As I write this, tears are welling in my eyes. Last week, I heard the devastating news that no pet owner wants to hear. My beloved dog, Dunkin, was gravely ill and would not be on life’s journey very long. As a first time pet owner, I never comprehended how difficult and painful hearing those words would be.
In honor of Dunkin, I want to share what he taught me about leadership and life.
1) Dunkin taught me that life (and leadership) is messy. As a naïve first time dog owner, I thought once Dunkin was house broken there would be no accidents…boy was I wrong! I had to adjust to fur covered furniture and an occasional “oops” when I arrived home from work. This taught me how to live with the messy things that will inevitably come my way.
The same is true when we lead people. It’s never a simple path and it gets messy (not the same kind of mess as my dog…but you know what I mean). What I learned is, there is always a solution to the mess. In Dunkin’s situation it was Nature’ Miracle cleaner. In the case of leading a team, we have options to clear up any errors, so let your team get messy, explore and fail. Remember, you can always find a way to “make it work.”
2) He taught me vulnerability. You can’t help but open your heart when you have a pet. They are part of your family and part of who you are. The ability to be vulnerable and express yourself is key to being a great leader. I thought I was a tough businesswoman but every time I opened my door and saw that wagging tail and those deep brown eyes my heart melted. I opened up in ways I never imagined and that softening actually made me a better entrepreneur, leader, and person.
3) He taught me to have fun. At the end of the day – life is short. I know that is cliché but it is true. Dunkin made me laugh (and if you ever met him you could not help but smile). Sometimes, in our quest for “businessperson of the year” and “manager of the month” we forget to bring some “light” energy and laughter to our teams. Never forget to add a sprinkle of fun to what you do.
4) He taught me to give and expect nothing in return. Dogs don’t expect anything, they just want love. They don’t walk around with a grudge..they forgive us when we’re angry and mad. No matter my mood that little guy was always happy. What if, as a leader, you decided to give of yourself and expect nothing in return. I wonder what profound impact that would have on our teams.
5) He taught me to live in the present moment. Dogs are present moment creatures and that mindset can help us all be better leaders. Forget what your employee did last week that pissed you off and what your boss said 3 weeks ago that angered you. Take the time to be present. Address what needs to be addressed in the moment and then let it go, just like our pups do.
Bonus Dunkin Tip
6) It is not always about leading – sometimes it’s about being led. My morning walks with Dunkin were comical. I had a certain path in mind but invariably that little pup would lead me in another direction. Heck…isn’t that what leadership is all about. Having the courage to let others lead and being open to where it might take us.
Here’s to the profound ways that Dunkin changed my life. RIP…to the best dog ever!