Rules of Engagement

A friend of mine came to visit over the holidays. Prior to the visit, I gave her a long list of rules before engaging with Louie, my rescue dog:

  • There are treats on the porch in a bag to bring in with you
  • Come in bearing these gifts, make sure they are visible
  • Do not give him a treat until he sits
  • He is not allowed to growl
  • He is a herding dog, so he may try to “herd” you by “pulling” on you (you’ll know this behavior when you see it )

And the list went on and on. She walked in with the treats, and he was the perfect dog—that is until she started to walk across my living room. It is almost as though he forgets himself and reverts to that overly protective dog that has to make sure everyone stays in their place. He goes savage. One word from me, though, and he does settle quickly.

Honestly, there are times I simply want to let my guests know this:
Rules of Engagement with Louie—DON’T!

But that doesn’t seem fair. After all, he is very social, but he doesn’t understand that those who come to visit really want to engage with him. So we are continually working on this behavior.

As a leader, don’t you wish people would let you know how best to engage with them? Maybe leave a little note on their door before you enter? But that seems impersonal, and sometimes people are not always aware of how they want to engage. Ahhh, but that’s what being a leader is all about, right? Knowing how to engage with each person we serve can be different at various times of the day or week and according to each situation. That is part of knowing others, knowing their heart, learning about their lives. And yes, that takes time. But the time invested is well worth it.

And while we may need to engage differently with others situationally, we can have consistency in how we treat others. Perhaps this list should be OUR rules of engagement:

  • Be patient and kind
  • Be humble and compassionate
  • See others as people, not a nuisance
  • Be polite, honest, and trustworthy
  • Be someone who is genuinely hopeful
  • Persevere through tough times
  • Serve others
  • Manage your emotions well
  • Don’t be envious, boastful, or prideful
  • And never ever keep records of wrongs

Boy, that is a long list, almost as long as the list to engage with Louie. But I aspire to be such a person that displays these characteristics. When we engage with others and display these attributes, most people will respond positively. I believe when we follow this list, we’ll understand sooner what is going on in their world. They’ll be more willing to open up if our interest is authentic. That is truly servant leadership

Louie may someday enjoy when others come to the door. I think walking in with his favorite treat is helpful. But beware if you are uninvited and don’t have his treats. He still very much enjoys being the savage beast as well.


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