Yesterday evening I was at the barn with my horse, Smooch. He hadn’t seen me for a few days due to an illness (mine, not his), so he was happy and a little more energetic than I’d expected. After climbing in the saddle, we began our warm up walking laps around the outdoor arena. My husband had set up some new obstacles and exercises for us to work on. There were three of us in the arena last night, my husband Mike with his Appaloosa, Geronimo, me with my Paint Pony, along with our daughter Grace and her American Standardbred, Bella.
Smooch is known as a “forward” horse, meaning he likes to go…FAST. The challenge with him usually involves slowing him down enough to engage. A bright horse, he doesn’t need much time before he grasps a concept or maneuver. Getting him focused is a task all its own, especially when other horses are nearby. Lately Smooch and I have been working on moving his feet with pressure from mine. For example, I bend my right leg back, apply gentle pressure to Smooch’s side and he takes a step to the left with his right hind foot. Sounds easy, right? Since we’ve worked successfully on this before, I figured he’d have an idea of what I was asking of him. I quickly found out I was wrong. As I applied my right heel GENTLY to his right side, he jumped and took off. So we spent the next five minutes turning circles until he calmed down enough to stop moving. I thought, “okay, Smooch is pretty sensitive on the right…let’s try the left.” After several more tries with little success, I was frustrated and ready to call it a night. With horses however, like people, I never want to end a session on a bad note. Smooch needed to leave the arena feeling like a winner, building his confidence and mine. As I sat pondering my choices, my husband said to me, “Smooch backs up well. Why don’t you try moving his hind while backing him?” I took his suggestion and Smooch came through like a boss! Had my husband not been there last night, I might have given up, leaving Smooch and I both feeling like failures.
The same is true in business. Working with my horse reminds me of my best practices with my employees. Highlight their strengths; build confidence. Never leave them feeling as though they are lacking in some area. When I notice an area in need of improvement in others it’s usually because at one time it was the same for me. Supporting my employees empowers them. Pointing out what people do well can sometimes be hard if there’s a glaring flaw demanding attention. Coaching up employees’ positive attributes creates opportunities to address areas in need of improvement. An empowered employee is open and willing to change. Sometimes taking a step backward offers opportunities for growth that might otherwise be missed! Wishing you success in all your endeavors ~ R