Not sure what’s important? Get a dog.

We have a dog. She’s three years old, 100 lbs., and is the perfect reflection of every inconsistency between what we say and what we do.

I bring this up because we are resplendent in the world of rhetoric right now, whether it’s politics, school, budgets, whatever. Companies are taking a hard look at their culture, trying to decide whether or not they reflect the company they want to reflect. “Brand” is an important topic for both people and organizations. Conferences are held, speeches are given, books are written and purchased….lots of things are being SAID. But what’s being done?

That brings me back to the dog. Her name is Bamboo (we call her Boo because two syllables sometimes seem like too much work). Boo is our second Akita (we lost the first, Dakota, to cancer a few months earlier). When we got her, we had a vision of what her world would be like. She would be well trained, loving, calm, obedient…and we would be amazing puppy parents – patient, consistent, fair. We took Boo to puppy kindergarten, did the clicker training thing, and shared our plan for how we would raise our perfect dog.

Well, it’s three years later. Boo is a happy dog with a great personality…who resembles very little of the quiet, obedient dog we envisioned. She’s a good dog with a mischievous streak who has more patience to try and get her way than the Simpsons children did when trying to convince their dad they should get a pool. She is selective about her training – she obeys when the cost-benefit analysis she’s conducted determines it’s in her best interests. (Yes, our dog does cost-benefit analysis. Watch your dogs. They do it, too.) She is remarkably inconsistent in her destructive tendencies – and we are fully aware it’s all our fault.

We are the ones who didn’t follow up on saying “no” – letting her on the couch because she’s so fluffy. We’re the ones who leave our shoes out where we know she’s going to get them – and then act surprised when she does exactly what her little doggie brain tells her to do. She is acting EXACTLY as we have trained her to be.

The same thing happens with people. People respond to how they are treated, not to the words that are said. Behavior is what is important, not a sign hung on the wall. If you want a good company culture, define it and then ACT it. If respect is important, don’t show up 10 minutes late to a meeting. If integrity is a core element of your campaign, show it. And if you’re disappointed in the actions of your employees, ask yourself what role you have played in rewarding that behavior. It may be that you are unwilling to change your behavior – that’s okay. Just be prepared to accept the consequences of such a choice.

Everyone is like Boo – we push the envelope, trying to find out what others want through trial and error, based in how others act. We want to be safe, happy and appreciated (with the occasional walk in the park). All it takes is consistent action – not more rhetoric.


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