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.
Contact us to have us speak at your event. Louie is available to attend as well.
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. 😉
I’ve noticed Louie has an odd habit when we walk. He walks on the street curb like he is walking on a balance beam. And he’s quite good! In fact, many times he will run on the curb and not miss a beat. I joked with our trainer, Zig, sometime back that we should get Louie into agility training. Zig kindly reminded me that Louie would need more obedience training before he could handle an agility class.
It was wise advice, but curiosity got the better of me. I looked into a place that has an easy-to-use obstacle course where dogs chase a lead through tunnels and over bars, and they don’t need prior training. So my granddaughter, Evi, joined Louie and I as we checked out this fun adventure.
It was evident from the start that Louie would have nothing to do with chasing a silly lead on a wire aimed at getting him to jump or run. I’m sure if the lead had a treat on it, he might have been persuaded, but that was not part of the plan. So Evi jumped into the ring and started running with him, and the two of them had a blast. That lasted one cycle until his attention went elsewhere. Evi tried to get him to chase her, but Louie was done. He clearly was not going to jump through any more hoops and in fact, desperately tried to find a way to escape.
And escape he did. He found a small opening in the fence and took off running through the outside area that didn’t appear to be enclosed. My trainer told me never to chase Louie if he gets loose because he’ll think it’s a game. But I was afraid of what could happen if he ran into the busy street. As Louie’s ears flapped in the wind and his tongue hung out to the side, the chase was on. I jumped over a small fence and ran at high speed to tackle him and bring him safely back into the ring. I did all this while yelling at Evi to stay put because I didn’t want to worry about her as well. But she was too enthralled by the sight of my running and jumping that she wasn’t going anywhere.
As we were driving home, I asked Louie, “Why do you run away from us? Do you realize if you run away I will not be behind you? You’ll be lost! Don’t you remember what it was like being on the streets all alone?” Evi chimed in with a sad face, “Yeah, Louie, that was scary. Don’t ever do that again!” I smiled as I looked at my pup through the rearview mirror, his tongue still hanging out and a big smile on his face as though he had achieved a major accomplishment. But I said, “I can’t blame you, Lou! I don’t like to jump through hoops either.” Louie sat regally staring out the window as we drove in silence toward home.
As I reflected on that incident, I realized that Louie was not going to jump through hoops or run around a path and, like most humans, he looked for the quickest escape route. I was reminded of an organization I once worked with that was one of the most toxic cultures I had ever experienced because the leader expected the employees to jump through hoops on a continual basis. What made it so toxic was that the image portrayed to the public was completely different than that of the actual culture. Every employee walked on eggshells out of fear of the employer, and they knew that if they spoke the truth, they could be out of a job.
Over the years, I have witnessed and heard about many toxic workplaces. How do you know when a culture is toxic and a leader is self-serving? It is not so easy to determine just by observing. It takes experiencing the culture and often, by the time the determination is made, the damage is done. But here are some signs:
I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture. Many wonderful leaders have a servant’s heart and care more for others than themselves. And because they are servant leaders, their businesses continue to enjoy sustainable growth, and employees are recognized for their part in the success. Their employees enjoy going to work in the morning instead of getting that knotted feeling every Sunday evening because of what they have to face on Monday. The best servant leaders are those who have removed their egos, are authentic and focused on others. Be intentional about being a servant leader.
As for Louie…well, we’ll work on his agility and obedience training!
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!