Reinvigorate leadership with this out-of-the-box question
Although the spirited year-end holidays are long gone, I’m still hearing a festive jingle … except, this time the sound is coming from my dog’s tags. Eager myself for the mental exercise of calmly planning the upcoming workday, we step out into the early-morning world.
There are no limits to where our curiosity can take us. My thoughts playfully lead way to the coffee shop gift card I’d seen the day before, designed with a “Year of the Dog” theme. The winding path ahead interestingly illuminated, I pick up the pace.
This results in more creative thinking about self-improvement and one intriguing “think-outside-of-the-box” question: How can these furry friends possibly inspire us to become more successful in the workplace? Yes, channeling their sense of smell will help lead us to any indulgent treats being shared in nearby cubicles. But all jokes aside, the answers are deeply rooted.
Dogs are heralded as “trustworthy and reliable with a strong sense of duty and a clearly defined moral compass.” It seems logical then that any leader who consistently demonstrates these qualities will also be extremely effective. But the parallels run deeper—supported by research from experts in organizational psychology, leadership, communication, human resources, business administration and other fields.
Famed dog behaviorist Cesar Millan’s research highlights the similarities between being an effective “Pack Leader” and “Human Leader,” in which calm-assertive energy, consistency, respect, and positivity are all critical to a team’s motivation to follow and stay engaged. The bond between a successful leader and their employees’ longevity is clear: “Engaged employees are 87 percent less likely to leave the organization than the disengaged,” reports Entrepreneur.
If managerial incompetence infects an organization, they pay a steep price when highly valued workers leave in droves. Forbes cites “75 percent of American workers say their boss is the most stressful part of their job.” According to the American Institute of Stress, “U.S. industries lose nearly $300 billion a year—or $7,500 per worker—in employee absenteeism, diminished productivity, employee turnover and direct medical, legal and insurance fees related to workplace stress.” It’s an alarming realization, with the reduced morale and loss of productivity by the employees left behind draining an organization’s bottom line even more so.
Further stressing the Pack Leader/Human Leader connection and the importance of positive leadership, HR consultant Kevin Kennemer states, “I have found that adverse behavior, or negative energy, in the workplace is not necessarily the fault of employees but a natural reflection of the owner/leader behavior.” It’s critical that negativity be remedied early on in order to keep it from damaging the entire workplace.
Organizational psychologist Stanley Silverman also points to humility as a correlate of successful leadership. Chipping away at that success, arrogant behaviors jeopardize interpersonal interactions, feelings of customer satisfaction and loyalty, and relationships among co-workers.
Regular feedback and coaching on performance are also important steps in building a strong team. Trainer Graham Bloem reminds us that “a pack leader is concerned for the pack, not for himself. The pack leader’s natural instincts are protection and direction for the entire pack. In return, the pack completely trusts the pack leader.”
As professionals, we are each responsible for our own self-assessment and should pursue every opportunity possible to improve ourselves and help those around us. Of particular concern at the managerial level, Gallup research has indicated 9 out of 10 managers are actually lacking a number of critical manager-level talents (such as understanding how to motivate others, implement changes, meet performance expectations, build a positive and engaging environment, making complex decisions, and so on). Consequently, for organizations to remain profitable, it also behooves them to review their training programs and ensure they are providing their staff with adequate support and training opportunities.
Michelle Peña is the senior editor of Office Technology Today and Small Business Tax Strategies. You can also follow her on Instagram @michymashup and LinkedIn @michymash.