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Puppy Mind

What to do if you or your team member are the kind of person who loves to get distracted or unfocused at work

One of the concepts I like to work on with clients, is that some people have a Puppy Mind. That is, they’re easily distracted and love to go chasing after interesting things at the drop of a hat.

People who have a Puppy Mind can often be very critical of themselves. I hear clients say things like: “I wish I could be more focused!” Or, “I must a nightmare to work with; always chasing after the next thing!”

And people who have Puppy-Minded team members can get quite worried about or frustrated with them. Leaders are often concerned that Puppy-Minded people will get overloaded, or fail to finish a long project or will miss something boring but important in favour of something interesting but less critical.

I always say, yes those criticisms or concerns do have some truth in them. But – who doesn’t love a puppy!?

It would be a terribly boring world if everybody at work was the same as everybody else. In fact, research shows that teams with a diversity in thinking styles outperform, in the long run, teams where everybody thinks the same.

There’s also research to suggest that around 30% of people at work have a natural inclination to bob around from one thing to another, rather than go through things, step-by-step, from start to finish. Not all of those people will be Puppy-Minded, since many of them will have trained themselves to be slightly more focused and slightly more linear in their approach. But nevertheless, a significant proportion of people at work have got some puppy in them. Which is good! We need their enthusiasm and get-up-and-go and their ability to juggle a million things and their ability to sniff out something interesting.


One aspect of Buddhist Mindfulness uses the idea of Puppy Mind for meditation practice. Whenever your attention wanders, think of it like a puppy being trained to sit. And then gently but firmly lead it back to the sitting position.


If you find you’re being critical of yourself, as a leader, for having Puppy Mind, remember that your enthusiasm and interest and sheer Puppy-Appeal is probably part of what made you successful in the first place. If you need to, just notice when you’re distracted, and gently bring your attention back to where it needs to be.

Similarly, if you find yourself worried about or frustrated with a Puppy-Minded team member there are three things you should be considering:

  1. How lucky you are to have that Puppy-Loveliness around!
  2. Is now to the time to just gently and firmly point them back to the right place and the right direction; to do some Puppy Training?
  3. What needs to change in their workflow or working environment so that it’s easier for them to play to their strengths?

Above all, whether it’s you yourself or someone else who is a little Puppy-Minded, remember that shouting at and getting frustrated with puppies DOESN’T WORK – but that gentle encouragement and firm-but-kind hearted training does.

As usual, please leave me a comment if they’re still open below, or tweet me @NickRobCoach. What do you notice about your own or other people’s Puppy Mind at work?


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