Context matters I

It’s hard to disagree that context matters, and yet we consistently overlook it. My household has been fostering yet another dog – and his behavior gives the best example of how context can create a stark difference in “personality” and behaviour.

At home, he tends to be very wary of everything (even his food or drink bowl) and treads carefully as he walks around. He didn’t even play with his toys – consequently it also meant no destruction of furniture and fittings at our home.

But once he is out on his walks, he can be joyfully jumping around, dashing back and forward the path, sniffing everywhere and clumsily picking up nonsense from the grass to eat. He plays freely and wildly with tree branches, tearing through coconut husks of fallen coconuts, dragging large coconut branches or leaves around. Recently, he was even at the beach with us and swam.

Yet I’d still overlook that and try to play with him at home only to have him cowering in a corner with his tail tucked between his legs. I’d try to toss stuff for him to pick up when he’d just run away. I assumed he was capable of doing all that but I get disappointed when he doesn’t.

If you are a manager and boss, do you also experience the same challenges with your staff? What is the context that helps them shine? And what elements cause them to fear and underperform? It’s your job to figure out and lead with the right context and environment.