Leadership Reminders from Toilet Training a Cat

We could be living the dream! A few months ago, my spouse and I decided that we were going to toilet train our young cat. The dream of having a cat without the need for a litter box was in our sights. No more smell, no more scooping, and being able to travel more easily with our buddy. As we embarked on this process, I realized there were some humorous and enjoyable reminders of what it’s like to lead and manage people.

I want to be clear, people are not cats. Now onto a fun list.

1 – The Power of Encouragement and Cheerleading

It was odd at first seeing our cat Serif strut around after praising him. There were also many treats given to support positive behavior. We cheered him along as he figured out this weird new skill and behavior.

We are all the same way. There are often too few people in our corner cheering us on. And let me be clear, we can cheer people on even when they are at risk of losing their job to under performance. It may be human nature to divest ourselves, but I think this is precisely the moment that they need someone in their corner the most. Let us be clear about goals and progress, and keep encouraging and cheering them along their way.

2 – Establish Steps for Big Projects

After we decided that we were going to attempt this, we looked for a strategy. I have friends who have done this with their cats, so we knew it was possible. We found a system of inserts that would allow the cat to slowly adjust their posture and paw positions to be able to drop deuces right into the toilet bowl!

This gave us many steps to incrementally work through, with milestones to celebrate. We prepared what we would need and then invited our cat into the journey. With people, you have the added benefit of being able to verbally communicate the goals and vision of a project. With our cat, we had to overcome this with praise and positivity.

When one-on-one contact is low it is easy to overlook the amount of work being done each week. Let us be positive and encouraging when we get that time together. And it worked. He got through nearly all the steps, and we had taken away the litter box. Our goal was within reach.

3 – Life Happens

This story suffers a tragic setback. Our cat is okay, but he fell from our bathroom window 8 meters (~26 feet) onto the paved courtyard of our building. He shattered his back leg pretty badly and is currently recuperating after surgery to save his leg. We hope to get back to this in the future, but plans clearly had to change. The litter box is back, and he has months of recovery ahead.

Life happens. It could be something within the lives of those you manage, or within the life of a business. No project or goal should be so precious that we cannot adapt or pivot to meet new realities.

📷 – Paul Prins between October and December 2021