…


I have long been a dog lover.  And with our latest addition to the family [Baxter], I’ve had a chance to observe a young pup as he finds his place in the world.  As he wriggles, tugs and yips his way through a morning at the dog park, I sit, coffee cup in hand, musing on the parallels to the business world [insert “dog eat dog” cliché here].

We’ve all heard the saying about being the lead dog, because otherwise, the view is always the same.  But what about the other Lessons from the Dog Park?

1)  Watch out for little guys.  Yeah, you may be the Big Dog.  But those little yippers, hovering on the sidelines, can do serious damage if their teeth get ahold of your nether regions.  Don’t take ‘em for granted.

2)  Discipline is a good thing.  I watched one of those trainers – you know the type:  thick ankles, ratty ponytail and a sweatshirt covered in dog hair?   — as she worked with a pup in the parking lot.  A treat carefully laid by the pooch, with the command to “leave it” – until he got the go-ahead to chow down. Sometimes you need to put off the tempting immediate gratification of the Big Deal or the Big Sale.  Take a moment to “leave it” – until you know the timing is just right.  The payoff will be that much sweeter.

3)  For a new perspective, head to neutral territory.  The idea of the Dog Park is that, because it’s “neutral,” no one dog will try to claim it.  Watching the dogs romp and play, I realize that a different environment, with none of the usual “triggers,” may also inspire some new ideas.

4)  Direct naturally – not  with fear.  Some folks use a chest collar/leash combo that relies on the dog’s own instinct to “heel.”  Others rely on that brutish “choke” collar, yanking them back from every perceived infraction of the rules.  The dogs with the chest collar were able to move forward with confidence –and a lot less stress.  The other pooches were harder to handle – and seemed unhappy.  Lesson?  Find the unique elements that allow your employees to move forward, and yet not get out of control.  Don’t simply bully them into compliance.  All that results in are nervous dogs (and employees?) who shake and pee inappropriately.

5)  Praise does more than criticism.  Dogs want to please you – well, most of the time.  And giving them praise is a fast-track way to good behavior.  Face it, anyone would rather hear “Good boy!”  than “Bad dog!”  Although my dog, Baxter…well, he likes to keep me guessing.

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