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Operations: Lessons in Leadership From Dog Ownership


Something you need to know about me is that I love dogs. However, having five can be a challenge. They all have different needs and it seems that most of my energy and spare time goes into making sure they are cared for and happy. As every dog owner knows, having a dog is like having a child. And every parent knows having a child is a full-time job. It is no surprise that taking care of and managing my dogs has sharpened my leadership skills and influenced my role as a manager.

As all dog owners know, sometimes dogs make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes cost you that new rug you recently purchased, the sandwich you just made but left out on the counter for a moment too long, or your favorite pair of shoes that you accidently left by the front door. No matter how much we love our dogs, it can be difficult to handle these situations without feeling some sort of negative emotion, such as anger and frustration. When I come home to a mess, my initial irritation wears off when I acknowledge that they simply did not know any better, they are dogs; we speak different languages and we see the world differently. It is up to me to make certain changes to prevent their mistakes in the future.

An important aspect of being a successful leader is taking responsibility and employees, like our dogs, will make mistakes. Managing effectively includes identifying where there are gaps in our communication and differences in our perspectives. As a leader, I look at how I can change my tactics as a manager to better assist my employees so they avoid making mistakes. When mishaps occur, which they will, reacting with a desire to improve, rather than with anger and frustration, helps the company and helps me in the future. It is my responsibility to make sure they are aware of what is expected of them and explanations are made in a way that helps them succeed. By changing my approach and viewing their mistakes as signs that I too have room to improve, I can manage a cooperative and cohesive staff.

Managing my employees is only half of my job; I need to manage my members as well. Gainesville Health and Fitness offers many different programs and classes which attract a variety of people, unique needs and expectations. It is important that we build good relationships with our members so we can understand who they are and what it takes to make them comfortable and happy.

We define these challenging moments in our clubs through what we call “moments of truth.” It’s also clearly understood that these moments have three possible outcomes: first, they can leave the experience better than they started, second they can leave worse, or they can have a neutral outcome, which helps no one. The most challenging moments are when we need to do our best to manage our member’s and guest’s anger and frustration to make sure they leave the encounter feeling better than when they started.

Managing our own emotions and responses is essential when handling a moment of truth to make sure it is handled effectively. When members see that we are calm and positive, they will be more relaxed and their anger is calmed. Understanding that everyone can react differently with a variety of emotions, concerns and personalities can be a challenge, but being able to remain calm and adapt to these types of situations will ultimately help your customers leave better than when they started.


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