Posted on 5/16/2018

From the Backyard to the Board Room: Creating Leaders in the Workplace

Dave Bann

Here's a staggering fact: A 2016 survey from micro-learning platform Grovo found that 44 percent of 500 managers felt unprepared for their role. Additionally, 87 percent wished they'd had more training before becoming a manager. How, then, do we prepare new managers to take the lead?

From automakers, to colleges, to investment firms, to manufacturers, to municipalities, the lessons we teach at Leader Dogs for The Blind reign true for every person willing to practice them.

We’re often asked: “How does that Leader Dog get you where you want to go? And how does he know what color the traffic lights are? I thought dogs were colorblind?”

“He doesn’t know what color the traffic lights are. I do. I listen for traffic and use other nonvisual cues. And I know where the buildings are because I make a plan, outlining my route to my destination before I leave. The dog sees everything its human companion can’t, so we work together as a team,” said Mike Cox. Mike had been asked this before. He and Leader Dog Zak were part of a 30,000-employee team at the Savanah River Site in Georgia and could be seen traveling easily from building to building as an inseparable duo.

This type of communication is based on what we at Leader Dog call The Performance Triangle. Mike offers Zak guidance and direction that is meaningful – the operative word being meaningful – every time he communicates with him.

To recognize a job well done, he learned what makes Zak tick. He found out what is important to Zak and gives him what he wants. And to clarify any mistakes, he asks himself: “Did I offer meaningful guidance? And did he know exactly what I expected of him?” These are also the foundational concepts of leadership and management in the workplace. 

Mike and Zak visited hundreds of workgroups in all corners of the Savanah River Site. Over time, the culture began to change at the campus as supervisors began using Leader Dog terms when leading and managing their teams. 

Word traveled beyond the security perimeter of Savanah River, and Mike fielded requests across Georgia from organizations asking him and Zak to visit their offices to explain how the Performance Triangle worked.

Since 2000, Gallup has measured employee engagement at 30 percent. This means a staggering 70 percent of workers are passively sleepwalking through their workdays with little to no regard for their own personal performance or the success of the company. 

During this same time period, Gallup has also consistently found that managers and supervisors are responsible for 70 percent of those engagement scores. In short, our managers are falling short of their supervisory responsibilities.

But who can blame them? Companies typically promote people for their hard skills; associate accountants soon become accounting managers running auditing teams made up of a variety of personalities, successful salesmen proficient at pounding the phones become sales managers and struggle to transfer their skills on to their teams, medical doctors find themselves trading in patient care for the responsibilities of day-to-day hospital administration. 

Hard skills get people promoted, but it is the soft skills found in the Performance Triangle that keep people in those leadership positions.

Baby Boomers are retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day, and will continue to do so until 2029. Half of these men and women are in a supervisory role, and will leave behind them a managerial void like corporate America has never seen.

Leader Dogs for the Blind has been presenting these leadership techniques they have been teaching for nearly 80 years to businesses in a wide variety of industries. 

When looking to prepare your current and future successors, it is imperative to find training methods that will prepare them for whatever tasks they will face. 

Zak and Mike use the Performance Triangle to navigate a 300-square mile nuclear campus. What will you do with it?

Interested to learn more? Automation Alley members are invited to attend Morning Member Mingle @ Leader Dogs for The Blind on June 21 for a presentation on the foundational principles of leadership, management, communication and team-building. Learn how you too can successfully implement these principles in your daily lives as you advance in your career. Plus, meet with Coco and other Canine Ambassadors. Petting and picture taking is welcome.

About the Author

Dave Bann | Leader Dogs for The Blind

Dave Bann manages all aspects of Harness the Power of Leadership for Leader Dogs for the Blind, where he is passionate about both the program and the organization. His strong belief in mutually beneficial partnerships has lead him to forge successful relationships with large multinational corporations, other nonprofit organizations, municipalities and academic institutions.

Dave has been a business owner since 2008 and has provided expertise in financial services and analytics, marketing strategy, sales management and talent development. He holds degrees in Finance and Marketing from Oakland University.


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