It’s been a while since I wrote about my leadership learnings from observing and living with my Australian Shepherds. This time, it’s my young dog, Sierra, who is my inspiration.
We recently became “snowbirds”, taking a couple months out of the winter in Minnesota and living in Phoenix. Recently, my husband and I piled our 3 dogs into our RV and drove down, taking in sites along the way. Things didn’t go as planned, exactly. On our way, we were stranded in a (literally) dusty campground in New Mexico for a few days. It was essentially a gravel parking lot. No nice places to walk or run, leashes required. Run down/shut down businesses and houses everywhere around us. Lots of waiting for parts, which ended up being the wrong ones—twice! It was required a forced downtime.
Most of my clients long for a “forced downtime”. Until they have it. Then (as I discovered), it isn’t always as nice as it sounds. While you may not be stuck in a parking lot in New Mexico, my clients do tell me of times when they are waiting on a major decision to be made. Or they tested positive for Covid and had to quarantine. At those times, while we can and do sometimes enjoy the downtime, for some it can be difficult to cope with.
In our case, we felt at the mercy of circumstances we couldn’t control. When it seemed that we would be stuck for a few days, we anticipated the next day would be pretty much the same as the day we were having and did have the day before. We were together a bit too much. The future was uncertain…We were focused on the hope of the next leg of our journey, hopes which were dashed several times in the course of those days. We all reacted differently, and it impacted our little team. But, I imagine all of us were feeling confined and/or restless.
When this happens to a team, sometimes you find someone comes through to help the team. Sometimes it’s the leader, but not always. Sierra was our team star who kept our spirits up. Here are the leadership lessons she taught if you or your team find yourself in those “all dressed up and nowhere to go” modes.
- Find some fun. Sierra is our fun teammate and we flocked to her! She is naturally goofy, happy, and affectionate. She played with us, she showed us love, she made us laugh… Just being around her lifted us up.
- Enjoy your downtime. Sierra had the easiest time dealing with the enforced idleness. The rest of us were chomping at the bit and she was happy chewing a bone, getting a belly rub, taking naps. She went with the flow, didn’t complain, or seem frustrated. I was not always that teammate and it impacted the rest of the team.
- Enforce your boundaries about what you need. As happy and even-tempered as she is, she also has her limits and she set them with her dog family. She protected her bones or sleeping space and when someone played too rough, she let them know. And then it was over. She knew how to take care of herself. She wanted a balance of “leave me alone” and “hey, let’s play.”
- Enjoy the rest and go back out there. When we got back to normal, so did she. She played with greater enthusiasm, got her energy back, and went with the flow again, even if in a slightly different way.
Dogs are our role models when things aren’t at their best. They live for the moment and live IN the moment. Many of us are go-getters in our professional lives. We like being busy, we like the adrenaline rush of challenge, we rise to the pressure of deadlines and problem solving. But, there are times that work is a bit of the “same ol’, same ol’” or we’re in a holding pattern for some big event to come. Sierra didn’t let it get her down. She took advantage of the circumstances to recharge. I want to be more like Sierra.