I grew up with dogs as pets, yet I never had a dog in my adult life. But after years of excuses, I recently took the plunge after stumbling upon a perfect Shetland Sheepdog puppy from a local reputable breeder. A few months into puppy ownership, and I’m in no way surprised by how much I’ve fallen in love with my puppy Catch. The bigger surprise was how much trying to be a responsible puppy owner taught me about trying to be a responsible employee and manager at my job. I’ll outline three of these lessons below:

  • Not Getting Through to Your Audience? Think About How They Process Information.

A puppy doesn’t know a word of English at the start, and many people get frustrated when puppies don’t immediately understand what they’re being told. I’ve learned that effectively training a puppy means thinking about what they already know, how they process information, and how they are best motivated. Learning “lay down” was a breeze for Catch once I remembered it was similar to the “sit” command he already knew. He best processes new lessons after he’s had a good walk. And, like most puppies, Catch was HIGHLY motivated by treats, so I learned to always have them on hand.

I’ve similarly been frustrated walking away from meetings where my point of view wasn’t immediately embraced. But it was far easier to prove that my suggested marketing plan would work if I connected it to a previous strategy that my audience knew also had success. Some people prefer charts, while others prefer data, and still others want an email with bullet points; choosing accordingly based on my knowledge of the audience was also helpful. And of course, nothing motivates a crowd like the prospect of driving their company’s bottom line, but there may be other things that will help them see eye to eye with you more easily. I found that once I refocused on what my audience already knew, how they processed information, and what best motivated them, I could tailor my delivery accordingly to fit their needs, and I had much higher rates of success in my presentations.

  • “Fake It ‘till You Make” It Only Works When You Believe It, Too.

I was constantly told to be calm and assertive with Catch so he would know that I was the pack leader. But the funny thing about animals is that just telling them those words would mean nothing if it wasn’t backed up with proper body language. It’s really not that different in the business world. Humans have a way of giving away what they really feel in their body language. So when I feel less than confident, I remind myself that I can and must do the job, and that confidence in myself naturally translates into my body language, and therefore the perception others have of me. Catch seems to respond positively, as well.

  • Encouragement & Celebrating Your Successes Go A Long Way.

Puppies have short attention spans. They’re likely to get frustrated very quickly during training, and so are the humans involved! Frustration can quickly lead to aversion and resentment of training, which is not good for either participant. I always try to put myself in Catch’s shoes when we’re training. Especially for new commands, I encourage him as he gets closer to the desired behavior to help keep him engaged. Even for commands he has mastered, I always praise him because it helps him enjoy his training and makes him even more interested in doing more.

People also enjoy hearing encouragement in their work. I try to keep this in mind as a manager and team leader. I have a bad habit of glossing over my own successes and that sometimes means I don’t articulate my appreciation of my team members’ job well done. I’ve found that making a point to encourage teams through their stretch assignments and celebrating group successes has helped keep morale and engagement high.

While my adorable ball of fluff is very different from a human being sitting at an office desk, raising Catch has certainly taught me some very important lessons about how I can be a more effective communicator, employee, and manager in the business world.  I look forward to what Catch and I have to learn together in the future, and I’ll especially be on the lookout for things that may help me in my career.