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  • Writer's picturethriveinc

Stop the Politicking and Posturing Instead, Trust Your Intuition

If you’ve been following my posts, Susan, you know I have been incredibly engaged in my Equus Coaching work. People often ask me - why horses? Have you always loved horses? How many horses do you have?

Here’s the deal - my deep love of this work isn’t because I love horses, ride horses, or want to have a horse. Yes, I have a deep appreciation and respect for these amazing beings, but I’m really a dog lover - first and foremost - thus Rosie and Zuzu.

However, around horses I relax. I feel safe and at my best.

Why? Because what I really love about horses is that they are relational, and frankly, they are not about posturing and politics! I am not saying they are not constantly communicating. They are, but the interactions are obvious and overt.

Watch a herd of horses. Sure, there’s usually a horse that can move all the horses away simply by putting it’s ears back, head down and walking up. Obvious message - I rule - you move.

When a horse thinks another horse is too close - they flip their tail, step back and if that doesn’t work kick, nip or bite. Indeed, clear and effective.

The interaction occurs - there isn’t any gossip later between the herd about who won, who played fair and who didn’t. Life in the herd moves on.

Human systems and organizations are not so simple. Yes, interactions occur. Sometimes overt, sometimes covert. Sadly, if it doesn’t go well, what happens next is the communication goes offline and indirect. You get politics, factions, and gossip.

People talk and take sides.

This type of behavior erodes trust, destroys relationships, and is exhausting to navigate.

You may believe, or have learned to believe, that you can read between the lines, make accurate assumptions, and if you operate from those assumptions, you’ll be safe or get ahead.

But so often clients I coach are clueless to their own biases, fears, and deep standing beliefs. You don’t gather solid information or even consider that you don’t have all the information.

Horses are much better at reading ALL the clues. In fact, most animals are. So are children. As people grow up, they don’t maintain real and innocent in our relating to their world.

Instead, you get strategic, political, and lose your innate ability to take in information, trust your gut, and check out your assumptions.

We see it in organizations and on teams all the time. You think you know. So you stop listening, observing. Worse, you stop being honest or sharing what is really going on inside of you and between you and others.

The Tale of Two Leaders

Recently, I was engaged in a coaching two leaders from the same organization. Both C-Suite executives, highly respected, smart, and very good at their respective jobs. However, they were at odds with each other. As a result, the executive team was not effectively dealing with the situation.

The CEO wanted the two leaders to work it out, so they hired us. Things had been going on for months. We tried to advise the CEO that this really wasn’t just an issue between the two leaders. This was a team issue. No one was dealing with what was obvious.

In the coaching sessions, it became clear that one significant part of the problem was that these two leaders had very different styles and ways of processing information.

One was very relational and wanted harmony.

The other very logical, rational, and wanted things fair.

As a result, neither was able to recognize that they were each dealing with a breakdown in respect - their version of respect. Respect is self-defined and there is no universal definition.

One interpreted that because he was not an official member of the executive team and was filling in on an interim basis, that he was not a full partner at the table. He wanted a decision to be made. He was managing his style and behavior to fit in and hopefully get his status upgraded. He was frustrated that it had been so long and that showed in his interactions.

The other, had been on the receiving side of numerous interactions with this team member and personally interpreted most of these as disrespectful and aimed at him. His department had also been under some scrutiny because of some breakdowns. He mostly though believed that was the result of his teammate and the constant roadblocks he judged were put in place.

There was so much posturing and politicking going on that both leaders were suffering with their stories, missing any productive dialogue between each other or on the team to clear things, and the team, as a result, was not functioning at its best.

Way Too Common

Sadly, this type of interaction is way too common. Unlike the horses, people don’t readily or easily move on. One, because we usually don’t say what we really think, feel, and want. Two, because we’ve become so aligned with our outer persona that we don’t recognize when we are feeling unsafe or fearful. We cover it up and move forward with the persona that keeps us looking good and in control.

You think it’s working, when it’s really undermining your success.

Are you willing to pause and consider that maybe you’ve left something very important and helpful out?

Our Innocence. That child that trusted and listened with an open heart and mind.

I’m not suggesting or wishing you go back to being a child, but I sure wish people could go back to trusting that innate natural ability to listen, not just with our minds but with our hearts and our bodies.

Like horses.

Pick up a direct message.

Deliver a clear and honest response.

Move on and know that you are better together than simply strategizing alone.

Be human, but don’t let your human neocortex override everything else.

We are capable of much more. But you do need to remember your ability to imagine, assume, and judge, does not make you your best. When you use your mind and heart, you can do amazing things!

If you are willing to shift from having to be the brightest and best to being one of and joined with - well great things can happen!

Let’s learn from the horses, really from most of the living, breathing world around us. You are capable of greatness but not alone.

Wake up and get to know your underlying bias and deep-seated beliefs. Then go out in the world, live and learn from others. You have every reason to believe you have a great idea - just know there are others with great ideas as well.

Don’t fear the competition - embrace the differences and grow - imagine and indeed we can change the world!

The Horse Knows,


Want to know engage in learning leadership from a horse? Join us for Find Your Mojo in Montana.


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: 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.

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