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Leaders: Take the time to really get to know your team members so you know when something is off and you can offer help.

Today’s post is both a leadership analogy and a PSA for dog owners.

Over the past few weeks my pup, Ronan, has been acting what I can only describe as “off.” Lethargic. Slight loss of appetite. Exercise intolerance. Intermittent lameness. Looking … depressed and headachy. Yes, I’m anthropomorphizing my dog.

I know my dog. I know his quirks and patterns and personality inside and out. He was NOT himself. This was NOT the same pup who a month ago hiked 5 miles and 1000 vertical feet with me. I know my dog.

I’m also hyper-vigilant about my dog, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Into the vet we went. Chest rads and blood work showed nothing–all was “pristine” as the vet said.┬áBut I knew something wasn’t right.

We’d recently spent 3 weeks in Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas, where it was rainy, warming, and likely starting to swarm with ticks. And Ronan had been in tall grasses.

We’ve had pups with Lyme disease before, even WITH the preventative and vax. Those aren’t silver bullets. The symptoms we were seeing looked eerily familiar.

Vets in Colorado don’t routinely test for tick-borne illness, as ticks are rare and the diseases rarer. But I requested the test since everything else was clear.

It was positive. He has Lyme disease.

He’ll be fine. He’s on a month of doxycycline and a few weeks of an NSAID. He’ll have low-level Lyme for the rest of his life, and might have flare-ups, but we can manage it. We know the symptoms of a flare.

I knew something was wrong because I know my dog.

As I was thinking about it this morning, I realized that like many things in my life, this has parallels to leadership.

As a leader, you have a responsibility to GET TO KNOW YOUR PEOPLE. Get to know their habits and quirks and preferences. Know them beyond the job they do.

Then, when they exhibit behaviors that are unlike them–maybe showing up late or leaving early, having dips in performance, or appearing depressed or agitated–you’ll know them well enough to know that something is wrong.

And you, dear leader, can step up and gently inquire as to what might be going on, ask how you can support them, express empathy, and give them grace.

But you can only do that if you know them well enough to notice. 

And that requires your time to build trust, to build relationships. 

That is your job, your responsibility, and a privilege of leadership you should take seriously. If you don’t, you shouldn’t be leading.

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If you’d like to work together to build leadership skills, for you or for all of the leaders in your organization, contact me.

And if you’d like to learn about symptoms of Lyme in dogs, reach out. After 3 bouts, I know more than I care to. All I can do is pay it forward by sharing the knowledge.

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