Leadership Lessons from a Chair and a Dog
It had been a tiring week and an even more arduous month. I came home looking forward to just relaxing in my favorite maroon, leather chair. The ability to slouch and be engulfed in one’s chair has a meditative effect on even the most labored of persons. Such a chair shepherds in the relaxing environment conducive to philosophizing. This kind of reflection produces thoughts that the average person cannot consider during their exhausting day, like trying to conquer life’s greater challenges of fame, fortune, and folly. Sadly, my recent experiences in the chair had not quite yielded me the results I sought. On this particular day, as it was, my chair was occupied by another member of my family, my little dog, Teddy.
Teddy, a white-haired miniature poodle, certainly has about as exhausting of day as any human. He must get up every morning and take the long, obstacle-ridden walk to the park. While frightening, he knows there’s a delicious treat waiting for him at the end. And so, he pushes on, as every dog must. On this particular day, Teddy had to go on two walks! Needless to say, it was extremely tiring and he also desired the comfort and release provided by the maroon, leather chair. To Teddy’s utter dismay, I picked him up and placed him softly on my lap to tend to my daily routine of reflection.
As I sat, a sigh of relief emanated from the core of my being. I could feel every inch of body loosen and the aches of day withered away as I reclined back. And in that moment, something incredible happened. My cloudy mind was now clear and privy to world around me. My strained muscles were now loose and ready for a new day. I had a realization! The realization, or in more philosophical terms, the allegory, that was the soft, maroon chair. The chair, was not simply a chair, rather it symbolized something much deeper. The chair was the release of worry and the release of the trials and tribulations that humans (and dogs) face everyday. I had not come to such a conclusion prior because I had not been able to see the true nature of the chair until Teddy had used it for the exact same purpose.
As leaders, we all need a great chair. I don’t mean literally, but we should all have a place or practice that allows us to decompress, to ponder, to think bigger and better than we might on a daily basis. The chair represents the place, the thing, the action that allows one to shed away tension from our day. It allows us to think, not for others, not for a job or for school, but for ourselves. Even something as simple as taking the time each day to reflect on the high and low points of your day helps to provide perspective, feel gratitude, and plan for the next day. If we can start to dedicate more time to reflection and critical thinking then we will start to see results in other important areas of our lives. In her article for Harvard Business Review, executive coach Jennifer Porter noted that, “Research by Giada Di Stefano, Francesca Gino, Gary Pisano, and Bradley Staats in call centers demonstrated that employees who spent 15 minutes at the end of the day reflecting about lessons learned performed 23% better after 10 days than those who did not reflect.” 15 minutes is a such simple ask of ourselves to reset and look ahead, we just have to be willing to prioritize it in our day.
The ability to think, to reflect, and to ponder life’s great questions are of utmost importance in today’s fast-paced and complex world. Peter Drucker said it best, “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection, will come even more effective action.” I am lucky that my wise, little poodle Teddy allowed me to realize such a simple notion. I hope all who read this do the same.
A lot of the time, we choose not to reflect because we aren’t really sure how to! It’s not something we are taught how to do effectively, or in a way that works for us and our lifestyles. Here are some helpful tips to get you started:
- First, determine how you like to reflect. Some people like to reflect privately in a journal, others prefer to process out loud with friends or mentors, and some people choose more creative forms of expression through artistic works. Be willing to experiment until you find what feels right and what gives you the best brain boost!
- Next, choose some topics and questions that you are interested in considering or discussing. Like I mentioned above, it can be as simple as “What is your high/low of the day?”. It can be something constructive like, “What do I want to improve on at work/in my relationship/about myself?” Or something more lofty and philosophical like, “How can we we address apathy in the workplace and create a culture that reflects our values?”
- Lastly, develop habits. This means creating time, putting it on your schedule, and actually doing what you said you were going to do. If you said that you would reflect in a gratitude journal for five minutes each day, then maybe keep it on your bedside table and make a point to write in it before bed every night. Make it easy for yourself so that you can’t make any excuses 😉
- A little extra advice: it’s okay to be uncomfortable with reflecting. You might be tackling big questions with complicated or convoluted answers. You may have to make life changing decisions. You might have to really be honest with yourself about areas that you need to grow in or improve. All of these possibilities come with growing pains. I encourage you not to shy away from these incredible experiences just because they might push you out of your comfort zone. Lean into those feelings and you will experience incredible growth and glean impressive insights.
*Meet the Author*
Wilson enjoys building people up through his positive energy and happy outlook on life.