Last week I described the leadership lesson our new Shepherd, Evie, taught me about perspective and integrity. This week I’ve learned a whole new lesson. Turns out Evie, who we rescued 3 weeks ago, is a very highly capable working dog. That means she has exceptional capabilities to be a search and rescue dog or a police dog. It also means she has lots of energy and drive. The implication for us as owners is that we have to manage her drive with activity, training, and exercise – at a much higher level than most pets require. It’s like she’s a gifted German Shepherd.
Only 20% of employees feel that they use their true strengths very day in their job. That means 8 our 10 employees are miscast in their roles. As a leader, I would point the finger right back at myself – did I hire appropriately? Or just put a warm body in the job? Just as we now need to work with Evie in special ways to ensure she lives up to her potential, supervisors need to customize they way they work with their employees – to ensure they live up to their potential.
It takes more time and energy on my part – whether training Evie or supervising to an employee’s strengths. But the results? Priceless!
Last week we adopted a German Shepherd rescue dog, one her family couldn’t keep. Unlike our other Shepherds, she is all black, with brown eyes and beautiful. She has a wonderful personality – sweet and loving. But she looks so unlike a usual Shepherd that a thought would keep flitting through my mind – “Demon Dog”. This caused a real disconnect, because her personality is great, so I kept wondering why I had those thoughts. One afternoon, she was running – sleek, black, and skinny with her ears up in the air – and an image from The Lion King of the black and bad hyenas flashed in my mind. In the pictures they always had yellow eyes, black bodies and pointy ears – just like our new dog.
Our past experiences so easily color our current circumstances. I don’t suppose I’ve seen the Lion King more than once, yet the images had stuck strongly enough in my mind that it colored my perception of our new family member. Once I could name the perception and understand where it came from, I haven’t had the thought again. It’s like that in work and life – and it makes me wonder what other things are coloring my perceptions of race, people, culture, etc. To lead with integrity, we need to always be on the look out for ways to gain a new perspective.