May 19, 2009 Chris Fuller

Owning the “Swing Dog” position.

On a Dog Sled team, each role plays a vital part in the production of the whole. Yesterday, we talked about the Lead Dogs and how we can leverage that metaphor to increase our influence. Behind the Lead dogs, on the team, are the Swing Dogs. Let’s look at their role, see if you can own it, and leverage the lesson.

As Lead Dogs are very in tune with the Musher, so the Swing Dogs are in tune with the Lead Dogs. You can imagine if the Lead Dogs started turning ‘Gee’ (right) and the other 14 dogs on the team decided not to follow, the result would be a mess. The Swing Dogs gear into the direction of the Lead Dogs so that when the Lead Dogs start to turn – the Swing Dogs follow. The power of the four dogs turning will influence the rest of the team to make the journey and turn.

In business, the Swing Dogs in the organization are those that hold, possess or wield informal power. Their opinions matter to the rest of the group. Again, they are informal leaders or what I would call “Water Cooler Confidantes” or “Coffee Pot Heroes”. They are the people in the organization that everyone runs to get their opinion when a new initiative is launched. With the influence they have, a title is not needed.

In the DiSC model, the Swing Dogs could be high “I’s” – which stands for Influencer. However, Swing Dogs can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For instance, someone that is not that “Charismatic” as an individual can be influential as a Subject Matter Expert (SME). They may be an introverted analytic, but when they start to speak on there are of expertise the room quiets and everyone keys in on what they have to say. Their movement “Swings” the rest of the room, department, division, etc.

Are you an Influencer? Are you aware of the circles or areas where you have “swing”? Are the competencies or expertise that allows you to be a non-traditional influencer?

However you have influence, leverage that influence with genuine, authenticity for the betterment of the team – and you will gain influence with your leader. Can you help shape and communicate the leader’s vision? Can you help the leader direct the team in a new direction? Can you help move a new initiative further into adoption and execution? All of these items will increase your influence, not only with the Lead Dogs you are teamed with, but the Musher or Leader of the entire team.

Tomorrow – leverage by being a team player! Until then – mush on – the trail out here is great!

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