In The Trenches

Let them run free

Published on July 26, 2022 Back to blog

Last weekend, my wife and I decided to go for a hike. Fortunately, the AllTrails app (highly recommend) presented many places near our home, and we chose a fairly flat 4-mile trek in a wooded area about 20 minutes away. Given the heat and unfamiliar location, we weren’t sure about taking James (1.5 yr old Corgi) and Jasmine (9 yr old Golden Retriever), but decided to bring them along, prepared with lots of water.

Upon entering the well-marked and clear-cut trail, the dogs were pulling at their leashes wanting to run free. While we hesitated for a while, we finally let them go. Amazingly, they stayed on the path, never got too far ahead, and quickly came to us when called. (This may be surprising to those who know Jasmine and James). About 30 minutes in, they looked a bit tired and thirsty, so we stopped to take a break and give them some water. They quickly indulged and then ran ahead to get the party moving again. By the end of the walk, they were ready for a nap. My wife and I were ready for ice cream. We all got what we wanted.

I share this story to demonstrate what can happen when you take risks and let people (and dogs) roam free. Too often, we are hesitant to let others run without strict parameters and guidelines – often using deadlines, client expectations or inexperience as the rationale. However, the best and most surprising outcomes often happen when we do take risks. So, here’s what I learned from James and Jasmine on this one:

  1. Take the cues. While people are generally not pulling on leashes, they often show excitement in other ways – sharing some initial (and maybe crazy) ideas, asking lots of tough questions or even just communicating their excitement. Now may be the time to let them run a bit. 
  2. Keep an eye on them. They also may not be chasing rabbits, but they could go down one of their holes. Be sure to check in every once in a while to make sure they don’t get lost or start heading in the completely wrong direction (especially when deadlines are pending).
  3. Be open to alternative paths. Oftentimes, there are many different ways to get to the same place (goal). Don’t be too quick to assume that the path they take is a bad one. It may be a better direction.
  4. Give them some fuel. When running free, it’s easy to get tired and worn down (especially in the heat). Be sure to provide some water, snacks and, perhaps most importantly, words of encouragement. These moments will help get them re-energized, re-focused and re-acclimated for the next part of the adventure.
  5. Be prepared to rein them back in. There’s always a chance that they will run wild. As soon as you recognize that they cannot be honed in, put the more strict parameters and guidelines back in place. Maybe this just wasn’t the right time or place to let them run free.  

When successful, it is not only apparent in the outcome, but it also shows in the confidence and excitement of those you let run. They’ll likely also perk up at the next opportunity to do so. Just be sure to have lots of water, snacks and a leash in your back pocket.

Jeff Freedman
CEO/Managing Partner
Small Army | Finn Partners