Sunday was an interesting day, a fun day and a successful day! George passed his Silver Kennel Club Obedience test! To dog lovers anywhere who get involved in training their dogs to be well behaved this may not seem like a great event but to me it was momentous. Why is that? Well ………. if you could have met George one year ago you would never have believed that he could have achieved anything so miraculous. Let me introduce you to how he was just twelve short months ago. He is a VERY small Jack Russell who had a few challenges in his early months due to his apparent addiction to rubber. He would find bits under bushes in the garden, hidden down the sides of chairs, on a path while out on a walk and he would promptly chew and eat it. As a very young puppy he was not much bigger than a hamster so a largish piece of rubber did not pass successfully through his little body so, at eleven weeks old, it was on the operating table and having said rubber removed. This did not appear to teach him the required lesson and so at six months old and again at eleven months old he was back to the operating table and my vets began to dread the sound of my voice asking for an emergency appointment for George.
(Just stitched up!!!)
Not surprisingly, this left him with a somewhat nervous disposition and he appeared to assume that anything that breathed was liable to do something nasty to him and a considerable amount of his time was spent hiding under chairs and growling at anyone who came near him. This also appeared to impact his confidence with other dogs and it was impossible to do anything other than pick him up when out on a walk and meeting another dog. Introducing him to dog training with other dogs was going to be challenging to say the very least! However, I decided to give it a try and took him to Peter Branch of Newbury Lodge Kennels (quite the best of the best!). The early days were interesting and he spent a certain amount of time acting bravado and telling the other dogs to go away, loudly and vociferously. However, consistent and continual positive re-enforcement with praise, strokes and food treats every time he did something just a little bit right began to work wonders. I was lucky when it came to the test in that the training arena had just had a load of new bark delivered so Peter ‘inadvertently’ left a pile not quite spread out that George could do his required exercises behind without seeing too much of the other dogs! He passed and Peter persuaded me to persevere.
George has transformed and is a totally different dog – will walk with his buddies around Greenham Common off the lead, through cows and horses, meet other dogs and is a complete joy. His confidence has grown amazingly and he is turning into a very happy, well adjusted little dog.
So why might this be interesting for non-dog lovers? Because perhaps there is some learning for many of us when we bring someone new into our organisation. Do we really know what someone’s past experiences have been before they have joined us? Do we know what might have happened to them that could have severely knocked their confidence? With George, if I had taken him on as a ‘rescue dog’, something that I am wont to do, and had no clue of his background, then I might have assumed that he was too difficult, probably un-trainable and excessively nervous so not a viable pet to have and returned him. I would very likely not have got the best from him. Probably the most valuable thing that I have taken from this is a real confirmation of how very important positive re-enforcement is. If you have someone come to work with you who is low in confidence, keeps doing things ‘wrong’ and you spend much time helping them to ‘get it right’, ie, criticising them, then all your attention is focused on what you don’t want rather than what you do want. You almost certainly have no idea what has got them to that way of thinking and feeling and you really want them to become an amazing employee and step into their full potential. Helping people to see their strengths and telling them that you value those things can have a transformational effect. I know that until I personally started my leadership journey I spent a tremendous amount of time giving advice and helping people sort out areas where they were getting things wrong – because I cared. My attention was entirely in the wrong place and I am now aware that I really didn’t help people deliver to the capabilities that they undoubtedly had.
Thank you George for reminding me yet again the importance of telling you what a little cracker you are – your certificate will be framed and hung very shortly!