Juicy Morsels of Gossip

Jazz showing disdain for gossip!

Few of us can resist engaging in gossip. I’m not sure why, but if we reflect on our day yesterday, my guess is that many of our conversations involved tidbits of information about others (all justified, of course). Perhaps all of us could learn a few tips from my adopted pup, Louie, on this subject.

Louie and I were taking our usual early morning walk and the sun had not quite risen. As we were rounding a bend, we heard voices, which gradually escalated. I continued walking as we passed a couple who were in the middle of a disagreement while walking toward their respective cars. Louie’s ears perked up as he gave an alert signal—or more of a “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!” signal. He wanted nothing to do with this couple and took off in the opposite direction.

I, on the other hand, lingered for a few minutes and pulled him back, hoping he would take a potty break. Why? Because I wanted to listen in! I didn’t even know this couple, but I wanted to peek into their world long enough to learn all about this conflict. But Louie was determined to get as far away as possible…so I turned and headed in the direction he wanted to go—away from the arguing couple.

Louie’s (and most humans’) aversion to conflict is future blog material. This was different. This was not MY conflict that I needed to deal with but rather someone else’s conflict, which I wanted to enter into from a safe distance as a fly on the wall. As you read this, you are probably agreeing with me that you do the same thing. Why is that?

There is something in human nature that can’t resist throwing ourselves into someone else’s drama. And with limited information, we decide to share what little we know about the situation with others, mainly to make us feel good about ourselves. After all, we aren’t arguing with someone as we walk to the car—so there must be something wrong with those people, not with us, right?

But when we display this behavior at work, it destroys a team. And when a leader is the one who instigates gossip, they cultivate an unhealthy, distrustful culture. An article in Harvard Business Review stated, “Gossip is not a problem; it’s a symptom. The symptom disappears when a critical mass of leaders stop enabling it, create trust in healthy communication channels, and invest in building employees’ skills to use them.” I know that to establish a “no-gossip zone,” leaders must:

  • Model a no-gossip policy in their own lives
  • Not engage in others’ drama
  • Refuse to listen to others when they start to gossip
  • Step back and ask themselves, “What is going on with me that I feel the need to share this information?”

These are just a few no-gossip strategies, but they offer a good place to check our own behavior. Louie had the right idea: turn and walk the other way. Don’t get involved in other’s business unless invited for counsel. Use your words to build up and affirm people; be careful about what you say. I believe this proverb says it best: “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.”

Whether you are a leader or team-mate, if you have even a slight inkling you should not share something about another person—STOP! Don’t do it! Turn and walk away. Establish a no-gossip zone for your entire organization, and you’ll see a difference in your organizational culture.

Louie and his gal pals “chatting.”

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Louie And The Inverse Square Law

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Dakota hangs on Louie’s every word!

People process and communicate differently is a simple message I share every chance I get. I’ve learned over the years to value and appreciate those differences, especially through the lessons I’ve learned with Louie.

I’ve watched him with his new gal pals as he tries to figure them out. Dakota is the shy, quiet type. Claire is the adorable, but rambunctious puppy who will soon tower over him. And Jazz is statuesque with long legs and can body slam Lou in a heartbeat—all in fun, of course. With each encounter, I watch him size up the situation and process if it is time to play or time to run away. No matter what he decides, it is comical to watch him process.

Louie and I were doing our usual stroll through the neighborhood when he started charging at something. I am keenly aware of his “danger” signals but as I scoped the area, I saw nothing to merit such a strong reaction.

Finally I saw the object of his fear. He was charging a decorative black cat. It looked like a real cat and since it didn’t move even with a hound dog charging at it, it appeared to act like the cats in our neighborhood. I understood why Louie was concerned.

He walked away confused and kept looking back at the cat. He didn’t understand how it could look real but not be real. All the pieces of the puzzle did not seem to fit together. The next day he was walking with his buddy, Mick, who had the same reaction. Louie once again looked confused about a cat that wasn’t real but sure looked it.

While I tried to assure Lou that it was just a fake cat, and it would not pose any danger, my words fell on deaf ears. He had to figure it out himself to fully comprehend whether it was safe or not. We could certainly draw some comparisons between people who seem authentic but aren’t! But I thought of something else as I watched him—the inverse square law.

I struggled with math all my life, and by comparing myself to others who seemed to catch on quickly, I thought I was stupid (even typing the word makes me cringe). Yet I actually enjoyed Radiation Physics in college—at least by the end of the course. The sequence of events that led to my entering college for Radiology and Nuclear Medicine Sciences is fodder for another blog post. Foundational to understanding radiology is a theory called the inverse square law. Without getting too technical, it is the intensity of the X-ray beam being inversely proportional to the distance from the source; the intensity of radiation becomes weaker as it spreads out from the source. Technologists must account for the distance as they set up for the X-ray. I know photographers understand this theory as well.

I had a hard time understanding this concept. Like Louie, I was confused and could not make sense of this theory—the pieces of the puzzle did not fit. My professor, the very patient and compassionate Susan Weidman, continued to work with me through a long and arduous process. Finally, I looked at her and apologized for not getting the theory. Very matter-of-factly she said, “Don’t apologize to me. I am not the one who will fail the course if you don’t get this theory.”

It was as though the heavens parted, an angelic chorus filled the sky, and I finally saw the light—I finally understood the inverse square law. What made the difference? One little word: Failure. Failing the course was more painful than the hard work it was going to take to figure out this theory.

While Louie is a very quick learner, there are some things that do not make sense to him. He needs time to process. Humans also need time to process. Leader, if you are a quick processor, do you show impatience with others who don’t share your gift? Do you assume because you can click right through accounting formulas that others should as well? If you lead a team, does your body language show your disgust because someone can’t comprehend something that seems so obvious to you?

Disdain for those who are different than we are or who learn differently will kill a team, not to mention what it does to a child. Value the differences among people, be patient, and practice servant leadership by helping others. Your team will be much more healthy and productive.

As for Lou and the black cat…he’s counting down the days until Halloween is over.

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Claire thinks Lou is pretty amazing,
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The very regal-looking, award-winning Jazz, who can leap over Louie in a single bound!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Is Your True Identity?

Dreamin'No matter where Louie and I walk, people stop to talk to him. He is very friendly and loves to engage with people. “What is he?” is the question I’m asked when Louie meets new friends. I give the same answer: “I think he’s a Corgi/Beagle mix. And perhaps a little bit of Basset Hound, given his deep bark. He’s a rescue so I’m not totally sure.”

They will usually step back and take a long look at my pup. They smile and say, “I can definitely see the Beagle and perhaps the Corgi as well because of his little legs and long body.”

Some people will even share their Corgi or Beagle stories because of the characteristic of each breed. As soon as I say Louie is a Corgi, people will say he must be stubborn. Or when I say that he’s a Beagle, they will ask if he howls. This amazes me and causes me to ponder his “true” identity.

So I experimented. When people asked, “What is he?” I responded, “He’s the best little buddy ever. He’s really well behaved and very loving!”

People look at me as though I didn’t hear what they asked. So they clarify their question, “I mean what breed is he?” I understand the desire to discuss breeds but this tendency has made me aware of how we often do the same thing to people.

When people see me, I wonder how I am identified? Some easily identify me as a woman of Mediterranean descent; some will see me as a bit older thanks to the white streak in my hair, and some may classify me as middle class, based upon what I may be wearing. Some people take it further and associate me with a political party based on what I look like or what area of town I live in or what church I attend. Some folks today are simply identified by the company they keep. As I think about it, I’m not sure I want to be identified by any of those things. While I am proud of my heritage and love being a woman, are those the only ways I want to be identified?

This has also made me think about how I look at others. Do I assess the color of their skin or how they dress or what car they drive? Or do I allow others to influence my impression simply based on gossip. Do I identify them by how they treat others, if their words match their actions, if they walk with integrity, and if they are honest, loving, and joyful people?

The words of Martin Luther King, Jr., are still powerful today: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” One would assume that by the year 2015, we would assess people on the content of their characters and not only by what we observe. Just look around at what’s going on in our society, and it’s clear that is not the case.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Character is like a tree and reputation is like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Our world is desperate for people who act with integrity. But acting with integrity is intentional, and it springs forth from inner character. Unfortunately, what we get is the shadow of a person, not the real thing. We are influenced by our families of origin, our peers, our colleagues, and even by or origin, by our peers, by the people we associate with, and even by the media.

I am doing a study on the characteristics of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control with a group of wonderful businesswomen. I have no doubt that by the end of our study we will have grown tremendously, and I hope people will know us by the content of our character. I believe this verse says it all: “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.*”

My prayer is that people see my heart based on my character.

As for Louie, he matures more every day. He brings so much joy to others that to identify him only with his breed seems to sell him short and put him in a box. He is more real and honest and true than most people. Our world could learn a thing or two about character from a dog name Lou!

*1 Samuel 16:7

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Open Doors, Open Hearts

Lou and Snickers
Snickers cozying up to Lou!

We hope you enjoyed your summer as much as we did! Lou loved his much-needed down time as well the extended daylight hours to play. Last season he said good-bye to two of his sweet friends, and this summer he met a couple new girls  on the block! There seems to be enough love in Louie’s heart for all his neighborhood friends– his steady girls Ellie and Eve and his buddies Sully, Sammy and Mick. Now there are Jazz and Claire (more on them later). He even made friends with Snickers, who originally played hard to get.

An interesting thing happened on our walks this summer.

One night after a very long, hot walk, Louie hesitated when I said, “Let’s go home.” He knows what that means and usually prances because home is his happy place. But this time he slinked toward home. As we passed our neighbors, he looked toward their doors and garages with a forlorn expression. Finally, as we approached our home he paused and looked up and down the street. He whined as if to say, “Can anyone come out and play?” He was like a little boy who is not ready to call it quits on a hot summer night. I sent messages to my friends and asked, “Can your dogs come out to play?” But no luck. It was time to go in, Lou!

The next day, and every day since, he has decided that every open door or garage is an invitation for him to walk right in. And off he goes to call on a neighbor. He seems particularly interested in one neighbor, June, who doesn’t have a dog. Nonetheless, Lou believes her open garage door is an invitation for him to walk right in. Thank goodness June gladly welcomes Louie into her home. Other neighbors seem to love his visits as well, confirming his opinion that: “Everybody loves me!” He whines (loudly) when Claire’s door is open yet she is nowhere to be found. The same is true with his other four-legged friends. My neighbors don’t have to own dogs for Lou to believe he has an open invitation into their home…as long as the door is open.

I remember growing up on Cherevilla Lane where friends and family dropped in unannounced. My mom used to say, “You know who the really good friends are because they always come to the back door, knock and then just walk in.” I remember as a child actually “calling” our friends as opposed to ringing the doorbell or knocking. We would stand on the porch and melodically sing their name, “Oh Tanya.” Then we would wait until someone answered the door (or yelled out that no one was home-Ha!). My friend Gina’s mom told me I had the sweetest little voice when I would call, “Oh Gina!” That certainly has changed! Like Louie, if we saw an open garage door, we considered it an invitation to walk in.

Welcoming people into our offices and homes is an essential skill for leaders. I can’t tell you how many times someone needed encouragement or prayer, and thankfully, my door was as open as was my heart. I’ve listened to coworkers and friends share about struggles, or victories, broken engagements and new jobs. We never know who is looking for an open door. It might be time to check your organization’s open door policy and perhaps make a few necessary changes.

Louie believes his visits are needed and with every open door, he sees an open heart and expects a loving pat on the head. Otherwise, why would they leave their doors open, right Lou?

Mick "calling" for Louie. Sorry Mick! Lou is fast asleep!
Mick “calling” for Louie. Sorry Mick! Lou is fast asleep!

 

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Pruning is Uncomfortable But Necessary     

 

IMG_1372“It’s that time of year, Lou,” I said as I put on his leash. Louie looked at me with those big brown eyes and his brows furrowed. And then he looked at the furminator in my hand and started walking in the opposite direction, as though that would change my mind about dealing with his shedding. “Better outside than on my wood floor. Let’s go!”

Outside we went, and I started to brush. Louie’s not fond of the furminator but it is a great little tool. The design of the edge allows the tool to push through the topcoat and remove the undercoat and loose hair without cutting or damaging Lou’s skin. Yet no matter how gentle I am, he often tries to reach around and “deter” me.

His shedding seems particularly bad this spring. I comb him every day and still get gobs of hair. But it is a necessary practice and while I know he feels better with less hair, this form of “pruning” is not his favorite activity.

I understand that! It pains me to look at my beautiful flower garden and see the various colors popping up and bursting with life, knowing I will need to prune them back soon. I’ve tested the pruning method in my own garden and while it seems strange to pluck away flowers, the process gets rid of unhealthy portions of the plant and allows for more robust growth. My flower garden is always beautiful mid summer so it is well worth the pain of pruning and the patience it takes to see the results.

As Louie and I wind down season two of our blog, we’ve had to take a look at pruning some things out of our lives as well. Sometimes that involves relationships that have grown stagnant or unhealthy.

By now you know my heart and my business are all about relationships. To be successful, one must cultivate healthy and genuine relationships. It is difficult but wise to recognize when it is time to prune relationships:

  • Release people who are negative. Beware of those who continually gossip. They will drag you down and drain the energy from the relationship.
  • Be a good steward of your time spent with others. There are only so many hours in a day, and we only have so much energy. Think about who brings you joy? With whom can you invest time that will result in growth? Who might you need to serve?
  • Recognize one-sided relationships and let them go. While I am all about serving others, there are people who take advantage of you or your sphere of influence. Be discerning about relationships like this that may need pruning.
  • Cultivate your relationship with God. In fact, start there and the difficult process of pruning other relationships can be done with grace and wisdom. You don’t know what a relationship with God could even begin to look like? Ask me! That’s a discussion that is well worth our time.

While it is not easy to prune relationships, it is sometimes necessary for you and for them to experience greater growth. Lou’s shedding is winding down and he still hates the furminator but he is getting better about that process.

To celebrate Louie’s ability to be “pruned,” we are taking the summer off from blogging to focus on relationships, other writing projects, two adorable grandbabies, family and my clients with whom I truly enjoy spending time (sorry, you folks are NOT on my pruning list 🙂 )!

We’ll see you in the Fall, and we hope you enjoy some relaxing time with genuine, healthy relationships!

Lou is planning to hang out with his alpha pups and his friends this summer. Here he is with his buddy Mick.

They have the entire back yard to run around in this summer, those little boys!

The Boys

Sunrise, Sunset

Puppy Louie
What Louie probably looked like as a baby!

Louie is all boy and still very much a puppy, and sometimes that’s exasperating! I try to burn off some of his energy by taking long walks, visiting dog parks, and having him run around the backyard with his buddy, Mick. But even in the middle of a nap, if Evi and Mea show up at the door, he exudes tons of energy and delivers overly excited sloppy kisses.

Recently while on a walk, Lou stopped to burrow his nose in the ground, hoping to find the mole he knew was near by. I waited, watched and finally gave him a tug to resume walking but he stubbornly refused and kept digging. Finally he jumped up, waged his tail and ran off to find another molehill, pulling me along. I rolled my eyes and muttered under my breath, “When is this dog going to grow up and get out of this puppy stage?”

I immediately gasped. There it was! The tendency to hurry up life. Or more specifically, my tendency to want to hurry Louie’s maturity. Yet I know Lou is quickly approaching adolescence and though it may seem like years away, he will be a senior dog before I know it. We kept walking, Louie by my side with his usual upbeat prance, bright eyes and tongue hanging out the side of his mouth, oblivious to my thoughts of him passing through life so quickly.

Why do we try to speed up our lives? I remember cradling Marisa for her early morning feedings when she was a baby. I would look out my bedroom window as the neighborhood children waited for the school bus. Weary from sleeplessness, I thought to myself, “She will never get to that age. I will always be rocking this baby, feeding her, changing her diapers.” And now I stare into the eyes of her children and wonder where time went. Many times while talking to my six-year-old granddaughter, if I just blink, I swear I am talking to my six-year-old daughter.

Though my father has been gone for 30 years, I have fond memories of him singing. He was a fabulous singer, although he kept his day job of being a Cincinnati Police Officer. He used to sing a song from Fiddler on the Roof titled Sunrise, Sunset. A few of the words were:

Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play?

I don’t remember growing older, when did they?

When did she get to be a beauty? When did he grow to be so tall?

Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?

Sunrise, sunset,

Swiftly flow the days.

Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers,

Blossoming even as we gaze.

Sunrise, sunset,

Swiftly fly the years,

One season following another,

Laden with happiness and tears.

As my career became increasingly more demanding, I struggled to keep my focus centered on raising Marisa. Life was at a frantic pace then and my mom would always say, “Danise, you need to stop and smell the roses.” I could never understand why anyone would ever want to stop anything much less stop to smell roses. But she was right. Life was flying by and not just mine but my child’s, my family’s and my friend’s.

I did eventually listen to my mom and was very intentional about not rushing through life. I’ve learned to stop, breath, and enjoy the moments with my daughter, family, friends, and now of course, Louie. While each stage may be but a wisp, I also believe each stage gets better because of lessons learned and deepening relationships. With each sunrise and sunset, the years swiftly fly by. One season following another, laden with happiness and tears. I enjoyed every bit of Marisa’s life from the minute she was born. But the stage I am in right now with her is the best stage yet.

This is the season when parents watch their children graduate, get married or prepare for a life transition. It is also the time we reflect on where the time went. As for Louie, I cherish each crazy moment of life with him from digging through molehills, to getting excited to see his alpha pups to whining as we walk down the street because his friends, or anyone else for that matter, are out to see him. I know it will be all too soon that I will be carrying him up and down the steps as I did Cece, Bree and Buffy. I know before long I will be watching my grandchildren walk the aisle to receive their diplomas. I know soon I will be saying final farewells to friends at a quicker rate than when I was younger.

For this reason, I pray you will always enjoy life to the fullest, even as you wonder where time has gone. For me, I am grateful for life and have no doubt that the best is yet to come!

Stop and smell the flowers, Lou!
Stop and smell the flowers, Lou!

To all the graduates this season-we wish you well

on your exciting journey!

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life?

You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14

Pretty Little Liars

I may sound like a broken record, but if you know me or you’ve read this blog long enough, you know how strongly I believe in authentic relationships. Humans desire deep connection with others, and dogs are no different. Trust is the foundation of a strong relationship, and without it, the relationship is weakened.

When Louie and I first met, he was so full of fear that it took months to build trust. During that timLou's cribe, I quickly realized that Louie had a knack for knowing truth—he’s an amazing pup!

For example, he can tell where I’m going and what I’m doing simply by seeing what outfit I’m wearing. If I am dressed in a business suit and heels, he knows he is not going for a walk. If I put on my gym shoes, however, he knows his chances for a walk are greatly improved. If I combine my workout clothes and gym shoes, he waits to see if I grab the leash or head toward his cushy canine crib, which determines whether he goes with me, or must wait for me to return home.

I know Louie is not only greatly influenced by what I wear but also by what I say and how I say it to him. If I am dressed for business and say “I’ll be right back” while sending him to his crib before I leave, he knows that in actuality I won’t be right back, and he reacts to that. Saying “bye bye” to him has a different meaning as well. That means we BOTH go bye bye, to the park or somewhere else for fun. When he goes into his crate and I say bye bye, this does not make sense to him. If I have my flip-flops on and start to walk out the front door and he is not in his crate, when I say, “I’ll be right back,” he knows I will be right back. That action usually means I am going to the mailbox. My actions and my words align. He picks up on my cues and watches my behavior just as we do when someone is sharing information with us. If their words and their behaviors do not match, we don’t trust them.

I learned early in life not to lie. But this lesson particularly impacted me at age 18. I was studying to be a Radiology Technologist under the supervision of a wonderful radiologist, Dr. Howard Feigelson. He would carefully examine every set of X-Ray films I took to him, diagnose what was going on with the patient, and then critique my technique. If my films were not perfect, I had an excuse for everything–the patient moved, the patient breathed, that particular machine overexposes, etc. Dr. Feigelson would sit back and look at me over the rim of his glasses and just say the nickname he coined for me, “Dani.” I knew I had been busted. He was a wise man and could easily tell my words and my behavior did not line up. He then proceeded to teach me proper radiology technique as well as the dangers of habitually justifying poor performance.x-ray-skeleton-dog

As I reflected on these life lessons years later, I realized how Dr. Feigelson combined truth with love. The point wasn’t only proper technique. It was the importance of being truthful and authentic. Although my parents had certainly taught me this, it was “real world” experience that made it stick. I realized I made excuses because I never wanted to disappoint him. But when I made excuses, I disappointed him even more.

This brings us back to my original point that trust is the foundation of strong relationships, which begins with being honest and truthful. We may not outright lie, but we don’t exactly share the truth. Eventually, people can tell that our words don’t match our actions. Consequently, trust erodes and authenticity shrinks.

Learning to BE Authentic takes practice and, hopefully, this may help:

  • B: What is the belief at the core of your excuse? Is it fear of exposing a mistake? Is it fear of not being liked? Is it the fear of rejection? Is it fear of inadequacy? Take time to process these questions and understand the belief.
  • E: What emotion are you feeling because of the belief? Be very clear in naming that emotion and challenging it. Why is this causing such angst? Is it worth the price you will pay in sacrificing the relationship? How will you feel if you “get by” with this excuse versus being honest?
  • A: Authenticity is strengthened when you align your actions. To build trust, we must first align our hearts and our minds internally and then our words with our actions externally.

Louie knows that sometimes when I say, “I’ll be right back” that I will not be right back and he reacts to that. And people sense when you make excuses, and are not being honest. It is not worth the time or energy to be anything but truthful. While we do not want to hurt others feelings, being honest is the most loving gift we can give to others!

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Louie’s favorite gal pal, Kacki passed suddenly last week. During our walks, we would head up the hill toward Kacki’s home where she would be sunning herself, relaxing. Even before she was in sight, Lou would hold his head up high, trying to get a glimpse of this beauty. And there she was, just waiting and watching for her little buddy Louie! She wouldn’t blink an eye or move her head, yet her tail drummed the beat of her happy heart. She loved seeing Louie and he so loved his Kacki girl. Kacki, we hope you’re enjoying the beautiful view from the hill you adorn today! We miss you and will always look for you at the door!