When The World Was Silent

IMG_1841It is early Saturday morning, November 1, and it already looks like a blustery, cold weekend. As I’m writing, one “like” after another pops up on my FaceBook page, and my attention is continually diverted to review the latest comment. My daughter posted a picture of my adorable grandchildren dressed up for Halloween. Nonna had to get in on the fun and dressed up as Cruella DeVille–no costume needed, just a brush of the hair to expose the white streak that has been invading my dark head of hair over the last few years. It worked, and the “likes” were popping up by the second.

Louie, however, was unimpressed. As he sat in his favorite chair and sighed, he looked at me with those big brown eyes. “Mom, remember when the world was silent?”

“Hmmm,” not wanting to be distracted from my computer, “No, Lou, I don’t remember any such thing.”

“Well, I sure do.” He sighed, deeper this time. “Long, long ago when you picked up your new phone and it wasn’t working quite right, you had to go without it for a day, remember?”

I continued typing, “It was actually just three weeks ago and it wasn’t working at all!” I stopped typing and looked at him. I grimaced as I thought back on that time. If there is ever an area where my patience is tested, it is in the area of technology. I consider myself very proficient in understanding technology, an understanding that dates back to my college days of learning the intricate, technical design of radiology and nuclear medicine diagnostic imaging equipment. I expect technology to work well but it will never work fast enough for me, no matter how advanced it becomes. When I picked up my new phone, it had several issues, and I could not return to the store until the next day. So I had to do without it for a day.

“I remember we took long walks together, we talked, and you actually looked at me when you talked to me,” Louie observed.

“Lou, aren’t you being a little dramatic? I take you on long walks now, right?” DING, another “like”, and I’m right back on my computer, laughing out loud at the latest snide comment on the post.

He leaned back in the chair and sighed as he longingly looked out the window. “I rest my case!”

“Awww, Lou, come on! It’s not that bad,” I said, not looking up. “I know I’m on my computer a lot, but I’m a writer and that means computer time.”

He then sat straight up and looked at me with an intense, soul-searching look. “It’s not about the computer, Mom, or the likes or the funny comments.”

I closed my computer and sat for a minute looking at my pup. After staring intently at one another, I suddenly understood the message his body language and facial expressions were trying to relay to me. Yes, Louie, I remember when I didn’t have my phone for a day and it seemed the world was silent and it was wonderful. That time of disconnection was a welcome reprieve from the bombardment of social media

Today, people will write just about anything in their posts, articles and advertisements. Truth seems to be a commodity that is regarded as silly, or worse, not necessary. A business can tout how healthy their culture is yet the only person giving such a testimony is the new hire that has been there for two months.

How easy it is to get caught up with hoping people “like” us. Our innate desire to be connected is glossed over by what we want people to see and in turn, what we hope they like. I’ve shared this before yet so many times I’ve seen FaceBook posts that I know are anything but true. I cherish the posts that are real and authentic. I love the pictures of my family, friends and loved ones and following stories such as Lauren Hill and Devon and Leah Still. But oh, how I cringe at the boastfulness of others.

Over time, I’ve come to realize that people have a foundational need to be relational, authentic and transparent. Simply putting on a mask, writing a “boast post,” and becoming “known” does not make you a likable person or a good leader. People clicking “like” does not mean people like you. It’s all about the need for true authentic relationships at the very core of our being. When that is missing with our family, loved ones and teams, and even with people we don’t know well, success is fleeting.

I looked at Louie, who was determined to win the stare down. “Let’s go on a long walk, Lou!” And with that Louie jumped to his feet, happily bounded down the steps, tail wagging, tongue hanging out, and headed toward the door. He is a constant reminder of the need for truth and from him I have learned how refreshing and freeing the truth can be.

NOTE: A dear friend of mine eulogized her 93 year old father this past Sunday. In his lifetime, he had lived through the depression and was a hero in World War II. For a man who did not have social media to tout his character, he was honored and well remembered for living a truly authentic life. No truer words were spoken than those from a poem his daughter tearfully read:

“The World Needs Men

Who cannot be bought.

Whose word is their bond.

Who put character above wealth.

Who are larger than their vocation.

Who do not lose their identity in a crowd.

Who will be as honest in small things as in great things.

Who will make no compromise with wrong.

Whose ambitions are not confined to their own selfish desires.

Who will not say they do it because “everyone else does it.”

Who are true to their friends throughout good times and bad … in adversity as well as in prosperity.

Who do not believe that shrewdness and cunning are the best qualities for winning success.

Who are not ashamed to stand for the truth when it is unpopular.

Who can say “no” with emphasis although the rest of the world says “yes.”

Robert E. Barnhart, Dad, was that kind of man.”

Dynamics Of Change: It’s The Little Things!

me and Evi“Nonna, do you ever get sad because you live alone?” asked my sweet six-year-old granddaughter. My life flashed before my eyes as I thought of going from being raised in a family of eight full-blooded Italians (we have since grown exponentially) to becoming a very busy single mom of an active child with lots of friends. I smiled and responded, “No, Evi, I’m never sad to be living alone!”

“Well, you’re never really alone,” she responded. “You have Louie to keep you company.”

Ahhh, yes, and there’s always Louie! I am very grateful for Louie, and our time together is increasingly rewarding for me. But I have noticed over the last couple of weeks that he has reverted back to some of his earlier unacceptable behaviors.

It all started with my noticing his unusually boundless amount of energy. We did our normal long walks and he had play dates with his friends. But he was still anxious for more activity. While tossing the ball to play fetch one evening, I started wrestling with him—all in fun, of course (I can just see his trainer, Zig, shaking his head). While this may seem small and insignificant, this activity had ramifications that became clear.

The next morning I was working when I noticed my pup had slinked off to another part of the house. I went upstairs (and not quietly so he heard me approaching) only to find him nicely nestled on my bed! He didn’t budge when I noticed him although he clearly saw my body language and heard my expressive tone. He just looked at me with those big brown eyes as if to say, “Hey mom!”

“Get off that bed, now!” I said and with that he jumped off, and laid on the floor, belly up. Okay, sweet dog, let’s just get back on track, I mumbled to myself. A few hours later, I was in the kitchen and when I went back downstairs, there was Louie sitting on my couch. Now, my dog is not allowed on the furniture, the one exception being a love seat on which he is allowed to sit and look out the window. That’s it. This was only the beginning. Other odd behaviors started happening. He wouldn’t walk alongside me, and he was constantly pulling to get ahead of me. I caught him a few more times on my bed, and he would rebelliously linger when I would say, “Here.” Has he entered adolescence so soon, I asked myself? What on earth is going on with him?

And then it hit me. Ken Blanchard and his team have long taught on the dynamics of change. One dynamic is that when the pressure is off, we revert back to our original behaviors. Couple this with the fact that research shows it takes 21 consecutive days to form a habit and for a new course of action to be ingrained into a natural pattern of behavior. At first I reasoned that I was LONG past the 21-day mark with this dog, and he should be getting it by now. But then I asked myself if I had been consistent with my modification training for 21 consecutive days, or did I see improvement by week two and decide to ease off? I had to admit that I had taken the pressure off long before the 21 days.

And while this may seem unremarkable, I should have remembered that wrestling with Louie is a no-no. We were playing like he plays with his dog friends, and I am not his dog friend. I am his alpha. That behavior led him to believe we were on equal ground, and that he had full permission to sit wherever he wanted. Because the pressure was off, he didn’t think I was serious about the behavior modifications, and he reverted back to his original behavior.

Isn’t that just like us? We see a little improvement, and we slack off on holding ourselves and others accountable. We do this in exercise programs, healthy eating, sleeping enough, managing people and projects at work, and in nurturing our relationships. To make it worse, we often not only ease off, but also we latch onto the latest and greatest leadership idea. And we never really stay with the course of improvement we’ve started and for which we have asked others to hold us accountable. The best gifts mentors and leaders can give to others are both encouragement AND accountability. Even more important is to press through, especially during the times when things have improved enough and you think you can slack off. That is the time others need you most.

Louie and I had to go back to the basics and stick with the program. He needs a leader mom who will stay the course and lovingly keep enough pressure on to see him experience the behavior change needed to live a happy life! As I’m writing, he’s lovingly staring at me with his big brown eyes as if to assure me he is never too far and always has me in his sight! And for that, I am truly grateful.

Lou and the stain

NOTE: Louie’s stumped! There is a rust stain of some sort next to Louie’s left paw. That stain has been on my driveway for 3 weeks.  And it just happens to look like Louie! Oh the little things in life that make a huge difference in our world!

No One Likes To Be Told What To Do!

IMG_0198I am trying to say this in a nice way, but I’m just going to put it out there…no one likes to be told what to do. I know I’m a dog, and my leader mom is my alpha, and she regularly trains and gives me commands, but sometimes I just don’t like being told what to do. By now I know what makes my leader mom happy– walking beside her, letting go of something I shouldn’t have, etc. Or my favorites: stay, heel and down! But there are times when I know what I’m doing and she will give a command. And when I look at her as if to say, “I already know this,” she sternly repeats the command as though I didn’t hear her. So I decided to observe how some of my gal pals handle being told what to do.

First, there’s Eve. When we took her outside, she was halfway down the sidewalk when my mom said, “Eve, don’t pull.” Then there was Ellie, who was already at eye level before her leader mom told her not to jump! Allie’s been told not to kiss me so much but she never pays attention to that command. Khaki’s been told by her leader mom to stop barking when I pass her house. That never works so I have to go give her some attention. And, of course, there’s Snickers, who clearly doesn’t like me, no matter what her mom tells her!

My buddies are not much better. My pug buddy Samson will walk in whatever direction he wants to walk, and Mick—well, Mick actually does what he’s told. So six out of seven of my pals do not like being told what to do, which I believe proves my point.

But I decided to dig a bit deeper. I observed my leader mom as she read through several articles, such as Five Things Successful Entrepreneurs Do; 13 Things Your Stylist Won’t Tell You; What You Need To Do To Be a Strong Leader; Four things a Leader Does First Thing in the Morning, etc. Interestingly, I noticed my leader mom does NOT follow every single suggestion. In fact, by reading her body language I’d say she is overwhelmed by all the suggested ways to improve. It is clear to me that humans don’t like to be told what to do, yet often the first words you read or hear are, “Here’s what you need to do!” So I concluded my research and the findings are as follows: Humans like to give commands and opinions on how to do things better, but no one listens!

After all this work, I needed a break, so I danced and whined by the front the door to let mom know that now would be a good time for us to go for a walk—and she obliged. The sunset was beautiful so we strolled leisurely rather than walked at our usual brisk pace. In a flash, I saw a cat run past, and I immediately ran the other direction. SNAP! My mom called my name, snapped my collar and said, “STAY,” as she made me stand at attention beside her. Then a car went flying by, narrowly missing us both! My mom was expressing her thoughts a little more animated than usual while I was catching my breath. I could have died if my leader mom hadn’t told me exactly what to do right at that moment. Good thing she didn’t say, “Louie, I wonder if there is a better way to express your fear of cats?” I would have died while we had that nice little conversation.

Then it hit me! There are times when clear directions (commands, in my case) are needed; a time when the Socratic method is appropriate, and a time when simply listening is the most loving and effective method. Some leaders ONLY use the questioning method and it feels very manipulative because you know you have to do what they tell you or your job is in jeopardy. Others never offer the opportunity for team members to develop critical thinking skills, or the ability to explore other options, when they just tell you what to do.

I’ve experienced my leader mom’s ability to balance her leadership behaviors. She knows when to give direction and when to provide support and many times she balances the two nicely. She knows when to ask questions and when to listen. (It doesn’t hurt that she’s an avid student of Situational Leadership II). The most effective leaders are those who size up the situation and provide just the right amount of instruction and care. Leaders who only have one leadership style (which is often some form of control and manipulation), miss out on the very best their team is willing to give.

I think Henry Cloud said it best in his audiobook (yes, I listen as my leader mom gleans wisdom from her audiobooks). “Behavior changes occur when we are able to grapple with issues. When you provide context— by listening, sharing information and positive examples, setting expectations and consequences, creating a healthy emotional climate, and challenging them to do their best— they will figure it out and implement it. That is a lot better than just ‘telling them what to do.’”1 That takes time and discipline, and from my observation, some humans don’t have the discipline and won’t take the time for others.

Ultimately, I’ve come to realize that my leader mom knows best! I’ve come to love and trust her so my heart’s desire is to please her–not because she tells me what to do–but because I want to serve her. While no one likes to be told what to do, most of us love to give to those we care about. And the best form of caring is service!

 

1 Cloud, Henry (2013-04-16). Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously in Charge

 

Oops, I Did It Again!

2014-06-27 21.33.41I know you’ve been there. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on bad behavior… BAM! You do it again, and before you know it, you’re in the doghouse!

That’s happened to me on a number of occasions. My leader mom has been pretty good with this thing she calls grace (unmerited divine assistance or favor), yet I was disheartened by something she said one Saturday afternoon. I don’t think she meant for me to hear what she said, which was, “I’m so weary of this behavior, Lou!”

My heart sank at the thought that I had disappointed her, yet it was her sigh of exasperation that really caused me pain. I wondered what I could have done to cause such a reaction. I thought everything was great between us so I was terribly confused. I wondered, “Does this mean she’s going to get rid of me? Will she find me a new home, or worse, will she take me back to a shelter? I sank into despair with worry!

I tried to remember what I might have done wrong. We went for a walk, I ate, we walked again, we came back, I went downstairs to my crate, and mom said her usual, “I’ll be right back, Louie!” I have a really nice safe place to hang out and it has a great view of the backyard. All was calm so I took a nap. Then, all of a sudden, I awoke with a start. I heard voices, and noise, and steps going to and fro in my house and I had no idea what was going on. I thought my mom was in trouble and needed my help. So I frantically pawed at the gate of my crate but couldn’t get out. The noise was getting louder, almost deafening. I was really worried that bad people were trying to take her away. This went on for hours and for every second I could, I let them know I was miffed. I warned them bark after bark that I would be getting out of my cage any minute and there would be you-know-what to pay! My mind was racing and I couldn’t escape the awful thoughts! I just knew I couldn’t let them take my mom!

Then the upstairs door opened. I held my breath and was perfectly still because I knew they were coming for me. I acted like I was sleeping but kept one eye focused the steps. Imagine my surprise when I saw it was my mom! Alive and well so I jumped for joy! But when she opened the cage, she put my leash on me. Now that’s odd! Ohhhh, I get it. They made you come down here to get me, put the leash on and that way they don’t have to deal with me…well, I’ll show them!

As best I could, leash and all, I ran up the stairs ahead of my mom (oops, big mistake—I’m not allowed to do that) and sure enough, there they were; the people trying to kidnap my mom! They were smiling and cooing at me, but I wasn’t fooled. One even said I wasn’t at all like she imagined me, based on the blog. I puffed up the hair on my back and nodded my head because I knew I scared her and that was my intent. My mom said something about being a creative writer but I ignored her and made them leave the house.

I thought my mom would be so proud that I came to her rescue. But that was when she expressed her exasperation with me. Apparently, I was completely mistaken about her kidnappers. They were actually her friends. Turns out they weren’t plotting to take her away, but rather they were all laughing and having a great time. Ohhh, my! I lowered my head and was terribly disappointed in myself.

I’m sure you know what it’s like when you get a crazy thought in your head and you just can’t get rid of it. One thought leads to another and before you now it, you’ve made some big assumptions and lost all perspective and blown the situation out of proportion. People lose friends, families sever ties, and jobs are lost all the time because one or both parties involved let their thinking get away with them. So I apologized. I was sincere and truly meant I was sorry. I also took complete responsibility for my behavior. I looked at my mom and was hopeful she could tell me what I could do to make it right. I thought maybe the people would come back. But they didn’t.

I promised I would not behave that way again. Of course, my mom forgave me. In fact, she even admitted that she did not go through our normal routine of accepting people into our house. That routine includes my sitting by the door, her slowly opening it, and allowing me to “get to know” the person coming into my home. Because this situation was different, I was much less welcoming. She, too, took responsibility for her part, and of course I forgave her.

I’m so glad my mom and I can have those tough conversations as soon as a situation arises—no guessing games. But I have a long way to go and thanks to her leadership, I am well on my way! So who would like to be my next victim, I mean guest? I’m practicing my manners at the door. It helps if you bring a dog that I like or one of the alpha pups…I like them coming into my home! And if I blow it, you get to see me practice my humblest apology!

NOTE: Be aware of what you’re thinking and capture negative or destructive thoughts the minute they occur. And if you blow it, own it! A sincere apology is one of the greatest gifts we can give to others. If you need help, Louie is happy to demonstrate the proper way to apologize in this video.

Not Everybody’s Going To Like You, Lou!

I Love LouieLouie and I hope you’ve enjoyed your summer as much as we did. Louie had a great time playing at Camp Bow Wow, relaxing, socializing with his gal pals and taking a few notes on how humans behave. He is stunned by what he has discovered!

Louie noticed that humans often say one thing but then do the opposite. They are very concerned with their images, and nowhere is this more evident than in the world of social media. Interestingly, most humans share only positive information about themselves in an effort to convince everyone else how great they are!

This is all very foreign to Louie because with dogs, what you see and smell is what you get. This obsession with image is only found among humans. Dogs don’t try to be something they aren’t – although Lou does puff up his hair to make himself look bigger, but that’s less about image and more about self-protection!

Rather than try to explain it myself, I’m going to let Louie share his perspective and perhaps the best place for him to start is with his own story.

  *****

My life changed dramatically a year ago. I was roaming the rolling hills of Appalachia, searching for what I didn’t know I was missing. My training and discipline were harsh, instilling fear and lack of trust. Sadly, when I ran away, no one even knew I was missing nor did they search for me.

I thought my life was over when I was put in a cage and taken many miles to an unknown destination. It was very confusing, and the way I coped was just to hold my head up and stare straight ahead. There were so many cages and car rides I lost count. One day, we took a short ride and settled in a place where people paraded in front of us. The dogs around me were doing back flips and trying to get noticed, but I was so weary; I didn’t even care. Finally, when they opened my cage, I thought I would make a beeline for freedom. But I looked up, and there she stood with big brown eyes and an even bigger smile. At that moment, I realized what I had been missing all my life.

While I may not have been as terribly abused as many of my canine friends, I never really experienced genuine love or affection. Lack of love and attention is one of the worst abuses a dog can suffer. But the minute my eyes connected with this special person, I knew I had a chance to be loved and was hopeful I would never be lonely or neglected again.

So, our journey began. Because of my past, my master had to engage a trainer to teach me the balance of disciplining with loving. Apparently, my new human needed training too! Who knew learning to balance discipline with love would be so challenging. But the training paid off, because now we make a great team. And my leader even learned a few things about leadership, which she has written about in her blogs and in a book, aptly titled Louie’s Leadership Lessons. I like that she’s always willing to learn. This is the hallmark of a good leader.

Yet, in this journey I had a few setbacks. I’ve had some tough lessons to learn – perhaps the toughest was realizing that not everyone liked me. Because my leader lavished love on me with just the right amount of discipline, I learned to be very happy-go-lucky. And because she so easily loved me, I thought everybody would just love me—Not so!

With my history, I’m pretty used to getting bullied by bigger dogs. I don’t like it, but I’ve learned to run away instead of fight because I am much faster than they are! But recently, I met a cute little dog with whom I fell for immediately. She was spunky, walked with authority and exuded self-assurance. I like that in a gal pal!

When I tried to get to know her, however, she didn’t respond the way I’d hoped. I saw her walking one day and decided it was my chance to get to know her. Our leaders knew each other, so it was an easy introduction. She is much smaller than me, so I wanted to be careful not to overpower her. But in a second, my world turned upside down. I threw all caution to the wind. My tail wagged; I offered loving licks; and my plaintive voice said, “Hi, I just met you, and I love you.” The love was met with snarls, growls and flashing, white sharp teeth.

Though we kept walking, I just could not enjoy our time together. I hung my head low and wondered the entire time, what just happened? Why would she not like me? What have I done to get that kind of reception? And my leader, in her infinite wisdom, said, “Louie, not everyone’s going to like you!”

That was hard to believe! But I decided to take some time to ponder this news. I observed a few other doggie interactions, and alas, my leader was correct: Not everyone likes me. There is no rhyme or reason for it; there is no way around it; and one might not be able to make sense of it. But one thing is certain: I will not let rejection get the best of me or ruin my day or week or BEST YEAR EVER!!

What helps me to have this focus is to keep my eye on my source of joy! I relish in my master’s love and character, and I let her guide me to the relationships worth pursuing and those I need to avoid. She has never led me astray, and I doubt she ever will. I see her model this with her relationship with her Master, her Creator and loving God. I can’t go wrong following a leader who has this kind of servant heart. While you may know her as Danise, leader, businesswoman, consultant, friend or sister, I now know her as Mom (Thanks, Marisa, for sharing her).

 

Snickers, who would not let Louie in the photo!

 

NOTE: Thanks for your patience as we adjust to our new blog site. If you’d like to see Louie’s previous posts, please visit:  http://louiesleadershiplessons.blogspot.com

 

Louie has something to say about that!

I have something to say about that!
I have something to say about that!

 

What a great summer we’ve had. Louie’s made several friends, had tiring play dates at Camp Bow Wow, and has enjoyed playing with the alpha pups. I’ve managed more writing projects than originally planned and have enjoyed time with many new clients.

Some of you have met Louie and are familiar with how much he likes to talk. If you live in our neighborhood, you can hear him all the way down the street because he’s so vocal. Well, I’ve learned Louie has something to say! In fact, he has something to say about a number of topics–very important topics like why doesn’t the little dog down the street like him (you know who you are), what it’s like to be led by a servant leader, how to have a highly productive pack (and have everyone get along), why it’s good to stare out the window, why love trust and respect are important in the work place…and his favorite, how to mentor alpha pups!

He’s finishing his vacation (Oh, boy! Oh, boy!) and will be back soon (with a little surprise)!