My husband Hank and I walk our two dogs, Kona and Bogart, through our neighborhood every morning. It’s one of my favorite rituals, although it’s a little bittersweet these days. Kona turns 13 in August, and she has visibly slowed down — a foreshadowing of the wrenching loss we will experience before much longer. Kona’s deaf now, and can’t respond to voice commands, so she has to stay on a leash to avoid us having to run after her if she somehow decided to relive her glory days by bolting off into someone’s back yard in pursuit of a squirrel. Bogart, on the other hand, has always been more laid-back, content to stay close to us and Kona. He’s rarely given independent given chase to anything.
Even before Sarah Palin, we joked that off-leash city walks mean the dogs are “going rogue.” Accustomed to lots of hiking and backpacking in the mountains of California, Kona and Bogart were trained to politely hike off-leash on trails from their earliest puppy outings. Alameda’s strict leash laws make that a ticketable offense, and we paid a few hefty fines before we quit playing fetch in the local park on weekend mornings. But we occasionally give Bogart some sidewalk freedom when we’re just going around the block early in the morning, knowing he’ll stay close by us and his canine sidekick.
This morning we let Bogart “go rogue.” A few minutes later, he fell behind, stopping to water a shrub and then kicking up his heels in his frequent post-pee ritual. Worried for the neighbor’s landscaping, I yelled at him, “NO BOGART, don’t kick!” I then imagined his response to being chastised, especially for something he does every single day: “Why did you tell me I could go rogue if you weren’t really going to let me make my own choices, and do what you know I often do?”
I laughed, knowing how often managers fall into the same trap as I did with Bogart, claiming to delegate responsibility, only to micromanage behavior. Effective leaders recognize the need to train their team, establish clear objectives, and then step back to let them make it happen. Otherwise you might just as well keep everyone on a figurative leash, and have them do only exactly what you tell them to do. And everyone knows that’s not as productive, or fun, for the manager, or the team.