Lessons in Communication with Lady

 In Communication Skills

Amy Hart

Who would guess this beautiful but dog-aggressive Shepard Mix named Lady would be such a powerful teacher? Although she had no awareness of it, she has been one of the most influential and challenging teachers I’ve ever had in learning to communicate more effectively.

Lady’s lesson plans for me have been:
1) learning how to walk her without being pulled down,
2) controlling my anxiety when she lunged at other dogs, and
3) communicating effectively and consistently in a language she could understand.

“What was so difficult?” you may be thinking. “Get some training!” We did- but initially, not enough training for me.
The biggest problem was I didn’t know what I didn’t know – I thought I was “speaking her language.” But my commands were not consistent with my gestures or the feelings I was sending (like sheer panic when we were passing other dogs!) It’s hard to convey Alpha when you don’t FEEL Alpha, don’t project confidence, and don’t know how to address the problems. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t fix her behavior!


Several people have helped me see the truth: Lady is simply being a dog. She does not need to be “fixed.”  I, as the leader, was the one who needed to “fix” the ineffective ways I was communicating. She wanted to please me but was confused about what I wanted and needed support from me in managing problematic behavior.

In terms of progress, what has made the most difference? My friend Mary Pat, who has become my mentor/coach when we walk and take Lady along. Mary Pat would SHOW me in the moment what I was doing wrong, how a different gesture was more effective with the command “heel,” how to make a loud noise to get her attention with a correction. I was AMAZED when Lady stayed calm at her side (who IS this dog, and where is Lady?!) and backed off a loose dog barking at us.

Here is how would I summarize our progress and success, and how it applies to the workplace…


* Leaders, whether of dogs, of people, or of self, sometimes don’t know what they don’t know.

* Increasing effectiveness is expedited by being willing to learn and be open to feedback and coaching.

* We learn skills faster when we have mentors modeling desired behavior.

* Finally, as Lady demonstrates here, it’s good to rest as well as work hard. We are playing a long game, and mastery is a process that we continually work at.

How well are you and your team members “speaking each other’s language?” Are there some leaders who may not know what they don’t know when it comes to communicating effectively? Are some trying to “fix” other people? How actively engaged is your company in developing great communication among leaders, teams and clients?

We empower people in the process of taking responsibility for their own communication skills and effectiveness. Many excellent tools, such as DiSC in the Workplace, are available to help people better understand their own communication styles and priorities, as well as those of their colleagues, direct reports, managers, and customers. Online sustainability tools are an integral part of all the DiSC in the Workplace solutions.

Reach out to me at 832-657-7574 for a complementary consultation on the needs of your company. Empowering leaders and teams in developing excellent communication skills is our business.