Developing the team
Okay, we selected her (from an on-line website), she didn't select us, but she turned us instantly into her team. From the moment we picked her up from the airport and put her tiny paws on the grass outside the freight terminal, she ran from one to the other, winning us over and paying us equal attention. Since then she has made us feel valued, every single day. She is unfailingly happy to see us and greets us with unbounded enthusiasm at the start of each day and whenever we return to base.
Paris has made sure that our learning curve has been steep and rewarding. Formal training through puppy school earned us several certificates and invaluable skills and confidence. Now she provides daily opportunities for learning on the job and gives plenty of encouragement to keep practicing and honing our skills. We are now highly accomplished in our requisite competencies (ball hurling, stick concealing, tummy tickling and deciphering her various requests and commands). Performance reviews are conducted regularly and often and are always positive experiences. Fun, even.
She has a knack for developing the skills of young people whose fresh ideas, playfulness and stickability (no pun intended) she relishes.
This girl works the beach and the neighbourhood like a pro. No hanging back waiting for others to approach her. She is selective and strategic and once she's picked her targets she wins them over in an instant with her authenticity and enthusiasm (unless, of course, they are afraid of or don't like dogs, which occasionally happens, but she never takes it personally and is never deterred by a knock-back). Paris might have invented the term 'sell the sizzle and not the sausage' and has built a legendary network of admirers. She’s well aware that it’s not about who you know, but who knows you!
Persistence, that's how she keeps her extended team engaged. If at first we ignore her suggestions because, well, we might have other things to do, she is patient and never gives up. She remains totally focused on the required deliverables, eyes never leaving us, until we play the game.
This is where many leadership aspirants come undone, but not Paris. Engagement is her real forte, from enrolling complete strangers on the beach in ball games to keeping visitors tossing sticks into the garden for hours. She's the Energiser bunny of engagement and her batteries never run down.
Paris leaves us in no doubt about what's required and when. There's no beating around the bush, or paving the way with niceties. She pokes her nose directly into the thigh until we respond, leaving us in no doubt about what she wants and that she means business. There are no assumptions or mixed messages and she is quite prepared to have fierce conversations (grrr noises) when necessary.
Paris holds us powerfully to account. If anyone so much as mentions the word 'walk', she drops everything and leaps in the air consistently until we do what we say we're going to do. It’s all about integrity as far as she’s concerned, and there’s no letting us off the hook.
Oh yes, she brings the balls and sticks back every time for us to practice our throwing skills, even though she could quite easily nose a ball along the beach or dig up and bury sticks around the garden all by herself. If she's lying near the top of the stairs as we approach from below, she is quite prepared to be vulnerable, rolling onto her back so we can develop our tummy tickling skills and believe that we are the source of her bliss rather than the other way around.
Protection and support
Paris covers for us all the time and gets our backs. She doesn't need to be an alpha dog to be at the apex of this organisation. She guards us ferociously (from the safety of the front window or the balcony). Her message to passers-by is clear: 'Put one step out of line and you're mincemeat’. On the other hand, she is very adaptable - visitors are quickly given the benefit of the doubt and a very excited welcome. She lets us know in no uncertain terms if there is a real threat – anything unfamiliar (a passing echidna or piece of plastic blowing in a tree) prompts a very loud ‘alarm’ bark.
She can be tough. You could be forgiven for (wrongly) assuming Paris to be a people-pleaser but she has no qualms about saying ' No' when required. Try walking her up the street where the bully dog lives and she simply digs her heels in and refuses to comply. Just sits there at the intersection, unmoved and immoveable.
Paris commands respect in so many ways but one example stands out. She’ll have a go at anything and, one year, won the puppy school surfing champion title just by being willing to stand on a boogie board and be towed out to sea. Now that's leadership, not to mention courage. All the other dogs watched in awe.
Paris is acutely aware of 'the other' at all times. While she freely expresses her own emotions, she is tuned in to others' too and strong on forgiveness and empathy. If a team member is away or unwell, she is immediately there, offering sympathy (hand – licking) or cheer-up support (sticks or stuffed toys). And she never holds a grudge.
Work life balance
‘Manage your energy rather than time’ is Paris’s motto. Never a clock-watcher, she instinctively takes short breaks when needed so when there's work to be done, she's fully charged and ready to go. She is always alert to opportunities and quick to act on them while patient and tolerant of those who can't instantly see the benefits (and fun) inherent in her suggestions.
Exercise is essential to her well-being and stress management. In addition to her daily beach runs, she does yoga with us (more team building) every morning and meditates a lot. So she is always present when awake (and often when asleep, wagging her tail at the casual mention of her name) and is the world’s greatest cuddler, nightly expressing love and gratitude to each of us in equal measure.
When she waddles down the stairs at bed-time, she is off duty and gets a good night’s sleep so that she is ready for action the minute that door opens in the morning.
Leading by example
Most of the time, Paris models the behavior she expects from us. There are exceptions (defecating on the beach, digging holes under the fence) but we have to remind ourselves that she is, after all, a dog.
Best of all, though, she allows us believe that we are the leaders.
Now that's real leadership!