Thursday, September 25, 2008

An Update from the Long Lost . . .

Yes, I know. I have been a poor correspondent for which I apologize. Here are a few updates, personal and professional . . .

- The San Miguel Leadership Institute (SMLI) continues to enjoy positive attention in the press. The Institute was recently written up by CNN Latin America. If you haven't seen the SMLI website, please turn your browser to

- Dave Riveness, co-founder of SMLI and author of The Secret Life of a Corporate Jester produces a monthly e-mail newsletter that contains thought-provoking material for managers and leaders - internal inquiries that help us see past our blind spots. I have asked him to send you the current issue of The Corporate Jester.

- While in St. Louis working last week, I had the opportunity to spend a little time with my daughters, Katy and Kandi. While riding in Kandi's car I couldn't help noticing three bags neatly stacked on the back seat floorboard. Curiosity led me to open one of them and in it I found an interesting collection of seemingly unrelated items -- a self-heating can of soup, chips, candy, toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb, soap, can opener, bottled water, and a few other items that led me to ask her jokingly, "Are you planning on running away from home, hon?" She smiled and then told me the story behind the bags. "Dad, there are a lot of homeless people in St. Louis and I pass one or more nearly everyday on my way to work. It breaks my heart. These people have nothing. Many are suffering. I want to help but I don't want to give them money because I a fear some will use it buy drugs or otherwise waste it. So, I make up these bags and when I see someone who is down and out, I stop and give it to them." A great idea to be sure and one which we all might use since homelessness is, regrettably, everywhere.

- Sunday finds me headed to Belgium where I begin a corporate training tour that, between now and mid-December, will take me to Europe, Asia, and South America. I will be on e-mail and returning my calls. Let's stay in touch . . .

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Leash-Pulling In the Workplace: How The Great Manager Changes Behavior

A good friend and colleague, Dave Riveness, sent along this website today:

It is a talk by one of the world's premier dog trainers. Speaking at a 2007 conference, Ian Dunbar asks us to see the world through the eyes of our dogs. By knowing our pets' perspective, we can build their love and trust.

It's a message that resonates well beyond the animal world. Indeed, as I think about training managers and employees, we seem to make the same mistakes most of us do with our animals. Most managers have learned from experience to highlight their employees' mistakes as a way to prevent future errors. In some cases, it takes the form of mean-spirited criticism. In other cases, the employee is simply ignored or left out in order to inflict enough pain to insure that whatever went wrong doesn't go wrong again.

As with dogs, this method of managing sounds somehow right, or at least common, but it simply doesn't work.

Let's consider for a moment what Ian's recommendations are to teach your dog to follow you off-leash and, as we do so, consider how these suggestions apply in the all-human world of work where we want to teach our employees to follow us and be good leaders stewards of those for whom we have accepted responsibility.

- Your dog's desire to follow and remain close is the necessary foundation for walking politely on-leash.

In human terms, it means the employee must want to follow you. Yelling, belittling, ignoring, and the panoply of negative behaviors we see in the workplace only insure that employees do not want to follow, do not want to stay, and will leave at the first opportunity.

- You need to stimulate and strengthen your dog's gravitational attraction towards you by moving away enticingly and heartily praising your dog all the time he follows.

How does this translate? Perhaps it means that just as you give your dog plenty of lead, you do the same with your employees. Don't drag them -- but move away -- see what they can do, and when they do the right thing, praise them liberally.

Proceed with a happy heart and a sunny disposition: talk to your dog, tell him stories, whistle, walk with a jaunty step, or even skip and sing.

This translates into managers and supervisors who are, by nature, happy people. I have yet to find a good leader of people who is angry most of the time. Rather, they assign work the meaning it deserves, but no more. They accept mistakes as being the natural order of things, the way we all learn, and they pass down the culture they wish to inculcate in their workplaces through anecdotes, through stories. Their employees like to be around them.

Do not accommodate your dog's improvisations; you are the leader, not the dog. Whenever your dog attempts to lead you, accentuate his "mistake" by doing the opposite. Stretch the psychic bungee cord: if your dog forges ahead, slow down or smartly turn around; if your dog lags behind, speed up; if your dog goes right, turn left; and if your dog goes left, turn right.

In human terms, the good manager, while pleasant, doesn't forget that he or she is the leader. While they provide plenty of lead to their employees, they are not led by them. They do not ignore poor performance. Instead, they lead by example, by demonstrating excellence. They are slow to anger, quick to praise, and always alert for opportunities to lead by example.

And, yes, we all understand that our employees are not animals. But, we are all beings who seek approval, validation, care, compassion, and concern. And so as it works with your beloved pet so it will work with your charges in the workplace.

Review the video above. I will be interested in your comments which you can add at the bottom of this post. And, you may also want to check out Dave's website: . It's all about seeing our blind spots as managers. Dave and I will be working together on several programs into 2009:

Lots to learn and so I will leash up Max, my German Shepherd, and slowly, happily, teach him to follow rather than try and rip my left arm off as we make our daily walk into town.