Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

When 91–year–old legendary management guru Martin Levin decided to adopt a dog named Angel, he expected an interesting experience, but not a challenging one. He soon learned that he was very wrong. Following one of the guiding mantras of his life—never stop learning—Levin found that each day with his dog brought new insights. His journey with Angel actually led him to recognize the Four Golden Rules of Management:

·Rule 1: Trust and Leadership
·Rule 2: Communication
·Rule 3: Problem Solving and Decision Making
·Rule 4: Perseverance

Levin eventually found that his Four Golden Rules of Management were so simple that even Angel understood them. Thus, if a manager can develop trust, it will lead to corporate excellence, provided he or she is able to communicate effectively, make the right strategic decisions, and, above all, persevere. Levin’s book is one to entertain, inspire, and educate business executives (and dog lovers). Here are 2 examples from Martin Levin’s new book, book, All I Know About Management I Learned form My Dog (Skyhorse Publishing).

Rule 1: Trust and Leadership
By Martin P. Levin
Excerpted with permission from All I Know About Management I Learned form My Do © 2011

It immediately became clear that I had to earn Angel’s trust and respect, and build on this, in order for her to achieve her full potential. The dog who shook convulsively in the back of the car en route to our house from the shelter needed the basics: good food, a comfortable bed, lots of walking, and protection from the elements. Bonding would come later.

While Angel and Paula were girlfriends, I never quite made the cut. To do so required an extraordinary gesture. When a burr lodged in her paw on a walk down our sandy road, and I saw she was limping, I stopped and had her turn on her side while I took out the burr. Instinctively, she said “thank you” with a sloppy kiss – a rare sign of affection. She is, after all, a female dog and, it has become apparent, not entirely happy with men. I am not saying that this was a begrudging expression of appreciation, only that it seemed that there was an understanding that this kind of response was reserved only for extraordinary acts of kindness on my part.

In the world of humans and the workplace, trust is achieved in part by providing for basic needs, security, and the opportunity for an employee to achieve his or her full potential. Some stroking helps, as well. Unfortunately, with the worst economic depression in the country’s history, with high unemployment, reckless investing, and the bankruptcy of many major corporations, some measure of trust has understandably eroded. It’s become a lot less clear who is looking out for whose interests. The new challenge for managers now is to redouble efforts to restore this trust.

Leaders come in all sizes and shapes. In the early days of working with Angel, I found Cesar Millan through his books and television shows. He is a saint for those owners with problem dogs. Cesar runs the Dog Psychology Center in South Central Los Angeles. His theory is that dogs are pack animals and that they need an alpha person to integrate them into the pack. Each morning, he collects as many as forty dogs behind him and leads the pack on a four hour walk. If the little dogs get tired, Cesar loads them on the backs of the big dogs. His theory is “Exercise and food . . . work and treats.”

There are management counterparts to Cesar’s approach. The tough-love component is advocated by many managers, perhaps the most notable proponent being Jack Welch, who claims on the jacket of his best-selling book that he is the “the World’s Greatest Business Leader.” To be sure, Welch is credited with transforming the General Electric Company, an aging electronics manufacturer beset by foreign competition, to a world-class company. Welch is known for the dissemination of challenging quotes, a kind of Poor Richard’s Almanac for discouraged businessmen. One of his most intriguing aphorisms is his definition of his job as the top boss of General Electric: “I firmly believe my job is to walk around with a can of water in one hand and a can of fertilizer in the other and make things flourish.”

In fairness to Welch, putting aside his delight in uttering an almost endless number of pithy antiestablishment quotes, to my mind he certainly got it right where values, transparency, and setting high standards are concerned. At the end of his career at GE, his only job from the time he finished college until he retired, he was named by Fortune magazine the CEO of the century. Welch, in Cesar Millan terms, is the alpha male of big business.
Check out Marvin Levin‘s book, All I Know About Management I Learned form My Do for both a fun and informative read.


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