Friday, March 9, 2018

Leadership Lessons From My Dog

Okay, so my wife I have a dog. This is different for us. I've never had a dog before. I wasn't anti-dog or anything, I was more ambivalent about them. It is funny how fast I went from being dog-indifferent to being a dog-lover!

After years of talking about it, thinking about it, researching it, being encouraged to do it, we got organized and located a reputable breeder of West Highland Terriers (aka Westies). That is a whole other blog-worthy experience. We tried to adopt a rescue Westie, but got tired of waiting.

I am the type of person that looks for inspiration in the ordinary parts of life. I spend a lot of time with my dog, Chester the Westie (#ChesterTheWestie). We walk a lot, play a lot, etc. I've observed some things about him that I can relate to, and being a technologist and leader, I draw some lessons from this.

Your viewpoint is not the only one that counts.
So when I look down the street I see certain things. When Chester, who is much shorter, looks down the street, he sees something very different. It is a valuable viewpoint. He can look under cars, under bushes, into pipes and down storm drains. How many viewpoints do you consider when making decisions? Is your view the only one that matters? As Col. Beak Howell (retired Airforce) used to say, "where you sit determines what you see". Technology leaders need LOTS of viewpoints. 

Don't bark at everything.
Chester is a terrier. A very cute terrier, but a terrier none the less. They are a bit barky as dogs go. I like Chester to bark when folks come to the door. I do not like it when he barks at leaves in the yard, or his reflection in the sliding glass door (although that is really cute). Knowing when to bark, and how loud and how long is a tough tough thing to teach a dog. It is even harder for us as leaders. If you bark at everything, loudly and longly, your organization will ignore you and avoid you. Choose your barking wisely and make sure you wag your tail more than you bark.

Puppies change rapidly.
When Chester was 8 weeks old, he changed almost daily. He did new stuff, learned new tricks, and found new and inventive ways to be cute. He never stayed the same. Now that he is 11 months old, we still work with him to learn new things. Dogs love learning new tricks, just love it. The focused attention they get from us in the process is what they crave. That is what we should be after with our employees. Constant change, constant improvement, continuous learning. Technology is constantly changing, and we need to encourage people to change too. Your people will love the fact that you want to invest in them and help them grow and develop in their careers.

My dog has more friends than I do.
Chester goes to "doggie day camp" twice a week. He plays with other dogs, like a lot of dogs, for 8 full hours a week. He has friends in the neighborhood he plays with on walks. He LOVES to meet new dogs. There are absolutely no dogs he won't sniff, circle, and play with. My dog is a lot more welcoming than I am. When Chester meets a new human, he rolls over on his back for tummy scratches. Automatically. He is being vulnerable when he does that. Chester sets a great example of being welcoming and inclusive. You want people to trust you and follow you? Be vulnerable. Want more friends? Set aside time for play, and stop working all the time.

Amazing what a dog can teach you! Hope you have enjoyed this. This post is approved by #ChesterTheWestie.

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