Managing Dogs…

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It was a beautiful afternoon; a cloudless sky, a small breeze and the streets bustling with locals and tourists alike. I found an outside cafe and sat down for lunch when I heard them. I turned to my right just in time to see a group of about a half dozen small dogs pulling a young girl down the street.

She was probably fifteen or so and looked like she was struggling to keep the dogs in line. The two biggest dogs, big compared to the rest which could have past for large cats if their shape was a bit more feline, led the pack. They were both dark brown and fluffy. They walked with their heads up, little dogie shoulders back, almost prancing. They were clearly the leaders of the group.

Behind them were three other dogs that seemed easily distracted. Each time something would catch one of their attention, a stick, bird, fire hydrant, a random piece of paper (they’re dogs after all) they would try to chase after it, but the girl had a quick wrist and would snapped their leashes and they would fall back in line.

There was one dog in the back however, that no matter what the girl did she could not get him to keep moving forward. He jumped around aimlessly, going left, then right. Then he’d try to barrel to the front, even though his leash wasn’t long enough, then he’d snap at the other dogs feet causing everyone to stop and bark. He was clearly the trouble maker in the group.

Finally, tired of having to constantly stop and untangle him from the others, she picked him up and started carrying him down the street. Then, as if to say, “It wasn’t me causing all those problems,” he immediately started licking her face.

We made eye contact as she walked by. “Sometimes you have to carry them,” I said. She smiled but was not amused.

Walking dogs, it seems, is not unlike managing a group of people. You have your leaders, the top performers, who if left unsupervised would still get to where they were supposed to be going. Then you have those in the middle. For the most part they are great workers; however they can be easily distracted and need, for lack of a better term, to be put on a shorter leash. Then there is that one employee that no matter what you do or say, will not keep in line. They are constantly causing problems, getting into everyone else’s business, never getting their work done and are always complaining.

You try everything to get them back on track, until finally, reluctantly, you decide to stop everything you’re doing and you write them up. “But it wasn’t me causing all those problems,” they say and immediately start trying to lick your face.

-Ralph Peterson is a Professional Speaker, Management Consultant, Columnist and Author of the book, “Managing When No One Wants To Work: Leadership Lessons from an Executive Housekeeper,” (Four-Nineteen Press, 2014). Contact him directly or visit

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