Recently, I watched a neighbor drive her car to an empty parking lot in our condo complex. She parked, then proceeded to get her dog out of the passenger side and walk around the grassy area right next to the parking lot. She strolled with the dog for quite a while until the dog did its business, and they got back in the car and drove to her condo.
I thought this was bizarre behavior. After all, the woman lives in this same complex. She has a grassy area right across the street from her home—and yet she drives the dog over to another area because, apparently, this is the only place the dog will go.
I looked at Louie and shook my head. “It’s a good thing you don’t do that . . . anymore, that is,” I said as we continued our walk. This strange behavior reminded me of our training sessions at the Queen City Dog Training Club.
Don’t Adjust to Your Dog
During one particular session, the instructor had us give several commands to our dogs while walking around the ring, and she observed how timely the dog responded. We walked quickly and then stopped; our dog stopped and sat next to us. Louie would stop and sit, but always at a 45-degree angle and looking up at me. He seemed to want to see my face. Because I knew he was supposed to be right at my side, I slowly stepped closer to him to achieve the goal.
“Don’t adjust to your dog,” came the command from our instructor; it was directed toward me. I looked at Louie and said, “Pay attention, Lou. You’re going to get us in trouble.”
Once again, we were told to walk around the ring and were given the command to stop and have our dogs sit next to us. Lou sat at an angle again, but this time I looked at him and then the instructor. She looked at me and said, “Don’t adjust to him. Scoot his bottom toward you.”
And so I did, muttering under my breath, “Why are you doing this?” He looked at me as though asking, “What did I do?”
After repeating this routine several times, I was ready to give up. Finally, Louie understood and sat perfectly still right next to me. Our training session was over—but the lesson was not. The words “don’t adjust to your dog” echoed in my mind for some time.
What was wrong with adjusting to my dog? After all, it was just one step toward him. It was hardly noticeable; and in the end, we achieved what we wanted to achieve—our dogs sitting right next to us. Then it dawned on me—when I moved toward him, I was adjusting to poor performance. And I let him know that the poor performance was okay, even celebrated, if I patted him on the head.
The Problem with Adjusting
Being flexible is very important as a leader, as is the importance of clarity in communicating our expectations. But adjusting to poor performance or behavior is a different matter. Sometimes we adjust because we are tired of keeping the standards at the level they need to be. Many times we simply give up and take whatever we can get.
Have you ever walked into your garage and immediately noticed the pungent smell of garbage? If you stayed in the garage long enough, you would adjust to the smell and eventually no longer notice it. That is until someone else walks in and points it out.
While not accommodating poor performance is very important for leaders, it is also true personally. So many times in society, we make adjustments to fit in or accept something that is wrong because we don’t want to appear politically incorrect.
The next time you have to make a tough choice, do the right thing. Truth and integrity are what counts, not the number of likes. It is not worth adjusting to your “dog”—even if that dog is one cute pup looking up at you with big brown eyes saying, “Did I do good, Mom? Huh? Did I? I know I did, right?”