Leader, Reignite Your Sense of Wonder

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.

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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!

 

When Louie Locks Eyes With You

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:

  • When he comes across an unfamiliar dog, he stares and locks eyes. Actually, this is a stare down and a challenge. I would not suggest you do that with others.
  • When someone enters my home, he locks eyes with my guests, searching to see if they are friend or foe. Usually, he warmly welcomes them into our home.
  • When I am in the kitchen cooking, he stares, hoping to lock eyes with me so that I will fall under his spell and hear his plea: “Give me a piece of the food you are preparing that smells so wonderful. That’s right, just drop it on the floor and I will love you forever.”
  • During my quiet time in the mornings, there is a sense of peace and calmness. I look over at Louie on his bed, and we lock eyes as if to say, “All is well!”
  • He locks eyes with my granddaughters Evi and Mea when they give him belly rubs.
  • I’m amazed how he locks eyes with the drivers in big black trucks whom he mistakenly believes are my son-in-law delivering Evi and Mea to my home.
  • And he locks eyes with my neighbors either while we’re walking or when he sees them stroll by our house. He will bark at them until they acknowledge him and he has an opportunity to make a connection with them.

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!

From Little Reminders to Lifelong Memories

It’s not been that long since Louie’s friend Sammy passed. Every time we walk by Sammy’s home, Louie will check out the stake in the ground and attached leash or scope out a lingering smell that I’m sure reminds him of his friend. I can’t help but wonder what he remembers and what he thinks as he looks toward Sammy’s front door. Does he wonder why he hasn’t seen his friend in a while, or does he somehow know Sammy won’t be coming out to play? He seems satisfied with the little reminders of Sammy as we move on with our walk.

I know Louie has a great memory because of all the issues we’ve dealt with over the years in getting him to think differently about people coming to the door, the smell of cigars, or other triggers. I’m sure he remembers Sammy prancing outside to play, Allie greeting him with lots of kisses, and Khaki regally sitting atop the hill, waiting for Sir Louie to arrive. The little reminders of his friends who have passed on seem to fill Louie’s heart and spirit with joy and fondness.

Sometimes we humans tend to rush right past those reminders because we don’t want to dwell in the past, or it may be too painful to park there a moment. But they are nestled in our memories and, many times, those reminders are necessary for our well-being.

I recently visited my brother and his family in Phoenix and had the pleasure of bringing my granddaughter Evi with me. What a joy! In addition to the beauty of Arizona, we really enjoyed visiting Mark, Agnes, and Christian. More times than not I would look across the table at Evi and swear I was looking at her mother, my daughter, Marisa. Mark and I both caught ourselves calling Evi by the endearing name my family calls Marisa—Rissy!

What sparked this thirty-year lapse in memory? The twinkle in Evi’s eyes, her contagious laugh, the way she holds her hand up to her mouth as she tells a story, her facial expressions, and her tone of voice. Her face alone is a replica of Marisa’s—oh, the little reminders.

But it goes deeper. I see my mom in so many ways when I look at Marisa and Evi! And when Mea, my youngest granddaughter, crinkles her nose when she laughs, I see a glimpse of my mom who did the same thing. All these reminders fill my heart with lifelong memories. Those memories open the door to a better understanding of the wisdom that has been passed down through the years. I hear my mom’s voice as I am reminded of the life lessons I’ve learned that have been passed to my daughter and now to her daughters—wisdom like this:

  • You can do whatever you’d like as long as you understand the consequences and are willing to face them (I wish I would have listened to that wisdom a bit more carefully).
  • You don’t need a thousand friends (and this before Facebook). You do need a few good close friends (two to four) with whom you can trust and share life.
  • Look people in the eyes; show them they matter.
  • Never be so upset with someone that you won’t say hello (a kind and genuine hello) to him or her in public.
  • Family matters.

Whether across the table in Phoenix or every time my brothers and sisters share funny stories of our youth with my granddaughters, Evi and Mea, I see my mom and I hear her voice. Through such small and seemingly irrelevant reminders, my heart soars to the heights of a lifelong memory of my mother. I have been blessed that my mom spent significant time with Marisa before she passed. And now I am blessed to share life with my daughter and grandchildren and to watch Marisa blossom into a wonderful, loving mother.

Yes, I am sure Louie relishes the little reminders of his dear friends who have passed on, and it must bring him joy as he taps into a lifelong memory. I see the joy by the way he walks and even in his face. And I have to smile every time I know Louie is enjoying a wonderful memory.

Don’t rush by the little reminders that pop up in the daily haste to the next thing. You’ll be missing a soul refresher, a spark of a wonderful, lifelong memory. And in our hurried world, we all need these refreshing little reminders.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms making memories (doggie moms included).

 

Mick reminding Louie it is good to slow down!

For Louie’s faithful friends…Thank You!!

Louie’s NEWLY REVISED leadership book is available for 50% off

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Don’t Hey Me!

Oh, the lessons I continue to discover thanks to my adopted pup Louie. While we’ve learned a tremendous amount and understand each other’s idiosyncrasies, there are a few behaviors of his that still puzzle me.

For example, I never know which humans he will growl at or who will get a tail wag from him. Since being together for over three years, I’ve concluded there is no rhyme or reason to his selection process. And then it hit me one morning as I was going through the avalanche of messages I received while being out of the office for a few days. Quite a few were from people I didn’t know from companies I wasn’t familiar with.

We’ve all received emails, voice mails, or LinkedIn messages with the greeting of HEY [Insert your name here]! It’s not the “Hey, Danise” that irks me; it’s the fact that I don’t know these people, and yet they act like we’re good buddies. As they continue their message, I start mentally clicking through my contacts trying to recall a chance meeting we may have had. By the message I received, you would think we were long lost friends. It is a marketing tactic that is running rampant in today’s social media world of superficial relationships.

It may just be me, but this tactic shuts down any possibility of that person being heard because I have a belief that the messenger, though he or she may have great information, is probably not being authentic. While I am perfectly okay with people using informal greetings, I am not okay with people acting like they know me when we’ve never connected.

Louie is no different. When someone he does not know approaches him, talks sweet, and acts like they are friends, he becomes very leery of them. Children are the only exception to his rule. Granted, Louie is cute, and everyone wants to talk to him. But if he doesn’t know them and senses something uncomfortable about them, he will lower his head and step to the side as if to move out of their reach. If that doesn’t work, he will back up and bark at them.

His message is clear . . . Don’t act like you know me when you don’t!

I learned this lesson the hard way over twenty-five years ago. The medical imaging equipment company I worked for acquired a small but very technically advanced company. Along with that acquisition came a regional manager, Joe, who became my boss. Joe recommended that I connect with a friend of his, Wendell, at a hospital in Louisville. I called Wendell on his private line, and he picked up on the first ring with a very gruff, “Hello!”

I cleared my throat, and in my perky salesgirl voice, I said, “Hi, Wendell. This is Danise DiStasi. Joe Hartzog suggested that I reach out to you. How are you today?”

“Fine!”

I cleared my throat a second time. “Great. Well, Wendell, I’m sure you’re busy, so I’ll—”

“Excuse me, young lady! Do I know you?”

“Hmmm, well, uh, I don’t believe we’ve met, have we? I think we may only know each other through Joe.”

“I don’t know you at all. Why do you think you can call me by my first name? I’d prefer to be addressed as Dr. Tyson.”

Needless to say, there were a few awkward moments after that announcement, and the recovery was tough. But I understood Dr. Tyson loud and clear. My boss, Joe, never addressed him as Dr. Tyson, only Wendell. I assumed it was okay for me to address him that way as well, even though we had never met. This was a classic case of being ill-prepared. And Dr. Tyson saw right through me. He didn’t know me, and me thinking that I had an “in” was not going to work with him.

While we may prefer to be immediately relational, what must come first is authenticity, which goes a long way with Louie and with humans. Dogs are incredibly sensitive to people being who they “say” they are, but we humans have to work a bit harder to figure out who people really are. The tactic of someone acting like they know us defies our basic human need of wanting to be truly known and, even deeper, to be known and loved. The superficiality of today is leaving a relational void in so many people’s lives.

I believe it is best to be authentic in every aspect of your life. Brené Brown talks about this in her famous TED Talk about the power of vulnerability. The people she studied who seemed to have a strong sense of love and belonging shared these three things:

  • Courage
  • Compassion
  • Authenticity

In her words, “These folks had the courage to be imperfect. They had a connection as a result of authenticity. They were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they are.”

What you see is what you get when you connect with Louie: No pretenses, no games—just the real deal. He expects that in return from the humans he comes in contact with, and he is confused when he senses otherwise. Thanks to Louie, I have learned to let go of who I thought I should be in order to be who I really am.

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Louie had to say goodbye to his lifelong buddy, Sampson, this weekend. Sammy was a great pal to Louie and was the real deal. We will always remember the fun walks and visits we had with him. Louie will miss seeing and playing with him, as will everyone in our neighborhood. Run and jump, little Sampson. You’re bound by nothing that will ever hold you back from being the fun-loving pup you were created to be.

Louie And Mercy

This is actually a picture of Mercy. As cute as she is, she’s not the subject of this blog, though she will be the subject of one soon. No, this blog is about my little Louie and the mercy I’ve had to grant him over and over.

Louie is certainly a transformed dog since I rescued him three years ago. Most of his bad behaviors are behind us, but he has one persistent habit that just drives me crazy. I have two videos of him owning up to it. Apparently, it’s a habit he’s unwilling to change.

Louie gets into my laundry basket, very neatly removes one item of clothing, drags it onto the floor, and proceeds to roll around on it. We wrote a blog about it a couple of months ago. And this behavior has been evident from day one.

No matter how many times I point to the clothes on the floor after each episode and sternly say NO, he continues to do it. I’ve walked into the room with him happily trotting behind me, and as soon as I see the clothes and turn to look at him, he’ll drop to the floor and roll over on his back. I don’t have to say a word. He knows he’s guilty, yet he persists.

Last week while I was shopping at Kroger, I ran into our dog trainer, Zig, and expressed my frustration about this habit of Lou’s. I explained that he has done well in other arenas, but this just drives me nuts.

Zig paused before saying, “Some things are not going to change. Sometimes it is just too much for him to ignore. The laundry basket is just too much for Louie to resist.” I had to admit Zig was right. Louie was never going to change this behavior.

I continued my grocery shopping and thought about Zig’s wisdom. There was something deeper to this whole laundry basket thing. Was Zig implying that it was my fault that Louie got into the basket? I mean, after all, I kept my laundry basket on the floor. Rather than doing that, I should just take the basket downstairs and do the laundry. And then, having folded my clean clothes and put them back in the basket, I should put them away rather than leave them on the floor.

Was my bad behavior triggering Louie’s? Admittedly, there’d be no problem without baskets of clothes sitting around. It’s too tempting for Louie, just too much for him to resist.

Leader, think about this. Certain behaviors in others just aren’t going to change. But what are WE doing to trigger the behavior we wish would change? Are we using a certain tone of voice, are we overcorrecting, do they not trust us? When they react, we respond sternly, and the cycle perpetuates itself.How we handle the things (people, behaviors, etc.) that just aren’t going to change speaks volumes to our teams:

How we handle the things (people, behaviors, etc.) that just aren’t going to change speaks volumes to our teams:

  • Recognize that the behaviors you exhibit may cause others to react. Be self-aware.
  • Stop hoping others will change. Recognize that some things will never change. Can you live with it? Will it cause the demise of the team? Is the behavior hindering or helping the team / the organization?
  • Address the issues you can control. Take responsibility for what you own. Change what you can.

Mercy is an interesting term. It means compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender; lenient or compassionate treatment. I especially like this definition: “A blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion.” I certainly appreciate the mercy I have been shown by a loving and just God. I’m sure you do as well.

While I have shown mercy to Louie over the years, I have to take responsibility for my behavior that triggers a bad behavior in him. Since my chance meeting with Zig, I’ve moved my laundry basket, and Louie is indeed a changed dog. He’s no longer tempted by the world of dirty laundry in a basket, and he hasn’t found other places from which to pull clothes onto the floor. This has been my lesson as much as his. And now he no longer needs to drop to the floor in an attempt to make amends. We’re good!

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

In celebration of Louie’s birthday, we’re announcing the pre-release of his newly revised leadership book with special pricing for our blog readers. [See full description below].

What’s different in this revision? The LOUIE/PAWS model is described in detail in the introduction, and each of the five sections of the book aligns with the model. The chapters are from the numerous blogs we’ve generated over the last three years and relate specifically to the LOUIE model. This book is also endorsed by several business leaders and can be used individually or with a team.

By using this simple model, leaders will make the connection to relationships, revealing the small ways they can be effective and empower their teams every day. The results are more engaged employees and higher productivity.

If you are interested in purchasing the pre-released version of Louie’s Leadership Lessons, I only ask two things; if you see a mistake, please let me know. And please consider writing a review on Amazon. [NOTE: This pricing is not available through Amazon].

HERE’S THE LINK AND DISCOUNT CODE:
Order Book Here
At checkout, use this code: T9DPXS2B

This pricing will last until Monday, April 3, 2017, and you can order books for others. After that, we’ll be making the necessary changes to prepare for the final copy.

Louie and I thank you for being such faithful readers of our blog. We are changing things a bit and will be back in 2-3 weeks with a new format. Louie is quite the busy fellow, and I am blessed I get to tag along with him!

 

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From the unlikeliest of sources—a rescue pup—you can reap decades of leadership lessons and nuggets of wisdom. Louie’s initial fears and bad behaviors prompted his new owner, author Danise C. DiStasi, to use everything she knew about leadership to work it out.

What Danise learned from and with Louie forms the basis for her simple and streamlined leadership model. For a leader in any organization, this approach boils down numerous leadership studies to one understandable formula. With a few changes in behavior, anyone can become a great leader, and any team can produce great work. One example from Louie’s stories is the PAWS method for dealing with issues. As a leader, it is important to respond professionally and appropriately to conflict, thus avoiding acting in a way you will regret. Stellar leadership has a direct connection to relationship building, and it is this wisdom that forms the basis for Louie’s lessons.

With praise from Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The New One Minute Manager, this insightful guide reveals how to truly empower a team. By following this model, a leader can take the first step: investing in and understanding others, allowing a true transformation to take place. ​

Louie And Self-Awareness

Who needs self-awareness, asks Louie.

Louie and I were looking forward to a very long walk. As we exited the garage, I ran into a neighbor and we started chatting. Louie patiently waited for us to finish with his typical signals: He lowered his head and looked at the person interrupting our time together with an under the brow look and a quick whine. I usually ignore him.

But after a few minutes, I noticed he was alert to something. His body language signaled an issue that I had no clue about. He stood up straight, his ears perked up, and he intently stared in the direction across the street. His awareness is a great tool when we are walking in the dark because he gives me a heads up that someone is walking toward us.

Since I wasn’t paying attention to these visible signs, he began “pointing” by holding his paw up in the air in the direction he wanted me to look. This is a comical stance because as his legs are so short, they barely move when he points; but he did his best.

Louie has a keen sense of discernment and can immediately tell the difference between friend or foe. By his stance, I could clearly tell a foe was approaching. But other than my neighbor, there was no human or canine in sight. Still, he continued to stare and point. Finally, after carefully canvassing the entire community within eyesight, I saw what he was signaling to me. Over the hill of a neighbor’s yard, the tip of a dog’s head was visible with his eyes barely showing. This was not just any dog, but his new nemesis, Oliver.

We quickly scooted across the street and headed out on our long walk to avoid any further distractions. As we walked, I thought of Louie’s incredible awareness and how it ties into his keen sense of discernment. But there is one thing he is lacking in the awareness arena that is key to being an effective relational leader: Self-awareness. Louie has little to no self-awareness; but as leaders, we must develop this essential behavior.

What is self-awareness and why is it such an elusive leadership behavior? According to Merriam-Webster’s definition, it is an awareness of one’s own personality or individuality. To this definition, I would add “flaws and all!” Few leaders practice self-awareness because there is a mindset that says, “Don’t be too introspective; keep moving ahead; don’t be too concerned about what other’s think of you.”

There is some validity in that advice, but as in everything, we need to balance that information. Here are a few characteristics of relational leaders who are self-aware:

  • They know themselves well.
  • They are always seeking and welcome feedback. They are not quick to make excuses or justifications when honest feedback is given.
  • They are aware of the traits that hold them back, and take action to address them.
  • They are conscious of their weaknesses and look to hire people who perform well in the areas where they lack expertise.
  • They are natural delegators.
  • They read people well (Louie does this also. Maybe he is more self-aware than I give him credit for).

Self-awareness is key to our emotional health and the relational health of our team. It is actually freeing when you recognize the areas that are holding you back and release them so that others can step up to the plate and excel in their strengths.

Ask others to assist you in becoming more self-aware. The growth potential for not only you as a leader but for your team as well is astonishing and rewarding by way of a healthy culture and employee engagement.

For now, I am still impressed with Louie’s awareness of his environment. His self-awareness probably extends to his level of insecurities and fears only…but it’s a start!

 

Monday, March 20, 2017, is Louie’s 5th birthday. My granddaughters decided his birthday should always be on the first day of spring because he is so full of life! Send him an email to wish him a happy birthday louie@di-advisors.com.

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