Is your energy all wrong for this dog…

Lola and Oscar

We recently got a new puppy called Lola. Since we are inexperienced with dogs, I thought it would be a good idea to get a dog trainer, who would essentially train the family to train the dog. A friend recommended Nick and said he had “worked magic with her Lenny”. Something about what she didn’t say told me that the experience would be interesting. “All I’ll say is that he’s very interested in the dog”, she said with a knowing look.

Nick was in high demand but we were able to book Lola in at the “highly trainable” age of 12-16 weeks. The big day arrived and we were all ready and waiting. My teenage daughters even emerged at 10am on a Sunday morning for the big event.

We were given 3 tools of discipline to work with; “snap, bite and ignore”. Apparently we should rarely use the bite – which isn’t literally a bite but rather a firm squeeze either side of the neck. Importantly, each of the three key tools must be balanced with plenty of positive reinforcement. Nick informed us we also needed to learn to think like a dog, which involved thinking hierarchically and as a pack animal.

We went for our first walk and learnt to master the snap, which is essentially a snap of the lead if your dog walks ahead of you, to bring them back into line, since you need to be the “leader of the pack”. Both my eldest daughter and husband managed to cruise through this process with small adjustments. Then it was my turn.

With my first snap Lola did a backflip – I forgot to mention she is a teensy pup. A little freaked out by the force I had accidentally exerted I decided to play safe and be gentle. “Good giiirrrrl” I said mimicking Nick’s low drawl.

I gave it a few tries and then Nick said  ‘Stop! Your energy is all wrong for this dog!”

Once I’d got over his metaphorical slap …..and his not so sensitive feedback, plus my family getting far too much enjoyment out of this, I realised that I was both overcorrecting and under correcting. That in my effort to ‘get it right’, I was tensing up, getting tunnel vision, and not actually connecting with the dog.

You need to tune in

In the same way I had to learn to read Lola, how do you tune into your people? Can you read them when they are under stress? Do you provide enough tension when something needs to change without pulling too hard or overwhelming them? Do you praise in a meaningless and generic way – the human equivalent of “good girl” or is your feedback specific and targeted?

Where is your focus?

As a leader where is your focus? Are you so fixated on strategy that you have forgotten about the people you need to bring along? Does all you energy go into focusing on yourself, your needs, your worries that you fail to see a potential game changer in your industry?

Daniel Goleman talks about leaders needing to place their attention into three circles of focus: self, team/others and the organization:

Every leader needs to cultivate this triad of awareness, in abundance and in the proper balance, because a failure to focus inward leaves you rudderless, a failure to focus on others renders you clueless, and a failure to focus outward may leave you blindsided.

“The Focused Leader” Harvard Business Review DECEMBER 2013

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