Puppies and People: 5 Management Insights
People are much smarter than puppies, but raising a puppy can teach you a lot about how to manage people. I know this because with Tiffany, my family's first puppy 25-plus years ago, I did everything wrong. Tiffany was never potty trained, constantly barked at nothing and, essentially, drove me nuts. When she did something wrong, I punished her. I always thought she hated me because she never changed her behavior.
This Christmas, Santa brought us a Goldendoodle, so I bought "The Puppy Primer" to help us do a better job this time. As I read the book, I realized I had done nearly everything wrong in raising Tiffany.
I realized Tiffany wasn’t a bad dog, I was a bad owner. I resolved to be a better owner with Karma. This often is the case with management as well. We blame employees when we need to look in the mirror instead. Just like managing people, I still have a lot to learn with managing my puppy. Here are a few things I already have learned about raising a puppy that also apply to managing people
1. PICK THE RIGHT PUPPY FOR YOU
Pets: Karma is a Goldendoodle, which is a smart/loyal breed, and is better for our son who has allergies. We bought Karma from a home breeder who provided great socialization in the early weeks.
People: Hire the right people who fit your culture and your needs. Great people in the wrong roles can be real problems. Look at the history of the employee before hiring. The people they worked with will have a huge impact on their style.
2. BE CONSISTENT WITH THE PUPPY
Pets: To humans, "down" means many things. For Karma, "down" means to lay down. When we say "down," when she is on the couch, she doesn’t understand we mean get off the couch. So we have to adjust our words to intend a single meaning.
People: Treat people with consistency if you want the best results. If you change your style or mind often, they will get mixed messages. If you change your mind, make sure you own the ramifications of the change.
3. SET UP THE PUPPY FOR SUCCESS.
Pets: We take Karma outside every 30 to 60 minutes when we are home. We hand-feed her in different places, including her crate, to get her comfortable in all the rooms in the house. If Karma pees in the house, it’s our fault, not her fault, since she is only a puppy and doesn’t know the rules yet.
People: Don’t give people tasks where they are likely to fail. Ensure that you give them projects that have a strong chance for success. Also, do what you can to ensure they are reasonably comfortable. If an employee fails, make sure you did everything you could before placing the blame solely on them.
4. PRAISE THE PUPPY OFTEN.
Pets: When Karma pees outside, she gets a treat and a “good girl” (and now we are trying clicker training). Every time. When Karma comes when called, she gets a treat.
People: Praise works so much better than punishment. We will work harder to earn praise than we will to avoid punishment. More importantly, sometimes we focus more on avoiding punishment instead of doing the right thing. I would much rather people focus on doing the right thing than avoiding punishment.
5. DON'T PUNISH THE PUPPY.
Pets: Punish a puppy, and that puppy just learns to hide the behavior from you. I can tell you this from personal experience, as well as from what the books say. Punishment drives the wrong change in behavior, and the change doesn’t last. Punishment is a rare last resort for puppies. The only punishment we give Karma is placing her in her playpen when she won’t stop play-biting the kids.
People: Employees do need constructive feedback to get better, and it is very useful. Provide feedback so the intent is clear, and be sure the employees understand the goal of the feedback.
People are much more complicated than pets, and there is no book on managing people that can help as much as a book on managing pets can. However, pets, just like people, require a good manager to live up to their potential.
As for Karma, she is 12 weeks old and essentially potty trained with very few accidents. She sleeps in her crate all night and rarely barks, except when playing or needing to let us know she needs to go outside. We’ve got a long way to go with her training, but we are pretty far along for 12 weeks. I welcome your advice!