Where I live, it seems like every household has a pet, and most are dogs. Our pride and joy, Sadie, is one of many (though arguably the cutest). In town this week, I’ve become hyper-aware of the different dogs, their owners, how they engage with each other, and their environment. Patterns began to emerge that have strong parallels to my client’s work, life, and leadership.
Working with coaching clients over the years, I’ve often supported people to assess their current circumstances and determine if they needed to make a change or just change their perspective. An effective coaching technique to sort out facts, fiction, and feelings is to use metaphors to describe things that are difficult to articulate. In fact, a good metaphor can lead to a more significant aha moment than churning the same logical thoughts over and over.
Should I stay, or should I go?
Am I happy with the way things are?
What do I want?
We’ve all wrestled with those questions. Ultimately, wrestling is exhausting. Why not try a good metaphor?
Walk with me…
What if your work and life were more like a dog’s than you think?
Let’s be clear, some dogs thrive in a soft, protected world, and others who like to run and roam free. One is not more ideal than the other, just better suited to the individual. The same applies to your life, career, and leadership. The environment that works for one person may not be ideal for you. The important thing is to understand where do you thrive? Not your mentor or friend or partner… you.
Read over the titles. Which one do you think fits you best?
Then go back and read the descriptions.
Does this sound too restrictive?
Is this what I want?
Where do I thrive?
How do I like to engage with other people?
Does this capture my current circumstances?
Am I satisfied with the way things are?
What needs to change, if anything?
Do I need to move to lead and work in a different environment?
Our pup Sadie is definitely a pampered pooch. We give her loads of treats, move so she can have her favorite spot on the couch, and walk her when she scratches at the door. When we noticed that she didn’t love her dog kibble, we began to put in cheese and chicken and make it as yummy as possible for her. Always on a leash when we go for walks, we explore together and come home, both exhausted and satisfied. We, her family, shower her with praise and love, and in return, she’s sweet, loyal, and a trusted companion.
Big Fish, Small Pond
When I was in college, my neighbor in the high rise where we lived had a dog in his small apartment. He’d smuggle the dog into the elevator in his bag (dogs weren’t allowed) and take him out a couple of times a day. There were no other dogs in the building and few on the campus. Most of the time, his dog was left alone, locked in their tiny apartment. At the same time, his owner was occupied with class, work, and other activities. On the upside, the dog got to do what it wanted to do when left alone, including chewing shoes without risk of punishment.
My friend’s dog must be the most exhausted on the planet. Every time I saw them, it was nap time. They’d wake up for a good rub or some food, but other than that, they preferred to take it easy and be left alone. No stress, no messing around, they were happy as long as they could do their thing with no one bothering them.
Our town is big on off-leash dog walking. This week, at dusk, two dogs ran in front of my car, and a good 30 seconds later, their owner crossed the road, leash in hand, calmly following the dogs to wherever they may lead her. The dogs wandered and sniffed and discovered interesting smells that kept them moving without much regard for their owner trialing in the distance. If they got into trouble, their owner was there; otherwise, they were on their own to do what they wanted.
Our Sadie goes to doggy daycare to hang out with her friends and a change of pace. At doggy daycare, the dogs play with things we don’t have at home, like a ball pit, and are fed and looked after by the dog-loving staff. They also cuddle up with their favorite humans for snuggles. The dogs can be together for short bursts and then find space for downtime on their own. While It looks like they can roam free and play wherever they want, everything is fenced in to keep the dogs safe from the outside world and the big and small dogs separated from each other.
Oddly, not all of our dog parks are fully fenced, but they are welcoming havens for dogs and their owners. The humans chat with each other while he dogs zip around the field. Some bring balls or sticks to throw, but most just let their dogs zoom around, safe from cars. A few are walked to the dog park on a leash, and many arrive already off-leash. It’s an ample space where everyone has the freedom to do their own thing, interact, or not.
Here, in the Australian Outback, we have dingoes, which are wild dogs. At night, you can often hear them howl and, occasionally, walking about the local trails, you’ll see them nearby. (When I do, and I’m with Sadie, I walk faster). They do not have a home with an owner. They are fast, agile, and able to thrive where others could or would not.
Which kind of dog are you? Which environment best describes where you thrive? Where you wither?