How to Lead with Frisbees and Treats

This is Audie Cornish. Audie is my 1-year old Shiba Inu/Rottweiler mix who never has to pee. This is odd, because most larger mammals have a pretty pressing need to pee a couple of times a day. But not Audie. She shuns the whimpering, sad-eyed looks of other pets and sits there happily doing whatever she’s doing right up until she pees on the carpet.

dog-audi-cornishThe palpable bother of asking my 15-year-old son to bring Audie Cornish out to pee can only be relieved with a deep sigh emanating from his exasperated, aching teenage soul. He walks over to Audie with a leash, snaps the leash onto her collar pulling from the perfectly comfortable carpet she was laying on and drags her out to the yard. Once outside, he lords over her and commands, ‘Pee!’ She looks at him with some combination of confusion, fear and hunger (thinking that he would likely make a tasty, if grumpy, treat during the zombie apocalypse).

My daughter, when given the job of taking Audie Cornish out to pee, takes a totally different approach. She runs over to Audie, pets her manically, rubbing her fur the wrong way, poking her nose, and draws her upright into a weird human/dog dance all the while asking her a few thousand times if she’s excited to go out. When both human and canine have reached the state of near combustion, they barrel outside. For five hours. My daughter finds sticks to play with, trees to climb and worms to take in as pets. Meanwhile, Audie runs outside, wondering what all the excitement was about, circles manically around my daughter, only to eventually resign herself to wandering the yard alone, eating grass, wondering if her place in the pet hierarchy has been altered by the recent influx of worms.

As a parent (and occasional purveyor of management styles), each of these strategies seems inefficient at best but also speaks to me deeply about management styles and how wrong it can go. I’ve seen too many projects started with the joyless military efficiency of someone like my son. Trainees and teams pulled together and given a task (‘pee!’) by someone who leaves them confused, mildly terrified and unable to function. Similarly, my daughter’s frenetic cheering (“are you ready to go out???”) gets people and pets together and wildly excited only to find that their manic leader has wandered off in a direction that they can’t follow. After all, dogs aren’t built for tree climbing, nor are they very interested in pet worms.

My strategy with Audie Cornish has evolved, with the help of ninja master Nikki Ivey, to where I now walk up to Audie, tell her she’s a good dog, give her a couple of pets and tell her it’s time to go out. She then happily follows me to the door and stares at the balls and frisbees scattered around our garage. Knowing she has no interest in peeing, I oblige her in doing what she wants to do, which is play catch. After a toss or two, Audie invariably pees.

Leadership level = ninja. Hoping you all see more frisbees and treats in the leaders you choose to follow.

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