How poor performance can permeate an entire team
A while back, Louie and I engaged in obedience training at the Queen City Dog Training Club. Between the sessions we attended and the benefits of our dog trainer’s wisdom, we learned a lot. But one lesson in particular stands out.
During this lesson, the instructor would have us give several commands while walking around the ring, and would observe how quickly our dogs responded. We would walk quickly and then stop; our dog would stop and sit next to us. Louie would stop and sit but always at a 45-degree angle and while looking up at me. It looked as though he wanted to be able to see my face. Because I knew he was supposed to be right at my side, I slowly stepped closer to him until we were side by side.
“Don’t adjust to your dog,” came the command from our instructor and 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 OK, even celebrated, if I patted him on the head.
Being flexible is very important as a leader. And I cannot stress enough the importance of clarity in communicating our expectations. But adjusting to poor performance 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 in order 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 to do the right thing, don’t adjust 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? Uh? Did I? I know I did, right?”