How We Approach Leadership Development
How It Works
The Equine Facilitated Learning and Coaching model helps you learn by participating in experiential education activities with horses. You are working with horses, but no riding occurs, nor is any horsemanship experience necessary. If you have participants who are apprehensive, or even downright fearful of horses, we work with them to make this a safe learning environment.
Your training day is filled with experiential activities with horses. These training activities are set up to relate directly to your present leadership opportunities, so the learning is directly applicable back to your workplace. You will engage with the horses in ways that provide feedback to you individually as well as how you interact in a team setting.
Once you have completed an exercise, you then process what happened, your discoveries, what behaviors and beliefs contributed to the experience, and what actions you want to take back to work as a result. But this doesn’t always lead to an integration of the learnings back into the workplace.
So to ensure the biggest impact, and with our deep desire for institutional and individual lasting change, we meet with you after the training day. In this meeting we review the list of discoveries and actions, and come up with strategies on how to integrate them and create accountability so real change occurs.
Along with the amazing interactions with the horses, we intentionally create an environment of learning that is nonjudgmental, safe to make mistakes and be human, and use humor to laugh and learn and let go of what no longer serves us. We also come with the belief that each person is already whole and has all you need within you to be the leader your heart desires. What the horses do, and what we do, is connect you to the treasure you already have within you.
Why Is It So Difficult To Change?
With more great leadership books and seminars available than ever before, why is it so difficult to create lasting change in your own leadership, much less in those you manage?
The reality is you have personality traits, belief systems, and social patterns that are so integrated into your being that they become an automatic way of reacting and functioning in your work environment.
You have “practiced” a way of functioning so long that simply hearing a new concept or approach doesn’t create the change you are looking for. As you practice a belief and response you become what you practice. As Aristotle said: “We are what we repeatedly do.”
These automatic responses may have served you well in the past, as they developed out of a need for love, safety, and belonging. But now they may hinder your leadership abilities, affect those you lead negatively, and not allow room for choice in a given situation. The more aware you are of these patterns, the more choices you have.
What have others experienced?
Through an exercise with a horse you can gain insight into your own leadership as well as how you are functioning as a team. Here are a few examples of discoveries made in leadership trainings with horses:
How Susan Left the Building:
“When we couldn’t get the horse to work with us in that exercise, I just walked a little away from the horse and the group. I understand now that when I can’t accomplish a task right away I check out, either by walking away or just leaving the room in my mind. When I do that I’m not able to be in the present moment looking for possibilities and creative solutions.
“As a physician, this happens to me all the time. I now see how my tendency for flight makes me give up too easily with challenges at work, and my team gets left without a leader. I also learned the self-awareness tool of how my body tenses up and checks out, so I can be aware of the signs that I’m ‘leaving the building.’
“The great thing is, I not only got to become aware of this but practice a new approach. I took a deep breath, chuckled at myself, and stepped into the action, helped the group came up with different strategies, and got to be part of the solution – which worked!”
How Jeremy Came Face-to-Face with His Dominant Style:
Jeremy was a big booming man in his 50’s in a top management position at a large oil industrial company. During a leadership training with horses, he was asked to lead a horse through a set of obstacles and then back the horse down a path created by poles on the ground.
It so happens that Jeremy ended up with a small pony as his partner; when he went to back that horse down the path, the pony didn’t want to go. So Jeremy used his big frame to push that horse backwards; the horse went, but not happily in any way. I then asked Jeremy about what he noticed about that little pony and he shared, “Well, he may have not wanted to go, but I got the task done.”
I then brought in a big beautiful black horse and asked Jeremy if he would like to try backing this horse down the same path. This horse Jeremy could not budge. No matter what he tried, the horse did not move one muscle.
I then asked a very small, quiet-but-sure colleague of his if she would like to try back the horse. She took a moment to gather her focus, and that horse backed down the path easily. AND he backed down with no fear, no irritation, no aggression, and with complete delight.
Jeremy watched this take place and tears filled his eyes. He then shared that his whole career he has been bullying people, using his size and force of personality to do what he wanted them to do. He now saw that they may have followed his directions, but with complete resistance all the way. That resistance had impacted what each of those individuals could have brought to the issue if they had been able to share their voice and express their gifts.
Was Jeremy a bad person? No. Was he trying to be mean or difficult? No. He was just playing out what he learned from the systems he grew up in, to be a good leader. Because of those two amazing horses, Jeremy now had a powerful picture and visceral experience with the impact of his style on others.
How Peter Integrated this Learning into His Job:
Peter was headed to an important meeting where he was worried and frustrated that his team wasn’t buying into the direction he thought they needed to go. As he walked down the hall to the meeting, he checked into what was going on for him using somatic intelligence. He noticed his stomach was clenched in anger, his whole body was jittery, he was thinking thoughts about how stupid his team was being, and he was hardly breathing.
If Peter had not checked in at this moment and walked into that meeting, do you think his body language, tone, approach, and language would have hindered or helped the outcome he so badly wanted? Possibly it could have scared his team into cooperating because they picked up how angry he was, but is that an effective motivator in every situation? Would the team have excitement, creative ideas, and positive energy toward the outcome?
What did Peter do? He took a moment as he was walking down the hall to acknowledge his frustration and anger, take a deep breath, and realign his thoughts to ones that were open to possibility.
When he came into the room he was able to share his frustration in a calmer way, and he asked the team if they were feeling the same way. He asked questions about where they were coming from, and he really listened. By being authentic and congruent, the team felt safe to open up, and he got the real story behind their reluctance to join in. The team felt heard, their fears subsided, and they were able to move into strategic action with enthusiasm.