It’s a Saturday morning and I’m sitting in my recliner enjoying a cup of coffee and catching up on my reading when our 18-month-old Corgi bounds up between my legs, ears straight up and eyes wide. I pet him on the top of the head thinking he’ll go away, but he stays perched on the chair waiting on me to respond. To what, I don’t know — until I see the leash. He has clearly let me know that he wants to go for a walk.
We troop around the block, and he does what dogs do — sniff where other dogs have been and then apply his own mark to the territory with a hike of his back leg. We return home and he continues his activities by lying on his back, which translates to “rub my tummy,” and bringing me a tennis ball, which means “let’s play pitch and catch.” He’s as smart as any dog I’ve seen.
Then I have the epiphany. As one who is into studying and teaching leadership I realize that our dog has just given me a good leadership lesson, especially when it comes to how to motivate others to do what you want them to do.
John Maxwell, author of numerous books on the subject of leadership, sums up his definition of leadership as “leadership is influence — nothing more, nothing less.”
Obviously, Scooter influenced me. So how did he do it and what can I learn from him about influencing others?
When Scooter has a goal, such as “rub my tummy” or “throw the ball,” he keeps asking (in his own way) until his goal is accomplished.
As Lee Iacocca said, “You’ve got to say, I think that if I keep working at this and want it badly enough I can have it. It’s called perseverance.”
At first, when Scooter would go walking around the neighborhood on the leash he would empty his bladder on the first marked spot he would come to. Then he would come to other marked spots, but be empty. After only a week he was using only a few drops on the first marked spot he came to because he was saving up for other spots. In the business word, many have adopted the principle of Kaizen, a Japanese term meaning continuous improvement. Scooter caught on to the idea of continuous learning and improvement early on.
Make others feel good
Scooter taught me that the reward can be simply to make others be happy. When I’m happy, he’s happy. When I’m not happy, he tries to make me happy. When leaders actually care about their followers and employees, and not just the bottom line, it is amazing what employees will do for the organization.
Show others what you want them to do
If you want people to do something, don’t just tell them — show them. Scooter will literally move my hand to his tummy as he lies on his back. Too many managers tell their employees what to do without demonstrating first. They then wonder why the outcome was not what they desired.
I learned this the hard way once in a goal-setting exercise I facilitated for a board of directors of an organization. I assumed that the members knew how to construct goal statements, so I neglected to give them an example of a good goal statement. The result was that their goals were weak, uninspiring and below the level of what could be attained.
After showing them how to come up with the goal statements, the results were much better.
Show others that you can obey
In other words, show others that you can respond to their requests. Leaders need to let their followers know that they need feedback and are not afraid of receiving it.
Sometimes, just be quiet and be there
Scooter often follows me and then gets right under my feet, or he lies down on the other side of the room. He senses what I need from him. This ability to sense what your followers need is an art that real leaders understand. It is knowing what motivates others, and it is knowing that not everyone is motivated by the same behavior.
Scooter shows his love for me no matter what I do for him, even when he is disciplined. Followers who believe their leader truly cares for them will do just about anything for such a leader.
To be a better leader, I just remind myself of the leadership lessons from Scooter.
Phil Hardwick’s column on Mississippi Business appears regularly in the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and his Web site is www.philhardwick.com.