Hold Your Tail Up

When my children were in high school we added a new dog to the family. Having had lab mixes in the past who chewed everything that didn't move we selected a bichon frise/poodle mix opting for a lap dog who would adapt well to our busy schedules.

We affectionately named him Kramer based on the Seinfeld character with the somewhat manic personality whose hair stood straight up as he slid across the floor. Our Kramer was full of life and quickly became a member of our family. His favorite activity was to follow me from room to room until anyone in our house grabbed a seat and then he would quickly transition to a lap dog. Kramer loved our home so much that he was the first dog we had who would run when you asked if he wanted to go for a walk!

After a bit of dog psychology we determined that it wasn't that he hated the outdoors but that he feared the encounters with other dogs. Our neighborhood was not filled with junkyard bulldogs but, in Kramer's eyes, they were dogs and Kramer thought he was human. Or perhaps he just lacked courage.

My daughter would walk Kramer every day and when another dog would come her way she would say repeatedly, "Kramer, hold your tail up." Her command was firm and loving but non-negotiable. For the first few weeks it didn't work. He would lower his head, drop his tail, and scurry past his furry friend or foe. And then one day, my daughter issued the command and Kramer promenaded by making eye contact with his canine friends as he lifted his tail high.

What changed in Kramer? Who can read a dog's mind, right? Well, we don't really know but we do know that somehow he gained the confidence to face his demons and perhaps even viewed the furry canine as a fellow human.

What is causing you to hang your head and drop your tail? What mental shift needs to occur for you to view your colleagues as humans rather than junk yard bull dogs, as friends rather than foes?

Managerial courage requires the confidence to face any person or situation quickly and directly and the ability to take negative action when necessary. The Korn Ferry Institute identifies managerial courage as one of the more difficult competencies for leaders to develop and a competency that is highly desired in executive leadership. I encourage you to seek an opportunity in the weeks ahead to deliver a direct message with actionable and corrective feedback. Your colleagues and direct reports want to know where they stand and desire productive feedback. You will gain confidence and so will your team members.