Walk with Confidence

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!

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONTACT: danise@di-advisors.com

 

The Cone of Shame and the Need to Adapt

In the last Louie’s Leadership blog, I shared the episode of Louie, my adopted pup, having surgery to remove a growth on his paw. It was a pretty quick decision, with some uncertainty about what the growth was and how he would handle the recuperation period.

He survived the surgery well, and the growth was a papilloma, a wart. The biggest issue we had was keeping him away from the stitches. Louie is like Houdini; he can get out of any bandage or covering that I put on him to prevent him from chewing on his paw. I was amazed at how many times I found his bandage on the floor somewhere.

LIFE’S ADJUSTMENTS

We came home with a very nice, pliable, see-through cone that was to be placed over his head to keep him from chewing his stitches. I was hesitant to use it because of the look he gave me when I tried to put it on him. First, it was a look of defiance (gee, I’ve never seen that one before), and then he’d look as though I was trying to kill him. And finally, I’d get the puppy dog big brown eyes that captured my heart the very first time I met him.

I attached his collar and slid the cone over his head, stating in a serious, parental tone, “This is for your own good, buddy.” He hated it! And he was mad at me. He decided the best thing he could do was trot out of the room and go to his happy place to look out the window and be away from me. Except he ran into the doorframe and stopped. He looked back at me with a look of “Are you kidding me?” Then he set himself back on track, maneuvered the cone to clear the doorframe, and walked out of the room.

Next, he hit the doorframe going into the room with a view. Again, he stopped, looked back at me, and shook his head. Again, he set himself back on track and maneuvered the cone so he could walk into the room, clearing the doorframe. I could hear him trying to jump up on the seat to look out the window, but because the cone got in the way, he fell back down. He tried again, missed again, and fell back down.

I resisted the urge to jump in and help. I knew he could do it; he just needed to adjust himself a bit to clear the seat. And so he did, finally, and then positioned himself as close to the window as possible so that everyone could see him and would feel sorry for him. And they did.

LESSONS LEARNED

I learned a few valuable leadership lessons thanks to the cone of shame:

  • As tough as it was for him to wear, it helped in the healing process.
  • In order to achieve a goal (look out the window), he had to make several adjustments and think outside the “cone.”
  • As a leader, you can’t always jump in to rescue someone. They have to learn things for themselves, as tough as it is to watch them fall.
  • Louie learned a few new things; like how to eat his food with the cone, even though he looked like a vacuum cleaner as he leaned over his bowl and inhaled.
  • He figured out pretty quickly that he was good at tipping the water bowl over.
  • There was no need for me to walk around calling the contraption on his head the cone of shame. Well, actually, that’s a lie—he hated it and no doubt, was ashamed to wear it!
  • The less opportunity he had to bother his stitches, the faster he healed and the longer the cone stayed off. For Louie, this meant that he felt better, and was back to taking walks and playing with his pals.

Louie soaked in the attention for as long as he could. As time passed and his stitches were removed, I realized the overarching lesson of this entire experience. While we must take time to heal from some of life’s tough lessons, deep down inside, we know we can adjust and adapt. And in that perseverance, we may actually learn to enjoy life more.

 

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Thank you, Eastside Rotary, for inviting us to speak to your fabulous members!

 

Every year, March 20, we celebrate Louie! While we’re not sure of his actual birthday, we decided the first day of spring was a perfect day to celebrate his new life! Louie is somewhere between 5-6 years of age. Celebrate with us and wish this little guy a happy birthday! Thank you!

 

 

Sometimes, We Have to Walk with a Limp

Louie, Evi and Nader Masadeh

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!

 

 

 

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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. 😉

Relax, Lou! There Are Plenty Of Moles To Go Around.

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:

  1. I have strengths and skill sets others may not have and vice versa. Combined, we make a strong team and will work on one or two projects together to test the water.
  2. I have business contacts others may not have and vice versa. We don’t need to share every contact, but we may find some in common and others that we may simply provide an introduction to.
  3. I learn so much more and provide such a greater service to my clients from brainstorming with others who are also in the same business I am in.

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

 

Which Are You? Tyrant or Servant Leader?

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:

  • People are afraid to be themselves, and honest conversations are a rarity.
  • The leader works hard at displaying a perfect image outside the organization and “talks” about how great the culture is.
  • There is a revolving door of employees (Turnover numbers can be masked).
  • There is a pattern of disgruntled employees and broken relationships.
  • The team picture changes every year because the team is totally different every year.
  • When employees leave, relationships end (heaven forbid should the outside world truly know what’s going on inside)
  • Employees are nervous and stop trying to please the leader because they know nothing ever will.
  • Words of affirmation are rarely given.
  • The leader only shares stories that cast him or her in a positive light.
  • There are small blips of successes here and there, but overall, growth is stagnant.
  • They cultivate an image to hide their insecurities and fears.
  • A self-serving leader reads this list and says, “Thank goodness I’m nothing like that.”
  • The servant leader reads this list and says, “But for the grace of God, there go I!”

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!

It Takes Only One

Louie and I were enjoying an evening stroll in our neighborhood and stopped to talk to several neighbors. As we finished one conversation, Louie picked up the pace to continue our walk when suddenly, from out of nowhere, another dog charged him, barking feverishly.

Louie’s first reaction to any threat, real or imagined, is to run as fast as he can. But being on a leash prohibits that reaction, so he resorts to his next natural reaction: to fight. Louie’s hackles went up immediately, and he bared his teeth and growled viciously.

Never mind that the threat was an elderly, twelve-pound pug named Sophie who had gotten loose from her owner. Leash and all, she went after Louie with all her might. I yanked on Louie’s leash and commanded him to stop. But how could I do that when his very life was being threatened (or so he thought)? Sophie’s owner stood back and did not come to the rescue. Here I was telling my dog not to react while hers was loose and giving Louie all she had. When I realized I would not get any help from her owner, I reached down, grabbed Sophie, and in my best imitation of Clint Eastwood, hissed in her ear, “Not with my dog, you don’t!”

I handed Sophie over to her owner, and Louie and I continued walking, a bit out of breath but glad to be away from the nuisance. I was ticked, to say the least. In the heat of the moment, I thought of letting Louie do whatever he wanted to that little Sophie but decided not to allow the situation to escalate. It seemed unfair that I told my dog not to behave badly yet he was the one being attacked.

Oh, gee, wait . . . we do that all the time in our organizations, don’t we? Someone attacks another, and we stand by and watch because the attacker is “harmless” (or so we think). We try to handle the better-behaved employee because they take feedback well and are more apt to listen. Meanwhile, the attacker continues down their path of destruction. Many times, we don’t want to confront the attacker because of the havoc they will wreak. We brush off such poor behavior, reasoning that the attacker either didn’t mean any harm or must have had an issue outside of that they’re struggling to handle. After all, they really are a nice person, right?

Right! Sophie’s an adorable dog unless you’re another dog and happen to be anywhere in her sight!

Now, I know there is a theory about why small dogs think they need to go after larger dogs. I’ve owned a few of those small dogs myself; the most notorious was Cece. My sister, Mary Jo, described her as scrappy. Cece would chase after the Rottweiler down the street. The bigger the dog, the more aggressively Cece would take it on. So embarrassing! But Cece and the small dog syndrome will be the subject of another post.

This post is about how it takes only one person to destroy a team and set it back. Louie was skittish on walks after that incident with one little dog, which seemed to set us back four years to when I first adopted him and he was filled with fear. Sophie behaved poorly, Louie was reprimanded, and we found ourselves back at square one.

By the same token, it takes only one person to

  • change a culture;
  • influence team members for the greater good;
  • cast the vision for a team;
  • move a team toward the next part of the journey;
  • do the right thing (think of the movie 12 Angry Men);
  • confront the office or neighborhood bully;
  • model love, kindness, trust, and respect; or
  • refuse to give in when faced with what seems like a setback.

Louie and Sophie will never be friends, but he should at least not have to fear her as we walk down the street. In reflecting on this situation, I’ve set out to be that one person who can positively affect others’ lives despite those who do nothing but attack. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps collectively, we can make our world a better place.

 

Just for fun…

          2017                                                                                                   2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Louie is not a fan of Halloween and costumes!

 

 

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!

Is There A Dog In The House?

My adopted pup Louie and I had a phenomenal summer and hope you did as well. We were very busy and enjoyed many wonderful adventures with the alpha pups, Evi and Mea. We’re glad to be back, and while Louie may have been on summer break, we were never short on lessons. We are looking forward to sharing more of Louie’s wisdom (and shenanigans) with you over the next several months.

It has been four years almost to the day since I adopted Louie. The memory of our first few weeks together brings a smile to my face even now! We almost didn’t have a “first few weeks together” because of his challenging behaviors, but we pressed through.

When he first came to live with me, he would roam around my house, sniffing and whining. I wondered if he needed to go outside, so I would take him out, let him do his thing, and then bring him back in. A few minutes later, he would run upstairs and then downstairs, whining. “Again?” I thought to myself. “Does he have to go out again? What’s with this dog?” He whined constantly and seemed to be searching for something, anything, familiar to him.

Louie’s visit to the vet, Dr. Paul, for his first health checkup was interesting. Lou whined and shook with fear, but Dr. Paul compassionately continued. “He’s a pretty healthy pup. Any issues that you notice?”

“Yes! He whines! Incessantly! I’ll be working in my office and Louie will be checking out my home. He’ll pop into my office, look around, whine, and go back through the house, whining, whining, constantly whining.”

“Well,” said Dr. Paul, “don’t let him run loose through your home. When you’re not there, crate him, and when you are there, keep him close to you. But don’t let him run through your home.”

“Okay,” I thought, “that’s simple enough.” Because I work from home, I made a bed for him right under my desk and blocked the stairway to the upstairs level. I kept a close watch on him and interacted with him when I was able to do so. Amazingly, his whining and desire to roam around the house stopped, and the sighs and active dreams of a happy pup filled my office.

All Louie needed was a little watchful supervision. He needed to know I was close by. He needed to understand his boundaries and just how far he could safely explore without wandering too far away or getting lost.

Isn’t this just like those we lead? When they first engage with our organizations, we think we are doing them a favor by letting them “roam.” They spend their time “onboarding,” which is good. Yet, much of their time may be spent looking for anything that seems familiar to them, which could cause frustration. Like Louie, they just need a little watchful supervision. They need to know their leader is close by and available when needed. They need to understand their boundaries and that if they make a mistake, it’s OK because, hopefully, the problem is easy to rectify.

The fourth section of the LOUIE leadership model is “I” for investment. The time that I poured into helping Louie build trust and confidence and making him feel safe was an investment. It took some time, but the investment was worth every minute. Leader, you will never regret investing the necessary time and tools in your team to build trust and help them feel safe and to know they are valued.

As I type our first blog of this season, I have no idea where Louie is. He’s in my house but not under my feet. In fact, he is never under my feet these days. Many times, I stand by my front door, hands on my hips, loudly asking, “Is there a dog in the house?” No answer. “Any dog? Is there any dog in the house?” No answer. “Is there any dog in the house who would like to go for a walk?” With that, I hear the rumblings of four squatty little legs running to the front door from any one of his favorite places. He is either upstairs, looking out at his kingdom through the second story window, downstairs in his crate (voluntarily), or out on the deck, sunning himself.

I don’t recommend developing someone to “disappear” as Louie does. Based on The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Situational Leadership II program, you do want to invest the time to develop them to be a self-reliant achiever or peak performer. Louie has developed and progressed enough that he no longer needs my watchful supervision while we’re at home. He trusts that if anything changes, I’ll inform him. For now, he’s just fine—wherever he is!

DID SOMEONE SAY WALK?

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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.

*********************

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.

Life Interrupted

Today was the first day I was able to wrap my arms around Louie and give him a huge bear hug. It was three weeks ago that I had an accident and our lives quickly changed. And in celebrating my ability to hug him and receive an under the neck snuggle from him, I thought it fitting to resume our blog after an unintentionally extended vacation.

December 18, 2016, was filled with great anticipation. It was one week before Christmas, and the DiStasi family was planning to gather at my house to celebrate Christmas. Everything was set; the massive amounts of food, the decorations, gifts, and music. It was to be a celebration to top all the ones we had celebrated so far as a family.

Louie and I took our usual stroll early that morning. Two days before, there had been a late evening ice storm, but this particular morning seemed okay as far as icy pavement was concerned. Still, I was cautious and walked in the grass as much as possible.

An elderly neighbor has a very long driveway, and Louie and I had been taking her daily newspaper to her so she would not have to venture out and lean over to pick it up. As soon as I stepped on the driveway, my feet flew up in the air, and I landed on my left hip. I lost control of Louie, and it took me a few moments to catch my breath. I couldn’t see Louie, and panic was about to set in. His normal reaction when something startles him is to run away. And seeing his mama flying through the air had to have been startling.

I forced myself to turn as far to the left as I could. There Louie sat, close behind my left shoulder. I reached around to draw him close to me. As he tucked his head under my arm, I felt his shaking and heard him whimper. To hear him cry broke my heart, and my tears started to flow uncontrollably. I knew I could not move—and whatever would take place from that moment forward, it would be a long journey. Louie chose to stay by me as the faithful friend that he is.

A neighbor pulled up with his phone in hand, already calling 911, and I called my friend and neighbor Cindy to pick up Louie. I called my daughter, Marisa, and the network of community, family, and friends jumped into action. Everyone’s life was interrupted on December 18, 2016.

After a jarring ambulance ride, surgery to repair a femur that was fractured in two places, a total hip replacement, five days in the hospital, and physical therapy, I was released to Marisa and Matt’s home for respite care and to celebrate Christmas with the two cutest nurses on the face of the earth. Louie had been well taken care of by my wonderful neighbors who had walked him, let him stay in their homes, taken him to daycare to play, and given him more love than he could imagine.

Life interrupted has taught Louie and me a few things:

  • We appreciate life and the little things: Although that seems so cliché, it was the small steps of accomplishment that filled me with joy. Every day, I set new goals to accomplish—goals I never would have dreamed to set before. For instance, I learned to get out of bed, to go to the bathroom, and to take my meds without having to wake my daughter to help me. And to carry a cup of coffee in the morning to enjoy my quiet time. Mea and Evi helped me do things as they watched me improve. Christmas had a deeper meaning this year with sincere thankfulness, love, and joy!
  • You really do know who your friends are: So many people dropped everything to help. It was a terrible strain on Marisa and Matt as they took care of me. So many friends offered to grocery shop, run errands, and stay with me when I finally came home. My sisters and cousin packed their clothes and took turns staying overnight. My brothers were calling, visiting, and bringing food. The neighbors who took care of Louie were such Godsends. Many people could not help because of logistics, but they checked in and prayed.
  • You have to move out of your comfort zone: This was a tough one for Louie and me. I had to let people help me. What a humbling position to be in; I was helpless. I have never stayed in a hospital other than to give birth. I don’t take any medicines, and I have never fractured a single bone. The outpouring of love and encouragement has been overwhelming. Louie had to be comfortable with people coming and going in and out of our home and driving him to and from daycare. But we both pressed on through pain, frustration, fear, and being uncomfortable. It was difficult, but I believe we made it past the hardest part of this process. There’s still much more healing to take place and there will always be a next move out of our comfort zone. I have no doubt we’ll press through that too.
  • Some things just do not matter: The superficiality of the holidays clashed with the richness of genuine, loving relationships. There can be no comparison of the things that are bought with the things that are sought, caught, and taught. The characteristics of love, joy, and peace are important for us to live and pass on to others. It takes effort, but it is worth the time and effort. I am a better person because of the love, joy, and peace that others shared with me this season.

2017 is going to be a great year of love and strength. Louie is a better dog because he chose faithfulness over running away. He trusted and allowed others into his world to help us! We are closer because of these last few weeks. Thank you to so many for being in my life and for your prayers and support!

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