I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive.
— Gilda Radner
It’s amazing how much animals can teach us. We as humans can make life so complicated, looking for complex answers to complicated problems. I am inspired by those who can find genius in the simple things in life. One of the greatest teachers that I have had the privilege to learn from is dogs, specifically my wonderful bull terrier who recently passed away. In honor of his life and the gifts that he gave me, I want to share some of these simple yet powerful lessons with you.
1. Love unconditionally: I don’t know what to say about this one. I simply invite you to bring more unconditional love into you relationships. If you did love unconditionally, what would it look like? What difference would it make to you and to the lives of others?
2. Be transparent: One thing that I loved about my dog is that he let me know when he was happy or when he was frustrated. It helped me understand how to help him, and teach him. I also learned that if I want others to help me, that I need to let others know my feelings, my needs and hopes.
3. Greet people at the door: This lesson is one in customer service. Have you ever been to a place of business where you are searching for your appointment, or a receptionist, or a hostess? It makes a tremendous difference if our first experience with an organization is one of welcoming. If you want to get the best out of people and create the best chances for a meaningful exchange, then welcome people warmly and enthusiastically; at your work and your home.
4. Be a friend to those in need: When people are in need, it can be hard to know what to do. Dogs don’t worry about doing the right thing. They just come over and offer their support and encouragement when times are tough. We as people can sense when a coworker or friend need some help. It is more important to offer help and support openly, warmly than to come up with the perfect grand gesture while time keeps passing. Focus on the “how” and not so much the “what”.
5. It doesn’t always have to be perfect: I have heard leaders at all levels of all types of organizations, fret about making something perfect. Meanwhile, time passes by. Of course quality is important and there are times when attention to detail is critical. I am inviting you to consider when you are letting perfection get in the way of contact, emotion or execution. I often spend days reviewing articles before I release them to my readers. This article is going out with one proof read. I think that right now, it is more important that it goes out in the world, even with flaws, then to wait.
6. Trust your intuition: There is a saying; “dogs know”. So do you, and for more than you give yourself credit. Check in with yourself when something doesn’t “feel” right. Our bodies, brains and hearts have ways of taking in information faster than we can make sense of it. Pay attention to your signals.
7. Be consistent: If you want people to know what your expectations are of them, then be consistent. You will drive people nuts if the rules and consequences are constantly changing. Dogs will let you know if the boundaries are not clear and so will people. Respect others and their learning by being as true and consistent as you can.
8. Self Acceptance: My dog was not a tireless border collie, nor a fetching Labrador retriever, nor did he try to be. He was an English Bull Terrier. He did not convince himself that he had to fetch, herd or jog for miles. That wasn’t him and he seemed perfectly content with himself. How often do we judge ourselves for not being something? What would it be like to just embrace the gifts and talents that you have and build on them? Stop beating yourself up all the time and embrace your breed whatever it is.
9. Be a good listener: Often times, people come to us, needing someone to listen to them. Instead of listening, we as humans often try and solve the other person’s problems. We make the assumption that the other person wants their problem solved. My dog listened to me, open heart, eyes and ears without multi- tasking. The world needs more listening, less talking and problems solving.
10. Speak up when it’s important: In his last moments on this earth, my dog barked as he lay down on his bed to leave us. Something was up and he wanted for me to know and come be by his side. If he had waited or not spoken up, then I would have missed the event and he would have died alone. How often do we need something or see something that needs attending, but hold onto our tongues and sit on our hands waiting for next time or the perfect moment. There may never be the perfect moment. Sometimes, it is more important to call attention to what is needed when it is needed than to wait. There may not always be a next time.
There are so many lessons. These are just a few that I wanted to share. I will be working on putting these lessons into practice more in my life both personally and professionally. It is how I want to honor the memory and teachings of my beloved Bodger. After all, if we do not put lessons into practice, then they are just merely observation, not learning.
Which of these lessons will you practice? Maybe you have learned some lessons from your pet? Please share them with this leadership community in the comments section.
Thank you for reading and I wish you all continued courage, success, support, learning and love on your leadership journey.
This article is dedicated to my wonderful Bodger. Thank you for everything my special friend. You will be with me forever. Your beautiful spirit lives on..
Larysa Slobodian, MA Principal Consultant L4 Leadership