Breaking Free                                           832-886-6452                                                Vol 6, Issue 8

“Leadership Lessons From a Puppy”

April 2012


Last month I got a new puppy. Her name is Riley and she’s a cockapoo. We’ve been working with her to make sure she behaves and obeys. Since I talk a lot about perspectives, I pondered Riley’s perspectives. I’ve captured what I think might be her thoughts which have really worked for her and led to her tremendous success so far in her life. I thought I would share them with you so that you could use some of her leadership lessons in your life and career.  (She really is a genius. 😉


Lesson: Don’t poop in the house.

Translation: Keep your crap to yourself or take it outside.

This behavior just makes people upset. Ok, I know I may be stating the obvious here, but it stinks up the place and unknowingly people could step in it and carry it throughout the rest of the house. As a leader, you must be aware of your poop so that you don’t spread it around the house (or office). If you’re having a bad day (and we all do at times), be sure to dump it in the proper place. If you happen to have an ‘accident’ in the house, please use the pooper-scooper and clean it up before it gets stuck on your followers’ shoes.


Lesson: When you make a mistake (and we all do at times), lower your head and say you’re sorry.

Translation: Acknowledge your mistakes as soon as you can.

Ok, I know when my puppy lowers her head that she’s really saying she’s sorry and she’ll try to do better. She doesn’t actually say “I’m sorry.” Have you heard the saying “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”?  Have you read management training books from the past that say a leader should hide their mistakes or their followers will think that they are weak and incompetent?  Both of these scenarios are false. Neither scenario adds or creates value but in fact causes us to lose value in the form of trust. When my puppy says that she’s sorry, she gets me on her side. As a leader, you need more people on your side fighting out of your corner. Being real, genuine and authentic. And, saying that you’re sorry when you mess up is a great way to do that.


Lesson: If your food bowl is empty, chew on it and make it known to those who can help.

Translation: If you need something, ASK!

My puppy has a glass food bowl and when it’s empty she takes those puppy teeth and grinds them into the bowl… yes, think nails on a chalkboard. As a leader, don’t go hungry!  Rather than grinning and bearing it, or struggling to get by on the limited resources that you have, ask for help. Sure, you may be told “No”, but ask anyway. Oh, you say that you hate rejection. So what!? Look at it this way… if you don’t ask, you won’t get the resources. If you do ask and they say “No”, you still don’t have the resources. In either case, you’ve lost NOTHING!  Asking in this case is a win or draw situation, not a win or lose situation. Besides, they might actually say “Yes”.


Lesson: When you see your people, wag your tail and excitedly jump up and down to show them how happy you are that they are your people.

Translation: Show your people that you love them or at least care about them.

Who doesn’t appreciate the welcome received from a puppy? Leave the room for 30 seconds and return. Your puppy will treat you like you were gone for weeks and they are so very, very happy that you decided to return. As a leader, you will get much more from your followers when you show them gratitude and appreciation. Ok, you might not want to jump up and down, but you can show them you appreciate them in other ways. When you show them that you are happy they are on your team, they will love coming to work for you.


Lesson: Even if you don’t like being brushed or groomed, looking good is important and makes you walk with your head and tail held high.

Translation: Spend some time taking care of you even if it feels uncomfortable.

My puppy doesn’t really like being brushed but she sure likes the results of it. When you feel good, you’ll act better and perform better. As a leader, you must spend time working on yourself. Sure, it may feel uncomfortable at times but leaders are readers. Leaders understand that influence and income seldom exceed personal development.


Lesson: Praise will get me to do that behavior again. Punishment will make me rebel with growling and biting.

Translation: Punishment will lead to lower productivity and cooperation. Seek to find and praise the positive.

It’s amazing to see how my puppy reacts when I praise her for obeying my commands or behaving in the way that I want her to behave. It almost seems like she’ll fetch a ball for hours as long as you praise her every time she starts to bring it back.  On the other hand, try to push or pull her away from chewing on your shoes and it’s a battle. She sometimes sees the punishment as wanted attention and playfulness. She’ll nip at your fingers, growl at you, and bite your socks.
As a leader look for what is going right and reward or praise those behaving and obeying the rules, processes and plans. Sure, every now and then someone actually needs to be scolded, but that should be the exception rather than the rule.


Lesson: When you act like the pack leader, I (the puppy) will naturally follow you.

Translation: Your mindset is crucial to your effectiveness as a leader.

If I don’t hold my head high with my shoulders back and walk with purpose, my puppy thinks she’s the boss of me. I purposefully lead her to the things that I want her to do. If she goes off and starts chewing on a shoe, I bring her a bone and redirect her. When I do this, I bring it to her acting like the leader that I am. I don’t smack her for making a mistake. I show her how I want her to behave. Yes, I sometimes have to do this over and over again. Good leadership requires patience. Eventually, she gets it and I don’t have to spend time correcting her. If you lack confidence or appear to be fake, your weak mindset will quickly be sensed and a new pack leader will try to emerge.


I hope Riley’s lessons have added value to you. I know she has reminded me of habits that I want to continue until they become a part of how I naturally think and behave. Please share your comments on this newsletter below. Let me know if any of these lessons were particularly valuable to you.


Traci’s Upcoming Speaking Events


PMI Great Lakes

Spring Symposium
Detroit, MI

April 24, 2012


PMI Central Illinois

Professional Development Day
Bloomington, IL

May 1-2, 2012


PMI Madison, WI

Professional Development Day

May 17, 2012


PMI Milwaukee WI

Workshop (8 PDUs)

May 18, 2012



PMI Southern Ontario

Professional Development Day

May 26, 2012



Visit Break Free Consulting’s website to see a complete events list of Traci’s upcoming events.


“One of the most important lessons that experience teaches is that, on the whole, success depends more upon character than upon either intellect or fortune.”

– William Edward Hartpole Lecky


Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”

Helen Keller


The teacher is the one who gets the most out of the lessons, and the true teacher is the learner.

– Elbert Hubbard


Life will teach you the lessons, it is up to you to learn them.

– Unknown


One of the great lessons I’ve learned in athletics is that you’ve got to discipline your life. No matter how good you may be, you’ve got to be willing to cut out of your life those things that keep you from going to the top.

– Bob Richards


The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.

– Tom Bodett

Free Assessment



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 I would love to hear what you think about this edition of Breaking Free.  Please leave your comments below.



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