Animal Behavior

mileyWritten By: Suzanne Miklos, Ph.D.

Each part of my life offers an opportunity to reflect, pay attention and gain awareness.  Walking Miley, my chocolate lab, affords me that time.  Between her chasing squirrels, jumping into creeks to cool off, or fetching the proverbial stick, I have found that to be the perfect time for me to reflect. Humans are of course, animals, despite our habitually ignoring that fact. It is not far fetched then for us to watch animal behavior in order to increase our own awareness.

So I offer you a few life lessons I have learned by observing Miley.  The first lesson I have learned through observation is that self control can be increased through exercise.  When we are anxious or wound up, we tend to jump at the smallest out of place movement or sound.  Our prey drive is unchecked and small offenses garner a solid pounce.  I have observed many a wound up manager pounce before asking any questions. When self control rules, we investigate before jumping.

The second lesson learned is that even the most frequently travelled paths have different details (smells) that are worth checking out. Miley knows the way on familiar trails.  She trots along with experience and confidence. She frequently stops to sniff, explore or paw at the ground only to discover something new and different.  Remaining a learner, even though we think we know the way, takes energy for us to look closely at what may have changed since our last trip around. Humans have a tendency to over generalize our experiences, leading us to ignore or overlook differences we ought to have seen. Think of Ron Johnson applying Apple’s retail philosophy to J.C. Penney for example.

Miley is a bird dog, she spends a great deal of time scanning the pond behind our house for ducks, heron and geese, or gazing up at tree branches.  She will lay on our deck calm as can be, and then suddenly jump up, race across the yard, taking a flying leap after a bird that has invaded our air space.  However, with all her focus on things air bound, I have witnessed her completely overlooking a nice fat rabbit hopping directly across our path. How unfortunate that squirrels and chipmunks can slip by her unnoticed.  Yet, there are other times when I cannot spot, no matter how hard I look, what she has in her view.  The lesson here is that whenever we have a myopic focus it can cause us to lose sight of other possibilities.  We are hardwired to see the world in a specific way, which is to each of our advantages as long as we understand that our personal reality contains only a fraction of what is real.

Dogs walk until they are tired and then they rest a moment in the shade.  There is no guilt about stopping at 4.8 miles rather than 5 miles.  There is no watch to be checked or path that will end.  Being fully present and aware is a gift we humans must give to ourselves and others we encounter.  When coaching talented executives, it is clear that humans are superior to our animal counterparts, but yet they are an excellent reminder of how important it is for us to stop and “smell the roses” and to take notice of how we observe ourselves and our environment.

Happy Trails!

Which Traits Garner Leadership Success?

Written by: Kelsey Herb, M.A.

Have you ever wondered what it takes to advance in the business world? Or better yet, have you ever wondered why so many successful mid-level managers flounder when they reach executive status? A recent leadership study, conducted by PDI Ninth House, suggests a big part of it is personality. Any HR leader will tell you that job demands change and job complexity increases as you ascend the leadership ladder, and this study suggests that the requisite personality characteristics change too.

Personality appears to be related to whether a leader ascends the ladder or gets stuck somewhere along the way. The global study by PDI Ninth House included over 11,000 leaders (from 1,340 companies across 147 countries), and it yielded some valuable insights. There are certain traits that appear to guide leaders in achieving upward mobility, while others hinder progress. A few of the major take-aways from this study are provided below:

  • Making it to the top takes a balance of results-orientation AND working well with others. Unit leaders scored highest on competitiveness and intimidation, yet lowest on being considerate. On the other hand, CEOs scored highest on being considerate and were least likely to engage in intimidation behaviors.
  • Being overly competitive may actually hinder leadership advancement. Competitiveness is important in organizations; however top executives display less competitiveness than mid-level managers. Leaders must not let their desire to win interfere with the vision and objectives of the organization.
  • Top traits leaders should emphasize to ascend the leadership ladder:
    • Influencing others and selling ideas
    • High energy levels
    • A take-charge approach
    • Optimism
  • Traits that can derail leadership advancement:
    • Passive aggressiveness
    • Micromanagement
    • Manipulation
    • Attention to detail (delegate!)

Clearly there are key traits that can be leveraged to guide leadership advancement as well as traits that can hinder advancement.  Understanding these traits can benefit leaders looking to move up in their careers, HR professionals, coaches, and anyone else with a vested interest in successful leadership.


For more detailed discussion of the results of this study, read “Personality and Progression” by Joy Hazucha