05 Oct 10 lessons I learnt from my dogs that I apply to corporate life
I love this ‘Dog Blog’ by Gina Churchill expert in shining brightly in your career…read her delightful (and poignant) insight how our beloved dogs can teach us so much…
1. My dogs will bend their rules as far as they will possibly go – they test their boundaries on a constant basis – and normally I am OK with it (think of me as their CEO (Canine Executive Officer). It shows they have independence, they seek adventure and want to see how much they can get out of life……but every now and again it is definitely in their best interest to show pure and total obedience for which they will be richly rewarded with a gravy bone.
I don’t want robots for dogs – I want to enjoy their personalities and I think this is true of the workplace and employees – but every once in a while you just have to follow the letter of the rules – whether that is to keep you safe or to impress external clients or whatever…it doesn’t matter – just know when to sit statue still for that gravy bone!
2. My dogs love having my attention – in fact if I forget to include them in whatever I am doing I get a timely reminder…my i-pad for example is considered fierce competition, to be knocked out of my hand if at all possible, likewise the arm which controls my mouse should clearly not be on a mouse but stroking one of their heads (or both if humanly possible) – they thrive on positive attention and when they are happy, boy, do we know about it, waggy tails (Jess so much that her whole body joins in!), smiley faces (only some-one who has never owned a dog will tell you dogs can’t smile) and general over excited-ness…..which led me to thinking how do we as people make sure we are getting the attention we need at work??
Everyone is busy so you do need to remind the right people that you are there and that your needs are known, whether that is some training, a discussion about future career path or anything else. And a regular reminder done in the right way does not hurt in any way as long as you are demonstrating professionalism and manners – it shows that you are keen and willing.
Now then..as for thriving on positive attention….this is a tricky one and one dear to my heart…(because your unconscious bias (yes it’s a technical term) has a lot to say in how you react to positive attention – but we’ll talk about that another day!) ..and for a lot of us British folk, especially women, we do not tend to glow in the warmth of some-one ‘bigging us up’ or giving us a compliment.. it’s just not the done thing dahrling!!
Well it should be! If you have done something particularly well that it has been not only noticed but actually recognised, why not be proud and take ownership of it? We should all be thriving on positive attention not playing small and giving the glory away…. you don’t have to have a personality transplant, just learn to accept a compliment and praise with a simple ‘thank you’ if that’s what suits you…. or you could wag your whole body with pure joy but that’s your choice!
3. Avoid biting at all costs – usually a little growl will send out the message loud and clear…. aggression in the work place is old school – we don’t carry out business like that anymore.
Organisations used to be predominantly male environments where the person with the loudest voice often got their own way… but life has changed and if I can give any corporate woman advise on this topic it is that women who are perceived to be aggressive will alienate not only men but also other women. I don’t suggest for one minute that we all become pushovers – but we need to harness all that feminine power that each of us own (that includes you!) and push it out as assertiveness; this way you are far more likely to get the result you want and if you don’t, see #4
4. No grudges to be held at any time…I can tell those dogs off, make them lie in their beds, send them to the pet hotel for a weekend or a fortnight (it’s ok I have it on good authority they have no concept of duration) and they will always come flying back into my arms the minute they are allowed to. They are straight back in with an unlimited amount of unconditional love for me. I am not suggesting you start throwing yourself into anyone’s arms at work but I’m sure you get my point…if something doesn’t go your way, lick those wounds and get straight back in that friendship ring (in a professional manner of course).
5. Be loyal. There is never a day that I could ever doubt how loyal my dogs are to me – your organisation needs to feel the same. Chances are you have signed things like confidentiality agreements, Intellectual Property rights and other such documents your company uses to protect themselves. But in softer terms they depend on your discretion not to say negative things about them, reputation is a very important asset and one which should be protected.
If you feel you are being overlooked for promotion, or feel like you might want to start looking elsewhere, I have a big tip for you – tell your boss how you feel – in the right way of course! If they value you (and are loyal to you too – it works both ways) they will not want to risk losing you and will work it out with you. If they don’t value you, their reaction to your telling them how you feel will tell you immediately that it is time to move on. You shouldn’t take this personally; these are business reactions and business decisions and should be considered as such.
For example, I was made redundant early in my construction career. At the time this broke my heart, the person who had to do it was a man who had helped me up the ladder early in my career, he was a mentor and a role model (in fact I still consider him to be one of those pivotal people in my career path) but at the time, all I could see was the person who I had trusted now making me redundant. You see I was taking it personally when of course he was only following a decision made by the organisation at a much higher level – and he wasn’t feeling great about it either.
One thing the redundancy situation did teach me though is that I had to be loyal to me too – if I had an opportunity to further my career with a different employer, I would take it. Done in the right way you don’t need to burn bridges, nobody will really want to stand in your way of progress if you give them enough notice, reasoning and handover. Testament to this is I have twice retuned to companies that I have previously worked for and handed notice. See – no grudges – the dogs know what they are doing!!
6. Dogs cannot ‘put on a front’, act like some-one they are not, adapt their behaviour so they fit in better. And we as humans can’t really do that either… we just think we can.
It takes up a huge amount of energy to go around the place pretending that you are somebody different to your true self.
My work on The Sirius System often refers to what I call Spiral Thinking and it leads to The Killer Conformist – women in the workplace dulling down their true personalities so that they ‘fit in’. We create a habit of giving our seniors the answers that we believe they want to hear, rather than coming from our authentic selves. This will usually manifest itself in verbal responses or ‘saying the right thing’ but can also be in behaviours or ‘doing the right thing’, dress or ‘wearing the right thing’, mannerisms etc.
This comes right back to my very first point – your workplace doesn’t want robots – the whole point of having a diverse workforce is that we all bring our individuality to work and your authentic, unique you is where your thoughts, ideas and dreams are stored…so whilst you might sometimes think it is easier to toe the line, be like Darby and Jess and show who you are in all your glory! Believe in your abilities and intelligence (they didn’t employ you as a last resort you know) and show your authenticity and brilliance – the only way to career success and happiness!
7. If what you want lies deeply buried, dig until you get it! We’ve all seen a dog burying for the forgotten bone (well the location might be forgotten, but not the bone!) Darby has a particular habit of flicking her chews underneath the furniture where she can’t get to them and then scraping the stone floor for an hour like she’s going to dig a tunnel!! And you have to admire that tenacity! This ritual normally results in me on my hands and knees retrieving the chew, but guess what…she gets the result she was after!! So here is my advice – copy her – be that tenacious. If you have a goal (and we should all have career goals) stand firm and keep going until you get there. It may not be all smooth sailing but that’s why you have to dig in and keep going until you get what you want. And when you achieve that goal, of course, you set a new one and start again.
8. My dogs (and all dogs everywhere) never quite trust anyone (human or canine) until they have had a proper good sniff and got the measure of their scent and I think this is a very wise lesson to learn! I am not suggesting that you start going around the office having a good smell of everybody’s smelly bits but I do think we could all benefit from tuning in to our intuition. By definition, intuition is ‘quick insight’ not dependent on any reasoning. In other words, gut instinct. Trust it and it will serve you well. And if you can learn anything from Darby and Jess, 99.9% of the time they are quite happy with everyone they come across, just occasionally they choose not to engage.
9. Guard Your Territory! I work from home a lot. It means I am home alone with the dogs a lot. Before Jessie arrived, my husband and I realised that there was a pattern with Darby’s body language. Whenever I was home alone I realised she was guarding not only our home but also me. When my husband was at home she was off-guard (as off guard as a dog ever is) but when it was just me, I came to realise she lies in such a way as to be guarding every possible route of access from an unwanted. If I am in the office she will lie in the doorway facing outwards, if I am in the lounge she will sit blocking the front door and watching the back and so on. My point is, know what is yours and protect, protect, protect it. Don’t give your own prize jewels away – if you are seeking progression and success you have to differentiate yourself from the rest so guard your USP! I would just like to point out here that I trust my house to my dogs on a daily basis, if I asked them to guard my supper, however, this would be another story, although I do know of dogs who once told not to eat something will not eat it…not mine!
10. Take naps. Darby and Jess sleep and wake in probably equal measures. Translating this into us humans, what I mean is you need to practice self-care, take breaks and look after yourself. You will give so much more to yourself and your boss if you are refreshed and calm… trying to be superwoman and burning out will just make you frantic and disorganised.
For more information about Gina, and her work go to www.Sirius-Business.co.uk