What A Dog Trainer Taught Me About Business
My husband and I recently adopted a dog. Champ is a beautiful, smart, boxer, who my sister’s family rescued a year ago. In eight months, Champ bit two other dogs and he was uncontrollable around other dogs, doorbells and strangers coming into the house. He needed a new home and a new environment where he was safe, loved and not a threat to other dogs. So, Champ came to live with us.
We hired a dog trainer who specialized in behavioral issues and she worked with us to train and teach Champ how to be around other dogs. At each lesson, she taught us demonstrated techniques that have correlations to successful business strategies. As a consultant, I assist companies with strategic recommendations to support change and produce different results for sales, marketing, operations, workflow and revenue. Here’s a few strategies you can adapt to your business.
Structure defines expectations
The trainer showed us how to define structures for walking Champ, so he would understand we expected him to wait by the door until we gave the command to leave the house. Well run companies define structures and processes for all areas of the business. They include operational procedures for compliance, equipment maintenance, sales process, customer communications and procedures in each department. The structure defines expectations for employees at all levels of what they are supposed to do and why it’s the right thing to do. When problems arise. often a root cause analysis reveals unclear expectations or lack of a defined structure, which results in people making decisions without context to produce consistent results.
Repetition makes perfect
Giving a dog the same command repeatedly, reinforces the expected behavior. Repeating process, procedure and methodologies yields solid results. Whether your teams are processing data, setting up equipment, analyzing files, qualifying prospects or inspecting print, they should have a repeatable process, a checklist or a methodology to follow. These foster learning, and produce predictable, repeatable results. These results can be measured.
Our natural inclination is to resist
If you pull a dog on a leash, he will resist. No one wants to be dragged. If you try to force people to do things - even the right things - they will resist. Collaboration, alignment, and change management can be elusive and difficult to maintain in our dynamic work environments. Coaching and communication provides context that enables teams to understand the vision, goals and their contribution to results. Well run companies have communication plans and clarity of goals, and people in all departments understand their role in achieving results.
Reward early and often
Our dog the trainer taught us to reward and acknowledge Champ the moment he demonstrated a good behavior. Timing is very important for dogs - and for people. Human resources surveys of companies of all sizes, continue to demonstrate that people being acknowledged and rewarded in their jobs is more important for job satisfaction than financial compensation. Creating a culture of acknowledgement and rewards is a key distinction of organizations with high employee retention and overall company growth. In evaluating print and mail operations we often recommend establishing peer and departmental acknowledgements, and other rewards to foster a culture where people feel valued.
Bring in Professionals
My family knew we didn’t have the skills to stop Champ from wanting to attack other dogs. Our dog trainer had specific knowledge to help us understand how to change his behavior. And in 6 short weeks he was a different dog. In many situations’ leaders are faced with challenges that require specific expertise to define solutions to change be successful. It may be cyber security, compliance, HR training, SEO, or postal optimization. Companies need to continue to evolve their products, services, production processes to meet the changing needs of clients. Bringing in professionals with specific expertise can shorten the path to successful change.
Wag your tail
Wagging tails make us smile. A client in a three-shift commercial print operation told me they had completed an HR survey, and the staff indicated they knew what kind of day it was going to be based on how the manager greeted the staff when he walked in the morning. This manager took this feedback to heart and changed his way of greeting the entire staff with a smile and asking questions. He set the tone for creating a positive work environment in the daily interactions with his staff. Culture is created in the daily interactions between individuals and small groups. Fostering a positive, professional atmosphere is something we can all do - one conversation at a time.
We’re wagging our tails everyday because Champ is loved, well adjusted, can walk by other dogs without being aggressive and he knows what to expect in our home.
Input for this piece was provided by Mark M. Fallon, president and CEO, The Berkshire Company:
Mark M. Fallon is president and CEO of The Berkshire Company, a consulting firm specializing in mail and document processing strategies. The company develops customized solutions integrating proven management concepts with emerging technologies to achieve total process management. He offers a vision of the document that integrates technology, data quality, process integrity, and electronic delivery. His successes are based upon using leadership to implement innovative solutions in the document process. You can contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lois Ritarossi is the President of High Rock Strategies, a consulting firm focused on sales and marketing strategies, and business growth for firms in the print, mail and communication sectors. Lois brings her clients a cross functional skill set and strategic thinking with disciplines in business strategy, sales process, sales training, marketing, software implementation, inkjet transformation and workflow optimization. Lois has enabled clients to successfully launch new products and services with integrated sales and marketing strategies, and enabled sales teams to effectively win new business. You can reach Lois at email@example.com.