Dog Training

As near as I can figure about 60% of you reading this little blog are managers responsible for training your team.  It is to you that I address this edition.

Mark Twain once said; “The more I learn about people, the more I like dogs.”

I’ve often told my coaching clients there is a lot of similarity in training salespeople and training dogs.  My friend John Howman pursued the same thought in his October column in BizTimes called Be the Alpha.

I’ve had the unique experience of owning, hunting, living with and loving three yellow Labradors over the years.  While they were initially trained professionally, it was up to me to reinforce that training during our time together.  Here are some things I learned from Jessie, Digger and Brandy.

  1. Be the Alpha.  Your role is to be the leader; take charge.  Team members want to know who to follow. Make decisions and follow through.  Collaboration is nice, but at some point you need to make a decision.
  2. Mutual respect. Meet your team members where they live.  Make joint sales calls, meet with them regularly, and engage them.  People (and dogs) don’t want to be ignored.  Watch for coaching moments and capitalize on them.
  3.  Be repetitive.  Teaching once isn’t enough.  Regular reinforcement is required to create new habits. Just because you explained a concept once, don’t assume that it stuck.  Repeat the lesson often using different phrases and examples.  Remember the old saying “practice makes perfect”?
  4. Train in small bites.  How much do you retain from a one day seminar?  Studies suggest it is less than 10%.  Regularly scheduled formal training sessions of two hours is enough.  Shorter sessions, more often, creates stickiness.  Ask a dog trainer how long his training sessions are, you’ll be amazed (about 20 minutes).
  5. Reward and celebrate.  Eventually things go right.  Celebrate!  An “atta boy” goes a long way.  It’s even better when delivered in a group setting.  My dogs loved those little kibbles after a picture perfect, long retrieve.

Mark Twain was a smart guy.  We can learn a lot from him (and our canine friends).

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