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Five things I learned about managing people from my dog

Sat in an airport lounge waiting for my connection and I’m reminded by a ping on the team WhatsApp that today is National Pet Day.

My personal philosophy is that empowering staff and creating a happy environment is the secret to success – and actually boosts productivity. You’ll never get great work from people who don’t enjoy doing what they are doing. A 2012 study by Virginia Commonwealth University found that when people had their pets around during the workday had much lower stress levels (an 11% drop) than those who had to leave their furry friends at home (a 70% rise). According to studies, employees in pet-friendly workplaces have proven to be happier, friendlier, more creative, and more cooperative than non-pet offices. Central Michigan University found that employees at dog-friendly workplaces collaborated and trusted each other more. All of these things help create a more efficient, productive culture – a staggering 87% of dog-friendly employers noticed a positive impact on their employees’ likelihood to return to the office.

Happiness is absolutely fundamental – and what could be happier than a dog? So, strap in. I’m about to take you on a walk – not the kind you’re thinking, though. We’re not picking up after dogs here; we’re picking up wisdom from them. Yes, you read that right. My chocolate lab Monty, believe it or not, has schooled me in the art of managing people. Crazy? Maybe. Valuable? Hell yes. Here are five golden nuggets of management wisdom I’ve picked up from my four-legged friend.

1. Be Clear on What You Want

Ever tried playing fetch with a dog without a clear signal? Chaos. They look at you like you’ve lost the plot. It’s the same with your team. If you’re not crystal clear about what you want, don’t be surprised if they end up chasing their tails. Define your objectives, throw that metaphorical stick with precision, and watch them go.

2. Rewards Work Wonders

My dog does anything for a treat. Humans? Not so different. We’re not talking biscuits here, but recognition, praise, the occasional bonus. Catch your team doing something right and reward the hell out of it. Positive reinforcement isn’t just for pups. It boosts morale and motivation. Let’s stop saving praise for annual reviews and start doling it out like dog treats – timely and tasty.

3. Consistency is Key

Ever tried changing your dog’s walking schedule on a whim? Good luck with that. Consistency keeps the world spinning, especially in the workplace. Your team craves stability in goals, expectations, and feedback. Be as dependable as their dinner time, and you’ll foster a secure, productive environment.

4. Loyalty Deserves Loyalty

My dog would go through fire for me, and I’d do the same. Loyalty breeds loyalty. Show your team unwavering support, stand up for them, and they’ll move mountains for you. In a dog-eat-dog world, be the leader who has their back. They’ll not only respect you for it but will also be more invested in your shared goals.

5. Know When to Lead and When to Walk Alongside

There’s a time to lead your dog, and there’s a time to simply walk together. Leadership isn’t about barking orders from the front; it’s about knowing when to guide and when to walk shoulder to shoulder, tackling challenges as a pack. Empower your team, give them the lead when it’s safe to do so, and you’ll both enjoy the journey a whole lot more.

So, there you have it. Who knew that management lessons could be found on a leash? Next time you’re out with your furry friend, pay attention. They might just teach you a thing or two about leading a team. And to those who say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Rubbish. The real trick is learning from them.

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