My Anxious Dog

My dog is super anxious and basically afraid of everything. In our neighborhood, I’m sure she is widely known as a jerk (some would use stronger words, no doubt). 

Despite the fact that she is under 20 pounds, there are certain dogs and people “she goes Cujo on” as they calmly walk by.

She is so anxious that even the animal behaviorist we hired has had little success in helping her to socialize…and yes, I recognized that my behavioral skills were no match for this cute little dog, so we found an expert to help. 

However, when she feels safe, she is amazingly loving, calm, and fun. No barking, no aggression, 100% love. Super-easily trained and well-behaved.

We once took her to an empty Michigan beach, and she LOVED it. Running, playing, and frolicking. 

SHE. WAS. A. DIFFERENT. DOG.

I mean, completely different than when she is outside at our ‘city’ house with all the noise and stimulation. She was no longer super anxious. No barking, no fear.

In my work with leaders who want to change behavior and improve results at work, I always start with the notion that environment drives behavior. 

One fundamental error we humans make is to blame the victim. The person at work is merely acting in accordance with their environment. Our dog is not “a jerk” – she is a “victim” of the environment we have created for her. Well… I think she is also a bit crazy, but there are situations where she is amazingly well-behaved.

Taking our dog Penny to the beach was such a great example of this. In one environment, you’ve got inconsolable Cujo. In another environment, you have the coolest, calmest dog on the planet. 

Do you have people in your organization who, if put in a different environment, might act completely differently…in a good way? 

I’m not talking about taking everyone to the beach…that was just a metaphor! Think a little deeper.

Do you and your fellow leaders ever judge or blame people for the way they are acting, without considering the external causes of their behavior? 

Could you discuss how a different environment might bring with it different behaviors and results?

Do you help your leaders to think about ways they could create a different…better…environment for people on their teams? 

Try this. Think of one person you work with who you’d like to see something different from. Now, think of one thing you could say or do that might get a new reaction from them, and try it out. Do this exercise for a few days and see what happens. 

Write to me and let me know what you discover!

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