8 Managerial Skills You Can Learn from Your Dog

 In Culture

When we think of animals that can teach us life or work lessons, the first that might come to mind is a shark, for its focus and power. Or the industrious “busy beaver.” Perhaps even the mighty ant, which can carry thousands of times its own weight. But there may be a better example sleeping on the sofa in your own living room – your dog.

Below, we’ll explore ways in which your dog can be your business coach. Try them, and you may find yourself developing better skills as a manager, as well as greater happiness as a human being.

1.    Vocal communication

Your dog will always tell you what’s on his mind.

“Whimper, whimper, I’m sad.”

“Bark-bark-bark, there’s a stranger coming over here!”

“Woof, this is fun!”

Many businesses would be better off if their managers gave regular, honest feedback the way dogs do. Employees would invest time and energy on the projects their supervisors truly care about and they would know right away if the work is inconsistent with his or her goals.

And, if a manager followed the example of a dog, there’d be enthusiastic positive feedback and support whenever something went right. After all, it’s heart-breaking for a hardworking employee to spend days on a project, only to be rewarded with, “Thanks, looks good.” Imagine how much more happiness there would be in that workplace if the manager grabbed at the project and said, “Woohoo, yeah! I can’t wait to review it! Thank you so much for sticking to it, and I appreciate it. You’re awesome!”

2.    Body language

Your dog is equally excellent at physical communication or body language.

You know that a tail-wag = happiness; tail between legs means fear or shame, and hunched shoulders accompanied by growling means your dog is on the defensive. A dog’s body language is easy to read.

Offices would be much happier places if staff could always know what mood their bosses were in or what they were thinking in a meeting. Clear body language is even more important than vocal communication, because bodies talk all the time, not only when people are speaking out loud. For example, a supervisor who walks around the office with his arms folded across his chest might simply have a lot on his mind; however, to his staff, it communicates unhappiness with their work.

3.    Focus, focus, focus!

You’ve seen it happen many times: your dog appears to be relaxed or asleep, but when he sees you holding a frisbee he is up in a flash and ready to play! As managers, we spread ourselves thin by trying to be or do everything at once. And the result is that the most important issue doesn’t get the kind of time and attention it needs.

A manager also needs to be able to focus on critical issues at every point in time. While there may be many competing projects or deadlines, the manager should be able to shift focus quickly to focus on what is the most important job at hand in that moment or on an employee who needs the manager’s attention at that time. Such focus tells an employee that he or she is appreciated and respected, and this increases his or her overall happiness and satisfaction at work.

4.    Listen to your body for good health

When a dog is hungry, he eats. When he’s tired, he rests. When he has to “go”… he goes! Managers who ignore their physical wellbeing are prone to illnesses that can force them to take a long time off to recover. It’s smarter in the long run to follow a dog’s example: take a short break now and avoid needing time off later.

Make sure you hydrate throughout your day (but drink out of a bottle, not a bowl!). Another “good health” tip from your dog: stretch every day! It’s good for your muscles and joints, especially if your job requires lots of sitting.

5.    Don’t worry about your image

When was the last time you ever noticed your dog worry if he looked “cool” or not? What a silly question – he never worries about that!

Dogs are happy to be curious or silly. Take their “advice” on this and you’ll be better off for it. The next time you are curious about a task or some work in another department, just ask! Don’t allow your fear of looking ignorant to get in the way of learning a new thing.

Or, if your team meets a major deadline or reaches a stretch goal, go ahead and dance, or pump your fist in the air. Sure, you might look silly. A dog looks silly chasing his own tail or balancing a ball on his nose, but he likes doing those things and they make him happy. Embrace happiness and ignore that voice that whispers that you look foolish.

6.    Show humility

Dogs know when they are wrong, and they show their regret in voice and posture. As the saying goes, it takes a big person to admit when he is wrong. If a dog is big enough to do it, you are too.

Maybe you had a rough day and snapped at a junior colleague. You probably became embarrassed or mad at yourself for losing your temper. You decided the best thing is to pretend it never happened, right? Wrong. Be humble. Apologize. Take a minute or an hour if you need to cool off, but commit to apologizing soon. Let your colleague know the mistake won’t happen again. Imagine how that person would feel if you never acknowledged your mistake, compared to how good he will feel to receive a thoughtful apology?

7.    Trust your instincts

Dogs are known for having a sixth sense when something is wrong or when a person is secretly unhappy. Your dog doesn’t know enough English or German to pick up on these things on purpose. But he senses when an atmosphere is stressful or when someone acts differently than usual.

Try trusting your instincts this much. You might realize that your star employee feels unfulfilled and is considering a transfer. Or maybe you’ll catch an error in a crucial report.

8.    Choose happiness!

Happiness is a choice. Dogs know that and because they want to be happy, they choose to be. Your dog chooses to sit near you because he likes you the most, and he chooses to do what gives him the most happiness in that moment.

We humans don’t always have that luxury, of sitting near favorites or doing only what we like. However, we can decide that we will choose happiness as our goal. As a person and as a manager or team leader, you work to accomplish the best possible result – now imagine if that result were to maximize your happiness? You, your colleagues, and your life would be happier for it. You have to decide to be happy regardless of what goes on.

Your dog learns his tricks from you. You can learn from him, too. Let your dog help you bring some happiness in to your work!

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