Rules of Engagement

A friend of mine came to visit over the holidays. Before the visit, I gave her a long list of rules prior to engaging with Louie, my rescue dog. For the six years since I’ve adopted Louie, his behavior at the door when guests enter my home has been less than stellar, making it a bit tough to entertain. I’ve tried everything to work through this behavior.

I wrote my list and shared it with my friend:

  • There are treats on the porch in a bag to bring in with you.
  • Come in bearing these gifts, and make sure they are visible.
  • Do not give him a treat until he sits.
  • He is not allowed to growl.
  • He is a herding dog, so he may try to “herd” you by “pulling” on you (you’ll know this behavior when you see it).

And the list went on and on. She walked in with the treats and he was the perfect dog—that is, until she started to walk across my living room. It is almost as though he forgets himself and reverts to that overly protective dog who has to make sure everyone stays in their place. He goes savage. One word from me, though, and he does settle quickly.

Honestly, there are times I simply want to let my guests know this:

Rules of Engagement with Louie—DON’T!

But that doesn’t seem fair. After all, he is very social, but he doesn’t seem to understand that those who come to visit really want to engage with him. So we’re working on this behavior.

Louie's Rules of Engagement

How Do We Engage With Others?

As a leader, don’t you wish people would let you know how best to engage with them? Maybe leave a little note on their door before you enter? But that seems so impersonal—and sometimes people are not always aware of how they want to engage. Ahhh, but that’s what being a leader is all about, right?

We need to know how to engage with each person we serve—and many times, that can be different at various times of the day and week. That is part of knowing others, knowing their heart, knowing about their lives. And yes, that takes time. But the time invested is well worth it.

Everyone’s Rules of Engagement

While we may need to engage differently with others situationally, we can have consistency in how we treat others. Perhaps this list should be OUR rules of engagement:

  • Be patient and kind.
  • Be humble and compassionate.
  • See others as people, not a nuisance.
  • Be polite, honest, and trustworthy.
  • Be someone who is genuinely hopeful.
  • Persevere through tough times.
  • Serve others.
  • Manage your emotions well.
  • Don’t be envious, boastful, or prideful.
  • And never ever keep records of wrongs.

Boy, that is a long list . . . almost as long as the list to engage with Louie. But I aspire to be such a person that displays these characteristics.

When we engage with others and display these attributes, most people will respond positively. I believe it will not be so difficult to engage properly with others, regardless of their situation, and you’ll understand sooner what is going on in their world. They’ll be more willing to open up if your interest is authentic. That is truly servant leadership.

Louie is starting to enjoy when others come to the door. I think walking in with his favorite treat has been helpful. But beware if you are uninvited and don’t have his treats! He still very much enjoys being the savage beast as well.

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