Strong Leadership

Well I am 3 weeks into my new gig and to say I love it would be a complete understatement!  I made the move to follow a leader I have always admired but in the end I got 2 more amazing leaders and a company that truly leads from the top!

I am a huge promoter of good leadership, I feel so strongly about it I started a blog!  I feel that as leaders and followers we must have strong leaders to help us get where we are going.  This can be hard for new leaders who feel ill-equipped to lead or who feel threatened by those around them.

Leaders, LISTEN! STOP!  It’s OK to admit you have weaknesses it’s OK to say I am not sure , HOWEVER it is NOT OK to hire people you feel are below you simply to make you look better!  Putting people down to make yourself feel superior is not OK.

Now before you tell me you don’t do that, stop for a second because we all do!  We all get nervous and try to make ourselves look better than we are!  I did it today, I answered an email and instead of apologizing I skirted the issue by saying , yea we didn’t do that right.  Instead of saying, I made an error let me fix that!

Think about your week was there a time you maybe didn’t step up and lead but instead pushed the buck?  Now that you’ve identified this let’s make sure it doesn’t happen again!!

Leaving bad managers

We’ve all heard the saying that people don’t leave company’s they leave bad managers!  And we probably agree that this is true but what if WE are the bad managers?  Take a moment and think about that…..

Ok so your gut probably says that you aren’t the bad manager, you can’t possibly be that! I mean you are here reading this blog about being a good leader so therefore you must be good right? What if I said no? I mean I don’t know you so I can’t really say you aren’t but what if I could?

What if I told you we are ALL bad managers!  We think we are good, we think we are doing the right thing and bam someone leaves and we realize we aren’t!  Well here’s the deal – are you ready? Not everyone will want you to be their leader! You see we all have styles that don’t mesh with others, this doesn’t make us good!

I recently started a new position working for my old leader.  I loved working her, she’s tough, sound, has great ideas and is amazing at getting stuff done.  However a good friend of mine seriously disliked her. Couldn’t stand working for her because they didn’t mesh!

How could my (what I will call one of my favorite leaders of all time) done differently?  Probably nothing!  You see by trying to get this particular worker on board she could of alienated the rest of the team!  Sometimes the best thing you can do is to show that person that there maybe a better option for them. Either in a different organization or even company.

As leaders we aren’t going to be the popular ones, but we need to make sure our team feels heard and feels connected.  When we have someone on our team who is undermining our authority or making it harder for the team to work it might be best if they were encouraged to go elsewhere.

As a leader you are responsible for the overall health of your team and not everyone is going to fit!  The leader’s job is to help them see where they fit on the team and how they can help get there but if they aren’t willing then you might have to help them look elsewhere.

There is a book out there called the Energy Bus and it talks about how we as individuals have a job to understand what our role is on the bus! I would highly recommend this book for everyone on the team!  Because it talks about how YOU (as the person) drive the team towards it’s goals.  It’s not about what your leader is doing or what anyone else is doing but about what you are doing!

Today think about the person on your team who feels as if they just don’t fit, and then see if you can help them fit, but don’t do it so that the entire team fails but help them see how they make a difference on the team!

Bad things good leaders say

My daughter and I were talking what how sometimes adults in her presence say things she doesn’t really think are appropriate.  Not bad words, etc but talking about other people on the team or other people they are working with.

For example she said one day she was working with her trainer and her trainer commented on how training this other person was so hard because she always had feedback no matter what she was asked to do.

This got me thinking about things some of my leaders have said to me about those on the same team or even those in leadership positions around me.

As leaders we must be very mindful of what we say, do or even think around our team.  Even our body language can convey something that we don’t mean to.  It can demean our leadership when we speak badly about those around us even if we feel we are only venting.

Venting should be done in a small group or to a very safe person!  Complaining can feel freeing but imagine that comment above getting back to the person it was said about.  Now as a leader you are in a bad spot!  You now have to explain to the person why you said it and then you probably have to explain why you didn’t say it to them in the first place.

The bible is very clear about protecting what we say because our tongues are very strong and have the ability to either cut someone down or build someone up.

So what do you do when you find yourself in this situation?  Well first of all be honest!  If you find you’ve said something apologize to the person you said it to! Then go tell the person you were talking about, you don’t have to say “well I told Mel that you are (insert whatever here)” but you can say, I am struggling when you provide negative feedback when we are working together, is there something I can do differently?

Next pay attention to your words!  Watch when you might say these things, are you frustrated with something else?  Or maybe you are overtired or feeling over worked.  Learn your triggers and then work to resolve them. If there is someone who needs the feedback find a time to meet with them and provide that!  You’ll feel better and so will your team!!

List some times when you’ve done this, and then think back to how you could of handled it differently!!

Making Assumptions

My amazing husband and I were in the car the other day and he was telling me about his new boss. He is excited to work for her and with her and feels she will offer more support than his previous manager.

He also told me a story about a call he took with a manager who essentially yelled at him for taking a call from home and not being in the office.  His manager politely told the other manager that he was off because his wife (me) was having emergency pelvic surgery after a bad fall from her horse. The manager apologized.. but you could tell she was holding assumptions that were simply not true.

This got me thinking about how as leaders we often make assumptions about our team based on what we think or feel or even what we’ve been told by others. Instead of investigating the idea and coming up with our own opinion we make up the story in our head ahead of time and then fail to realize that our story might not be true.

If that manager had asked instead of going right to being angry she would of learned that my husband was taking the call from the surgical waiting room while his wife was in a 6 hour surgery having pins inserted into her pelvis.

As leaders, we need to stop our assuming and make our own ideas. How many times have you taken someone’s word because they are another leader or someone we admire.  They tell us that person is bad, or lazy, or bad at their job and we take their word for it.

Instead let’s make our own opinions and stand up for that person! That person might be lazy or bad at their job or maybe there isn’t something going on and we don’t know about it.  They could be caring for a sick spouse or child or balancing older parents with the responsibilities of regular life.  Why won’t we ask whats going on, share what WE are seeing or feeling and find out what’s going on. Maybe that person was moved to a new job but they don’t really feel it’s a fit.  Maybe they don’t realize that they aren’t living up to the expectations of the job and need an adjustment.

Next instead of assuming, let’s take a breath..



Asking for Help

I have recently reconnected with a friend.  We met while my daughter was taking riding lessons.  She was one of the instructors and really supported us when we made the move to purchase our own horse.  I always felt that she was worried about her job for supporting us.

Recently I had another conversation with her and it came to light that she had some great ideas but wasn’t allowed to implement them. I know small business owners feel free connected to their business.  This is often because they are the ones who built their business through sweat and tears.  They know the failures they’ve experienced and they see what works and what doesn’t but this often makes them blind to what others may offer.

As leaders we often feel so tied to our ideas that we forget others are just as passionate about our business as we are!  We need to stop and listen to what they offering and suggesting. This doesn’t always mean that they are right or what they are suggesting is right for our business but sometimes they may have a good idea that would allow us to expand our business in a positive manner.

Taking a breath and listening and thinking about the suggestion maybe the best thing we’ve ever done plus it makes our team feel connected to the bigger picture.

So the next time someone on your team has an idea listen!  It may not be the one that you implement but it will encourage more ideas!

It takes a Village

I was going to post this in February – as an honor to a year post fall. However, I just don’t want to wait anymore and since this is my work I am posting it today.

Pictures from this week and 2011

She’s just a blue halter…

This story is a mixture of fact, fiction and embellishment. However, it is true of many horses who are rescued.
The below was written by the team at Healing Hearts, Hooves and Paws the day Zora arrived at their rescue barn.
“Day one:
I was afraid of the pretty blue halter and lead rope and the scary new guy who turns out horses. Miss G had to spend some time with me in the stall and a couple carrots to get my halter on. Then we went for a terrifying walk through a barn and past some horses into a big scary field.

Good news is we went to our own big grass field with friends nearby! I stretched my legs as I sang the song of my people and danced with happiness across my new field of yummies. Miss G gave me a dangly rope to have for the day to make catching me less scary. More good news is at the end of the day she came back with more carrots and our walk wasn’t as scary this time. Then I came back to my stall and got that delicious molasses grain covered in some scrumptious ground flax seed! Once I finished that I dug into my soft grass hay and even hung my head out of the gossip gate to get the feel of this new farm! I made a new friend with blizzy and we shared a few kisses from the isle-way to my stall.

All in all, my first day wasn’t so bad! I look forward to seeing my field friends tomorrow and getting to exercise in the sun again!


The blue halter arrived today. She is very scared; you can see the fear in her eyes. Eyes that for a long time lived in a small stall, allowed daylight just a few moments each day. It will take time to get her to trust again but here is hoping that she has landed in a good place.

I am a racehorse, that’s what the blue halter tells herself.  I go fast!  And she did too, she worked very hard to make everyone see that she was good at her job.  She took to the track so well and loved to run!  Then one day she was told her racing career was over.  She wasn’t sure why she didn’t race any more, I mean all she knew was the track and running. The new humans in her life told her she was going to be a lesson horse. She wasn’t sure exactly what a ‘lesson’ horse was, but the humans told her she’d get to play with other horses and teach tiny humans to ride.  This sounded like a good plan to her!  The blue halter was excited about her new life.

When she arrived at her new barn, she realized it wasn’t much different than the others she’d live at.  There was a lot going on, humans coming and going and even some tiny humans. She hadn’t seen many of those before, but most of them were very nice and they were all excited to meet her.  The tiny humans would walk by and give her a good pet and say hi.  She figured they couldn’t be so bad, and she told herself she’d make a good lesson horse.

The blue halter made a great lesson horse, she learned very quickly how to keep her tiny humans safe.  She was one of the best, even when things were scary, she made sure her tiny charges were safe.  She never went too fast unless asked and learned to do something called jumping.  While jumping wasn’t her favorite thing to do, she always did what was asked of her and made sure that she got praises for doing the right thing.  She didn’t mind the lessons and enjoyed the time she got to hang out with her friends in the pasture eating grass and hay. The tiny humans took great care of her and gave her yummy carrots and apples to eat along with good scratches!  Although she liked to pretend, she didn’t like the scratches but her tiny charges knew she loved them!
The blue halter had a great life at this barn.  The owners were nice to her and made sure she had plenty to eat and a warm stall when it was cold outside.  She got to hang out with her friends and run around when she wasn’t teaching her tiny humans. She even got to roll in the mud from time to time, even though she knew it really annoyed her humans.  She settled into lesson life and watched her tiny humans grow up into great horse men and women.  She watched her friends come and go sometimes they would go to new homes and sometimes they would go on to the pasture in the sky.  While it was sad to see her friends leave, she always knew that her life was a good one.

One day, things started to change she noticed new humans taking care of her and feeding her.  While this wasn’t so unusual – humans seemed to come and go – these new humans weren’t as nice as the others.  They would forget to give her hay sometimes and often her water bucket would be empty or dirty.  They would get mad at her for dipping her hay in the water.  Didn’t they know this was something she always did? The new humans started treating her meanly, when she pretended to be a giraffe they didn’t laugh like the other ones, they would hit her and yell.  She didn’t understand why they were yelling; her other humans would just calmly bring her head back down.

She also started getting less grain and when she tried to tell them they ignored her or worse yelled at her for wanting food.  She didn’t understand why they were so mean to her. Her usual humans stopped coming around and she felt sad.  Her stall didn’t get cleaned and her feet started to hurt.  She wasn’t getting her scratches or snacks and it felt like they just forgot she was there.  When the humans did remember to let her out of her stall, they would yell at her and use a long stick to make her do what they wanted. If she walked too fast, she would get hit, if she walked too slow, she would get hit.  They didn’t seem to understand that her eyes didn’t adjust as quickly as theirs did and they would get angry when she raised her head to see.

She tried to tell the new humans that something was wrong, she’d pin her ears back or stand at the back of her stall, but no one seemed to notice or care. She even tried to talk to them, but they just passed her by.  The blue halter started to feel very sad.  She wasn’t sure why the new humans didn’t like her, but they seemed to have new horses they liked better.  Slowly she stopped teaching her tiny humans, so when she did, she wasn’t as good as before and they would use the long stick to make her go the way they wanted.

One day they put her outside with a donkey.  She didn’t really mind the donkey, but she could tell he was sick.  He didn’t eat the way he should and slowly she started to feel sick as well.  She wasn’t sure what was going on, but she wasn’t as hungry as before and her stomach hurt all the time.  She ate less because it hurt to eat. The donkey would make a lot of noise and it scared her, but she put on a brave face. She felt that she had to just make herself not be noticed.  If she wasn’t noticed, then they wouldn’t hit her with the stick.  She started not going outside as much and when they came to take her out, she would stand in the back of her stall and not let them put her halter on.  Slowly they started putting her out less and less.  She was OK with that because she didn’t feel good and didn’t want to be outside with the funny sounding donkey.

The blue halter started getting very skinny and she was always cold. She used to never be cold, they used to tease her and say she was like an oven. She wasn’t sure what that meant but the humans seemed to laugh when they said it, so she agreed.  The blue halter got very sad, she would stand at the back of her stall and watch as people came and went. Most of her friends were now gone and new horses had come. The new horses were mean to her and didn’t talk to her when she called to them.  Her old friends would always call back, she wasn’t sure where her old friends went.

Then one day someone she recognized showed up and asked about her.  She heard them say her name!  She wanted to call to say she was still there, but she was just too tired.  They found her in the field with the donkey and started to speak very quietly to her.  The human told her she was going to go to a better place. They said they were going to rescue her.  She didn’t know that meant but if it meant she got to feel better she thought that sounded good to her.

The next day they showed up with a shiny new blue halter.  They put her on something they called a trailer that looked really scary, but she went with them. They took her to a new barn with stalls that had a soft place for her to lay with plenty of grain and hay.  She didn’t feel like eating still, and her new humans were very worried.  They called in someone that they called a Vet and he was very nice.  He explained to her new humans that she had something called lung worm and a few other things she can’t remember.  He said she would need medicine and that she could no longer be used for jumping but she’d be better.

She was so scared; she would just stand in the back of her stall and if they tried to come near, she would back away. Humans were mean and she was sure these new ones would be just as mean as the others.  She’d pin her ears back at them so they would go away, but they never did. They spoke softly to her and introduced her to new friends. She really liked Blizzy– she was very nice. Blizzy told her that she was a pasture friend.  The blue halter wasn’t sure what that meant but her and Blizzy had so much fun.  The humans laughed when they introduced her to what they called ‘mini’ horses.  The blue halter wasn’t sure why the horse was so small, but they reminded of her the bad place.

Slowly the blue halter got stronger.  She still liked to pretend she was a giraffe but her new humans just laughed at her and put her tack on anyway.  She was being taught Dressage.  It looked like fancy walking to her, but she was really good at it and her new trainer said she’d make a great Dressage Horse. She enjoyed her training and even got to teach some new tiny humans.

She moved to what her new owner Chris called a training barn.  This is where her trainer Olivia was.  Olivia was teaching her to pick up her back. She said she had to strengthen her top line – the blue halter wasn’t sure what that meant but she tried to make sure Olivia was happy.  Olivia was always very nice to her and made her this yummy mash at the end of each day and never yelled at her if she dipped her hay in her water.

She made a new friend named Rayne.  She loved hanging out with Rayne, they would share everything even if Rayne was the boss.  She was still nervous around new people and sometimes she wouldn’t let the humans take her out. They seemed mean – even though they weren’t but they still scared her, so she’d stand at the back of her stall and not let them take her out. But when Olivia showed up, she made sure she went out.  She always talked very softly to her and made sure the blue halter had what she needed.

One day Chris came to visit and said she was going to be part of an adoption event.  The blue halter wasn’t sure what that meant but Chris said maybe she’d find her forever home.  The blue halter didn’t want to hope too much, but she had seen a lot of other horses have what Chris called their ‘very own Human’.  The blue halter wanted that so much, but she was afraid that they might treat her bad or be mean or not feed her.  That would be more than she could handle.

When the adoption even came a family showed up and they told Chris that they were adopting the blue halter.  The blue halter was very afraid, they seemed to be a bit loud and not real sure of what to do.  The new family brushed her and fed her some treats.  They wanted to see how she was under saddle, so Olivia put her saddle on.  She tried to pretend she was a giraffe, but Olivia wouldn’t let her.  She just wanted to go back outside or in her stall, but Olivia said she had to show the new family how good she was at riding.

The new family adopted her and when they showed up the next day, they told her she had her very own human. The blue halter was very scared, I mean what if they were mean or hurt her. So, she acted very bad. She wouldn’t let them put her halter on, and when they tried, she put her head up and did her best giraffe work!  She was very scared and was very unsure of what the new human wanted from her.  She even got away, but she was so scared all she did was back up down the aisle.  She didn’t know why she acted that way, but she was so scared, what if they left her or took her back to the bad place. She liked it where she was and her friends.

Her new human said she was her mom; the blue halter had heard other horses talk about this, but she wasn’t sure what it meant.  Her mom worked with her and praised when she did good and gave her good treats and scratches.  She started to like her and would wait for her to come to visit.  One day her mom told her she was going to move to a new barn.  The blue halter was very scared, but she was learning to trust her mom and hoped that she would make sure she was taken care of. When her human came to put her on the trailer, she did her best to not go, but the new trainer made it hard, so she finally got on.  The ride to the new barn was scary but the blue halter kept telling herself she would be OK.

When she got to her new home a barn called Koppings, the blue halter decided she liked it.  She heard her mom and new trainer say that she was supposed to get lots of hay and grain.  She wondered if her mom would remember her mash, and she did, she even put in apples which were her favorite.

Slowly the blue halter grew to make friends in her new place.  She loves it there and has lots of new friends.  She gets tons of yummy hay and grain and her mom comes every day with mash. They usually ride or go for a walk.  Her mom has promised that she will stay forever with her.  She hopes that’s true because she loves her new family!  She doesn’t give lessons to the tiny humans, but sometimes she thinks they might be a better rider than her mom – but don’t tell her that!

Looking for a fight….

How many times have we gone into a meeting or conversation or even email just knowing it’s going to be a fight to get something done!  zora fight

Yesterday was one of those days where I regret horse ownership all the way!  Zora decided she was taking herself for a walk because why not and then decided that she didn’t like her little brother who we had just moved over.  I was frazzled to say the least and annoyed with her, worried about the other horse getting hurt and being cold and all sorts of new things and frankly was just about done!

So I asked my amazing trainer for a quick lesson because I just knew that the horse was at fault, I mean she was causing me stress so it had to be all her right?? (OK wrong) As leaders we often decide way before anything that things aren’t going to go well.  And frankly I am sure non-leaders do the same thing!  We assume our clients are going to be upset before we even give them a chance! to be upset!  We go in looking for the fight.

So yesterday I saddled up my horse, again knowing it was going to be a fight because I am the human and she is only the horse!  The first words my trainer said to me “you can’t start off assuming there is going to be a fight”… huh? What? You mean she might just be OK? NO that can’t possibly be right! She’s been a brat the entire day…so of course that is going to continue..

Except it didn’t, once I let go of the idea of a fight she was amazing. Doing everything I asked and in a great way!  Now my trainer did offer some insight in case she did give me a fight, but she didn’t.

You see as leaders, when we expect the fight we often get one, so instead of thinking that this is going to be a battle expect it to go well and prepare for the fight. For example, are you delivering something later than expected, maybe it got away from you and you didn’t tell the client it was coming late.  Can you change the time? No you can’t but you can apologize and let it go.  If your client comes back with guns blazing then you can react in the way you thought through.

So often we get ourselves ready for the fight and when it doesn’t come we create it!  We decide on our own that there is going to be a fight and we push buttons either intentionally or not but they get pushed.  Our team and our clients come back swinging and we feel validated that we were ready for the fight!

Instead what if we waited, took that deep breath and decided that there wasn’t going to be a fight.  We can have a battle plan ready but not have to use it! (Interesting concept huh)

This week, take a moment and ask yourself, are you preparing for the battle or are you gearing up for the fight!  Once you realize that you are gearing up for the fight you can start preparing for battle instead!