My wife loves animals. So do I, but for her, it’s an even bigger commitment. Our current household includes two dogs, five Himalayan cats, four more foster kittens, and two parakeet birds. We’re also feeding a flock of hummingbirds that consider our backyard to be their home. On any given day, home can literally be a zoo.

I’ve been observing one of our family pets lately. We’ve had Jazmine (pictured left) for the last 10 years or so. She was a rescue from the local shelter. One day my wife and stepson decided to go looking for a dog to care for, and Jazmine came into our lives.

Jazmine is a typical “Blue Heeler”, a Queensland Cattle dog (likely a slight mix, given her size). She’s a little bigger than most blue heelers, with a slender but strong build, but her markings and personality are heeler all the way. We all love her dearly, and as family pets go, she’s been the best ever.

I brought Jazzy to the office a few weeks ago, and she was well-behaved. In doing so, I started thinking about Jazmine, her character qualities, and how they relate to work life. You see, Jazmine would be an excellent employee. Here’s why

  1. Jazmine always makes it to work.  She shows up, rain or shine- she is consistent and reliable in her attendance.  As Woody Allen is quoted as having said, Showing up is 80 percent of life.’  Her particular breed is considered to be in the working dog group (forgive me if I’m not completely accurate with my terminology here), that is, she’s basically wired to be busy, and thrives on active participation and getting things done.  I’ve watched her use her herding instincts to even round-up cats or other animals (even people) in the backyard when playing.  She is always up for participation.  Great employees are like that.  They understand the importance of participation in the workplace and communicate their commitment consistently by being there.  Even when you’re a member of a distributed team (in a previous role I had team members in California, Minnesota and Arizona) you still show up.  People know you’re around, available and involved.
  2. Jazmine understands her role and does it fully.  Noise in the backyard at 2 am?  She’s on it- out into the darkness she’ll go, fearlessly, to check it out.  Someone at the door we don’t know?  She’ll wander up to the door, at the ready, and generally can even let us know before we open the door whether or not we know the person on the other side (her tail and her facial expressions are tremendous communication tools).  Did you know that cattle dogs are fiercely loyal to their family?   Great employees tend to focus on their role first and foremost, and consciously pursue completion of their duties with a passion that shows they have some skin in the game”.
  3. Jazmine has great listening and learning skills.  She’s a smart pet, and knows several words we use around the home and what they mean for her.  “Do you want to go for a walk”? elicits an immediate lunge with two large front paws on your chest. “Treat”?  Yeah, you get the picture- eyes focused on you and she parks right in front of the shelf where they reside.  On and on.   Look at those ears- how could she not hear you?  Right?   The same is true for great team members- they typically have a similar character quality, that of great listening skills.  And more than just listening, the ability to interpret what is being communicated as well.  This cannot be over emphasized.  Too many leaders attempt to hire employees and build their teams with those that are already fully skilled at the requirements, when often what is really needed are those that have the ability to learn quickly, that display an aptitude for their role.
  4. Jazmine is generally optimistic in her role.  She is typically cheerful and happy- she has a mellow disposition and demeanor that is drama free.  We all have the capacity to have a bad day every now and then- but great team members are consistently positive in their outlook.  Don’t misunderstand me- I’m not talking about being blindly gullible in all situations.  Jazmine won’t run for a ball if you try to fake a throw.  She’s brighter than that.  But generally speaking, great employees throw themselves into their work fully, and they believe in their products, their team and their shared vision.  And that’s a great quality to have.
  5.   Jazmine understands the importance of forgiveness.  She doesn’t hold a grudge.  She moves on.  Yeah, you left her locked out on the back porch last night because you stayed up too late, binge watching season 2 of Prison Break and forgot to let her in (not that I’ve ever done that, mind you).  Great team members are ready to do the same (no, not stay on your back porch).  They are able to rise above petty behaviors, take a step back and look at the bigger picture to understand a different point of view,  and yes, even when wronged they can accept apologies and move past whatever conflict or issue has just occurred.

I could go on, but for now I’ll stop with these five qualities.  Time for some introspection– do you show up?  Are you the type of employee who is fully engaged in your role?  How are your listening skills and aptitude for learning something new?  Optimistic in your approach? And willing to forgive and move forward with others?  These are but a partial list of ingredients needed for being both a great employee and a member of any team.