What do Dogs, Kids, Employees Have in Common?

If I were to ask you what the 3 groups in the title had in common, what would you say? Think about it. They all eat? Sleep? Go to the bathroom? Cost you money? Give you grey hairs?

Ha ha… I’ve heard them all.. and agree! They are true.

But… if we were to dig a little deeper, what do we find?


My dog, Riley, is a terrier-based mutt that just had her 10th birthday this year. When she was a puppy, I decided to take her to puppy school (which I highly recommend!). I tried to get her to do many things – but couldn’t – she just wouldn’t do anything I told her to do. My dog trainer, Lindsay, watched for a few minutes and immediately recognized what I was doing wrong.

“You’re giving her a choice”, she said. But isn’t that a good thing? She disagreed. When I said “Riley, come,” I’d say it over… and over. She ended up having a choice and not really knowing or understanding WHEN I wanted her to come (and here I was thinking if I said it more, she would realize I really wanted her to follow my directions!

So… we tried a different approach. Instead of saying it multiple times, I said it once. “Riley, come”. If she didn’t, I would go to where she was… gently take her collar, and bring her to the place I wanted her to be- immediately rewarding her with a treat. I did it again. And again. Soon she learned when she heard those words, “Riley, come” – that she needed to go. Now. I was consistent in my message.


Do you have kids? Or ever tried to tell one or two what to do?

Good luck with that. LOL. Seriously, though – it can be a challenge. I have 2 kids – and my oldest, Jonathan, loves trains. He will play with them while I’m making dinner and when I tell him, “Jonathan come to dinner,” he’ll say, “No, I’m playing my trains”.

Well – I have a few options with that. I’ll let you figure out what they are!

What I said was “Ok… come to dinner, or you don’t get the trains the rest of the night”. If he doesn’t come (normally by the time I say 1-2-3) – then he will lose his trains.

HOWEVER – if I didn’t follow through – I didn’t take his trains – then he’s now realized he can get away with it. That I’m not consistent with my message. And potentially push his limits the next time. He needs to realize that whatever I tell him – I WILL follow through. Every time.


At this point, you may have realized that these very things hold true with your employees. Employees know what to do, and when to do it – from you. They want you to be consistent in message. I’m not saying they want to be robots, and just follow orders. But they need to know that if you say you’re going to do something – you’ll do it. You will be consistent with that message. Do what you say… say what you do!

About Dr. Ashley Lesko, Harvard University

Check Also

5 Ways to Lose Your Online Students’ Trust

In “Your Zoom University Professor is Watching You,” I wrote about a personal experience I …

Leave a Reply