Want To Be A Better Employee? Look To Your Dog
Every morning, a roly-poly French bulldog sits between my desk and her owner’s.
As I eat breakfast, she studies me, hoping a few crumbles drop to the floor. It’s the kind of dedicated concentration I dream of applying to my own work. After a while, she gives up and snuggles down next to me, providing company as the day goes on.
Whether you’re a lucky dog owner or just a fan of canines in general, we can learn so much from these incredible animals. Dogs demonstrate many of the soft professional skills we try so hard to employ at work, particularly as managers and team leaders.
But learning from our furry friends isn’t a new idea.
Forbes recently detailed the benefits of looking to nature for guidance — a concept known as bio-empathy. When we open our senses to the natural world, we come back to the present moment and are better able to communicate with the environment around us.
Here are five ways you can emulate man’s best friend and use bio-empathy to become a better employee and leader.
1. Follow your instincts
With wide eyes, attentive ears, and keen noses, dogs can sense when their friends or enemies are nearby. They read our body language, listen to our voices, and even adorably tilt their heads to try and figure out how we’re feeling. This marrying of the senses produces an awareness that translates perfectly to client or employee meetings.
In an article for Inc, small business advisor Marla Tabaka speaks of a dog’s passion for investigation. When they sense something is up, they trust their instincts and get to the bottom of it. This level of enthusiasm clears up indecisive thinking — or, on the other hand, leads to overly confident decisions without proper research. With these skills, you can influence a company culture of inquiry and investigation.
2. Practice active listening
Active listening is a trait that never goes unnoticed, particularly in a distracted world. This is one of the reasons speaking to a dog is so uplifting. Whenever you interact with your pup, their level of enthusiasm for what you have to say invites you to say more.
Hopefully, we all have those friends: that one person who listens with such kindness and attention that you find yourself feeling better about yourself by the time you’re done chatting. In the same way your dog waits and watches with silent invitation, you can tune into your colleagues’ ideas with genuine excitement. Our dogs’ active listening encourages an energetic, team-focused work environment where everyone is heard.
3. Learn to work with others
A group of playful dogs in the park forms a set of unspoken rules almost immediately. The larger dogs crouch down to the smaller ones, and the little guys leap about trying to keep up with the big guys. This push and pull of playfulness comes from an understanding that working together requires unspoken communication.
After decades of competitive schooling and an early-career race to the top, it’s understandable when the idea of teamwork gets pushed aside. However, the way to create quality products is to work off the diverse energies of each person in the room or office with you. With a little observation, you can adjust to each coworker’s preferred way of learning, communicating, and producing new ideas.
4. Own up to your mistakes
If you ever need a pick-me-up, Google the phrase “guilty dogs.” Someone tore the toilet paper roll apart, ate a whole birthday cake or desiccated the living room sofa. You can always pick the guilt-ridden dog out of the bunch. Even when they drive us crazy, dogs understand when they did something wrong. They show humility immediately and own their mistakes without hesitation.
Unfortunately, at the office, a guilty face (no matter how cute) will not fix a goof. But like a dog, if we own our mistakes with open-mindedness and honesty, we avoid resentment or passive aggression. Own up to your blind spots or errors early on, and you will build an office of trust.
5. Show curiosity and enthusiasm
Without genuine curiosity to learn and grow in your work, it’s easy to lose career enthusiasm. Dogs greet each day with excitement, checking out how their environment has changed, greeting whomever they come across, ever hopeful of a treat. They have no awareness of hating Mondays or loving Fridays.
If you enter each day like a dog who has just seen its favorite red bouncy ball, your energy will spread throughout the office. There’s no need to be a boisterous, extroverted personality for this enthusiasm, either. Being joyfully present can be passed one-to-one or simply expressed in your work itself.
The next time you need to reignite enthusiasm for your passion or career, practice some bio-empathy. Sometimes we all need a reminder of what it’s like to dive into a job with the energy of a dog chasing a squeaky toy.