Leadership: Treat Your People like Dogs

Okay, that’s click-bait.

You should really treat your people like I treat my dog. (Well, not literally, because there are those people who consider belly rubs in the workplace inappropriate.)

I try never to walk past my dog Hunter without at least giving him a pat on the head. Most of the time, I take several minutes to give him that workplace-inappropriate belly rub. What if, every single time we encountered someone we lead, we invested time to express our sincere appreciation (appropriately)?

I provide for all of Hunter’s basic needs: food, shelter, veterinary care, exercise, and so on. But my family and I also give him a treat fairly frequently, whether it’s a snack or some scraps from a plate or his favorite, a pizza bone. Sometimes it’s because he performed a trick, but most of the time it’s just because everyone should get a treat every so often.

What if we gave our workers not just their basic earnings and benefits, but also something special on a regular basis, just because we appreciate them?

Hunter has had a couple of episodes that cost me dearly. Both were visits to the emergency vet, where you don’t walk in the door for less than a couple hundred bucks. I gladly paid it both times. When the people who spend at least a third of their lives helping us succeed run into those enormous challenges we all eventually encounter in life, whether a health crisis or a tragic personal loss, what if we were equally willing to pull out all the stops to get them what they need, whether extra time off or financial assistance or just a shoulder to cry on?

Hunter is enormously loyal to me and is usually beside himself with joy to see me when I return home after being gone. That’s just great. But I don’t do all these things because I want that loyalty or face licking – it’s just an extra benefit of having the best dog in the world.

I’m willing to bet that workers treated the way I describe would also be fiercely loyal employees. But that shouldn’t be the reason to act the way I describe – it should also be just a tangential benefit, an especially valuable one in today’s brutally competitive marketplace.

We should treat people that way because decency and kindness and a desire to be the best leaders we can – or really, the best people we can – all say that’s how we should treat people.

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Jim Vinoski
Jim Vinoskihttp://jim.vinoski.net/
Jim Vinoski thinks he’s a pretty regular guy. Jim grew up in Michigan’s glorious Upper Peninsula. He’s married and has two sons, and now resides in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area. He’s an avid cyclist, runner, and reader. He and his two boys are heavily involved in Scouting, with Jim serving as their Troop’s Scoutmaster. He’s a big WWII history buff and has never gotten over his 1980s fascination with heavy metal music. He has over 30 years of experience in manufacturing, in products ranging from plastics and paints to food and bourbon. (That last one was a heck of a lot of fun.) His focus has been in engineering (he holds a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering), operations, and management. He’s a veteran of such companies as Ralston-Purina and General Mills, and he’s currently responsible for all store-brand manufacturing of dairy and beverage products for a major regional US grocery chain. As a Forbes Contributor, Jim covers all facets of manufacturing. He’s explored everything in his column there from the success stories of numerous American manufacturers to the amazing innovations in our advanced technologies, such as 3D printing and artificial intelligence. Jim also blogs about everything under the sun at The Interface.