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The Rewards of Patience

The Tentative Start

When our Rottie first came to live with us, she was quite apprehensive about residing in suburbia. We don’t know much about her experiences before we adopted her, but it’s evident that she spent most of her day roaming around a field between shelter and rescue organization. There seemed to have been little interaction with humans other than being fed, handled, and moved around.

The first time I tried to walk her in our neighborhood, every new sight and sound was cause for alarm. While our neighborhood is relatively peaceful, it’s a suburban environment with more people, noise, and concrete than she had known before. She was unaccustomed to the auto traffic, bicycles, skateboards, scooters, and people walking along the sidewalks.

That first walk lasted only a few minutes. With her tail tucked between her legs, she planted herself firmly in a sit with each car and person who passed, even though there was what I considered to be safe distance between us and them. We quickly returned to our house where she had just begun to feel safe.

Fast forward to today. She now does an excited happy dance to go for a walk. She can hardly contain herself as she waits, not entirely patiently, for me to attach her leash. She’s learned that she meets other dogs when she goes for a walk and is eager to see whom she will meet each morning. We walked in an unfamiliar park recently and she investigated the new plants and watched the noisy geese and ducks with interest, making a couple of new doggy friends in the process.

I’m grateful to have had the time and energy to keep working with her on our walks. At times, I was ready to give up. It was so hard! Each day, I would prepare myself for her attempts to drag me homeward, the constant turning around and facing the opposite direction so we wouldn’t go any further. She wanted to sniff what seemed like everything and follow scent trails incessantly.

As I continued to work with her, I began to perceive the world through her eyes. I, too, became fascinated with that intriguing plant, that beautiful bird in flight, or that feisty squirrel climbing swiftly up a tree. I realized, as well, that the seemingly constant sniffing was her way of discovering more about her new world.

What We Both Gained from a Little Patience

Patience prevailed. I now give her “sniffie” time during our walks. I watch her to see what’s catching her eye and will sometimes change direction to accommodate her interests. And she has rewarded me by becoming a sweet, fun companion.

I’m also in much better shape than I was when she joined our family. My endurance for walking, and other forms of cardio exercise, has increased tremendously. I am also a lot stronger, as evidenced by my trainer’s exclamations and the heavier weights that I’m now lifting. None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t been patient with our sweet pup.

Patience created space for us to get to know each other. It helped me think more creatively, such as adding the “sniffie” time to our repertoire. It helped her get comfortable with us, her new home, and her new environment. Patience also helped both of us to be happier and healthier.

What Can Cultivating Patience Do for You?

Patience can help you to remain present

While working with my pup at first, I was constantly thinking a few steps ahead in the process or even to the end result. I wasn't factoring in the time she needed to learn and develop new habits.

When I stopped trying to drive her to the goal I had in mind, I was able to meet her right where she was at the time. I looked at her differently, focusing on her behaviors at the moment. Working with her in the present helped me to be more effective with training and we both benefited.

Leaders are usually future focused, working to achieve goals. That's a superb trait in a leader, but it needs to be balanced with the patience to be present and see what's happening right now. How is your team's morale? Are any team members stuck? Has the team's level of productivity changed? Remaining present will help you to answer those questions and to fix small problems before they become big ones.

Patience can help you to be more observant

When our pup first joined our family, I concentrated on trying to teach her to be the ideal dog for us. I had an image in mind and was so busy pushing her toward that ideal that I wasn't truly seeing her.

After relaxing more into our time together, I started to observe many traits that I have now grown to love about her. I learned a lot about what her body language, what she finds interesting or rewarding, what makes her fearful, what makes her happy. By observing her on our walks, in class, during our training sessions, as she played, I have a much clearer picture of how to help her live her best doggy life.

As a leader, it's important that you patiently observe your team members as you work with them. How do they respond to your direction? What lights them up and what dims those lights? Do your team members depend on each other and help each other, or do they work in silos? Observing, watching and listening, will allow you to make modifications that benefit your team.

Patience can help bring out your creativity

Initially, I worked with our pup in the same way that I'd been taught with an earlier doggy family member. I thought that my previous experience meant that I knew what to do with any large breed dog. Following the old playbook, though, led to frustration.

When I started to exercise more patience with her, being present and observing, my creativity was ignited. Seeing her unique traits helped me to invent fun new activities for her, play with her differently, and teach her new things that I hadn't taught our previous dog.

In a leadership role, you are likely similarly challenged to get creative. Even if you are in the same role for a while, there are probably changes in the company that demand that you look at your role differently. On your team, each member is unique in their skills, needs, and career desires. Innovating with respect to your communication, level of guidance, and mentoring for each person will help you to bring out the best in your whole team.

Gratitude for What Patience Has Illuminated

Being more patient with my sweet pup has helped me to remain present, to be more observant, and get creative working and playing with her. As a result, we're both happier and healthier. As a leader, you no doubt want a happy, healthy team and patience can help you to achieve that goal.

Most importantly for me, patience has led me to be grateful for the warm companionship of a smart, playful, affectionate pup.

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