Thursday, October 7, 2010

Habits 4-6 {it's all connected, post #2}

For Pete's sake, it's habits 4 through 6 now, in a dog training blog.

Habit #4 - Think Win/Win  (Work to find that 3rd solution that really is a win for everyone, instead of everyone, or one person, just compromising.  With this attitude, no one has to compromise, and everyone can really buy into the solution, since it's actually better than what either "side" brought to the table.)

Habit #5 - Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood  (I think/hope this one is self-explanatory.  You can communicate more effectively when you really get where the other is coming from, not just the words, but the intentions, passions, and motivation behind their words and actions.)

Habit #6 - Synergize  (This is working in a way that ensures the results are the very best efforts the team has to offer, truly valuing and leveraging everyone's strengths and diverse ideas and perspectives.  To synergize, you must set up an environment where everyone is bringing everything they've got to the table, leaving no talents unutilized.)

After the first three habits focusing on ourselves, these are the three of the seven habits that teach us how to interact with others in a way that makes our collaboration more than the sum of its parts, better than what we each could achieve with only our own efforts/ideas/talents.

And here's an interesting look at a "problem" dog behavior - a dog learning to open doors and gates - from another blog:

 "This is the very kind of creative ingenuity that enabled dogs to survive and thrive around hazardous human activities for the hundreds of years before we began to contain and control them. This is the dog’s default program. Why would we want to snuff it out and exchange it for the dutiful compliance of a measly few orders—what we call “commands”—we actually take the time to teach a dog? Who would want to trade an animal with such incredible potential for one who won’t or can’t do anything unless and until he his told or allowed? "

[Here's the link if you'd like to read the whole thing:]

The title of the blog's entry is:

"Trading Possibility for Control."

Wow.  That to me hammers it home.  This is what we do so often in the workplace.  Just insert "employee" for "dog" in the excerpt above.  We require compliance, but unwittingly buy it at the cost of creativity and enthusiasm.  We forget habits 4-6, because they require us to honor the other person's (dog's) perspective, and communicate with them in a meaningful way.  And that's hard a lot of the time.  We make mistakes, and it's not pretty, it's not smooth.  We need to make an investment in the other person (dog); to lay the groundwork of a strong relationship that can sustain minor miscommunications and keep on rolling.  We need to truly accept and honor the other's perspective.  So I think sometimes we learn to AVOID any kind of real collaboration.  We inadvertently squash creativity and passion, because we either don't know how to channel it, or don't want to do the "extra" work it takes to turn it into a finished, collaborative product.  I think we've all seen workplaces, and dog training classes/events, that have employees/dogs who are acting like mindless automatons, who if they take initiative to do anything on their own it's mostly centered around keeping a low profile so as not to draw fire. 

I agree that every team needs a strong leader, who takes responsibility for developing and leveraging the members' talents, charts the team's course, and makes final decisions.  But the fact is, if you truly commit to the kinds of actions and attitudes described by Covey in habits 4-6, you GET compliance.  Willingly.  To an often-better plan everyone genuinely buys into.  Enthusiastically.  Person or dog.

I say, trade your control for Possibility! 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Habit #1 {it's all connected, post #1}

Lately I've been noticing common themes that keep coming up in my life.  These ideas keep arriving on my doorstep, refusing to be ignored.  They will try to work their way into my life any way they can, through work, hobbies, books, friends, whatever's handy.

The fact that the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People relates directly to my choice of dog training methods is freaking me out a little.  At the same time, it's reassuring that right is right.

Theme #1:    Don't spend any time on things you have no control over.  That leaves a surprising amount of surplus time and energy to spend on things you can influence.  Spend more time on THAT.


"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."  - the "Serenity Prayer"


“’Look how he abused me and beat me, how he threw me down and robbed me.’ Abandon such thoughts and live in love.” – Dhammapada: Choices

“Look to your own faults, what you have done or left undone. Overlook the faults of others.” -Dhammapada: Flowers


The Circle of Concern includes everything you care about.
The Circle of Influence includes only those things that you can influence / control.

"Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence, working on things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging and magnifying, causing their Circle of Influence to increase.

Reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern. They focus on the weakness of other people, problems in the environment, and circumstances over which they have no control. The negative energy generated by that focus, combined with neglect in areas the could do something about, causes their Circle of Influence to shrink."  -  Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

In dog training, I start with myself, and how my behavior influences the dog's.  I can completely control my own actions, so spending time on that is very worthwhile.

Product DetailsProduct Details
Of all of those ideas that seem to be collecting around me in pools, this one is everywhere. I would not be surprised to see it on a billboard today on my way home from work. Which would be appropriate, since this is one place I could work on this idea - while driving. What a waste to feel even brief anger at a discourteous driver. To spend one fraction of an emotion on someone I will never meet, to accomplish nothing at all. And "spending" it is. I really think that expending mental and emotional energy on another driver actually depletes my resources.  Certainly, all the nerdy brain science books I've been reading would support that - it takes energy and a mix of all kinds of brain chemicals to produce and process all that frustration.  Resources I could spend being kind, or empathizing, or being appreciative, or something productive.

So I'm going to try to let things go - anything at all that I have no control over.  I've never really been so awful at this I think, not usually stewing over things, but better is better.  So far I like it, just the absence of even those brief moments of seething frustration.  I had always thought of some of this activity as "venting" in some kind of productive way, but just letting it go feels much better.  Venting is tiring.  I actually think it will be energizing, saving up all that consternation to be applied to something else. Or so the world is shouting.