Resilient Leadership, Feedback & A Rescue Dog

No, I’ll sit this one out, I’ve got too much to do,’ said the team leader as I was being introduced to my Canine Progress in the Workplace delegates.

That’s one of the most common sentences I hear and I completely understand; the idea of taking a day out to discuss how to be more productive (among many other things) does sound counterintuitive.

Is the dog going to be here all day?’ the team leader asked me as my canine co-tutor was checking out the training room, locating his treats and wondering where his first belly rub would be coming from.

His first belly rub came from the team leader who decided that actually, he did have time to join us after all. I wonder what tipped the scales?!

I was spending the day with the marketing team at a large print and design company. They’re an innovative group of excellent communicators, yet when it came to communicating between themselves, something wasn’t working. New staff members had recently joined, one of the founding team members had left and one member of the team had just returned from work after an illness brought on by work-related stress. The team leader was supportive, but understandably busy, so for the team to see that he had chosen to join us was an important. None of us mentioned that we knew he was only there to hang out with the dog, but isn’t that why we’re all there, really?!

Luring the team leader in and rewarding his actions with being the first to deliver belly rubs worked like magic. Positive reinforcement really is the way forward!

The looks of surprise around the room spoke volumes.

Feedback

Throughout the day, the concern and awareness about ensuring my canine co-tutor was safe and comfortable extended to concern about the wellbeing and development of the humans in the room.

The team had been so busy navigating the changes while trying to stay on top of the ever-increasing targets they had to achieve that they had fallen into a pattern of coming in to work, keeping their heads down and ticking off their list before escaping the office at the earliest opportunity. This wasn’t deliberate; they were doing their best to keep the company’s marketing at the top of the agenda.

Except, their usual standard of work had been slipping. Targets weren’t being met, the percentage of new work coming through their channels had reduced and the pressure was mounting.

The team members were working longer hours, becoming fearful of the implications of the missed targets and the team leader, while doing his best to support them, had his own fears about reporting to his managers as to why the team were struggling. He hadn’t asked the team for feedback because he was worried about adding to their stress and workload. The team hadn’t offered any feedback because nobody wanted to be the first to admit that they felt they were failing.

The comments you have just read came from the group after the second training exercise we did with the dog. We were exploring how to communicate effectively when faced with a look of confusion, which was perfectly executed by my co-tutor!

How many times have you been at work and you have been given instructions but they don’t make sense, there are conflicting agendas and there’s definitely not enough time to follow that instruction and complete the task by the imposed deadline?

The furrowed brow of confusion and desperate head tilt of hopeful expectation doesn’t just come from the dog!

Resilient leaders and in turn, resilient teams, are much more effective in the art of bounce-back-ability when there’s not only the facility to support constructive feedback, but there’s a willingness and desire to recieve feedback as well as being able to deliver it.

Working with this group has been a highlight of this month for me. The burntout group of people who joined me at 10am were unrecognisable by the end of the day. The energy had shifted. The work they did with the dog and the ongoing analysis and observation in line with their outcomes of wanting a teambuilding session with a focus on communication and resilience meant that by the end of the day, they had clear goals, objectives and a new team manifesto (that was their idea, but one I’ll probably ‘borrow’ in the future).

It was the dog who facilitated and enabled the safe space to learn how to talk with each other in a way that brings out the best in each team member. It was the dog who showed the group that feedback is vital and through trying different ways to communicate, they found the best route through each challenge and exceeded their expectations.

Feedback is not something to be feared and it isn’t something that is delivered one way in the workplace. A resilient team can embrace feedback and embed it into their communication. Our canine co-tutors can show you how.

For more information about our Canine Progress in the Workplace workshop, please click here.

About Canine Perspective CIC

We’re a social enterprise inspiring positive change through the power of the human-canine bond. Our profits fund Canine Hope, our signature programme dedicated to working with survivors of rape and sexual violence, with rescue dogs as our canine co-tutors. It is the reason Canine Perspective CIC exists! Canine Hope is delivered in partnership with charities and social enterprises working with survivors.

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