Management Lessons From My Dog

Mama, a beautiful reddish Golden Retriever was 11 years old when we adopted her. She came with her 9 year old daughter, Sierra, and a self- sufficient attitude. She was calm and gentle like most Golden Retrievers, but she was also wary … new home, new people, many moves in several months. How long will this one last?

Tinker, our Border Collie mix, decided to take charge of Mama and Sierra … just like he was used to doing with all the critters and children that he met. Mama quickly put him in his place. I’m not exactly sure how she did it. There was no fighting or growling or anything overt like that. Her posture and positioning clearly sent a message to Tinker, behave or else.

All three lived in harmony for many years but there was never a doubt about who the Alpha dog was. It was clearly Mama. On occasion the two younger dogs would get a little frisky in the house. Mama would just look at them and they would immediately behave. It was amazing to watch her use of authority and how effortlessly it worked.

Great sales managers have the same presence. They don’t have to strut around and flaunt their authority. There is never any doubt about who’s in charge. They command respect by their very being. So where does that presence come from? What makes them stand out from the crowd? Why does the crowd begin to hush when a real leader takes the podium?

In my opinion it’s a number of things. First and foremost, it’s an inner confidence. They believe in themselves and their ability to manage the sales force. They have an aura. They’re not imposters. They know what it takes to create a sales force of overachievers and they practice it every day. They are comfortable setting expectations for results, activities and behaviors. They track their people’s activities so they always know what’s going on. They hold their people individually accountable for their behaviors. They are excellent sales coaches. They know how to hire and fire and when to do it.

Above all they are constantly striving to improve. They are not happy with the status quo. They keep pushing themselves and their salespeople to do better. There’s always a new challenge, new heights to scale.

My dog Mama had that presence. Was she perfect? Heck no! She was still a puppy in many ways until the day she died. She liked to have fun but she always set standards for the younger dogs, and she made sure they obeyed her.

Again, I don’t really know exactly how she did this, but when she was dying she somehow let them know that she wouldn’t be around much longer. There was no grief or mourning period for them. They just went on like normal, except they heeded the lessons that she taught them. It was as if she was still there keeping a watchful eye on them.

Over the years I’ve lived with many dogs. I almost wrote “owned” but that would not be the truth. There was always an Alpha Dog … the pack leader. Sometimes it was a male, sometimes a female. Regardless, when the Alpha passed, another assumed it’s place. It never ceased to amaze me how seamlessly the transition happened.

Oliver Connolly coaches and mentors sales managers. To learn more about his services please click on

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