By Sally Percy
A couple of years ago, I wrote about the benefits of having a dog in the office. To this day, it remains the most popular article that I’ve ever written for Forbes.
But while it’s true that dogs do bring many benefits to the workplace, not everyone likes to have them as a colleague. In fact, recent research by online learning platform Udemy found that 66% of people believe that their co-workers shouldn’t be allowed to bring pets to work.
Yet do we really need to have our dogs in the workplace to benefit from their influence? I believe that these fascinating animals can teach human leaders some important lessons – and they don’t have to be snuggled up under our desks to do this. Here is what we can learn:
1. Don’t bear grudges. Dogs are able to form associations, for sure, which may relate to negative experiences in the past. For example, if they have been growled at by a neighbor’s dog, the next time they see that dog, they will be wary. Nevertheless, they don’t bear grudges in the same way we do. They don’t dwell on the people who’ve hurt their feelings and allow their grudges to fester. If the neighbor’s grumpy dog wags its tail next time, the dog will be fine with that and simply move on.
2. Look pleased to see your colleagues. We often forget how our moods and behaviors can affect the people we work with. But just think about how you respond to a happy-looking dog. If you radiated that kind of enthusiasm to your co-workers every day, how much more positive, productive and motivated would they be? Dogs are great believers in the power of body language, which is also highly relevant to leaders.
3. Focus on the present. Too often leaders are so busy planning for the future or learning lessons from the past that they forget about the here and now. Dogs, on the other hand, give scant thought to the future – unless it involves their dinner – and they certainly don’t dwell on previous mishaps. What this means is that unlike humans, dogs are firmly grounded in the present. They take each day as it comes and they don’t miss out on the wonder of now.
4. Migrate. If you own a dog, it’s likely that you will have asked yourself this question: “Why do I need to take my dog for a walk?” There are a variety of reasons for walking dogs, including mental stimulation and exercise. Leaders need both of these. Another important reason is that dogs have an instinctive urge to migrate. Leaders can learn from this, too. By going to a different location from where you normally work, you could gain a new perspective on any opportunities or challenges that you face.
5. Rest. Unlike humans, dogs don’t consider it a badge of honor to be busy. In fact, they typically sleep between 12 and 14 hours a day. While we don’t need as much sleep as they do, most of us could do with spending more time on rest and relaxation. Dogs understand the importance of recharging their batteries. Overworked and stressed-out leaders would do well to follow their example.
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