Last month, my husband (Dave) and I had the unique opportunity to spend a day with a guide dog trainer at Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, CA. In addition to observing Jessica working with four dogs at different stages of training, Dave and I each walked blindfolded with a guide dog in downtown San Rafael. What an amazing experience!
Throughout the day, we got a real inside view of teamwork in the guide dog world! First, we saw how the relationship between the dog and its trainer must be one of trust. These two work very closely together for 8 to 10 weeks to prepare the dog to become a guide dog. The trainer learns very quickly how to motivate each dog. It was really interesting to see that some dogs are very confident and others less so. Either type of dog can be successful, but different methods of feedback to the dogs are critical to keep them engaged and learning.
The second team is the trainer and the visually impaired person who will receive the guide dog. In two days, this person learns several commands and how to be the team navigator, in prepatation to walk with and trust his safety to a dog. This team becomes a team of three as a specifically selected guide dog is added to the team on the third day of training. The dog has already learned how to be a "driver" and now they have to learn to work together! The team of three work daily for almost 3 weeks so that upon graduation, the final team (without the trainer) can be successful in the world.
The success of these teams is critical to fulfilling the misssion of the organization. In your organization, where do you have teams that are critical to business success? How quickly is trust built? Are roles clear? How do team members build relationships? Do they give each other feedback? We can all take a lesson in successful teamwork from the guide dogs!