Think Like a Dog

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We have 3 cats in our family (we have a dog too for all you dog people).  One thing about cats is that they want things on their terms.  When my dog wants attention he will come in the room and I can pull him on my lap and he doesn’t mind a bit.  The cats are a different story, they will approach you, rub against your leg and even meow but if you pick them up and try to put them in your lap, they get up and walk away.  You didn’t do things on their terms; you made it about what you wanted instead of what they wanted, slow and careful.

This is how so many businesses operate, they think in their terms instead of customers’ terms.  Think about the rules, policies, and terms you’ve encountered as a customer, how many of those were to benefit you, or were they just there to protect the business?

I worked with a team recently who has a lot of policies for a variety of reasons and they regularly send out messages detailing things because people don’t seem to fall in line and do things properly.  One thing I noticed was how everything was put in terms of commands and demands resulting in a negative perception of the team.  The more I thought about it, it made sense.  The commanding tone of their messaging made them appear inflexible and only thinking about their needs instead of the needs of the people they served.  The lack of compliance with the rules was really just a subtle rebellion.

What I suggested was to start putting things in terms of how it actually helped people to follow the rules instead of just being rules that benefited the rule makers.  Now they talk about their delivery parameters for example as a way to ensure on-time delivery.  In the past, they would have just said it was something people had to do and that was that.

Where is your business doing similar things?  Where are you thinking from your perspective instead of the customer perspective?

Take a look around your workplace for evidence of doing things for the company’s benefit without thinking in terms of how it might impact those being served.  Where are rules, policies, or procedures that appear only to benefit the rule makers but do nothing for those on the receiving end?  Get rid of these obstacles if you can or at least replace the commanding messages with ones that describe how the rules make things easier, safer, timelier, etc. for the receivers.

As much as I love my cats, this is a place where dog thinking (getting what you want by giving others what they want) is the best thinking.


Let Your People Go

Related imageYou’ve probably seen the movie The Ten Commandments where Charlton Heston as Moses commands Yul Brynner as Pharaoh to release the Hebrews from their Egyptian captivity.  We need to do something similar in the workplace today.  Managers need to let their people go and empower self-direction.

I was in a store and asked an employee if I could take 4 items into the changing room (they only allowed 3).  They replied that they would need to ask their manager about it.  It took some time and I got impatient so I left.  Somebody else got my business.

I am always amazed at the number of businesses where employees are powerless to take action, even with the most trivial decisions.  Imagine watching a soccer game where players are continually yelling over to the coach to tell them where to pass the ball.  The game would be no contest.  The other team would win without any trouble.

If teams can’t make decisions and take action, the costs are high.  Lost games, lost customers, lost time, the list goes on.  The best teams do what they know needs to be done without waiting to be told what to do and their leaders give them the room to do it.

If you want your business to drive more revenue, cut costs, and provide better service, stop telling your people what to do. Instead, take a moment to let your team members think about the situation and come to some conclusions. Ask them, “What do you think? What would you do?” This is how you lead and develop their ability to make decisions.

Want service? You must do this.

If you want service, you have to ________, _______, _______.  Imagine if you saw that on a sign at the door of a business.  Would you want to go in?  Would you want to be a customer of theirs?  I feel confident you are saying no.  Yet, every day, we encounter and have to deal with this.

Now imagine going to a foreign country where they don’t speak your language and setting up a business.  Would you demand that your customers speak your language?  Again, I feel confident you are saying no to this too.  Yet, every day, businesses everywhere do things just like this without a second thought.

Customers regularly experience organizations that demand that they fit into their structures and processes.  Every day customers are asked to fill out forms and fall in line with deadlines, procedures, rules, regulations, exceptions, and policies.  Think about how many times you’ve heard “this is our policy.”  Think of all of the fine print you’ve encountered.  Think of how many times you’ve experienced an employee pointing to a sign that says things they don’t do or things you have to do.  Do you ever wonder who is serving who?

If you are a business leader, take a look at your operation.  How are you crunching customers into a box you’ve created?  How are you expecting customers to be what you want them to be rather than being what they need you to be?  What policies and rules can you remove to better make things easy, enjoyable, and a better fit to your customers?  Where do you need to learn their language instead of demanding they learn yours?

Plan SMART for Success This Year

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‘Tis a whole new year for opportunity, innovation, and new habits to improve health, business, relationships or whatever else comes to mind.  Sure, big talk, and it’s talk we hear a lot at this time of the year.  Unfortunately, most of us will fall flat in getting many of our goals accomplished.  Why is this and what can be done to remedy the situation?


There are so many things we want to do, so many goals, so many possibilities.  It’s like we walked into the greatest food-by-the-pound cafeteria on the planet.  There are so many choices.  We fill our plates with a little of everything, and, when it comes to actually eating, we cannot finish even half of it.  Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs as the saying goes.

This is exactly what so many of us do, we set goals for exercise, diet, our job and relationships and then with the best intentions to get it all done.  Then what happens?  We are overwhelmed, even though we thought compartmentalizing things into discreet parts of our lives would make it manageable, no go.  What gives?

Well, the human brain, as it turns out, is not so good at doing more than one thing at a time.  It deals with a trickle from the garden hose better than a blast from a fire hose.  The facts suggest that so-called multi-tasking is really just switching quickly between doing several “one things” at a time.  Our brains are simply not built for consciously doing more than one thing at a time well.  At best, we do several things with mediocrity.  Think about your success at eating, driving and talking on the phone for example. You probably made a mess, had to swerve, and held a largely rambling jumble of a conversation.

Lesson: Find one or two things you want to accomplish and really set your sights on them instead of the fifty-odd you initially had in mind.


I am a big believer in setting goals with plans that are clear and give you definition as to WHAT you’re trying to do, HOW you’ll do it, WHO you’ll need to include and involve, and WHEN things need to happen. A simple format for this is the tried and true SMART acronym.

I have a somewhat different take on SMART though that I’ve developed to fill in the What, How, Who, When blanks.  This take changes some of the acronym components and defines them as follows: Specific, Measureable, Actionable, Responsible, and Timely.  You can use these components as frames for questions that, when answered, clarify your goal and give you a complete plan.

  • Specific: What is it you specifically want to accomplish?
  • Measureable: What is the measure of success?  How will you know progress is being made and that you’ve reached the finish line?
  • Actionable: What needs to happen?  What are the steps?  What actions are required?
  • Responsible: Who will you need to include to be successful?  What are their roles and responsibilities?
  • Timely: What’s the timeline for everything that needs to be done and when do you plan on completing it?

Lesson:  Creating SMART plans to direct the action gives you much more likelihood of accomplishment because you know exactly what needs to happen and exactly what success should look like.

Get this year started off right.  Rather than 10 things done halfway or not at all, get two things done well and feel good about it.