Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 10.46.13 AM‘Unleashing Team Potential-Lessons for Managers from my Canine Friends’ is a brand new book written by my friend and fellow speaker, Sylvia Plester- Silk. Recently, I got an opportunity to chat to Sylvia about those important lessons.
Judy: Sylvia, tell me all about your book. I love the title!
 Sylvia : I do team dynamic solutions in my business and I have a dog who is really active. What happened was that I was at the dog park one day watching her behavior with the other dogs and also watching the human behavior. That’s when I realized there’s not a whole lot different in the group dynamics between humans and dogs. It’s just that dogs let go of stuff a whole lot faster. So then I started to see some of the other links between dog and human behavior. I thought it was kind of fun and frivolous way to look at some of the serious dynamics that happen in teams and how to manage those effectively.
My book takes you through a vignette of a dog’s behavior challenge and then it relates it to the office and how you can deal more effectively with your direct reports.
It gives you some of the really important critical questions to ask your direct reports to help them through their issues. Questions like, ‘Is it okay to share some of my thoughts with you?”
It’s asking permission to give that feedback so that the person is able to give consent.
Judy: How do dogs reflect that in the dog park?
Sylvia: Dogs just generally give the feedback and they give it directly. The difference with dogs is that there is no game playing. They are very direct and different dogs understand it. Whereas we get into some politicking in humans and it’s not as often clean and clear what we are meaning.
It’s about being really clear about your own objectives as a manager and then how do you go forward while working with your direct report.
Judy: What else do you talk about in the book?
Sylvia: There are also questions that you might ask yourself. In the chapter ‘To Leash or Not to Leash’ it’s asking you as a manager about all the rules and regulations and guidelines that you put in place. Does everybody really need them? There are a lot of workplaces that put a lot of rules in because there is one or two people who are really problematic but the other 98% really don’t need those guidelines.
It’s much better to look at that and question yourself, are these really needed and maybe I need to, as a manager deal directly and give the direct feedback and help the one of two people who are causing the problem.
Deal directly with the issue and let others have their freedom that they can manage really well in.
 Judy: In other words, instead of muzzling all the dogs in the dog park, you just muzzle the one dog that is a nipper. Sylvia, please share with us three lessons for managers from the dog park.
Sylvia: One would certainly be about body language. I don’t think that we often understand the body language and the messages that our bodies are giving. We need to be really clean and clear about our body language in the way that dogs read each other very quickly and understand, “Is this a friendly dog that I can play with or is this a dog that I should avoid?”
Conflict. Certainly animals and dogs, especially, when there is conflict, they deal with it. They might have a fight that lasts thirty seconds but they establish who has what role and they move on as if the fight never happened.
Finally, treats and appreciation. When you’re working with a dog and you offer that treat or acknowledgement of a job well done, they respond really well and I don’t think we’re very different as people. We really respond positively when we’re truly, honestly, from a place of sincerity acknowledged for the work that we are doing.
Judy: Sylvia in your opinion, what breed of dog makes the best manager? Is a Jack Russell that is always following you around and nipping at your ankles and is always there? Is it a Rottweiler that establishes dominance right away? It is a smart poodle?
Sylvia: I think I would go with the Labrador retriever because labs have the loyalty. They also have the calmness to look over and see what’s happening before they dive into something. As managers, we need that time for reflection in order to be effective.
Judy: Hahaha Love it. Thanks Sylvia. If folks would like to purchase your book, where is it available?
Sylvia: It’s available at my website, and Thanks Judy.