Today has been an interesting day with one small part of it challenging me and, as always, giving me yet another learning opportunity!  As any of you who read my blogs or have worked with me over the years know, I am a bit of a dog nutter – well, probably more than a bit!  There are not many weeks in the year when I am not visiting Peter Branch and Anji Forte at Newbury Lodge Kennels with one of my six dogs involved in some sort of dog training.  There is invariably one of them going through either their Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum obedience training and at the moment it is my little Molly.

Now, I guess I consider Molly my most special as she is the ‘follow-on’ from my very first long-haired Jack Russell, Honey, who started my passion for these little dogs 25 years ago.   As a breed they are feisty and courageous characters, little dogs who believe they are big dogs, very individual and with huge hearts.  She has already passed her Bronze and Silver and Peter persuaded me that taking her for the Gold would be good – for her and me!  Why is she such a challenge?  Because she knows exactly and very quickly what I want her to do, knows how to do it, and will happily do it ……….. when she wants to!

My big challenge is how to keep her motivated because she just gets bored and switches off.  When she is like that my temptation is to do all I can to keep her focus on me, keep her occupied and keep pushing her, and occasionally find it hard not to get frustrated with her when she doesn’t do what she knows perfectly well how to do.

Forget my dog training for one moment – does this sound a familiar story back in the work place?  When I was doing a webinar the other week I got asked a question that made me think.  “How do you get people to bring their passion and motivation back when they seem to have lost it?”  Much of the time we believe that one of the main things we need to do as a manager is take responsibility for motivating our team and we do all we can to inspire and drive performance.  Now I know that way of thinking is not useful because that means that I am thinking like a manager and not a leader so the risk with that is that I can actually become the blocker.  If I think of the difference between the two in very simple terms – ‘outstanding managers drive people to perform at the highest level they are capable of and it is very much about control. Outstanding leaders inspire them to do it for themselves and it is more about freedom.’

Let’s assume for one moment that I am a really successful manager, pretty senior in my business and continually get great results.  There is a strong likelihood that I will be full of great ideas, often sharing my thoughts and my suggestions based on my knowledge and experience.  My communication will largely consist of ‘I think, I suggest, I don’t agree’ and it will be that way because I care so much about them being successful and I want to help them – I want to give them the benefit of my wisdom.  The sad reality is that if I keep telling them what to do I am going to be inadvertently suppressing their thinking and they can never be better than I was yesterday.

The fact is I am very aware that it is not my role to motivate others because if I carry that as a belief I have to accept that when I am not there motivation is likely to drop.  I need to step away from management into leadership.  My role is to inspire them to motivate themselves and that means holding back on my thoughts, ideas and suggestions and changing the way I communicate.  It needs to become more of ‘what do you think, how might you handle that, that’s a great idea that you just had, let me be sure that I have understood you correctly ……… ‘.

So why did training with Molly today remind me of this?  Because I found myself trying to push her, using treats, getting frustrated and getting nowhere!  So after the break I did it differently and during each gap I played with her, talked to her and before each exercise asked her how she felt about doing it (yes really!!!) and stopped luring her with treats but saved them until she completed the exercise.  Result?  A different dog, excited and did everything successfully!

Penny has worked with businesses like Sage and Argos to inspire long lasting positive change within the company, in order to take steps towards success and leadership. Contact her at The Living Leader to book an appointment or to book her to speak at one of your events. She is also on Facebook and Twitter! Feel free to leave your thoughts and comment below.