Recently, I celebrated the Thanksgiving weekend with friends at their vacation home in Virginia. There, we were treated to beautiful views of the creek, long walks through the woods, interesting conversations, and lots of homemade baked goods. My kind of happy: peaceful setting, dear friends, outdoor exercise and yummy food. The only hiccup in the visit occurred when we went out to dinner, leaving Harley and Spot unsupervised. Recipe for trouble!
Spot is our friends’ large, energetic Lab/Shepherd mix who loves to run, play tug-of-war, and eat. Harley is our laid-back Cockapoodle, who loves to lounge around, sit in your lap, and eat. Apparently soon after we left the house, they decided to indulge in their one shared interest. We made the mistake of leaving a chocolate pie on the kitchen counter. Spot took advantage of our absence, and his height, to nab the pie. By the time we got home, all that was left were shattered pieces of pie plate, licked clean. Judging by the chocolate on his breath, Harley was not an innocent bystander. Of course, our first thoughts were for the dogs’ health, as chocolate can be dangerous for dogs to ingest. (I’m relieved to report both Spot and Harley are fine.) It took us a minute to figure out why the kitchen floor was a wreck. We then focused on getting everything cleaned up and had a little talk with the pups. Have you ever noticed that it is next to impossible to get mad at a dog who is giving you the innocent “Who, me?” look?
So it is with accidents. Accidents happen at home, at work, at play. Of course, they vary in degree of seriousness and thus the best approach is to take a deep breath and assess the situation. What are the damages? What can be salvaged? Don’t waste time blaming others. (No one asked “Who left the pie out?!”) Make sure your emotions are appropriate. Our emotions included bewilderment, surprise, dismay, concern, and resignation (okay, a bit of laughter too). Keep your perspective. We lost a pie, not a dog, for which we are very grateful. It could have been a lot worse for Spot and Harley. We kept cool and did not get upset with the dogs, but owned up to our part in the situation. Clean up the mess and move on. Discuss what the “error precursors” were, and how a similar accident can be prevented in the future. Talk about lessons learned from the experience.
Remember that a big part of preventing “accidents” is planning ahead. Please call on me as you contemplate your professional goals for 2014. It would be my pleasure to support you and your organization as we move into the New Year. Have a joyful holiday season, and keep those pies out of the paws of those you love.
Sharon Keys Seal