All I know about leadership I learned from Boomerang

Did you think there was a typo in my post title?  Should it have been “a boomerang”?  Well, no.  Because Boomerang is the name of my dog.  My dog who would have been 12 years old today had he not died 9 days ago from hemangiosarcoma of the spleen.

You know those posters that say, “All I ever needed to know about…….I learned from…….”?  Well, this post is going to be composed in the style of those corny posters.  However, my poster title would be:

All I ever needed to know about life, love and leadership I learned from my dog, Boomerang

1. The purpose of life is to discover your passion and to focus on your strengths.
Boomer loved toys.  He liked the squeaky toys, and the stuffed toys, and ANY kind of ball.  And when he was a puppy he LOVED socks! 
Boomer invited everyone he met to play with him. He’d run to get a toy as soon as he met you.  I called him “Mr. Social Pants” because he knew how to make friends.  One downside to that is the way he’d put his head between your legs–not to get fresh, mind you—but to invite you to scratch his neck.  No one ever met Boomer who didn’t end up having to scratch his neck. 
His passion was toys, and his strength was making friends.

2. Communicate properly
Boomer and I started learning about, and competing in Canine Agility when he was 6 months old.  . Agility was a wonderful way to bond with a dog.  The dog must learn to focus on the handler.  But as the leader,  I had to be sure I was communicating properly to the dog in HIS language, not mine.

3. Add value to the lives of others
If you’ve ever owned a dog, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Boomer always tried hard to make others happy.  He wasn’t all that interested in actually running the agility course, but he did it because it’s what I wanted him to do.  Even in his final days, when cancer was causing him to waste away, he never hesitated to come see me when I walked in the door.  He must have been in tremendous amounts of pain, but Boomer still wanted to play because he wanted me to be happy.

I remember a magnet that used to hang on my refrigerator that said,
“May I be the kind of  person my dog thinks I am.”

Boomer held on to life for almost a week longer than he should have because I was out of town, and I selfishly couldn’t bare to miss saying goodbye.  His cancer could have ruptured at any moment. He lost 5 pounds in the week I was gone.  Upon my arrival, I spent that last night by his side just petting him and telling him I loved him.  He seemed ready to go the next morning. 

When the time came, and the pink liquid went into his veins, he simply laid his head down in my arms and fell asleep.  There were no last breaths or movement.  It was very peaceful.  I said goodbye to my agility partner; my special buddy; my Mr. Man, my teacher of life, love and leadership.  He taught me so much, and I am a better person by having his special spirit in my life.

I hope you’re chasing all the balls you can find in heaven, Boomerang!

August 29th, 2000 – August 20th, 2012

Leadership Training and the Lazy River

I am in Orlando, Florida where the Toastmasters International
Convention will take place starting on Wednesday.   I’m here with Lt.
Governor Education & Training, Sandy Malone and Lt. Governor Marketing,
Sandy Marshall attending training for District Leaders.

The Hilton Bonnet Creek Resort near Disney World is an amazingly beautiful
hotel.  There is a “river” that flows through the pool
area.  I’m not particularly a lover of water, but I was encouraged to go
float down the river with Sandy Malone this evening after training was

Today’s training focused on quality clubs, team building, strategic planning, and ended with round table discussions about communication, budgeting, policy & protocol, and leadership succession (to name only a few).  We get to go back tomorrow for more specific training for our individual roles.

I’ve been indoctrinated with principles of leadership.  It has been a great day!  And as Sandy and I floated down the river tonight, I started thinking about how this very activity could be likened to leadership principles.  Can a leader truly lead if he/she allows the “current” to take him/her where it may?  Can a leader truly lead if he/she simply floats through a project?

The answers to those questions are simply “no”.  True leaders do not allow the current to control the outcome.  A true leader has a rudder that steers them safely through all obstacles they will encounter.

Toastmasters International is where leaders are made.  It is where leaders learn how to navigate down lazy rivers and white water rapids.  Preparation, planning and purpose are three keys to leadership success.  Leadership is not easy, and it’s usually not convenient, but working toward perfecting it in yourself will impact your life in ways you can’t imagine.

So jump in, overcome your fear, and navigate the river of leadership!


The music of your HUMAN RESOURCES

  • Should I stop and listen?
  • Am I, annoyed by the unbidden demand on my time and my wallet?
  • Should I throw in a buck, just to be polite?
  • What if I give him money and he’s really bad?
  • What if he’s really good?

These are some choices that thousands of commuters made one January morning in a DC train station.  The object of their choices was a young man who wore jeans, a T-shirt and baseball cap playing a violin.  
Appearing to be just another peddler with an open violin case asking for monetary return on his talent, no one imagined that this young man was actually Joshua Bell, one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made.
Three days before Joshua Bell appeared incognito at the Metro station, he had played before a full house at Symphony Hall in Boston, where fans paid $100 for mediocre seats.  Joshua Bell’s talents usually command $1,000 a minute.  That January morning, unrecognized and unappreciated, his take for 45 minutes totaled $32 and change.
This was essentially a test of whether ordinary people would recognize genius.


You can read the entire story by reading the article published in the Washington Post  shortly after it happened.

My question to YOU on this HR Thursday is this:

Would YOU recognize genius or talent in a crowded train station on your way to a busy day at work? 

What are YOU missing because you fail to recognize talent, even possible genius, in the people on your team?

  • Do you stop and listen to YOUR team?
  • Do you get annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet?
  • Do you throw in bonuses and incentives just to appear engaged?
  • What do you do to recognize the exceptional members of your team?

I am so sick and tired of mediocre being celebrated, while the talents, experience and ideas of individuals who work hard to combat the status quo, and take ownership in the success of a business that is not theirs go completely unappreciated and unrecognized!

I see it almost everyday – members of teams that display their talents in front of employers who are too busy; and too involved in what they believe are the most important tasks of their business.  

These employers look past their HUMAN RESOURCES and see mere employees.  If they really stopped to look and listen, they’d see that they’ve actually hired the solutions to their greatest business challenges!

Please post about your reaction to the Washington Post article referenced here, especially if your feelings about such matters are as strong as mine…..