How a dog can teach your team new tricks
Last week, she passed. The outpouring of grief has been a hard pill to swallow and one of the saddest things I have ever seen in my life. All of our employees had their phones full of pictures of Pippa Smith doing everything from running into the office in the morning, sitting on their laps while they work, barking at dogs on YouTube, playing with a toy or treat, demanding to come into meetings by knocking on the boardroom door, and when she was ignored, barking at it, and of course demanding that wherever I was, she was.
She was the 'Top Dog'. There is no doubt that this was the case and I don't think anyone would have it any other way.
There is so much we all learned from her that we would like to share with you.
In organisations there are leaders. In packs of dogs or in homes, there is always a 'top dog'. For both the workplace and home, Pippa Smith was the top dog. All dog trainers would say that this is a bad thing, but it wasn't and I can tell you a million reasons why. The first is that she demanded our respect and attention. If she had something to say, and it was always worthwhile, we had to all stop and listen. It would not be unusual for her to go over to someone not giving her the attention she needed for a particular purpose and pat them on the leg. If that didn't work, just one bark at them and the person would drop everything. Now this could be because her water bowl was empty or she needed to do 'ladies business'. In business, when something needs to be done there and then, it needs to take priority. Leaders know this. She always made sure that everyone got off on the right floor at the lift, and if everyone looked stressed out, she would deliberately start playing with a toy by throwing it up in the air. All of a sudden, everyone stopped, looked at her, smiled and then got on with their day with a different mindset.
Top Dog Syndrome - not a bad thing
We all have gut instinct but don't always follow it. With dogs, their instinct rules how they act and behave. For instance, if a bad person were in our presence, she would immediately ask for them to leave - in her own way. If someone raised their voice, she would usher them to the door. If someone was sad, she would sit next to them or ask to sit on their laps or at their feet. When people are stressed, she would do everything in her power to relieve that stress and for me, that is the only reason I still am in business. She made me drop everything no matter how stressed I was at any given time and hug her. No exception.
Whether it was crossing the street or walking in an area that was a little unsafe, Pippa Smith always made sure that her number one job was to protect. If a big, vicious looking dog came our way, she would scare them off and it didn't matter to her that she as a little 6 kilo dog and they were 30 kilos. Her job was to protect. In business, our job is to protect each other and keep each other out of harms way. If someone is having an issue with something, our job is to offer them assistance and protection to help them navigate their next move. For Pippa Smith it was natural. For us, we have to think about it, but when it does come natural, your team is forever bonded and everyone always has each other's back.
It's a Tuesday afternoon and the whole office is deathly quiet. Everyone is working really hard. It was never unusual for her to start prancing around, or asking for a treat, playing with her many toys and in general make everyone distracted, only for a moment. We can't take life and work that seriously. Yes, we have to work hard, but there has to be time to look up and smell the roses.
Pippa Smith always knew when someone had a mental health issue and from her actions, so too did management. It allowed us to help them through their tough days and be there when they needed us most. We could change their roles in the company to ensure that it was less stressful but still productive, or quietly offer them some time out. Knowing someone has a mental health issue, sometimes means that deadlines will be missed. In agency land, this cannot happen. But with the help of Pippa Smith, we were able to work out who would be likely to miss a deadline and have them partner with someone else that they liked to finish what needed to be completed. It also helped others in the office understand mental health and what they needed to do to help their colleagues without having the talk.
You know, dogs wag their tails when they are happy. Pippa Smith wagged her tail from the moment she woke up to the time she fell asleep. Happiness was part of her every day. For humans, that is a lot harder to achieve, but just looking at Pippa or giving her a hug, I found people in our offices smile or just feel connected in a way that some of them had never experienced before.
First dogFor many of our team members around the world, Pippa Smith was their first dog. For many of my friends, she was their kids first dog. I am sure that there are millions of photographs out there of Pippa and it wasn't unusual for me to be walking in the street only to find someone taking a photo. I knew it wasn't of me, it was of her. Our head creative in Atlanta was very upset when Pippa passed. She was his first dog and the only animal he ever had the opportunity to be close to. For many in our office, she is family, not too different to their own.
Loving unconditionallyWhat my team saw from my relationship with Pippa was that she was absolutely my number one priority. More so than business, success and the rest of my family. My job was to look after her and I was solely responsible for her happiness and well-being. I took it very seriously every single day. If she wanted something, she got it. She knew how to talk to me and I knew how to listen to her. She was perfect.
While she was the top dog, she also knew when to behave at other people's houses, when I did public speaking engagements, on the plane, in a restaurant and definitely when she did her yearly tests. She loved me when I had some dark days and cherished those many good days where we played for hours. We really have had the most amazing life, but the love we shared was clear for everyone to see. I would say more than 2,000 messages has come through on some platform or another to offer condolences or people sharing their experiences with her. Everyone who ever met us together knew that our love was that of a mother and daughter. I would give up everything for her and quite often did. Teaching your team through actions that love is important and in fact, the most important thing in life sets them up for knowing that work can be great, success is exciting but love is really what we are here for.
Thank you Pippa Smith for teaching us so much more than any of us even realised. You are a star and I know that wherever you are right now, you are looking at us and rooting for us to all be happy, successful and fulfilled. We all love you.