You might remember that my girls talked me into getting a dog shortly after safer-at-home policies began. I agreed, but on the condition that it was a foster dog. We designed our family dog alliance and spent almost four fun-filled (and slobber-filled) months with our two-year-old, 90-pound foster dog, Sirius.
It was about ten minutes after we dropped off Sirius with his forever family (after the tears were dried up) that the girls asked, “Can we get another foster dog?”
About ten days later, I agreed. Again.
Enter Samson: a two-month-old, 9-pound puppy.
Revisiting our alliance
As soon as we learned he was coming, I pulled our dog alliance off the fridge. Before I could even say anything, one of my daughters said, “I think we’re going to have to redo our alliance. There was a lot that we didn’t think of with Sirius. And this is a puppy! There are new things to think about.”
Ahh. Talk about music to this mom’s ears!
So we had another family discussion. We talked about what worked well and what didn’t with our previous alliance. We brainstormed everything we could possibly anticipate that could be an issue with a puppy and wrote down lessons learned with Sirius.
For example, when we designed our first alliance, I told the girls that I did not want to be responsible for any tasks. Sirius was their dog and their responsibility. We were also guessing what we’d be doing, as we’d never done this before. In reality, I ended up with morning duties. This wasn’t because the girls were slacking off, but because I was typically up first in the morning and so I’d get him out of his crate and take him for a morning walk. And truth be told, Sirius was a welcome addition to my morning stillness routine!
So this time around, the girls asked if I could take mornings with Samson. I agreed. There were discussions and negotiations on everything we anticipated. Clean up duties, walk duties, potty training duties… suffice it to say, there was a rigorous debate about every possible input and output of the digestive system of this puppy.
“This sounds like a lot of work!”
We were working on our puppy alliance while at my parents’ house in northern Minnesota. At one point my mom overheard and commented, “Gosh, this sure seems like a lot of work to discuss all of this before the dog even arrives!” And she was 100% correct.
It is hard work. Between the three of us, there was plenty of passion and strong opinions to go around. Nobody was holding back, or agreeing to anything that they weren’t going to actually do. But the rigorous discussion paid off. We ended up with a clear alliance.
And it’s working! We’ve had Samson for a couple of weeks now and when issues pop up (which happens surprisingly often with a puppy), there are no arguments about who’s in charge. Our alliance gives us clarity, so instead of arguing we can focus on what’s most important… loving this adorable puppy for as long as we have him!
Assessing your alliance
When was the last time you checked in on an alliance that you designed with your team, either at work at home? While major transitions or new projects are always a good chance to touch base on your alliance, it’s worth checking in every month or so.
If it’s time for a check-up, consider discussing the following questions:
- What in our alliance is going well? What do we want to celebrate?
- What do we want to improve? Where do we want to turn the volume up?
- What’s missing? What isn’t currently covered that we want to add?
Designing an alliance is a powerful tool for your team, but it works best when it is a living document. The best way to keep it alive is to check-in and reassess, or even redesign when necessary. It might be a difficult conversation, but it prevents a lot of people problems in the long run.
P.S. If you are wondering how your team can design an alliance, join me this Thursday for Thoughtfully Fit Thursday on Facebook Live where I’ll share the basics you need to start. Or contact us. We can help with your people problems so you can focus on what you do best!