At first glance, readers of The Fido Factor by Krissi Barr and Dan Barr may believe they’ve mistakenly mixed in a children’s book with their business books. A slim volume with its hard rectangular cover dominated by the colorful drawing of a grinning dog, the book seems almost exactly like the early chapter books that parents know very well. Almost, that is, until one notices the quote located just next to the dog’s snazzy bow tie: “‘A MUST-READ for anyone who is or wants to be a leader.’ –– Marshall Goldsmith.”
Despite the multiple canine drawings and the large text, there is nothing childish about the important insights that authors Krissi Barr and Dan Barr, consultants and marketing professionals, offer their readers.
The Four FIDO Factors
FIDO is, in fact, an acronym for what the authors consider the four fundamental leadership traits of successful leaders:
Faithful. Successful leaders, according to the authors, earn the trust of their employees, managers, customers and business partners by living up to their word — and always doing the right thing.
Inspirational. One of the fundamental responsibilities of leaders is to inspire their people to “do the meaningful and the extraordinary,” write the authors.
Determined. Successful leaders don’t only persevere but are fearless in their pursuit of their goals.
Observant. The best leaders are attentive and aware of what is happening around them and open to information from all sources, understanding that making the best decisions requires taking in as much information as possible.
Your Bark Is Worse Than Your Bite
In the four core chapters of the book dedicated to the four Fido factors, the authors effectively link the core elements of each factor to familiar canine habits and characteristics. The chapter on Inspiration, for example, includes a section entitled, “Your bark is worse than your bite” — a common saying with a clearly understood message. While for canines a barking but essentially harmless dog is a source of amusement, a constantly barking leader is anything but amusing — or harmless. One analogy is the leader who is constantly talking about what he or she will accomplish, without ever actually doing or achieving anything. Even worse is barking out orders without getting buy-in, or constantly barking at people, showering them with a constant stream of negativity. Thus, in a few succinct words, the authors use the barking dog image to highlight serious barriers to inspirational leadership.
Bears and Information Myopia
Nearly each of the elements explored within the Factors chapters begins with a dog story intending to illustrate the lesson of the section. In one section in the Observant chapter, for example, the authors tell the story of Frasier, half Lab, half Doberman, hiking with his family for the first time in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Frasier bounded into the woods ahead of the family… and was the first to see the 250-pound black bear lurking around a corner. Sensing danger, the Lab-Doberman mix immediately u-turned, ran back to the family and started barking frantically. The now-warned family was able to avoid the bear.
This story opens a section in which the authors urge leaders to avoid “information myopia” — which results from simply assuming that acquired experience and knowledge, and the “gut instincts” that emerge from that experience and knowledge, are all leaders need to make the right decisions. “In business, you have to be ever alert to a shift in preferences or buying habits,” the authors write. “Experience is a tremendous advantage, but don’t let it blind you to new data and ideas.”
While not all people will respond to the Barrs’ approach to leadership development — but then again, not all people are “dog people” — The Fido Factor offers key leadership lessons for those intrigued and engaged by its fun, irreverent package.