Bringing Leadership Lessons to Life

World Class Leadership Development an hour west of Toronto

If you are a Leadership Development Professional or a Senior Executive with Leaders reporting to you we have a unique One Day experience for your consideration.

I’ve been in the Leadership and Team Development business for over 20 years and some of my partners longer than that. Fifteen years ago we stumbled into a totally unexpected way to breakthrough the barriers that prevent most Leaders from changing their behaviour.

Experiential learning has always been a part of our programs – simulations, games, ice breakers – we know people learn more by doing than by listening or watching. Our hotel reservation had fallen through so we brought a group to our farm. My side business is training horses and I’d been studying a new way of horse leadership that nicely paralleled our corporate programs. Exploring asking instead of telling, earning trust and respect, empathy, deep listening, setting boundaries, positive reinforcement and avoiding control, compliance and coercion.

I thought some interaction with horses who had been handled in this new way would be interesting. I was wrong. It was mind blowing. People began to make linkages that I only dreamed of getting when I use a slide deck. The horses genuinely responded instantly to whether they perceived a leader as a predator or a herd member. Leaders couldn’t just understand the need to listen to someone with a different perspective they had to do it – and with a bit of coaching suddenly this group of Leaders, some of whom were afraid of horses, were achieving results that many horse people never achieve.

Imagine going from never meeting a horse in your life to having one follow you around with no ropes simply because they choose to be with you. Isn’t that what leadership is about? Not about forcing someone to do something but engaging them so they choose to follow?

You could have a game that gives points for every leadership characteristic your SIM makes but in the end its all “head” learning – more theory – and most leaders know perfectly well what kind of leader they “should” be = we start every program by asking for a list of characteristics of a Leader others would follow – someone you trust and respect, a good communicator, empathy, intelligent, experienced, confident, compassionate… its a pretty consistent list. If knowing what a leader “should” do was enough then organizations would not be spending billions on training….

What we discovered is that horses have two questions when they meet people – first – am I safe – are you going to act as a predator – and second – who is leading me or you? In an emergency (a wolf or a flapping plastic bag) every horse needs to know who leads and who follows or instead of moving as a herd they would bump into each other and break legs.

In organizations the same two questions apply – before anyone is engaged they must feel safe, must know their leader has their back – and second they will assess the quality of that leadership based not on what a leader says but what a leader does. This message his home by the end of the day with the horses – no horse cares about your business care – they only care about what you do.

Our facilitators are experts at breaking down leadership characteristics into actionable tasks. If you want to lead a horse and you simply step forward and pull that’s not asking. Instead you must lead by example (step forward), engage (enough pressure the horse feels the lead but not enough to pull) and wait (3 seconds) to see if the horse will respond to your ask with “yes” (following) or “not yet” (not following). As a Leader what do you do next? Do you pull (directive/controlling), do you step back and pet the horse (rewarding behaviour you don’t want), pull out a carrot (bribe). Leaders get stuck her all the time – if no one follows they panic and either demand compliance or give up. In the long run neither works. Instead first look at your actions – are you blocking them somehow (some people are actually standing in front of the horse…), did you quit too soon so they don’t think you are confident?, are you leading by example (looking at the goal) or not (looking at the horse), have you indicated your commitment to the new direction? (raising your energy), have you made it simpler to take a step forward (small redirect)? are you persistent? did you send positive feedback (when the horse started to move did you stop relax or did you pull harder?).

Leading a horse by pulling is exactly what most people do – but all it gets is compliance at best and resistance if the horse has a strong will. Leading people by “pulling” has the same result – disengagement, resistance, frustration. Yes most leaders do it “just this once” because they are in a hurry to achieve a goal.

When they get to experience how it works with horses – how acting as a leader means the horse follows easier and easier each time they realize that the upfront investment in engagement pays off big time – and we can make the links to how that works with their teams and their organization.

Trust me, when a horse goes from disengaged to engaged you know it – its a huge thrill – suddenly this 1200 lb animal chooses to be with you – and that is the experience all leaders should have. Breaking through the blindspots they have – too firm, too soft, not engaging, not listening, fearing feedback – they show up with the horses just as they show up at work – and when leaders try something new and it works they are eager to do the same thing back in thier regular jobs.

Our customers – leaders and learning professionals tell us that the biggest change they get after a program is their leaders are willing to try out new behaviours – to understand that even with good intentions their actions may be working against them. They have a new non judgemental way to describe impact and a new way of giving and receiving feedback.

We’re really proud of this program It is unique – there may be other learning programs with horses but this is one we designed and honed over 15 years and it always gets great reviews. It will be a highlight of any leadership program or event.

We have three basic programs:

An experience that will give leaders the opportunity to  discover what happens when they listen more deeply, delegate more effectively, establish firmer boundaries, coach more, give and receive feedback effectively and build stronger relationships.

LeaderSense is the highest rated module in several In House Leadership programs  Typically the experience fits about a third of the way through, after the group has had assessments and a good amount of theory but before they start projects.  You give them the content and we will bring it to life.

TeamSense is a great way to start up or develop high priority teams  Imagine how much faster you can move to results if the group has already discovered how to work and communicate well together.  We have specific versions for New teams, Cross functional teams, Sales Teams or Teams in Trouble.

Execusense is a perfect fit for Senior Leaders and their teams.  Those who have “been there and done that” get feedback that will surprise them.  The most senior leaders benefit from taking a fresh look at how their leadership style impacts others.

We measure success on how the program changes behaviour.  Over and over I am told that it was the single most impactful development day they have ever had – no one ever says that about one of my slide decks, not matter how good they are.  Years after their “day with the horses” participants remember exactly what they learned and the impact it had.  

Lesson One – Giving and Receiving Helpful Feedback

Whether you are a new leader, a senior executive or a high performance team one of the most important skills you can master is giving and receiving helpful feedback.  All of our horse sense programs begin with a key lesson on receiving feedback.  Its an experience that cannot be simulated.  A horse has no facade and doesn’t care what’s on your business card. They will give clear honest feedback and almost everyone will miss it, despite being given all the communication tools they need.

Forbes Article by Joe Folkman on the Importance of Honest Feedback

Forbes Article by Joe Folkman on the Importance of Honest Feedback

Open Article

Open Article Test

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The lessons go far beyond simply interacting with horses.  Leaders learn about mindsets, the ladder of inference, assumptions, non verbal feedback, instinct and understanding that impact is about how a message is received not how it is intended.   Leaders learn the difference between observation and interpretation.  They learn how dangerous dividing actions into “success” and “failure” can be and how building trust and respect happens with every action every day.

Our programs are based on 15 years of experiences with thousands of leaders and are custom designed for each client.    Your facilitators are senior management consultants with a track record of success.

The best way to understand how this works is to experience it yourself.  

 

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Curious about whether the program would be a fit you?  – Take a look at Who We Work With section

Wondering why senior leaders tell us the day with horses was the best leadership experience of their career then go straight to Why Horses?

The Bottom Line.

Its a Once in a Lifetime Experience

And it works

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Executives appreciate getting a new perspective on their Leadership though unfiltered feedback.

“I have to tell you that having done my fair share of leadership training over the years – there is sometimes a touch of cynicism approaching leadership training sessions. I’ve been around a while, and seen a lot.

The Horse Sense program was exceptional! The team building and understanding within the day’s program was really the best I have encountered and the self-learning was outstanding. I am a convert who not only looks forward to the next session – but can hardly wait to see what new learning and understandings result from it.

Thank you for a great leadership experience absolutely laced with immediately useful strategies as well as plenty of fodder (bit of a pun on the horses there!) for reflection and future growth.

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Intact Teams (Sales, Operational, Project,…) learn new ways to communicate with each other, increase alignment and resolve ongoing issues.

“In the team exercise, we learned which members of the team were better communicators, and who tended to suffer in silence. One person was having trouble keeping up with the rest of the team, but didn’t say anything and we realized how we sometimes discouraged people from communicating.

Our team as a whole had a real breakthrough at this program. We’re a much better team now. There is more communications, “more checking in with each other, more understanding of different people’s styles”


“I think we have come along way with identifying how we can work better as team and improve on communications. I found it amazing the difference from when we arrived Tuesday morning to when we left Wednesday evening, what a huge difference. I think your program is just what we needed”

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Leadership Development programs get better results faster as core concepts come to life..

We benchmark different things at the company, and we’ve seen many of our scores improve since working with Sharon. There’s a whole range of leadership behaviours that we track and all of us have seen our scores go up. The Horse Sense program is definitely a big part of that


After doing the program? I noticed such a heightened sensitivity towards others based on increased self-insight and awareness, enhanced self confidence, greater collaboration and teamwork. You need to experience it for yourself to appreciate the full impact

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MTO Team

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