Tail That Wagged The Dog

“Why does a dog wags its tail? Because a dog is smarter than its tail. If the tail were smarter, it would wag the dog.”

I remember in ’97, when the movie ‘Wag the Dog’ came out—it got me thinking about things or people that control things, who really shouldn’t.

We see that in business organizations and the communications that come from it. Last month, I met with a client that has about an eight thousand person organization, with one of their direct reports having a true majority of that organization. As we discussed this leaders vision and what they would be planning for the year, this leader shared with me that their direct report had already held a vision meeting with the majority of the organization and wondered if what they had to share, would be redundant.

That’s a great example of allowing the tail to wag the dog, and as a leader—if it’s your organization, and your responsibility for the effectiveness and results—you have to lead and ensure the entire team knows your vision.

Every leader wants a dozen things to happen at all times:  more revenue, lower cost, better customer service, etc. We are huge fans of the book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. It’s one of the best messaging books out there, and we even partnered with them to create a program because it was so good. One of the key takeaways from Made to Stick is simplicity.  There is a great study of a trial lawyer who reviewed cases he had won versus cases he had lost.  The realization is that when he won, he said ONE thing. There was more focus in his messaging. When he lost, he said 10 things (think kitchen sink), having scattered points, hoping something would stick. There’s a connection between what the lawyer wants to do and us, as leaders: put it all out there.

That’s where simplicity comes into play, and we use our Decker Grid system to find the Point of View to help with that focus. For every year or quarter, your team should be able to embrace a key theme of an area they need to work on. So, your Point of View should be listener-focused and action-oriented while broad enough to encompass some aspects of the business, but specific enough to know where they need to emphasize and focus. So, think about themes or needs your team has to focus on, here are some ideas: efficiency, being more strategic, growth, accountability (giving you a hint on what we at Decker, are focused on).

You can control what you can control, don’t let the tail wag the dog. Be sure to lead your organization or team to success by being succinct and focused, while giving a vision of success.

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