What Horses Teach us…

I feel like this is one of those, everything I learned, I learned in Kindergarten type post!  It sort of is when I say that everything I learned I learned from a horse!

You see horseback riding is alot like a dance (credit to my trainer!) and in this dance your partner is a 1000lb animal who doesn’t speak the language and generally has it’s own idea of what the dance should look like (and quick tip it does not start with you on it’s back!)

You see when you get on a horse for the first time or the 1000th time the horse has to adjust to what you want! The horse does not want to walk around in circles going fast and slow. It does not want to walk over water by roads, or over tree limbs. It wants to go hang out with his buddies in a pasture where it can eat, sleep and lay in the sun! (Yes they do lay down but that’s another post)

When you get on the horse you have to adjust your idea AND make sure the horse knows you are the boss.  You can get the idea across by being mean just like you can when you lead.  But the horse is probably going to take it for a while then dump you… literally! Or you can get on the horse and you can encourage the horse to go in the direction you want. You do this with multiple aids, your body, feet, reins and pressure.

The horse I am currently riding is an old draft horse. He’s big, slow and would much rather be in  his stall. In fact yesterday I walked over with his halter and he left. Literally walked out of his stall into the mud.  This was his way of telling me that he was just not that into me!  (My trainer did explain to him that we were riding and he finally agreed)

You see I could of yelled and hit him but all that does is show him that I am mean.  Why do we think this is ok as leaders? We get mad at our team because they are human and don’t want to do some of the stuff we are asking.  Instead of getting mad, why don’t we encourage them.  Share how this is helping them and the team!

Reward them when they are done.  My horse got apples and carrots yesterday.  Now when I go back on Wednesday to ride he’s going to remember that this human is OK.  She gives treats!

As leaders we need to remember that we are doing a dance with our team.  We are the leader but we are going to get our team to go in the direction we want if we approach it in a more friendly manner.

Embrace the Quirky

It is not a secret among horse owners that the painted ones are well quirky.  You see they are bred for color while others are bred for speed and to work.  The paints or Pinto’s are bred to be pretty and they are! They are also a bit odd!

As leaders we all have that one person on our team who is a little different and we often get frustrated with them because they don’t fit into our mold.  I had someone on my team once who would not work past 5.  He felt that this was not part of his job, I work in an industry where this is kind of expected.  I had another person who really only excelled in jobs that were very complex.  At first I struggled to led these 2, because well they were quirky!

I learned that I had to motivate them, I had to work with their own specific ideas and once I was able to do that I had 2 great employees! Just like with my horse (who is also a paint) I have to learn what makes him tick.  You see if Keno is trying to bite me when I first take him into the arena I should not ride him that day.  He’s going to be a brat (I wouldn’t ever call a person that but my horse has that down to a science)!  What I do know is that on these days we do alot of ground work and I read his body language.  He might just be telling me that I need to leave him alone to do his own thing.

As leaders we can’t always leave our employees alone, however we can learn that in some situations letting them do their own thing can be the best for everyone!  It’s alot like learning what battles you are willing to take on.  Some days you are going to have to ask the person to stay late or work on something that simply isn’t that fun! However if you spend every day challenging this person, even when it isn’t needed you are going to frustrate both of you and you are going to end up with an employee who resents you!

Learning what works and what doesn’t is going to make you both successful.

This week, figure out what quirks each of your employees have (We all have them) and figure out who you can take those quirks and make them successful WITH them!  Just like I’ll be listening to Keno and if he’s nippy then we’ll be working on our love for corners (Read hate) and maybe just letting him run around with his buddy!

Happy Quirky Leading everyone!

When you Suck as a leader…

I am reading a book called “The Energy Bus” (website if you want more details http://www.theenergybus.com/) And this book is amazing!  It really has some great insight into being a great leader and how to use your positive Energy to push yourself and others forward.

The book is written around a ficitional character who is a leader in a company that is releasing a new product.  One of the things this character struggles with is getting his team on board with this new idea.  He meets 1×1 with his team and they all pretty much tell him that he is a terrible leader!  One of his people goes on to say that why should he work for him when he never get’s noticed or thanked!

This got me thinking about those times when we just suck as leaders!  Now I  know that ‘Suck’ is a bit of a strong word but frankly it’s true! We all have times where we just aren’t at our best and those times can go on for days, weeks even years unless someone tells us!

We think we are doing so great and being an amazing leader, but our teams are simply floundering because they aren’t seeing the same greatness we are perceiving!

I started wondering about how many times my team would look at me and think, you suck as a leader!  I know I’ve thought it over the years and even said the words out loud to my spouse!  Here’s where good leaders succeed, instead of sitting around thinking we are terrible or wondering how do we get better we look inside and think about what can we change?

What areas do we need to improve and what resources are available to us!  This blog is a good one (if I do say so myself) But good books like the Energy Bus are also great tools.  Now just for the record, I don’t get anything for suggesting this book! I really think it’s a great book!

So here’s a thought for this week… how about you think about ways you Suck as a leader! Seriously think about this for 30 seconds (That’s all you get) Then start to think about the ways you are an amazing leader. Do that for 2 minutes!  Then go around and tell your team what you appreciate about them. If they are remote send an email!  Don’t offer a ton of information just affirm them AND BE SPECIFIC!

Here are some examples, I really love the way you handled that difficult client last week, or thank you so much for taking on that new project, I know you are busy but this really helps the team. Or I really appreciate your positive energy during our meetings, this really helps me!

Now go and Don’t suck as leaders!  And when you start to think about why you aren’t doing so great! GO GET THE ENERGY BUS BOOK!!!

ICNU Challenge

HI Everyone,

As we go into Thanksgiving and start to think about the things we are thankful for I want to challenge you to find things to be thankful for in your team!

We all have that 1 employee or co-worker who annoys us greatly!  And I say that in all honesty!  If we are honest with ourselves there is always someone who is different, thinks differently or comes at the job different and it frustrates us!

At one of my recent jobs I had someone on my team who worked 8 hours a day.  That’s it, no more no less!  I work in an industry where we are always very busy!!  You just have alot to do and you just keep going until it’s done.  It wasn’t until I learned how to motivate my employee and learned to understand how his life worked that I learned how to work with him in a way that was beneficial to all of us.

I had another team member who worked really well on the tough tasks but ask him to do something mundane and he struggled.  I learned that if I made sure he had a good combination of hard and normal.

Seeing and understanding what motivates the team and how what they do benefits the team and the organization will help you work with them!

Your challenge this week is to write down the 3 employees that frustrate you the most and then write down 3 things that make them a good employee.  What gifts do they bring to the organization and how can you use those to better your team!

Be Quirky

We have a horse, his name is Duke (he’s the icon for the site). He’s a 4yo Paint or Pinto.  He’s quirky!  Horses are bred for a few things, those include mental soundness, physical soundness and well color.  Paints are bred for color which makes things like mental and physical soundness to be a little off.

Being quirky as a leader is a good thing but it can be hard to take for people who are used to either leading with or being led by someone who is very straight and narrow.

This means that if you are one those of quirky leaders you may find it tough to get ahead and get noticed for being a good leader.  However, don’t let that stop you!  It is alot like a round peg in a square hole and someone may tell you it won’t work but it will!  You just have to find the right balance.

For Duke he struggles with what he can’t see and generally that is something behind him.  Oh and weird sounds, things he thinks are scary and walls, but hey he’s quirky!  However, he’s an amazing horse, it just takes someone to see past those quirks and see potential.

As leaders we have our quirks, however so do those around us!  Those quirks are what make them successful!  I worked with someone who never had a filter, if you did something wrong he’d tell you.  Then it was over!  He expected you were going to fix the error and there was never a grudge to carry! This was really hard for me at first because I don’t like negative feedback and I tend to believe that you are giving me this I must be a bad person.  However for him this was just his style.  He had his quirks!

We have 2 hurdles to overcome as quirky leaders (and EVERYONE is quirky).  The first is understanding if our quirks provide us a strength or a weakness. In my example above being afraid of conflict left me to always wonder if he was mad at me or I had done some great error.  I am having to learn that negative feedback isn’t a reflection on me as a person but an error that needs to be corrected.  Understanding what the quirk is and how it can work is great.

The next thing for me is to understand that this quirk is actually a GOOD thing because it can allow me to empathize with people who I am providing negative feedback to. I know that for me to hear this would really hurt, so I make sure they know that they bring some amazing gifts to the team however this one area needs some work.  I also make it about the error and not the person.  Often times you can say “wow I see that you are really working on a lot of projects right now and I can see how this error occurred, how can I help you with this?”

Understanding our team members quirks is the next thing to look at. I had a team member once who didn’t work more than 8 hours a day.  In my world NOONE works 8 hours, we work 12 14, 16, 18 we don’t do shift word!  And for the most part everyone understood that.  He didn’t get it, and at first I was so frustrated with him.  Why didn’t he want to work like everyone else ! Then I learned that he was quirky, he just didn’t see that as important. I learned that I had to ask him to work extra.  I had to set boundaries with him and indicate, this needs to be done today – however you can finish it at home.  I also provided incentives, if he worked late a few days and we weren’t busy I’d send him home early on a Friday.

Understanding his quirks allowed me to ensure my teams success without losing my mind!

Being quirky can be a great thing!  You just have to know how to manage that quirkiness!  For me it will be about teaching a 4 year old horse that his tail is NOT something to be afraid of and that the ground isn’t going to jump up and eat him!!