The other morning I was walking my dogs, Doug and Margaret. It was pretty early, about 6.30 am.
We were nearing the end of the walk when I saw a woman with a biggish dog on a lead walking towards us.
Now, I am a terrible and irresponsible dog owner, my dogs are not properly trained, which is why I walk them very early in the day or very late at night. That way we are less likely to run into anyone. They will sit on command most of the time but that really is the extent of their training. I know, it’s not good.
So in order to prevent a scene with the dog walking towards us, I crossed the road.
On the other side of the road were two big dogs behind a fence. The fence was made up of thin metal poles about 8cm apart. The big dogs were aggressively barking at Doug and Margaret and Doug and Margaret were being typical annoying little dogs yapping at the big dogs.
Doug then lurched at the dogs and he got too close. Suddenly Doug’s head is in the mouth of the big dog and the big dog would not let go. I started hitting the big dog and screaming for help. Doug is screaming. I let go of Margaret and keep my attention on Doug who is bleeding profusely. I am terrified this dog is going to try and pull Doug through the fence.
All I can think is that Doug is about to die.
A young woman runs out of her front door. She is screaming too. She starts hitting the dog. She is apologising and saying her dog has never done anything like this before.
Then miraculously the big dog releases Doug. It’s all over. I don’t know how long this nightmare went for, but it felt like at least two minutes. Doug is bleeding profusely and he’s all ripped up, but he’s still got a stupid grin on his face. He seems quite normal. I love this dog so much.
Doug required surgery. The wounds around his ears were deep. He nearly lost an eye. There were lacerations in his mouth. He had to wear the cone of shame. He got quite down during his convalences.
And it was my fault.
The chance of a conflict arising out of this situation was high. It would have been easy to blame the big dog behind the fence. To blame the dog’s owner for allowing their vicious dog to roam their front yard so aggressively.
It would also be easy to blame Doug for being a yappy little dog that took on the big dog. It’s easy to just blame anyone but me.
But, I know that I am at fault in this situation.
Because if I had trained Doug and Margaret properly, then we wouldn’t have to walk in the dark, we wouldn’t have to try avoid other dogs and people, we wouldn’t have had to cross the road on that day.
It wasn’t planned. I didn’t mean for it to happen. I love my dogs so much and yet I have allowed them to live their lives without proper training. I could not expect my dogs to train themselves. You reap what you sow.
It’s not easy to take responsibility for this horrific experience; but no-one else can be held responsible. It was me.
I have done a lot of great things in my life. I am not a bad person. I have taught my children a heap of valuable life lessons and they are good people. I have helped thousands of people over my life. And this one incident does not suddenly mean that I have “turned bad” or that I need to “bash myself up” for a long period of time. But in that moment I felt terrible shame, because I knew it was my fault. I had to take responsibility for what had occurred.
Leaders always take on enormous responsibility when they stand up and say “yes, I’m up to this role”. In that moment, you have to take responsibility for everything that occurs. The good, the bad and the ugly. In some way, your hand is all over how well the business or organisation performs and it is, at the same time, all over any mistakes or stuff ups that occur. Whether it be a lack of training, a lack of trust or faith in your team, poor systems or processes. A failure to recognise a risk. Whatever it is, the buck has to stop with you.
Make sure your team has the training and support to be able to cope with the day to day trials and tribulations of your work environment.