Have you given up on your resolutions yet? Many of us have. And why is that? Well, Louie and I learned the hard way and we may have the answer you’re looking for.
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I’ve noticed something a bit different lately about Louie, my rescue pup. He really enjoys it when we walk side by side during our walks. What’s different about that, you might ask?
He’s always enjoyed our time together and is usually all over the place when we walk. To get him to walk right next to me (as we’ve been taught during dog training), I usually have to make him heel. What’s different now is that he heels without me giving the command. Now he walks right next to me, many times for the entire walk, enjoying every step. It’s like we’re BFFs just hanging out. Well, maybe we are, but this change in our walks together gives me paws to think about leadership.
Louie walks next to me with confidence and joy because I, his leader, am walking with confidence and joy. This time last year I was still recuperating from a terrible accident. And, needless to say, this winter, though I was out walking, I walked with extreme caution. Now that the weather is turning warmer, there’s a bit more spring in my step and I am back to walking confidently and fast. And Louie is reaping the benefits.
When I say, “Leader, you must walk with confidence,” it may conjure up a lot of different thoughts and feelings about leadership. Many leaders walk with confidence because of pride issues, others put on airs and act like they’re confident. I believe the leaders who truly are confident provide a safe place for employees to flourish. Those leaders are confident not in their own abilities but in the abilities and strengths of those they lead. They can walk with confidence because they have a team around them they believe in, one they have encouraged and affirmed, and they work well together.
Walking with confidence is not about you, it is about those you lead, those you’ve empowered to be who they were created to be. It’s not about you puffing yourself up, it’s about those who choose to follow you and the confidence they have in you to be an excellent leader. Take the challenge and walk with confidence, but be sure it is because of the outward focus you have on the strengths and skills of others on your team.
As for Louie, well, I’m pretty sure if he were writing this it would be all about his confidence and how he walks next to me to make sure I am protected. Way to go, Louie! Such a good boy!
Louie had to say goodbye to his cousin, Perry, a couple of weeks ago. We’re so glad we had time to cuddle that sweet boy the week before. Mark, Agnes, Bernadette and Christian and all the DiStasi kids will miss him.
Louie, my rescue pup, and I have been making our rounds, speaking to various groups and visiting businesses and organizations. He is indeed a transformed dog and loves the accolades he receives as we share the story of our journey together.
A few weeks back, my granddaughter, Evi, noticed a growth on Louie’s right rear paw. We took him to King’s Veterinary Hospital to visit Dr. Paul LaCompte. He promptly diagnosed the wart on Louie’s paw pad as a possible sign of the papillomavirus and told us to watch it for a couple of weeks. It looked like it would have naturally fallen off, except that the nail on an adjacent toe seemed to increasingly irritate the possible wart.
One Sunday, I noticed the condition seemed to be worsening, so I bandaged it and hoped Louie would be okay until we could get in to see Dr. Paul the following day. As we took a short walk, we stopped to chat with a neighbor and, genuinely concerned for Louie, she asked about the bandage. I explained what was going on and said that we would try to see the vet the next day.
She leaned over, petted Lou, and said, sweetly but with a sad face, “Awww, Louie. I’m so sorry. You’re not that perfect little boy now.” I responded, “And he’s thinking, ‘You would never know I was not perfect if my mom hadn’t put on this stinkin’ bandage.’” We laughed, and Louie and I continued with our walk.
Dr. Paul and his team did see Louie that Monday and suggested surgery that day. They promptly removed the growth and sent it off for a pathology report. As usual, they did a fantastic job; they doted on him, stitched him up, and instructed me on his care for the next couple of weeks. He walked a little slower but was happy to go home that same evening.
When we arrived home, I took Louie out for a short stroll. As we walked, I watched him limp a bit, then pick up his stitched leg to run on three legs, and then, every so often, do a skip. Reflecting on the comment my neighbor had made, I realized that neither Louie nor I would ever claim he is perfect. But as I watched him walk with a limp, this thought gave me “paws.”
I wondered why we often work so hard to give the appearance of being perfect. Maybe we try hard not to appear “so perfect,” but we certainly don’t let others see us with our masks off, do we? And while people do not need to know every single thing that we think is wrong with us or that we try to hide from others, the key to dropping our masks and being genuine and authentic is humility! Every humble, successful, and effective leader I know “walks with a limp.”
Ken Blanchard always quotes the British author and scholar, C. S. Lewis: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It is thinking of yourself less.”
I struggled with this issue for many years. I wanted people to see that I had it all together and was pretty darn near perfect. That could not have been further from the truth. In fact, hiding behind that perfect mask was a lie! I wasn’t a perfectionist by any stretch of the imagination, but I sure did not want people to see the real me—because I didn’t want anyone to have a reason not to like me. Am I the only person who has ever struggled with this? I don’t think so. But the cost of wearing a mask kept me from being real and authentic and hindered my use of the God-given talents and gifts I’ve been blessed with. I’ve learned to be okay with walking with a limp, in more ways than one.
The pathology report came back with good news; the growth was just what Dr. Paul thought—a papilloma. Louie and I took a nice walk to celebrate. As I watched him, I appreciated the little lesson he had passed on to me. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks if he limps. If he can get out and has to walk with a limp, by golly, he’s going to go out and walk with a limp. Walking outside with his mama is much more important than trying to appear as if he has it all together, even if it means walking with a limp.
And so it should be with us. Removing all the pretenses of perfection is freeing. So what if you happen to limp a bit? How are you doing with letting down the mask and letting people see your flaws? It may be worth it to take some time to PAWS and reflect on this!
NEXT EPISODE: The Saga Continues-The Cone of Shame!
Speaking of masks (remember the days of Glamour Shots?)…do you suppose if I tipped my hand slightly my mask would have come off, like when Jane Jetson doned her ‘morning mask’ to talk on the video phone.? Oh, if only it were that easy. 😉
For some reason, this winter has made the ground in our neighborhood very susceptible to moles. You can’t walk in a grassy area without walking over a tunnel dug underground by a mole. And of course, Louie, my adopted pup, is keenly aware of his nemeses lurking just under the surface everywhere he steps.
As we were enjoying one of the unseasonably warm days recently, I noticed Louie had a little extra spring in his step. He was ready to pounce at any given time to expose a mole—or several, if need be. After all, this is what he was created for, and it was his duty to rid our community of as many moles as he could. His fans were counting on him to fulfill his calling.
And pounce he did—several times, in fact—and chased away one or two of the little critters. As we got closer to our home, he found a mound that was especially inviting. He dug and dug and snorted and pulled away clumps of grass with his mouth, and nothing was going to stop him from his responsibility.
Then along came Louie’s friend, Mick—his Goldendoodle pal from across the street. Louie pulled his head out of the dirt and ran over to play with Mick. Then Mac came along, and the three of them jumped and played; it seemed the role of the mighty mole hunter was all but forgotten. That is until Mick got a little too close to the molehill and Louie gave him a firm warning. “That’s MY molehill, buddy,” Louie seemed to snarl. Then Mac stepped a little too close to the molehill, and Louie had all he could take. He made it clear he did not want anyone stepping any closer to the molehill because he had put so much work into digging that hole and possibly finding his treasure.
The humans laughed and shrugged it off as one of his many quirky behaviors. Once Mick and Mac left, Louie went back to digging, clearly not willing to share the findings, should any be uncovered.
As I pulled him away to finish our walk, I shook my head at how possessive and territorial he can be sometimes. I mean, to snarl at his friends just because they were a little too close to the molehill he was working on so diligently? And yet, this gave me great pause. Isn’t that just like us regarding our businesses?
Many people in business today are no different than Louie. They safeguard their information like a child who wraps his arms around his dinner plate making sure no one in the family has an opportunity to steal his food. I do understand the delicate balance of sharing and yet maintaining the quality of intellectual property, but many people, especially in the business-consulting circle, believe they have the market cornered when it comes to their particular information and design.
I have great news! There is nothing new under the sun, and there is plenty of business to go around. While cooperation is essential for teams within organizations, how well do you collaborate with other businesses? I have been blessed with excellent collaborative partnerships throughout the years and have found that working together is much better than competing against one another (I know, competition is good to a certain point).
What I have learned through collaboration is the following:
I’ve enjoyed learning from the best: Lynne Ruhl (Perfect10 Corporate Cultures), T. D. Hughes (former CEO and chair of the board of LaRosa’s), Bob Pautke (LEAD Clermont and SOAR Consultancy) and Ken Blanchard (author of The One Minute Manager).
I am still in partnership with The Ken Blanchard Companies and enjoy maintaining a connection with Ken and meeting with Michelle Shone (business development agent, The Ken Blanchard Companies) on a regular basis. I learned a valuable lesson from Ken many years ago. When he shares the wisdom he’s learned from someone else, he always gives that person credit and honors his or her name and calling in life by doing so. He has done this for the 18 years I have known him, and he still does it today.
I know all too many people who take credit for work, material, and ideas they had nothing to do with bringing to fruition. Yet, they never give people the proper credit and are perfectly happy with allowing people to believe they are the originators. This is stealing, not collaboration. And it fosters a sense of insecurity and negative response, exactly the way Louie behaved.
Although it would have taken me awhile to get Louie to understand that had Mick and Mac joined in the hunt for the mole, the three of them might have been successful in finding one or two moles. Instead, we have a big hole in the ground, a very messy dog, and no mole.
Look for ways to collaborate with others, even those who may seem to be fishing in the same pond as you. It will foster a sense of cooperation and accomplishment—and you may learn a thing or two. Just remember to give proper credit where credit is due.
I could not resist adding a few pictures of my favorite girls with their hero, Fiona the Hippo
Louie has slipped back into some of his old bad behaviors. He does not want any other dog to enter into our home. And he’s not too fond of humans walking in either, but he tolerates them. This behavior is displayed only in my home and it wears on me.
But then it occurred to me. I have been lax in my being a consistent Alpha to Louie. You see, 90% of the time, Louie is a very well-behaved dog, and he minds well. And for this reason, I have let some little bad behaviors slip through the crack. This creates a chain effect of Louie thinking he can get by with those bad behaviors; getting on the furniture, getting into the trash, getting on the beds. Because he sometimes gets by with that behavior and other times not, this causes confusion for Louie. And when he’s confused, he operates in fear. It’s my fault that Louie is confused and feels the need to be territorial and protective.
One of the toughest principles for me to grasp over the years since Louie first came to live with me was how to be the Alpha in Louie’s “pack,” and my trainer was clear that I was a weak Alpha. My lack of strong leadership confused Louie, forcing him into the position of having to step up and lead, and that issue still exists today.
Before Louie and I found each other, I never gave much thought to asserting my role as Alpha Dog. Consequently, my dogs assumed that role, and I let them. It didn’t seem to matter because they were small and harmless. And by the time I got home after a long day at work, I was tired of being Alpha, so I let them boss me around. But that approach doesn’t work for Louie, and it does not work for people
There is so much that goes into being a good Alpha; being consistent, providing safety, setting appropriate boundaries, giving genuine and abundant praise, and offering a necessary correction. Again, all of those things must be rooted in trust and undergirded by love.
I remember back four years ago when the trainer first met us, Louie behaved very badly, and I was at my wit’s end. The trainer described my body language as defeated. Louie responded to this with fear and confusion. The words that moved me off the dime were, “I’ve seen you do leadership seminars, now you’ve got to do what you do in those workshops. Exude confidence. He needs reassurance that you know what you’re doing.”
Really? For my dog? I had made the common mistake of assuming that he would instinctively know that I’m the boss – simply because I’m the human, I’m larger than he, and I think more “knowledgeable.” The trainer taught me that it is about my level of confidence in where I’m going and what needs to be accomplished. That confidence is in knowing what’s best for Louie, giving him firm direction, and drawing out his very best behavior.
As leaders, our assumptions about others and situations around us unintentionally confuse our team. We have expectations that are not always clearly communicated, and then when not met, cause disappointment on our part and confusion on the part of others. Ken Blanchard often refers to this as seagull management, meaning a manager who only interacts with employees when a problem arises. This style of leadership involves hasty decisions about things of which they have little understanding, resulting in messy situations for others to clean up.
Being a strong leader is about so much more than claiming an impressive title, wearing expensive clothes and appearing important. It is about:
Dogs and people need a humble leader, not a bossy dictator. I’ve committed to leading with intentionality, clear vision and goals. I encourage you to do the same – whether you’re leading canines or humans.
I am happy to say I have assumed my role as Alpha of the house. Louie needs and desires my approval much more than he wants to be alpha, and consequently, Louie is a much happier pup. I’ve had to wrestle him to the ground once or twice to make him understand submission, a method I do NOT recommend for your team. But it is clear that he understands and appreciates my love and leadership. And I now know the value of being consistent in my leadership role.
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I envy my dog Louie’s ability to just be. As I watch him looking out the window, I often wonder whether he is looking for something in particular. Is he remembering the mole he dug out of the dirt in the backyard and thrashed it about until it was lifeless (witnessed by my granddaughter Evi)? Is he thinking of the many raccoons he has run up the tree? Or is he waiting for the deer to cross his path? They would be wise to choose another route! No matter what he may be thinking, he is perfectly content to hit the pause (PAWS) button on life and just be.
While Christmas is already upon us and soon we’ll be ringing in the New Year, I have to look back over 2017 and ask with astonishment, “What happened?” It’s not my typical thought, “Wow, this year went fast.” That is because this year was different.
On December 18, 2016, I had an accident and had to have surgery to repair a femur that was broken in two places and a full hip replacement. “Give yourself a year,” the surgeon said during a follow-up exam in which the details were extremely fuzzy. His prediction of a year to recover seemed to hit a nerve for me. No sooner were the words out of the surgeon’s mouth than I boldly shrugged and said, “Who needs a year? I’ll be fine!”
The process of recovery was grueling and I barely remember Christmas last year other than spending it at the home of my daughter and son-in-law with the two cutest nurses ever. But I did recover and was pleased with how well I was able to move around. It helped that it was a pretty mild winter last year so that I was able to get outside and walk.
Many were amazed at how well I recovered physically, including me. But I have to be honest; the incident literally and figuratively knocked me off my feet and knocked the wind out of me for almost the entire year. The surgeon was right: it would take every bit of a year. And over the months, I stopped to pause many times.
There’s a word in the Old Testament that I’ve grown to cherish over this past year: Selah. Although some debate the meaning, I’ve learned that its definition is “Pause and reflect on this.” While it may have been written centuries ago, it is still a good reminder for our world today to pause every now and then and reflect. Yet sometimes, we may need a little help hitting the pause button. I would say that my accident certainly helped me to pause and reflect on my life.
Of course, I would never wish such an injury on anyone, but I will admit that I am a better person for having gone through it. I enjoy life more, love more deeply, listen more emphatically, notice people in need more often, laugh more heartily, and celebrate more joyously.
And I am not the only one who has changed. I have seen a complete transformation in Louie over the past year. Because he’s had to slow down with me, he is more patient. I can tell he is more trusting of friends, he is more engaging when we visit schools and nursing homes. And he is even more loving and playful with Evi and Mea and houseguests.
I am grateful for a blessed life and—although I am not sure how this could ever be possible—I love God, even more, each day. And I am grateful for you too! Thank you for reading our Louie blog over the years. We are excited about some news we will be sharing in the first quarter of 2018, thanks to the many words of encouragement and feedback we have received from Louie’s followers. You’ll soon be the first to know.
In the meantime, during this wonderful season, do what Louie does—hit the PAWS button. And in doing so, be thankful for all the many things you have to be grateful for.
God bless you and your family! Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.
Louie and I were walking down the street toward our home. A neighbor was getting into her car and stopped to stare at Louie as he proudly pranced by. We exchanged hellos, and she smiled at Lou and said, “He’s such a good boy.” I just laughed and nodded.
He looked at me and I at him, and I thought, “He is a pretty good dog.” But then I continued that conversation in my head: “Well, most of the time. I mean, sometimes, he can be a bit, well, let’s just say mischievous.” Quite honestly, he is a totally different dog than he was during our first few months together.
Louie’s transformation was no accident—I was very intentional in making changes in my life and my leadership style, and it took a lot of work.
THE ONE THING
But the most transformative power in our journey together was my decision to be a loving person and to pour love into little Louie. I saw a significant difference in his behavior a few months into our time together and continue to see today, four years later!
Sadly, the word “love” receives eye rolls and shoulder shrugs. The word gets tossed around frequently these days in every circle that wants to claim it is the most loving. We see countless hateful Facebook posts and counter posts on how we need to love. Over four years ago, in my first Louie’s Leadership Lessons blog post, I took a chance and wrote about showing Lou unconditional love, knowing how the world viewed the “l-word”, especially in the workplace. Yet as we conduct more and more LOUIE speeches and workshops, one thing that is always consistent is the total misunderstanding of the word love.
A few months after my blog post on love, Harvard Business Review published a study demonstrating that employees perform better when they feel loved. The study made a distinction between friendship love and romantic love, mainly that friendship love is based on warmth, affection, and connection rather than passion. The study revealed, “It is the small moments between coworkers—a warm smile, a kind note, a sympathetic ear—day after day, month after month, [Danise’s Note: on a consistent basis] that help create and maintain a strong culture of companion love and the employee satisfaction, productivity, and client satisfaction that comes with it.”
STOP IT AND WHY!
So here’s my challenge to you today: stop training and coaching your staff in hopes of seeing change. Be the leader who genuinely loves! Unless you’re capable of showing authentic love to others, you will most likely cultivate a very toxic culture within your organization, family, and community. Don’t confuse being nice with demonstrating love. They are two different qualities. Love is a heart issue!
On the flip side, my observation has been that bosses who try to manufacture these qualities but demonstrate behavior to the contrary engender fear and mistrust among their employees.
May I be so bold as to take this a step further? I think it is virtually impossible to feel joy or experience peace in your life if you’re incapable of true genuine love. Most of us do not understand love. So let me help you. Here’s the tip of the iceberg of what I’ve been learning over four years of studying and blogging about Louie and love:
There’s no way you can be patient with others, show kindness, have integrity, be faithful to your word, be gentle, or exhibit self-control without love. All of these excellent characteristics are rooted in love. And as leaders, we must be people of love, not just doers of nice things. Check your motives and your hearts.
WHERE TRANSFORMATION TRULY BEGINS
It wasn’t easy for me to show consistent, genuine love to Louie. And it has been even more difficult to show love to people who are unlovable, demanding, or different from me—or those who have disappointed me. But I know what true love is, and I stand amazed that God so loves me! Who am I to withhold that love from people who may need it most?
I chose Louie, difficult personality and all. Granted, we usually do not get to choose those we are commanded to love in the workplace. But people in your space could be transformed because you choose to love them.
Louie hit a rough patch last week. One night shortly after settling into our nightly routine, he became restless. He rarely dances around to signal his need to go outside; when he did so, we made it to the front yard just in the nick of time. He clearly had an upset stomach and was one miserable little pup.
I wasn’t sure how he would fare through the night, but I knew he would let me know if he needed to make a trip outside. Sure enough, at midnight and then again at 1:30 a.m., he woke me up, needing to go out. I was administering the proper foods to settle his digestive system, but I had already decided to call the vet in the morning to get him in as soon as possible.
Then something magical happened. It’s tough to put the words “magical” and “upset stomach” in the same sentence, but that is exactly what took place. While I was thinking through all the practical reasons Louie was sick and slowly trying to coax him back into the house, he stopped and looked far off into the distance. Normally, Louie can become nervous when he’s outside in the dark; he usually wants to head back inside as soon as possible. Our trainer has advised me that I need to walk boldly and with confidence when we’re outside after dark so that Louie will feel safe.
But standing outside at 1:30 in the morning, I had no desire to be the alpha. I just wanted to go back to bed with a hope and a prayer that Louie would be on the mend. At the moment, though, Louie was fixated on something that grabbed his attention; even with a slight tug, he would not move.
Then it happened. Rather than scurrying back to the safety of the house, we stood and took in the magic of a peaceful, quiet night. He slowly looked from the street up to the stars above. I stopped, too, and looked. The sky was beautiful, and the quietness with a few faint nighttime sounds was breathtaking. Louie seemed to marvel at the night sky. I noticed it, too—and it grabbed my heart.
We spent a long moment drinking in the beauty. I looked at my pup, and we both knew it was time to go in. After our midnight reverie, whatever Louie tapped into must have healed his nerves because he settled in for a long, deep sleep. The next day, he woke up without a trace of sickness.
As I type out this message, I am compelled to ponder this thought: when did I lose this sense of wonder? I see it emerge when I play with my grandchildren—when we go off on adventures. But as Louie and I stood together that evening, I realized that it can be easy to mistake wonder for foolishness. In fact, I have to ask myself—is this thought just foolishness?
I so desire to reignite my sense of incredible marvel. For me, this is about more than being creative: it is seeing the beauty and magic in the world all around us—the creation that God breathed life into. It is engaging with a dear friend in deep, heartwarming conversation. It is watching my beautiful niece walk along a peaceful garden path to join her soon-to-be-husband in their outdoor wedding ceremony. It is witnessing the miraculous birth of my grandchildren. It is running outside to catch the ice cream truck as it passes through my neighborhood—and having my brother and his family joining me, which happened just last week. Four adults standing in my driveway eagerly anticipating the thrill of eating ice cream from a truck, unprompted by children!
Admit it—we yearn to be moved by seeing things beyond our physical world filled with horrific news. We all want to feel profoundly alive, to feel like we’re a part of the grander scheme of things for the greater good. Yet many of us have lost this sense of curiosity. Moments that might have taken our breath away from our younger selves now may not move us at all.
If you are a leader in an organization, community, or family, what are ways you could reignite your sense of wonder? Perhaps you feel aware that you’ve lost it, or perhaps you still do experience it. What about those you lead—do you see glimpses of their capacity for awe? The greatest gift you can give to others is to help them navigate uncertain waters and enter that new world with them. You can choose to intentionally engage in conversations with your team about recapturing this magical sense. You and your team may be surprised by feeling powerfully impacted as you tap into this sense.
I hope Louie never loses his sense of wonder. I am not saying that he has this down, or even that he is cognizant of his tender sense of awe. Nevertheless, I envy his ability to stop and connect with creation and draw from that a sense of peace. Even on that night without sleep, unexpected and moving lessons were shown to me by my pup, Louie.
If you recall my blogs at the beginning of the year, I had a life-changing event take place. My goal then was to dance at my niece’s wedding…and dance we did!
Louie is one smart dog. I know most dog owners say that about their dogs, but truly, this little guy is amazing.
For instance, we’ll be taking a long walk, and typically Louie can walk quite a distance. But sometimes if he’s been on a long run with his friend and walker, Mary, he’ll let me know he’s tired. He’ll slow down, lower his head and look straight into my eyes as if to say, “Can we slow it down a bit?”
When I ask him if he wants to go back, he spins right around and trots back toward our home with a sudden burst of newfound energy.
What gives me pause as I reflect on this interchange is the way Louie locks eyes with me, which he does quite often. He doesn’t just look at me; he actually locks eyes with me and clearly communicates his message. Not a word passes between us (well, OK, I am doing all the talking), not a hand signal, not a sound, and yet he understands me and I understand him. Now, that is an amazing dog.
Other times as we walk, he just reaches up with his mouth to touch my hand. I look at him and, again, he locks eyes as if to say, “I just wanted you to know I’m still here.”
I started to take note of how often Louie locks eyes, not only with me but with others as well:
I could go on about this uncanny way of locking eyes and communicating a wordless message.
My parents always taught me to lock eyes with people because they matter. And Louie has confirmed the need for this powerful leadership tool. Effective and successful leaders hone their relationship skills by practicing the small and seemingly insignificant behaviors that let others know they are valued and loved. Taking time to truly “see” people is an important leadership behavior.
Some time ago, I heard Bill Hybels, the founding pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois, say, “You cannot lock eyes with someone who does not matter to God.” That resonated with me then and still does today.
In our very superficial world where most of the people we pass have their faces plastered against their phones, I urge you to take a few minutes to truly lock eyes with someone and let them know they matter–you see them and they are valued. You just might make a significant difference in another person’s life and begin the process of truly finding common ground.
Louie loves to communicate with his eyes, and I am blessed to be the recipient of his “lock and load ’em up with love” big brown eyes. Yep, I feel loved!