Everything a Leader Needs to Know Can Be Learned in Dog Class

Barb Krantz TaylorBy Barb Krantz Taylor

catcherAnyone who knows me knows by now I have three Australian shepherds, whose training and competition take up a good deal of my leisure time. While it may be time away from my job, what I learn there is so applicable to my work life. Here are a few lessons in leadership I learned last week.

We are not always as clear as we think we are.

I am unfortunately inconsistent in some of the standards I ask of my pup Firefly. (Her daddy is pictured here.) When she doesn’t perform up to standard, and I feel downright certain she should know what I am asking by NOW, it is easy to be frustrated. However, if I look at my actual behavior a little more closely, I realize I have been inconsistent in what I say, what I do, what rewards I give and how often. If I let my frustration and ego win, I will not be able to give her the clarity she needs to learn with confidence. Hmmm, this sounds like some leaders I have worked with.

Stress, even minor stress, shows up in ways we may not realize.

Every week, I work with trainers whose job it is to point out how MY training is or isn’t helping my dog improve. They are MY coaches. I really don’t like the criticism I get sometimes, and thus I have some performance anxiety. This means I find myself doing things in front of them that I don’t do when I am at home and relaxed. My dogs notice too, and to them I look like a crazy person. Now, my older dogs are used to me. They have learned, “Oh, this is Barb under stress.” But my pup hasn’t and I don’t know if she likes me much at those times. She is likely to avoid me in subtle ways. To what extent does your stress, and how you manage it, affect your team?

Having a high-achieving personality has its upsides … and down.

I’m kind of a high achiever and used to doing many things well, especially at work. But then I see some other dog trainers and I realize, “Wow, they are really, really good—no wonder their dogs are better at agility or herding sheep.” My high-achieving personality is good in that it motivates me to try harder, train more, take seminars, practice, etc. However, it also pains me when I compare myself to others or to my own standards. How often do you do the same thing?

Lastly, the best work is also the best fun.

I love my dogs and it’s really fun to play with them. When I quit worrying about what will happen at the next trial or class and just enjoy the journey, I love my dogs, my training friends, and my coaches.