Management and Leadership in Nonprofits


“Roll in the mud” and other sage advice from Spot

Jun 26, 2020

All great dogs understand that one of the best ways to satisfy an itch is to roll around, and oh how much better that works when the roll is in the mud! Every day we’re dealing with workplace itches — questions, disputes, maybe even opportunities — that require scratching. We might have to do a little research, we might have to learn a little something new, but 9 times out of 10 we probably have to roll up our sleeves and just get into the mud!

Effective leaders need to be willing to get dirty with the details sometimes. It stirs the soul like a good roll in the mud brings joy to Spot, but it also makes you approachable. Demonstrating that you’re willing to do the hard work to get to a resolution highlights your willingness to admit that you don’t know it all and that you still see value in learning more. Those are important messages to send to your team.

Loyalty is often cited as one of the top reasons for owning a dog. Animal experts theorize that Spot considers you to be part of his pack, and he’ll do what it takes to keep his pack safe and happy. As a leader, what have you done for your pack lately? Does your approach evoke the joy and comradery of a shared journey? If not, make it a point to defend your team, fetch them a ball to play or go for a nice walk. Please make sure that’s applied figuratively versus literally, or HR may have to sit you down for a chat!

Over a hundred years ago, Ivan Pavlov’s dog pack quickly learned the link between consistent behavior and rewards. People are just as clever. We generally find comfort in an element of conditioned behavior. Leadership has a responsibility to ensure follow through and meet expectations. If we drop the ball and the results of a consistent behavior start to become unreliable and chaotic, our team risks becoming unreliable and chaotic.

It’s difficult for humans to unabashedly accept praise. Conversely, dogs fall all over themselves to show their appreciation for our love and admiration. Our response? We feel great! Allow your peers and mentors in the workplace to compliment you and in turn, show your appreciation for their notice. It’s a gift to both the giver and the receiver, and it’s contagious. Pass it along!

As an accountant by training, my safe space is a little less risky than your average entrepreneur’s, but we all need to recognize the value of a little strategic risk in our daily lives. A dog is never happier than when she’s riding down the highway with her head hanging out the window. Hang your head out the proverbial window occasionally and you’ll see opportunities you would have missed from the safety of the inside. You’ll also get a burst of energy to make the most out of all the more placid adventures that occur while walking on the leash.

Finally, Spot always comes back for more. Make resilience a hallmark of your leadership. Others will recognize and appreciate that even when you’ve had a bad day or a less-than-ideal result, you’re back for more. You’re coming at the problem from another angle. You’re digging holes and jumping fences. Nothing keeps you down and when you get the prize you’re after, share it with your pack and repeat.

Good boy!


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Wipfli Editorial Team

Management and Leadership in Nonprofits blog
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