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Shawna Schuh

Learn the Art of Leadership

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With the right knowledge and technique it’s possible to be both a leader and a friend.

Pets are usually a deep love, or you wouldn’t have gone into the pet business. This is a driving force behind what you do. I love that about you.

What is also apparent is how often leaders in the pet space get tripped up between the love and relationship they have with their pets and how they relate to their team and vendors.

Loving the people you work with is good, letting them into your inner thoughts, foibles and intimacies is not. As a leader of your pack, you must make the hard calls. You must determine what is best for your business.

I remember when I was starting out in business, a coach I hired asked me, “Do you want to be liked or do you want to be a leader?” My reply was, “Can’t I be both?” 

His reply: “If you want to be liked more than you want to lead, you will never lead.”

I have thought about this a lot over the years and having had the great honor of leading associations, teams, groups and animals, I now understand the wisdom of his question and the naïveté in my reply. 

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If you want to excel as a leader, then that is what you must be first. Whether you picked it, or it was thrust upon you, (and having a pet business means you are a leader) learning a few leadership skills is not only smart, it’s imperative to your continued success. 

Following is an acronym I created to help you walk that line between leader and friend. I like that it spells out the word: ART — because being an exceptional leader is an art! One you can display and grow in the rest of your career and life.

You’ll see I’ve used two words in each letter, one first for your leadership, and the second for you to bring your own brand of love forward. You can be both a leader and a friend if you know and practice the order, because good leaders are fair, reasonable and people do like and admire them. Usually because they know and display leadership first.

A = Authority & Affection 

This is best described in how we work with our dogs. You remember teaching your dog to sit, right? You only ask once with authority. If they don’t do it, you help them do it. Then you show them affection and praise. 

Let’s review that again. You ask for something once. Expecting that it will be done on your command, then you show affection and praise. 

If you’re having trouble with people doing what you ask in a timely manner, or not following through, it could be as simple as going back to this basic premise. Ask with authority and expectation. This is leadership. 

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R = Respect & Responsibility

Showing respect is how you earn respect. Does this mean you hold yourself to a higher standard? Yes, it does. 

You are responsible for the success of your pet business. However you are also responsible for letting your team and vendors know what is expected of them. How well you communicate your expectations falls on you. You communicate with respect, and expect them to be responsible for those expectations. 

T = Trust & Time

Someone recently asked me how long it took to get my horse to get up onto a raised platform only 3 feet across. My answer was that it wasn’t about practice, it was about the trust we have that allowed a 1,000-pound animal to do as I asked. It’s the same for you as a leader.

When people trust that you will do what is right, that you won’t put them in peril, that you have their best interest in mind when making decisions, especially though ones, you will experience better results. 

This takes time. Time to be together, time to move through issues, time to be tested and prove you have integrity and time for you to learn the strengths and weaknesses of those you have selected to be around you.

Leadership is an ART, so is friendship. For your pet business, knowing which is first may be the turning point for you to have even greater success.

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Shawna Schuh is a certified speaking professional, an executive coach, master neuro linguistic programming practitioner and president of Women in the Pet Industry Network. Email her at shawna@womeninthepetindustry.com


This article originally appeared in the July-August 2017 edition of PETS+.

Shawna Schuh is a certified speaking professional, an executive coach, master neuro linguistic program- ming practitioner and president of Women in the Pet Industry Network. Email her at shawna@womeninthepetindustry.com.

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Shawna Schuh

True Leaders Learn the Skills of Telling, Selling and Asking

Beware the overshare.

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IN AN INTERVIEW FOR a new team member, we sat down and began some preliminary chit-chat.

Admittedly, I am a curious sort; I ask more questions than most. It’s my job, after all, as a leadership coach, so when I began by asking, “Tell me a little about yourself.” I did not expect to hear what I did: The interviewee went on to share and to overshare. We found out about her marriage history, abuse, blended families, a home lost by the recession and what was wrong with her last employer.

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She was talking too much for us to ask additional questions.

According to her resume, she had the skills we needed, but we decided we wouldn’t hire her because of her oversharing habit.

Oversharing lost her the job. Over-sharing can lose you customers, too.

What is a leader to do? Well, first, be sure you aren’t the one who overshares.

My coaching clients learn early that most leaders do three things often.

1. They tell. Usually, leaders are telling their team how to do things, what the vision is, how to handle customers. Leaders tell and tell and tell. They do this because they are the ones in the know. They are making the decisions, and to be good communicators, they tell their teams.

2. They sell. This is one most leaders don’t realize they are doing, but they do it all the time. After all, you want your team bought into your vision, and you want people to get excited. Leaders are the most knowledgeable about the product or business, and most started by selling so they sell.

When you are telling and selling, sometimes you forget and overshare. Leaders get zealous about things and sometimes that leads to oversharing.
What can you do to stop yourself from the overshare? What would have helped the interviewee land the job?

3. They ask. Leaders learn to be expert askers. When you ask questions, many wonderful things happen: The people you ask questions feel valued — like their opinion matters. You learn something. And you allow others to talk, which means you aren’t talking or oversharing.

To become an expert asker, all you need do is, of course, ask questions. This is a simple concept like dieting, and, like dieting, usually not easy.

Here are two questions most any leader or anyone will benefit from asking:

What is it you want?

This question helps the other person define their goals. For customers, it helps you help them. Note: Be prepared for some silence, a lot of people really don’t know what they want. If they are quiet, simply smile and ask them something else like, “What makes you happiest?”

What can I do for you?

This question gets to the core of need. It also shows them that you are focused on them. That’s the beauty of questions: They are outward focused, and when you are outward focused, it helps you be the kind of leader, teammate, partner, a parent that others want to be around.

If nothing else, please think before you overshare!

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Shawna Schuh

3 Words to Project Calm and Give Yourself Time to Think

When you find life, people, pets — anything — interesting, you’ll find your life more interesting…

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AS A LEADER, what is your reaction to upsets, incidents, challenges and changes?

I like to think I keep a cool head and open mind, and I hope I do. However, recently when I was working with a client, I noticed something she does that is effective and helps her move through things in not only a more professional way, but in a way that allows deeper learning.

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Her way is to look at everything as if it’s a puzzle or something to figure out, dissect and alter. This is a new way of thinking and being that will help you.

My client, when confronted with something new, or an issue, or even a correction, will pause for a moment, then comment, “Isn’t that interesting …,” as she allows her mind to work.

This does several things you can use too.

First, it shifts the energy from shock, dismay or any reaction that is negative, to one of curiosity and inquiry. The mere idea that anything new or presented is “interesting” makes it so.

Many people react with “That’s terrible!” or “Oh no!” or pure disbelief. This reaction, though common, puts the energy in a downward spiral. It becomes something to fix rather than something to learn from.

When you say to yourself or out loud, “Isn’t that interesting ….” You look at it differently, and you feel differently about it. The best part is, you begin to explore ways to work through things or seek the lessons in what has happened.

Making everything that is said or done, “interesting” shifts anyone else involved away from fear or turns excuses into calm and curiosity.

If in another’s mind they can think, “OK, not angry, not upset, just ‘interested,’” think how much easier it will be to work things through.

You can also use “interesting” to pave the way for new creative thinking.

Phrases that help creativity:

  • “What’s interesting about this is …”
  • “The interesting thing it seems is …”
  • “What do you think is interesting about this?”

When you find life, people, pets — anything — interesting, you’ll find your life more interesting, and you will come up with more creative — and yes, interesting — solutions. And a leader who uses “Isn’t that interesting …” in the face of a challenge or bad news has an immediate advantage by allowing others to relax, and by giving you time to think and find creative solutions.

Isn’t that interesting?

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Shawna Schuh

Control or Trust? The Two Don’t Have to Be Mutually Exclusive

How do we put our trust in people we don’t know well?

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A MAN I RECENTLY met invited me to go for a cruise behind him on his 1,000-pound touring Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

This would be the first time I did something like this, and the trip was a big loop over to the Oregon coast over two-lane winding roads and through dense forests and gorgeous landscape.

In a car it’s great, and I thought on the back of a motorcycle it would be a wonderful adventure.

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This article is about the difference between control and trust, something that I grappled with the minute he zipped me into leather chaps, and a high-tech helmet we could converse through while riding. He instructed me about the perils of wiggling, sudden movements and keeping balanced.

I realized I had absolutely no control over this situation.

I was a passenger, extra weight on an already heavy bike, and I could pose a challenge that could end both of our lives.

Yes, I still got on.

When you are hiring someone or when you are taking on a new vendor or when you agree to advertise, how do you feel? Like you want to control the outcome, or that you will trust the process?

This is a great question to ask yourself. Believe me, I was asking myself this exact question a variety of times over the five hours we did the loop.

“Am I feeling anxious because I’m not driving this? Because I don’t have control of the bike?” My answer was: “That isn’t it. I don’t have control of planes, trains or autos I’m a passenger in.”

“Am I feeling anxious because I don’t trust this driver?” This I think is the key to a lot of what we do in business. How do we put our trust in people we don’t know well? How do we know that the new hire won’t steal, that the vendor will deliver or treat us fairly, or that the advertising will work?

The truth I realized as we sped around corners, leaning to the side with the wind whipping past us and the engine roaring was: We don’t. We don’t know, and so we have a choice. Trust and move forward, or distrust and keep doing your life and business as you have been.

I also asked myself whether I would have felt better, differently even, if I had been the one driving the Harley? If I had control of the bike? Would that have made me feel better or safer? My answer was no. I am not versed in that. I have never done it.

So if I want to experience more, have more, do more and live fully, I will have to trust others.

It’s the same in business. Those on my team, the people we hire for all those things we need, the places we advertise or things we decide to sponsor. We do it and I’m assuming you do it because if we don’t do it, we are not growing or risking or, maybe, we aren’t really living as fully as we could.

My challenge to you today is this: Who will you trust today? Maybe it’s simply trusting yourself enough to get on the bike and let things unfold as they will. Who knows, it might be one of the best things you’ve done in a while.

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