How Horses Can Help Your Team
Just Try to Force a Horse!
I love working with horses! They are amazing mirrors to humans.
I have shared various stories in the past about how horses can be used for helping a leader step into congruent leadership. This is the type of leadership that builds trust and loyalty.
As I have gone through, and now graduated from, Equus Coaching™ program, I have experienced the wonder of the horses’ wisdom both for myself and for my clients. During the course, the horses provided feedback in ways that cut through the noise of words and provided an honest, kind reflection of what is working and what isn’t in terms of leadership and communication.
Team Building With Horses
Until now, I haven’t shared the incredible opportunity horses can provide for teams! I was recently at a wonderful program called, The Art of Alchemy with Koelle Simpson, Michael Trotta and Jennifer Voss. I was part of the team that worked and moved horses as a demonstration of various experiences participants could explore to help them gain their own understanding of their shadow (or blind spots) and how that plays out in their lives.
The final afternoon involved an experience working as a team of four humans and three horses. The horses were free to roam in a large arena. The team’s challenge was to get the horses to move around the arena together, and then one at a time move each horse into different small corral spaces throughout the larger arena.
Without any warning, our support team was asked to do the ‘quick’ demo. I found myself anxious and momentarily filled with performance anxiety. However, I was also thrilled to get a chance to play.
As I listened to Koelle set up the experience. I found myself taking a moment to ground and orient, settling my nervous system and really dropping into myself. I looked at my three teammates and felt confident that we were a great collection of resources. I knew the guidelines, and also that verbal communication was no longer optional. I also knew that the key for myself was not getting too attached to the outcome, staying present inside my own boots, and be willing to connect with my teammates and the horses to accomplish the goal.
Let me just say right now – we were awesome!
Getting to Awesome
Yes, we were successful in accomplishing our intended goal, but that really was not the awesome.
The awesome was the congruence that came between what we at Thrive! refer to as the ME-WE-CONTEXT interplay. It’s that moment where “Oh Sh*t!” turns to “Ah’a!” and collective creativity abounds.
For me personally, I was amazed at the inner journey I experienced when I allowed myself to work with the ME. I was deeply connected to my own thoughts, feelings and intentions. As a result, I quickly discovered that I was quite connected to the horses and able to move them effortlessly around the arena – the CONTEXT or task at hand. I was also connected to my teammates by listening and catching the signals of their wishes and possibilities of how to move toward our goal – the WE.
When Force and Willpower Backfire
The magic was happening, and it all seemed so easy. Until, the movement stalled. There was the obvious path to take, the one we, as humans, were picturing: one horse in a corral, and a second corral close by with the other two horses moving together toward the next opening. But, the horses stopped. Suddenly, I found myself trying to propel 3,000 pounds of horses toward my agenda, and it was not happening.
I am sure you know those moments when something is so close, and it seems like just a little more will power and effort will reach the goal. That just doesn’t work well with horses. The energy of forcing is simply something they do not respond to! People usually don’t like it either. But unlike people, horses are not so willing to override their inner needs to comply with other’s direction.
Relaxing Leads to Creative Flow
My team, like me, wanted the obvious logical next move. Our WE was going to push through and move those horses, damn it!
However, as we each dropped into ourselves and recognized the bigger collective goal, we all relaxed. Then another option surfaced into the field of possibility for WE. Instead of the obvious, logical move of forcing the horses into the corral, we simply worked with the horses to move forward.
As a result, what happened next wasn’t direct or linear, but perfect! Both horses moved on, and another teammate gracefully guided the lead horse into the next open corral – leaving one horse to move on and settle into the final corral!
ME – WE – CONTEXT Magic
From the outside, the experience looked smooth and effortless… So I was told. From the inside, I discovered an easy ability to navigate when I am tracking and listening to my inner feelings – the ME. And also relaxing when my focus becomes too narrow, and remembering I have a team – the WE. In essence, not denying the inner contradictions or forcing outcomes.
When I do this, I allow the connections and input from the WE, while also stepping up with my own ideas – the ME. Finally, celebrating a job well done, not just the result, but the honoring of the interplay and creativity that comes from working together in flow! Knowing our CONTEXT – moving the horses into the different corrals – but allowing something beyond what I imagined – the collective creativity of TEAM!
The key to remember when I get stressed and revert to willpower and force is that the horses are not simply objects to be moved, but equally important contributors to the team. As each team member listened to themselves, each other, and our greater field of resources – the horses – we discovered new possibility with ease!
It is so easy in business and in life to forget the larger connections and resources available to us.
It is so easy to simply focus on the logical, obvious next step and miss a nudge in a totally unexpected direction that provides a surprising innovative solution.
It is so easy to get narrowly focused on the goal and miss the creativity and joy of being on a team.
But with practice, it is so easy to relax, connect, and access the collective creative genius that is available to us.
CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke
Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict
CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.
They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.
Check out their website: www.thriveinc.com. Connect with CrisMarie and Susan on LinkedIn. Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! Find your copy of The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team's Competitive Advantage here.