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Lessons in Leadership from a Rottie - EQ

Updated: Jan 22

Excerpt from an article published by VantageShift's CEO on Medium. Read the whole article here.

Photo by Suzanne ElNaggar

As I wrote in the initial chapter of Lessons in Leadership from a Rottie, my puppy is teaching me a lot about leadership due to her intelligent, confident Rottweiler personality. The first leadership lessons were focused on how to show up for your team as a leader to support them in doing their best work.

Recently, our Rottie has illustrated concepts related to emotional intelligence. She has highlighted that a leader’s ability to read their team is of paramount importance.

Be aware of readiness for more — “Let’s keep going!”

At times I think that my pup must be getting tired, but she stands there wagging her tail, mouth open, looking back and forth from the ball to me. She’s telling me that she wants to keep playing.

Your team will similarly signal their readiness to keep at it. You will see it in their open expressions, hear it in their positive tone, and observe their continued high-quality output. They’re all in and as the leader it’s up to you to help them keep up the positive momentum.

Positive reinforcement for the jobs well done will go a long way to helping your team feel that they are valued and their work is meaningful.

Look out for signs of fatigue — “I need a break!”

After a busy morning of practicing what she’s learned so far, my pup plops down in the grass. She covers the ball with her paws or lays on it, looking away from me. She’s done.

Your team members will likely send signals, as well, when they are feeling overworked. There may be a drop in productivity, or they may become unusually quiet in meetings. You might see them make uncharacteristic mistakes, become forgetful, or respond with impatience.

As a leader, you should watch for signs of fatigue. Ask them what they would like help with, rebalance the team members’ loads, roll up your own sleeves.

It’s beneficial to the whole team to see you respond with compassion and a willingness to pitch in for a team member who needs help.

Forgive mistakes — “I didn’t mean to upset you. Do you still like me?”

We all make mistakes. Our cute pup is no exception. She tries to do what she’s been taught in the way she’s been taught, but sometimes puppy impulses or fatigue get in the way. We know she’s doing her best and don’t attribute bad intent.

Rather than getting lost in the “why” of a mistake, it’s so much healthier for all involved to look at how to do better.

Talk to your team member. Be clear about what the mistake was and what you’d like done differently in the future. If there is a pattern or repetition of the same mistakes, then you can reopen the subject at that time; otherwise, move on.

Staying focused on what needs to be done and how will help your team members meet, and even exceed, your expectations.

Validate accomplishments — “Look what I achieved!”

It’s important to reinforce learning and a job well done. At first, our pup needed lots of treats as a signal that she’d done what was required. As she’s progressed, she still needs the validation, but a simple “Good girl!” and a quick pat-pat are usually all she needs now.

Humans need their good work to be validated, as well. Make it a habit to say “please” and “thank you." Ensure that you’re also giving extra praise for larger jobs well done or for new learning.

If you can determine how to thank each person on your team in a way that they find meaningful, they’ll enjoy working with you as a result of the validation and that enjoyment will lead to even better work output.

Watch for eagerness for a challenge — “Let’s do something new!”

When my pup starts to show less enthusiasm for the normal routine, I realize that it’s time to teach her something that she hasn’t tried before.

Some of your team members will likely be ready to go next level with learning. It’s important to ask each of them about their career and learning goals and to offer development opportunities commensurate with what they want to accomplish.

If they’re looking to grow their knowledge, then they should be offered the chance to delve more deeply into their current craft. If they’re eager to be promoted, then they should be offered work that provides visibility outside the team and the chance to lead a project or initiative.

Happy Team — “We’re getting what we need to be at our best!”

As you learn to read your team’s signals, you can respond in ways that help each person be the very best they can be at work.

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