A few months ago, I inherited temporary custody of my son’s dog Seven. He’s technically a mutt, some unknown combination of husky, shepherd, and I’m convinced, wolf. But mostly he’s just different. He’s different than any dog I’ve ever had; he’s different than any other dog in the park; and he’s different than those dog’s that could be predictably conditioned in Pavlov’s proverbial experiments.
Seven lives to deviate from everything “normal.”
While the dogs I have been lucky enough to have in my life prior to Seven all came to me as puppies and lived a comfortable, if mundane, life, Seven was a couple of years old before he made his was to the animal shelter where my son adopted him. We don’t know exactly where he wandered on his own before he was found, but whatever he did it seemed to put a little bit of magic in him.
Most strikingly, Seven does not fall comfortably into routine like most dogs. After a couple of days walking a route, I see what has now become the familiar look in his eyes that signals that he’s bored with the same old, same old and it’s time to go a different way.
He’s learned, however, that I’m not always a willing participant in his grand adventures. I like to take the predictable route. I know how long it will take, I know where the trash cans are along the way, and I know that there aren’t any territorial dogs that are going to leap out and make mincemeat out of us. Basically, it’s safe, it’s easy, and I know how to walk it with my eyes closed.
My reluctance doesn’t deter him for long, though.
Seven invariably will pull hard when he gets his first whiff of adventure. He tries his best to drag me to where he wants to go but after his initial yank, I can successfully corral him and make him fall in line.
After what he clearly considers a reasonable amount of time of placating me, he starts sniffing the ground in the direction that he wants to head, and miraculously when he starts walking again, we seem to be heading toward his desired route.
I’m wise to that game, though. Typically, I find myself saying out loud, to a dog mind you, “yes, I know you want to go over there but forget about it. I have things to do so were just going to stay in the park for awhile.”
Again, he concedes.
But not really.
Seven’s final, and most effective tactic, is to dead stop in the middle of the walkway, look me straight in the eye, and give me a wag of the tail and what I am convinced is a big broad smile. He stays there long enough to let me give him a pat and worm his way into my resistance.
I have been down more streets and horse trails in the last few months than I have in the previous couple of decades living in the same area.
I’ve talked to people I would have never met if I had stuck to the same route; I’ve seen how striking the wildflowers are as they blanket the canyons so close to the city traffic; and I’ve pushed myself to hike along trails I would have never undertaken if it weren’t for Seven’s prodding.
I’ve watched great leaders do the same thing.
I’ve watched them as they had a great idea that people “yanked back” because it seemed too dangerous a course to take when the comfortable route would do just fine; I’ve watched them as they didn’t give up when they faced that resistance; I’ve watched them as they figured out the best way to influence reluctant naysayers to follow them on their adventure.
And I’ve watched them as they succeeded in taking their teams in a new direction because they weren’t afraid of the initial “yank” or of the unknown obstacles along the way.
When was the last time you influenced yourself or your team to deviate from the normal?
Sandi Coryell is a Leadership Strategist, Consultant, and Keynote Speaker who works to Transform Bosses into Leaders. You can contact Sandi at thecoryellgroup.com or follow her on Twitter @SandiCoryell