Lessons on leadership from Maisy (3)

22 01 2009

Surgical training is an interesting topic and not an oxymoron. Certainly it is not perhaps as modern and as liberal in terms of educational technique as some disciplines within medicine. That said it is neither the “Sir Lamcelot Spratt” school of bollocking and humiliation that it used to be nor perhaps as it is perceived as by outsiders.

I wouldn’t want anyone to think I am any sort of leadership guru, or even necessarily a success. It has always struck me how sportsmen for instance, at the pinnacle of their powers can be advised and coached by someone who probably has never achieved that level of achievement. I merely blog on on the basis of observation and for discussion.

Importantly, as I write once again on dog training I probably need to emphasise that I don’t view my colleagues as furry animals nor have Maisy and I completed our journey of training.

I mentioned in the last post the value in giving a degree of freedom in behaviour. Maisy and I have now reached the stage of being able to go for walks without her wearing a lead. She understands the command “heel” and trots along happily by my left side. Every now and again she looks up. James, the trainer, encourages us to encourage the dog often when they do this with just a simple word or two.

As surgical trainees most of us have experienced the extreme opposite of this approach. Once I even had the temerity to question the lack of encouragement and was advised, “We expect excellent. If you fail to deliver that, we will tell you. Otherwise just carry on. It’s implied.”  I beg to differ.

I’m sure this is the case for so many of us in our jobs. Whilst the encouragement may be implied by the lack of criticism I don’t think the two are synonymous. I’ve found that a small word or two of encouragement is justified, is encouraging and is valued. I would value more encouragement personally.

Lessons on Leadership from Maisy-

3. a little, regular, appropriate encouragement is very valuable





Lessons on leadership from Maisy (2)

21 01 2009

maisy1In a recent post I talked about lessons on leadership I am learning through my dog, Maisy.

James, the trainer at Gun Dog classes, emphasises the importance of letting the dog have the opportunity to do the right thing, as well as the wrong. That way, you can give encouragement when they do the correct thing and sharp discipline when they don’t. I think that works for your team too better than keeping them on a tight choke leash.

(are you allowed to put a choke leash on colleagues??)

So often in disciplining, “re-directing” or “critiquing” colleagues there is the risk of dwelling on disappointment, anger or other unhelpful emotions after the event. With Maisy I have found she fully understands the error of her ways straight away and what works best for me and for her is moving on straight away and re-establishing our good relationship. Most of my colleagues are better learners than Maisy.

Lessons on leadership from Maisy-

2. discipline and move on immediately





Lessons on leadership from Maisy (1)

18 01 2009

Just back from a great walk with our dog Maisy. She got me thinking about leadership as we wandered through the fields.

We initially took her to Kennel Club puppy training which I have to say simply didn’t work. For either the dog or for us. Labrador retrievers are known for various characteristics. They are loyal, intelligent, faithful and will do most anything for food. At the end of about 10 weeks at KC training she had figured out exactly what was required of her, that she could do it if she wanted to and that, now being pleasantly fat, she really didn’t need to bother any more.

After two particularly bad experiences with open fields, roads and running away we decided to take chubby puppy to Gun Dog class. 20 minutes into our first lesson she was a totally different dog. Why? Because her owners were now leaders rather than simply offering treats.

I’m not saying things are perfect now but the difference is total. Most importantly, the dog and her owners are much happier. Maisy has also lost all that extra weight too. Rather than just playmates who provided food and entertainment, she now regards us as her pack leader, she looks for approval in what she does and takes guidance on behaviour. It hasn’t stopped her being tons of fun or having independence but has established who is who in the pack and that the adult is the leader.

Now I’m, not espousing dog training methods in place of leadership but I think there are various lessons that I am learning from training my dog. I think there may be more than one post.

Lessons on leadership from Maisy-

  1. Leadership is sometimes done from behind.

As we were out in the fields today Maisy would bound on ahead but never more than about 20m. Then she would stop, turn around and look directly at me for instruction. Did I want her to come back, was she to stop and stay or was it okay to carry on as I was carrying on.out-on-the-fosse

Sometimes I think good leaders should let those that work with them go on ahead, take their independence a little further and develop themselves. Too often we see leaders as the pathfinder, the pack leader the sole determiner of action and purpose.

Maisy was ahead of me all the way today but I was the one ultimately deciding where we were going but she had a great time exploring.

Not all leading is done from the front.








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