Having a dog makes me a better leader. Truly great leaders connect to humanity, theirs and others. Dogs are great to keep us human as well as humble.
My dogs are elders. At the time writing this, Lucy Marie is 12 and Sammy Baxter is 15 years, 2 months, 19 days old. Having a dog as old as Sammy has taught me that I need to pay attention to his health and quality of life on a daily basis. This process has taught me how to pay attention at a deeper level so I can spot signs of deterioration quickly.
The same is true for leaders. They need to pay attention to the organizational health and quality of life on a daily basis. Many leaders are missing a major component of their business—the health of the life force energy inside the business. Ask yourself, how healthy and vibrant are your employees? If your team is stressed out, overwhelmed and living in blame culture then your business health is also suffering.
There’s an epidemic happening in business that few are talking about. Work environments have become so toxic that they are slowly killing the people that work there. In fact, a recent Stanford research study has claimed that toxic workplaces are now the 5th leading cause of death.
So how do we fix this epidemic?
Part of what contributes to a toxic workplaces is that we’ve lost the ability to truly connect with each other. We are too wrapped up in blaming, finger pointing, defending and making excuses to connect and communicate in ways that really move the business forward. Leaders need to encourage and foster inquiry and curiosity.
This can get tricky without an organizational wide training and development to learn how to shift out of blame culture and into accountable culture. In order to reap the benefits of curiosity, we need to learn how to meet it with maturity and with grace instead of reacting and defending.
Practice leads to greatness.
The next time someone asks a question, practice not taking it personally. There’s no need to defend or explain or justify. There needs to be no air defensiveness. When asking the question, be sure to watch your tone and inflection to ensure you aren’t creating a situation where someone feels they need to defend themselves. Seek to understand, without any judgement. As a leader, this is where your being matters most. If your being or energy is frustrated or annoyed or sarcastic, that’s what will be conveyed in your questions.
There’s no need for meanness at work. Ever.
Having my dogs reminds me of this. Lucy is such a little lover. Whenever I’m stressed or overwhelmed, and I pet her, I inevitability feel better. Kinder, more compassionate, more human. Spending time with Sammy and Lucy bring me back to my own humanity. I let myself get soft and mushy without apology when I’m with them. They also bring out my playful side. It’s not uncommon to find me on the floor playing with them.
These are important qualities in our leaders—human, capable of mushy hearts, playful. Leaders also need to know how to motivate teams to produce results. Greatness requires you to find the sweet spot between the two. It’s this humanity that is missing in the workplace.
Practice leads to greatness.
If you look at your workplace and notice the vibrancy is low, try infusing your leadership with humanity. Take a genuine interest in your people. Find out what’s going well for them and what obstacles are making life suck. Do what you can to create change to have a positive impact for your team. Show that you care. Use your leadership super-powers to make things better. And, Don’t forget to charge your super powers.
Mine run on puppy love.
“Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness. People are just people, and all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with a basic goodness.” ~Anne Frank