My work with horses for the past couple of decades has shown me that we humans have developed an unhealthy habit. We unfairly judge people for their differences. It could be that someone looks different, speaks differently or dresses differently. Somehow the person judging seems to think that by judging others, which in effect means disliking them or putting them down, it makes them more powerful. However this quote from an unknown source has something to say about that. “When we judge or criticize another person, it says nothing about that person; it merely says something about our own need to be critical.”
Judgmental criticism can only be made based on assumptions and opinions, but never the truth. These behaviors keep us tethered to unproductive and unhealthy relationships both personal and professional.
This type of behavior only serves to make one feel more isolated and lonely. Working with horses brings this type of behavior to the foreground immediately. Horses know when a human is lying. They sense what a person’s true feelings are despite what the person says.
As we go into the holiday season, where we sing songs that call for peace on earth and goodwill to men, let us put our judgments aside. Not just for a day or a season. Let’s focus on our similarities as members of the one and only human race.
I’m not suggesting that you have to be cozy with everyone, but if you make an effort to see the beauty in differences maybe we can all grow to appreciate the differences as we appreciate different colors. It would be a lot less interesting if everyone were the same.
May you and your herd of loved and cherished family and friends have a healthy, happy Thanksgiving and holiday season.
When major news media turns its attention to a story about the use of horses in the training of corporate executives, what can I say? My heart sings. This means that more and more people are exposed to the value that horses bring to teaching humans how to become better leaders and all around better human beings.
In a recent cnn.com article entitled What Executives Can Learn From A Horse, I was pleased to see a fellow horse whisperer focusing his attention on corporate executives. https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/29/success/executives-horses/index.html And even more pleased about the continuing desire displayed by CEO’s, Presidents, and other corporate executives to become more effective, more compassionate leaders and willing to learn these skills through working with horses.
I believe that, as a species, we have pretty much reached the end of the trail of thought that gives credence to the belief that anger, confrontation and aggression are going to help people become more loyal or productive. We are coming to understand that the power of love, kindness and trust along with clearly and lovingly established boundaries allow for more creativity and freedom.
The article points out a truth that is quickly seen when working with horses. Neither horses nor humans respond well to impatient, nervous or angry energy from a “boss.” Without freedom, some horses and some humans will eventually acquiesce, though what you’ll have are slaves that do what they do because they have to. You will not build any sense of loyalty. Eventually leaders as well as employees will look for greener pastures, where a new style of leadership is replacing the old.
If you’re looking for greener pastures in which to improve your leadership skills, give us a call. Medicine Horse Ranch offers a range of training opportunities for groups, individuals, businesses and organizations. We also custom design experiential programs around any number of relevant issues and/or topics.
You might be able to fool some of the people all the time or all of the people some of the time. But, no matter how hard you try, you simply can’t fool a horse into thinking you are sincere when you aren’t. And don’t even try to impress a horse. You will never impress a horse with the kind of car you drive, the neighborhood you live in, the amount of money you earn or where you were educated. Horses don’t play politics and can’t be bribed or intimidated. And they can read humans’ unspoken emotions with pinpoint accuracy.
In fact, if when around a horse, someone attempts to put on a happy face when they are really sad or if they pretend they are courageous when they are scared to death, the horse knows immediately that person is being inauthentic. Horses have an amazing ability to reflect the inner workings of the human being moment by moment and relates differently to each of us and to each new situation. A horse will wait patiently, profoundly and without judgment for a human to find inner alignment. The horse will know the moment that happens.
That’s because horses only rely on their sensate responses and intuition to feel their way through their decisions. They don’t ever second-guess those feelings. This gives them an uncanny ability to sense what is NOT being spoken by a human. Horses often reveal things about humans that humans are not aware of.
You can be incongruent with other human beings. You can pretend, bluff, out-and-out lie and many people will believe you. But you can’t pull those kinds of stunts with a horse. It’s impossible because horses read what is truly going on ON the inside. Studies show that 93% of human communication is based on body language and tone of voice or mood. Horses can re-teach us how to become more aware of and responsible for how and what we are actually communicating as they mirror our beliefs, possibilities and limitations.
If you’re looking for unique and out of the box ways to improve your leadership skills, give us a call. Medicine Horse Ranch offers a range of training opportunities for groups, individuals, businesses and organizations. We also custom design horse assisted experiential programs around any number of relevant issues and/or topics.
On the second day of my Nevada cattle herding adventure in the Great Basin, a wind storm came up fast and furiously. At one point, gusts were blowing at 40 mph.
I was cutting inside the herd when Mike said, “You don’t have a string on your hat, you better step back into the line.” True, I had nothing to keep my hat from blowing away, except my hand which was needed for other things. In other words, I wasn’t properly prepared for the task at hand. My lack of preparation could prove problematic, even dangerous if the hat blew off and startled the cattle.
This makes me think about how many times someone walks into a meeting unprepared. Those who make a practice of this rarely, if ever, wonder what the cost is on themselves and everyone else. It may not be as life-threatening as cattle herding without a string to hold your hat down, but there is always a cost. Being unprepared for a meeting wastes the time of everyone involved and accounts for all-round inefficiencies that could ultimately lead to the demise of a company if the problem is not addressed.
A few minutes after I went to the back of the line, Mike rode out of the herd, with a piggin’ string* which he then tied over my hat – kind of a Calamity Jane meets Ma Kettle look. With my hat securely tied to my head I could rejoin the team and go back to cutting cows… Which I did for the rest of the day. Mike definitely had my back and without any fuss or muss just took care of the newbie. In corporate settings you’re more likely to see colleagues throw the newbie under the bus rather than help them out of a tricky situation.
*(The term “Piggin' String” has a special meaning to outside cowboys who rope and tie down wild cattle and doctor and brand calves. There are other names for this handy piece of rope. In the Southwest, it is sometimes called a “hogging rope.”)
Knowing When To Walk Away
At one point on the 3rd day of our rodear cutting process, the wind brought what looked like part of the state with it. One moment I was looking at 100 head of cattle. The next moment there was total black in front of me. Yes, a real Nevada black out, like half the state had blown right in front of us. Mike said in a very matter of fact tone, “You can’t cut them if you can’t see them” And, we called it quits for the day.
Once again, no arguing, no discussions, no attempting to do something differently. We all just headed back to camp. There are simply times when you simply have to walk away.
All along the way, there were lots of discussions and there were often disagreements. There were many things to contend with including the dynamics of father and son, boss and hired hands, and father’s students like me trying to do a good job. I noticed no one seemed afraid of standing their ground and enduring a few minutes of conflict for the sake of producing the best result.
I will never forget this experience, it changed me deep down inside. The honesty in the group built and deepened relationships that I prize and will treasure forever. The land, it’s beauty, the ruggedness, the magnificence…ending each day with a recap of the good work we produced together, then sorting through plans for the next day.
There were many times I felt afraid but could step into the unknown anyway because these guys had my back. I immersed myself and my horses into an adventure of a lifetime and we are so much better for it. The experiences have translated back home in life and in riding. There’s just not much that throws any of us anymore. We have more confidence when the winds of change blow and try to knock us off our game, now we just lean in.
As I wrap up my journey into the Nevada Great Basin to participate in a cow-herd, in this month’s article, I share an oversight on my part that could have been dangerous. It was a lack of preparation and though it may seem like a non-incident, believe me, it could have been very serious.
Had I not been a novice, the event would have been considered an act that could have eroded the focus on the collective success of the mission. Fortunately, I was a newbie, however, I had to stop what I was doing and move out of the center and out to the edge of the herd. There are things that can happen on the range for which every cowboy must be prepared. Experience is the best teacher as is being surrounded by a team of people who only have the success of the group in mind. There’s only room for one oversight. That’s the first time.
This is a sample of Dysfunction #5 In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: Inattention to Results
The pursuit of individual goals and personal status erodes the focus on collective success.
To find out what happened on the final days out on range read this months’ final installment. I invite you also to think about how when people pursue individual goals and only focus on their own personal status, how that can erode the collective success of a company, team, civic group or family. The danger may not be immediate or life-threatening as it is out on the range, but there is always a price to be paid.
After the ground rules were set, standards agreed to and safety established, it was time to get to work. During the first 3 days on the range, our job was singular in nature. We did what is known as ‘cutting cows’. What we had to do was to sort the heifers and the calves from the bulls and steers from over 300 head of cattle. Then we had to drive (not in a trailer, but on horseback) those that had been sorted nearly ten miles away, through the desert to the processing station for ear tags and shots.
The Sorting Process
The sorting process happens by a method called ‘rodear’. ‘Rodear’ is a Spanish word meaning “to surround” and is the derivation of our ‘rodeo’. On ranches in the Great Basin, as well as throughout the Western United States, many outfits will train their cattle to ‘rodear’. It’s especially helpful if you’re short-handed, because you can pretty easily teach cattle to stay bunched up. This way even one person can go through the herd, rope the ones that need to be removed, doctored, or inspected for sickness, and not have cattle scattered from hell to breakfast when they do.
How The Rodear Works
Because cattle are herd animals, doing things this way keeps the cattle quiet. It draws upon their need to be together, teaching them there’s safety in numbers and that staying bunched together on a flat, or in a corner is a win-win for them.
On horseback, each of us took turns walking slowly into the gigantic ball of cows, with the aim of “cutting” out the ones we weren’t going to drive down the road and letting them back out into the dessert. The line of horsemen around the ‘rodear’ makes a “hole” for the one cow to leave, but as herd animals, they often like to leave with a couple of their friends who need to stay. It gets tricky and you have to be awake and on your toes.
Creating A Win-Win
Since I was a novice, my teacher went into the rodear with me the first time and coached me through the process, watching every move I made, letting me make mistakes, helping me correct and try again. All this was accomplished without many words, and most importantly, he made sure I had a win (or three) before I returned to the line.
I had as many turns going into the rodear as everyone else. And I got yelled at when I was too far back or too far forward in the line. With every correction, there was also a sense that everyone was coming from a place of “we want you to get better” for you, for us and for the cows. It wasn’t one person’s job to point out the leak in my position. Whoever noticed a problem didn’t wait for the boss to notice it. The one who noticed did something about it immediately. That attention to the team’s objectives was expected and welcomed.
When A Cow Breaks Loose
From time to time as we were doing our sorting, a cow would get past our line and run out into the desert. When that happened, someone would have to ride out hard and fast and bring it back to the herd. While that was happening, the rest of us reconfigured the line and covered until the cowboy was able to rejoin us. There were no discussions about who was going, no fuss, no board meetings or 17 emails. Someone rode out while the rest of us automatically moved into the change and focused on the job in front of us.
To be continued…
This month I’m continuing the lessons I learned during my 2017 cow herding experience in Nevada’s Great Basin. Last month I talked about the importance of trust. This month, you’ll read in my article about something that happens from time to time out on the range and how the cowboys handle the “problem.”
You’ll see that things are handled very differently and very swiftly on the range. Unlike in the corporate setting, there are no meetings, no discussions, no emails. There is simply taking responsibility and taking care of the situation immediately.
In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, the second and third dysfunctions are: Fear of Conflict and Lack of Commitment. Fear of conflict is described as follows: The desire to preserve artificial harmony which stifles the occurrence of productive ideological conflict. And, Lack of Commitment cultivates a “lack of clarity or buy-in” preventing team members from making decisions they will stick to. https://www.tablegroup.com/books/dysfunctions
When things go sideways out on the range, there is no one pointing fingers, blaming or looking for an ego boost. There is no fear of conflict with any member of the cow-herding team. There is no lack of commitment. Action is taken. Everyone plays their part. No questions asked.
I understand that things that happen on the range are more black-and-white, with little to no subtlety involved in the outcome. Find out what happened and how it was handled when you read this month’s article in Part Two: The Assignment.
Cowboys make the best team leaders. It’s no wonder that they’ve always been natural cultural heroes! Come journey with me over the next few months to discover how I found out what great team-builders cowboys make.
An Irresistible Invitation
In March of 2017, I found myself hauling my two mustangs in my brand-spanking new 25-foot living quarters trailer for almost 10-hours to a portion of The Great Basin on the outer edges of Nevada. I was lured by the invitation of Mike Bridges who has been my horsemanship teacher for 11-years. He was conducting a 15- day working ranch clinic at his son’s 5,000-acre cattle operation. (This is what might be loosely referred to in the corporate world as an “offsite.”) I knew this invitation to be ‘out on the range’ was going to be way out of my ordinary riding environment and way out of my comfort zone. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to further develop my skills as a rider as well as my confidence.
Treated As An Equal
I was the only girl in an otherwise male cadre of other advanced students of Mike’s and real cowboys who do this kind of out-on-the-range work for a living. Everyone except me had been here before and knew what lay ahead.
Even though I was the only girl – and a novice – getting ready to go for two-weeks of cattle herding, what I noticed immediately was that I wasn’t treated any differently than anyone else. I was included in all the conversations, apprised of the tasks at hand, the requirements, the precautions. It was expected that I would need to step up and step into whatever was needed for the job at hand, once that job was explained to me. No one referred to me or treated me as new, and at the same time I was directed to what I could bite off and chew.
This congruency (what the boss said, and what the boss did, matched every time) and built immediate trust. In the course of 20-minutes after meeting everyone, we were ALL ready to give it our all.
Trust Is The Essential Foundation Of Any Teamwork
Whether you are building a sports team, a family, a corporation, or getting ready to herd 300 head of cattle, trust is essential. In fact the absence of trust is typically what destroys companies, as well as all relationships personal and professional. In my work with horses and humans, distrust is what causes a horse to pull away from a human. Congruency of feeling/interior emotion and actual words can be felt by all creatures great and small.
The first disfunction in any organization be it a family, church, team or business is an absence of trust among members. Essentially, this stems from their unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group. Team members who are not genuinely open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses make it impossible to build a foundation for trust.
Mike established an environment of trust immediately. Everyone was treated as an equal. Every expectation was laid out clearly. No questions were left unanswered. No one was left out. We were all accountable for our actions. It was a great way to begin a journey that had the potential to turn dangerous, if not deadly. Everyone trusted each other to keep their minds and hearts on the collective goal.
To be continued…
I know, I know, it sounds like a lot. But don’t worry. I’m going to break it down into small bite-sized pieces for you to digest over the next couple of months. Together, we’re going on a cattle herding experience, where the teachings of a corporate fable will come to light along with lessons about the five aspects of team dysfunction. You’ll probably learn a few things about cattle herding along the way that you never thought you needed to know. And you’ll also see how the basics of what makes a team highly effective are integral aspects whether you’re out-on-the-range, in a corporation or a personal relationship.
Before we set off on the journey, let me lay the groundwork based on a corporate fable written by Patrick Lencioni entitled The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. For starters, whether your ‘team’ is a family, a civic or church group, a small business, a large corporate division or an international corporation, trust is the very foundation to success. That points to absence of trust as the eroding factor at the heart of every dysfunctional team.
Without trust, no member of the team will feel safe. In an environment without a foundation of trust, it’s every man, woman or child for himself. Team members feel like no one has their back. They don’t understand and cannot open up to each other. Trust is the single most critical part of building any team.
Stemming from lack of trust, an ineffective team displays inattention to results. Every team has a goal. It is a collective, not a personal goal. In an environment of mistrust, the tendency is for individuals to clamor for individual attention. But, when a team is trusting and focused on a collective goal, if the team loses, everyone loses. When the team wins, everyone wins.
The next identifying factor in an environment of distrust is the fear of conflict. It’s impossible to have open, construction, ideological discussions and arguments when people don’t trust each other. People don’t express their honest concerns and opinions. In this kind of environment there is also a huge tendency toward the avoidance of accountability. In a nutshell you’ll see finger-pointing and blame, but no true accountability from the top down.
With these thoughts in mind, the journey can begin. You can get started by reading this month’s article entitled, Saddle Up For A Series Of Team-building Lessons Learned From Cowboys.
I understand that it’s a difficult concept to grasp: The fact that there seems to be separation between things, places, people makes us believe we are singularities in a world where one-upmanship appears to dictate who holds the most power. Horses tell us a completely different story. It’s a story that is millions of years old versus the human story which is just thousands of years old and not a very convincing story at that.
Horses live in the energy field of oneness, as we all do even though most people don’t know it. For us humans, it’s very difficult to believe in something we can see, touch, taste or smell. If we can’t wrap our senses around something we think it doesn’t exist. Horses on the other hand sense every movement in the energetic field that connects everything and makes all of life one. They detect the slightest disturbance or incongruity in the field. When something is out of alignment, horses sense it. They sense the danger in this discrepancy. There is always some danger no matter how slight when something in the energetic field is off kilter.
Humans are so out of touch with the energetic field that we must learn about it as if for the very first time. And horses are one of our most powerful teachers since they mirror our inconsistencies back to us immediately. Horses teach humans to tune into their intuition by letting us know through their actions when thoughts and behaviors are not in alignment.
Inspired by a recent event that took place in a far-away land, I will be hosting the next EAHAE conference (International Association of Horse Assisted Education) in October of this year. You can read about the event in my most recent article. entitled Despite The Appearance Of Separation We Are One Herd One Earth. The conference title is One Herd, One Earth. For more information about the conference or to discuss a custom designed horse-assisted education program for your group, give us a call. At Medicine Horse Ranch we help individuals and teams explore a natural leadership model that has been successful for millions of years.