Leadership and dogs look very different worlds with few common points. Well, they are certainly different things. Leadership is a very serious thing and training a dog has little to do with leading a person but, is there anything that dogs can teach us about leadership? Do dogs behave at a certain point like humans? The answer is YES. So, what lessons can we learn from dogs about leadership?
1. Give immediate feedback: Dogs can only associate an action and its consequence if one comes immediately after the other (no more than 5 seconds delay). This is the way they learn, through a mechanism called operant conditioning. Operant conditioning also works for humans. It is true that humans can associate more distant cause and effect relationships, but only at a certain point. The more immediate the feedback, the higher effect you’ll get.
- Tip for humans: Dogs don’t mind if they are corrected in public, but people prefer receiving negative feedback in private.
2. Be consistent: You can drive a dog crazy if the same action triggers a very different consequence: “chewing” on their toys is great but “chewing” on your shoes is wrong. It is difficult for them to understand why the same thing (“chewing”) drives such a different behaviors on us. We must help them perceive the small differences that make each situation unique. Humans are more intelligent and capable of seeing “these little things” that can completely change the circumstances, but we need anyway a consistent response to our actions. If receiving feedback is welcome today and makes you mad tomorrow, nobody will know how to work with you.
3. Don’t punish, reward: Dogs can learn using punishment, but learning is more fun, lasts longer and creates less frustration if you use rewards. Punishment must be the very last resource and is acceptable only if the life of the dog is at risk. The same applies to humans.
4. Teaching takes time and patience: A teaching session with a dog needs preparation (environment, tricks), time (patience, calm), a clear definition of success and persistence (repetition with progressive difficulty). People needs pretty much the same things:
- have a clear training goal: define the purpose
- prepare the session: what do you need?
- patience and time: things generally don’t work the first time
- frequent repetition setting the bar higher each time
This is a compilation of the most popular posts in 2016. Enjoy!
- Myths about PDCA: Learn why people don’t use correctly this powerful tool: link
- Effective vs. Efficient: Is there really a difference? Why does it matter?: link
- Book summary, “Hoshin Kanri for the Lean Enterprise”: How can you use Hoshin Kanri to do an effective policy deployment? Learn from the experts! link
- Hoshin Kanri and policy deployment: Learn the basics of Hoshin Kanri: link
- 3 signs that people are not on board: Engagement is key for the success of Lean. Do you know how to read people reaction to change? link
- Lean, common sense and apparent contradictions: Why are Lean principles difficult to understand? link
I wrote some weeks ago a summary of a conference about engagement (find the post here). This graph summarizes the most important reasons that keep your people engaged. Remember, managers cannot make people happy, but they have a big influence in creating the right environment. Enjoy!
Engagement is more important than it seems. Engaged people really make the difference. Research shows that engagement has a great impact in a company’s performance: from innovation speed and retention to financial results (source: Towers-Watson 2012 Global Workforce Study):
When neither managers nor leaders are perceived as effective, only 8% of employees are highly engaged. Not unexpectedly, in companies where both leaders and managers are perceived by employees as effective, 72% of employees are highly engaged. Companies with effective leaders as well as managers can expect to have more highly engaged employees.Towers-Watson 2014 Global Workforce Study
- The engaged state for what people GIVE
- The disengaged state for what people GET
- The individual (“I have personal problems”). Although they are not necessarily related to the job, personal problems kill engagement. It’s important to be ready and alert: 1 person out of 7 has a serious personal problem every year.
- The work (“I don’t like the work I do”). Nobody loves every aspect of his/her job, but if you hate everything about it, engagement is impossible. Correct work assignments are critical.
- The supervisor (“I’m not recognized”). Show people you care. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care, said T. Roosevelt.
- The organization (“I don’t believe in the company values”). Company values matter. Really.