What a Team Can Learn From Dogs

What a Team Can Learn From Dogs

“Near this spot are deposited the remains.

One who was beautiful

Strength without vanity is strength without insolence.

Courage without ferocity

All the virtues of man

Without his vices.”

Epitaph to a dog written by Lord Byron in 1808.

Canines were the first animal companions of man. They have been with him for thousands of years. Their human-like traits make us value their company. Anthropomorphism is the process of attributing human emotions and behaviors to dogs. It is not clear how the dog’s characteristics will be projected. They seem to be an accurate description of their dog to most dog owners.

Some of their behavior, such as gentleness with children and guard duty, is specific to their breed. However, there are other traits that are common among all species. These behaviors are what helps to build a sense for the team. These are the characteristics that I believe make successful teams.

1. Loyalty

Dogs almost always form strong bonds to their pack, their family unit… unlike cats. A strong team will also foster a sense of community. Teams don’t want each other to fail. Combat units are the best example. As I was watching an interview with a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, I noticed that he was very humble. When he was asked why he put himself in such danger, he replied that ‘I didn’t think about that. He replied, “I didn’t think about it.” My team needed me. We had to free them from their shackles. This is a beautiful example of the deep bond that exists between some groups. The desire to not let the team down in the workplace can lead to extra effort from individuals and willingness to help colleagues who are struggling.

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2. Playfulness

Dogs love to play. They are happy to live in the present and love to get out of their routine. Special teams also have fun. While team members take their work seriously, they also have fun with each other. The publication of The Fish Philosophy, a book about Pike Place Market in Seattle, was published ten years ago. It highlighted the importance of having fun and played in the workplace. Every day, the men who work in the market arrive at dawn to begin their hard physical labor in preparation for opening. The employees engage the customers in playful banter when they arrive. They throw the fish, sometimes 15 to 20 feet away from one market to the next. They shout out absurd lines such as “Here’s a tuna to Tim from Tulsa!” The “show” is a huge success. They make a mentally and physically taxing workplace a place of fun.

3. Affection

Dogs don’t judge. They are close to their pack. High-quality teams find ways to care for each other. Teams appreciate, care about, and often like each other. I was reading an article in 2009 about a Michigan manufacturing plant that had been severely affected by the recession. The downturn in business meant that some employees would need to be laid off. Employees responded by asking for a reduction in their hours, if possible. The team was so concerned about their colleagues that they offered to take a pay cut to help those who were at risk of losing their jobs. This selflessness demonstrates the caring, concern, and affection that great teams have.

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Highly functioning teams require loyalty, playfulness, and affection. Do you have all three? You might consider learning from your dog.

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