An important business lesson to learn from dogs: Do you have the right team?


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It’s great when it happens

As a business leader I can remember the feeling of being overwhelmed and struggling, and feeling like the job was totally impossible, or that I was totally unqualified because it felt too hard.

Each time this happened I had a mentor or a boss say to me, “Patty, you need to build the right team”.

I can also remember so clearly how much better it felt at the moment when I got the right team in place.

It was amazing. My level of worry was greatly reduced, the quality of what my team could do skyrocketed, and the impact of what I could do with my time personally also went through the roof.

The misery was gone. It was replaced with a combination of relief and excitement.

Now, we could move forward.
Actually it was more like..we couldn’t NOT move forward. The team was ready and raring to go.

I’ll admit, making changes to the team was never easy to do. There was always angst and controversy and risk in getting there. But it was always worth it.


Many leaders make the mistake of thinking that the job is to make do with the team they have — too accommodate. But the real job of a leader is to build the team you need.

You can tell yourself that accommodating weakness in your team is less messy and difficult than making a change, but the problem is that it wastes time forever.

While making a change is difficult and messy for a short time — then it’s over — and you get a HUGE benefit forever after.

The Dogsled Analogy: All the Ropes are Tight

Several years ago I had the opportunity to go dogsledding.

At the beginning of the day there were 17 sled-dog teams lined up on the sides of the path and the dogs were mostly lying and lounging in the snow.

The sleds were all braked. To brake a sled there is basically just a stake that is driven from the sled into the snow so the sled can’t move.

When the dogs perceived that the 30 minute briefing was ending (the had heard this briefing before!), without any cue from the guides, they all jumped up and pointed forward.

They were like loaded springs, ready to run, and pulling strongly on the ropes. The only reason the sleds didn’t fly forward is because the brakes were on.

So…ALL the ropes were tight.

You could sense the energy. It was not subtle. It was wonderful.

I had this strong feeling about how great that was.

Every team member was pointing forward and ready, willing, and anxious to GO.

Since then, I keep thinking… 

That’s the team you want in business. Every person pulling their weight in the same direction — ready, willing, and eager to GO. All you need to do is release the brake.

Think about your team. Are all the ropes tight?

1. Are all your team members facing forward?

This may seem like a simple question, but more often than not, there is at least one person who is simply not facing forward along with the rest of the team. They may be facing sideways (confused about where you are going) or backwards (in disagreement with where you are going). They may be sticking to an old way of doing things, or refusing to change their point of view on something important.

2. Is everyone on your team truly in alignment about what the course is and what their role is?

Can everyone on the team run forward without getting tangled up? Or are there points of disagreement or confusion that need to be resolved? If people’s roles aren’t clear, or if you have competing, or conflicting or duplicate efforts within your organization, the ropes will get tangled up. When you say “go”, everyone may start running, but not in the same direction.

3. Is each person capable and up to the task required of their role?

Can every person on your team pull their share of the weight – truly? Do they fully have the ability, the judgement, the communication and leadership skills to do the job that needs to be done? And are they willing and motivated to do their part?
When there is a team member who cannot pull their share of the weight, if they remain on the team, the manager and other team members are forced to compensate. And every time someone needs to compensate for a weak team member, there is a person not doing what they should be doing.

4. Are they all motivated to go where they need to go?

This is as important as any of the other questions. Do all the members of your team personally care about where you need to go? Are they engaged? Are they invested? There are some people who go through the motion of facing forward, and they have enough capability to run just fast enough so that their rope doesn’t visibly droop. They put on a great show of their effort, but they are only just barely pulling their share of the load.

Do you need to make a change?

When you look at your team — all the ropes should be tight.

If not, you need to make a change. There is no effective antidote for the wrong team. Transforming the wrong team into the right team is something I’ve written a lot about in my upcoming book MOVE.

Get the WEBINAR: Building a High Performing Team


I’m really excited to share all the importnat ideas and tools I put in my upcoming book MOVE to help you get your team (at any level in any kind of organizaion) to execute your strategy more decisively.

Order your copy now.
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About Patty
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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at, follow her on twitter or facebook

You can find Patty at, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or read her books RISE and MOVE.

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