They say dogs are man’s best friend and with remote work becoming a new professional norm, many are turning to shelters and breeders to get their own furry companion. What if I told you that getting a dog can teach you lessons about business leadership? Here are 5 things getting a dog during the pandemic has taught me about business leadership.
Establishing Boundaries — All dogs (especially puppies) need clear direction in understanding what is and what isn’t acceptable in their new home. Trainers often emphasize the importance of establishing and reinforcing boundaries to set expectations for your canine companion; and this lesson is not lost on business relationships inclusive of partnerships, clients, and even employees. Everyone you share your business with needs to understand their part in contributing to the success or failure of that business. Customers need to know what product or service you provide and how to get it, partners need to know where and how they fit into the equation, and employees need to know the do’s and don’ts around their specific role and how to be successful in that role.
Clear communication — Repeatedly asking your dog to adhere to a command you haven’t effectively taught will lead to frustration on both you and the dog’s part. There’s two ways to get a dog to learn a command; you show it first how to do said command and you reward it or, the dog performs a desired behavior and you mark it with positive reinforcement encouraging the behavior again, and again, and again. If your business relationships are not clear on how to complete a task or even what the task is those relationships will result in frustration that can result in a loss of revenue, a hostile work environment, or damage to the business’s operational structure and/or brand. Once boundaries and expectations are established a standard operating procedure (SOP) should be put in place so that there is no question on what is expected and how to perform that expectation.
Consistency is key — Dogs often do best in environments where they know what to expect and when. Eating patterns, bathroom breaks, walks, bed time, and even training should exist on a consistent schedule for maximum effectiveness. If you tell your dog that they can’t sit on the furniture then there should be consistency around enforcing this rule otherwise the dog will become confused. As a business leader once you establish boundaries, and clearly communicate what is expected of those who interact with your business, there should exist some consistency in the delivery of those messages lest you undermine the integrity of all you’ve established creating a lack of confidence in your business from your clients, decreased engagement and efficiency from your partners, and inconsistent performance of your employees.
Do the dirty work — Having a dog is all fun and games until it’s time to clean up behind it! Whether it’s dirty paws, car windows, or the occasional in-house accident, dogs can leave behind quite a mess. As a business leader there will certainly be tasks that no one wants to do, but need to get done. Whether it’s de-escalating a client issue, delegating administrative tasks, or letting an employee go, some of the ‘dirty work’ is crucial to the overall successful running of the business.
Use incentives to drive results — Dog’s are often eager to please their humans and they recognize their accomplishments through food, praise, or play. Absent of these incentives it’s likely your dog won’t understand that what they’re doing (or not doing) is desirable. In a business environment your clients are incentivized by your product or service, your partners by business growth and profits, and your employees by pay. It is unlikely that without a clear incentive to perform a desired result that the result will ever be achieved.