After 20 years designing and developing Leadership programs we stumbled on the impact of interacting with horses almost by accident.
A group of senior leaders wanted to go “somewhere different” so we invited them to our farm and instead of building marshmallow towers or doing a simulation game as the experiential part of the program we ask them to interact with horses by demonstrating the characteristics of good leaders = Vision, Empathy, Confidence, Boundaries, Earn Trust, Offer Respect.
To be successful they would need to:
- pay attention to feedback/body language (ears back, body tense is not what you want, ears forward, body relaxed is what you want)
- think about the horses perspective (we explained that as a prey animal the horse moves away from danger instead of moving towards a goal like a preditor)
The first task was simply to meet the horse – and at first it seemed easy. Here is a video of one person completing the task:
. Something unexpected happened – the group was engaged in a new way – they started looking deeply at their own leadership practice in a way that was far more profound than any assessment or slidedeck or even a 360. Person after person was having a significant “Aha” moment – each different but each specific to a challenge that had been holding them back.
I was struck by how similar this was to the content we were giving to our leadership students – the key concept in Crucial Conversations is how most conflict can be avoided if you understand the others perspective,
The impact of that day changed many lives.
Describe a Leader you would willingly follow.
This is how we start every program – and for nearly 20 years we have been getting the same answer – listener, confident, clear, visionary, communicator, decisive, trusted, respected, honest and so on. If Leadership was as easy as knowing what kind of leader we “should” be then Great Leaders wouldn’t be so hard to find.
Leadership Development isn’t easy.
Experienced Leaders have patterns of behaviours they have used for years that helped them get promoted but may getting in the way. Marshall Goldsmith talks about “what got you here can’t get you there” – breaking those patterns is hard.
New Leaders don’t have the experience yet to know how they will perform under pressure – will they be able to use their new leadership skills or will they take charge and push through without knowing the long term impact of their actions.
If you are willing to take the risk on an unusual experience we can shift behaviours in one day that have been stuck for years, build confidence, help task leaders become big picture leaders, give leaders a true appreciation for differences in perspectives and create a deep appreciation for feedback.
We all intend to be great leaders, yet few truly are. Leaders can get to the next stage in their development with they truly understand the difference between intention and impact. This is where the horses come in. Horses are not impressed by business cards or intentions – they respond to actions.
Horses (and humans) will follow willingly where there is trust and respect – and oddly the same behaviours will build or break trust – its the nature of leadership. Leadership Lessons learned in a Horse Sense session are never forgotten – and they are a lot more engaging than any slidedeck.
The leadership theory underlying every Horse Sense programs will add new meaning to what they have already learned – Emotional Intelligence, Ladder of Inference, Team theory,
Interacting with horses is optional – those who watch also participate in learning. In most groups, we start out with a few people who don’t like horses at all (that isn’t how we end up).
Why do Management Consultants do Leadership Development with horses?
- Because horses are way more interesting than slide decks.
- Because we bring Leadership Lessons to Life
- Because earning Followership is a critical Leadership skill that doesn’t get talked about enough
- Because we get true behavioural change in only one day
- Because the program is unique, memorable, powerful, engaging, uplifting and fun and has a huge impact
It only takes about 15 minutes to know if there is a fit.