business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

One of my favorite quotes of all times comes from a Star Trek episode, in which Captain Jean-Luc Picard reminds us that “things are only impossible until they’re not.” It’s a great way of reminding us that the unexpected somehow always has a chance and I believe it.

But even I’m on overload this week. First, I’m a fan of the New York Giants, who you might have heard won the Super Bowl this year. Now Giants fans have an unusual form of fatalism born of history. We were the team that once had a lead, with the ball and four seconds left on the clock. And we lost. So when the Giants won, I went into shock.

Then something bigger happened. A beagle won the Westminster Dog Show in New York.

Here again, I’m not an idle observer. I own a beagle, or rather I should say, a beagle owns me. While Uno the beagle was delighting the crowds in New York Hunter (my beagle) was disproving the old adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. On his own he learned to unroll a full roll of toilet paper and start consuming it.

Hunter is talented that way. We rescued him from the pound 11 years ago and he rewarded us by running away that night. Since then, he had made a daily ritual of walking the fence that now surrounds our house. Despite his pampered lifestyle he needs to check daily to see if there is any way he can escape. He’s too old to run far, but he likes to know the possibility is always there.

Now, each week I try to figure out someway of working interesting news stories into object lessons for this column and Uno the beagle just seemed tailor-made for a discussion about management.

After all, here is a dog breed that, while beloved, has a weak record of achievement. Uno was not just the first beagle to ever win best in show; he was the first beagle to even win the hound division in nearly 70 years. Cute as they are, beagles have their issues.

But the difference between Uno and Hunter probably has more to do with how they were managed than anything else. I’m betting that Uno’s owner is probably a whole lot better than me at training a dog. We have to remember that with our employees too. Their performance comes down to how we treat them, working their strengths and weaknesses and understanding that greatness lies in all of them. That is, if we bring it out. (See, I told you I’d find a business connection.)

So I reflect on Uno and Hunter, knowing that had I been a better dog owner, maybe my beagle would have achieved greatness. Or at least, he might have been able to eat toilet paper without leaving so much mess. Once again, things aren’t always impossible.

Or maybe they are… Over the past couple of weeks I wrote about the need for debate and not charging to extreme positions at the drop of a hat. It’s pretty obvious to say the change won’t come from Washington.

There are many divisive issues in the Capitol and some of the differences are actually important. However, how is it possible that the discussion of Roger Clemens’ alleged use of performance enhancing drugs broke down on party lines? And wasn’t there something more important for Congress to do last week? Like look for the videotapes the New England Patriots took of other team’s football practices? Surely, Uno’s win in the dog show merits some scrutiny of some kind.

Repeat after me, “things are only impossible…”

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at .

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