One Sunday I went to watch a dog competition.
These dogs did everything, jumped, retrieved, you name it, they did it.
In the end, the 3 top scores earned a spot at the Podium.
After the competition, I asked the winner, "how do you get your dog to do all that stuff."
She said, "I break everything down to steps."
When I asked what she meant, she said, "ok, for instance, to teach her to jump; I start by walking with her over a low jump and say hup."
Then we raise the bar slightly higher and step over the jump.
We keep doing this until it's at full height.
I said, "ok, that makes sense, but they're not just jumping, they are also picking up the dumbbell and bringing it back."
She said, "oh, that, well, we separate that exercise and break it down into steps also."
Then she said, "the exercise is called the retrieve over a meter jump, but I consider it two distinct sets of skills, and I practice them separately.
I said, "ok, but how do you get them to do both at the same time?"
She said, "easy when they can do both skills great; we put them together."
On the drive home, my mind quickly switched to an awkward conversation I was going to have with Craig the next day.
Here's how I imagined it going based on previous experience:
I would call Craig into my office and close the door.
He would immediately say, "what's wrong now?"
Then I would say, "I need to talk to you about something you said to Jill on Friday."
Just as I got to the word Jill, I imagined Craig getting defensive, and then go on the offensive.
Then, as usual, an unwinnable debate would break out.
Monday morning, I had the meeting with Craig, and it played out as I imagined.
I sat in my office, depressed, not knowing what to do.
Then I thought about what the dog trainer told me about breaking everything down into steps.
For instance, how do I react when Craig says, "what's wrong now?"
How do I react when he gets defensive?
What do I say when he goes on the offensive?
I realized these were three different skills that I needed to break down, practice, and master.
I came up with steps for each and practiced, and practiced, and practiced some more.
Two weeks later, I had to talk to Craig, this time about a conversation he had with Steve.
I was ready to try out my new steps.
After the meeting, I gave myself a 70 out of 100.
Not on the Podium but a passing score.
But here's the thing.
In management, we have a chance to be on the management podium, or to feel the agony of defeat almost daily.
Seriously, how many times a day or week do you have to discuss something difficult or need to change someone's behavior?
The next week I had to have a serious conversation with Amanda.
In that meeting, I gave myself an 80 out of 100.
Not on the Podium but much improved.
Unfortunately, in management, we don't get to go on a podium.
But aren't we judged and graded?
Seriously, we have reviews, we have acknowledgments when we do good, and when we do great, we get promoted.
After that experience, I started breaking everything down into steps, and you know what?
I made the Podium.
My bosses gave me management promotion after promotion.
Oh, and as for the dog thing, well, I got on the Podium with the help of my dog Atom.