Pack Leadership: To Each His Own

Posted on September 21, 2009

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Kai, flat-coat/chow mix, and Rustle, miniature poodle

Kai, flat-coat/chow mix, and Rustle, miniature poodle

Kai wasn’t used to leashes when we rescued him at PAWS, so we put him on a pinch collar. Kai usually responds very well to leash corrections, as a result. Rustle may be tiny, but he has a bull neck. Any collar that fit around his neck would slip off over his head, so he walks with a harness (visible in photo). The harness spreads out “messages” from the leash, so Rustle doesn’t respond to leash corrections alone. He does, however, respond to a combination of leash and verbal correction.

I’m sure you see where I’m going with this. Different people need different communication styles, right? If you’ve been in management or leadership positions more than a few months, you either know this or you’ve been to a training session where it came up. It’s worth reminding ourselves, though.

When I ran a customer service department, we worked different shifts and the easiest way for me to reach everyone on the team was via e-mail. I had one representative who never got the information. It was like he didn’t read his e-mail. Another rep, who worked closely with the first, came to me and said that the irritating rep had a different learning style. He retained everything he heard, but not what he read. So he was getting my information, but it wasn’t sticking. I felt like a fool for falling into the trap of doing what was easiest for me. I thanked the “informer,” and started conveying information verbally whenever I could, if I had to do it multiple times. I used e-mail for bullet-point reminders, rather than the source of information.

Sometimes my dogs get so worked up on the walk – usually because of another dog – that the usual communication styles don’t work. A quick tap just behind the ribs is usually enough to remind them that I’m there, they’re on leashes, and I’m in charge. As leaders, we have to be aware when a situation requires extraordinary measures. For the record, physical contact with co-workers should only be used to prevent injuries or death.

Stay calm and assertive!

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Posted in: dogs, Leadership