If Only Managers were Horse Riders

Finding Inspiration in Chaos
Monday, 26th September 2011
In Death We Learn
Tuesday, 1st November 2011

If Only Managers were Horse Riders

Manage like Horses

People used to wonder and asked me why I hated working in an office or for a company. I myself used to wonder why I feel that way when I started working after school. The answer came to me when I, unfortunately, had to quit a job as a Sales Representative aged 17 and a half. The woman who was my superior helped me find the answer.

The management style in Asia has always been, to me, very condescending. It’s always ‘the boss is always right’, they are almost allowed to scream and yell at you like you’re a child if a mistake is done and you’re almost afraid of them. My said manager did just that- she yelled at me for doing what she wanted me to achieve (reach my sales target which I exceeded) yet she was upset that I got those sales doing some creative sourcing (I was never given any instructions how I should really get those sales coming in).

It’s a society borne out of respect for elders and bosses/management are just that. You have to ‘kow-tow’ (Chinese for bowing your head) your bosses even when they are acting completely in the wrong. That..was all in the 90’s and I haven’t been working in Asia as an employee for almost 15 years so I hope things have changed.

Talking to some people out here in Europe, I have also heard where even though bosses are not like those I experienced in the East, there are still those stubborn ones. So I think they really could do with learning to ride a horse. Why is that? My new holistic riding instructor was giving me some tips to be a better rider and it inadvertently brought to mind the connection of rider to company bosses.

To ride a horse, you need to know first his personality in a pack, where he likes being touched and where he’s sensitive. That’s like taking time out in the beginning of hiring someone to know what they are like, how they like to work and their strengths and weaknesses.

Then you take them into the riding ring and you slowly ride the horse, letting him feel you on top without giving too many instructions and just letting go slowly to see how he responds to you as his rider. That is like giving a brief instruction to your new employee to settle in slowly into his job with some simple projects to see how he proceeds on his own initiative. It gives that person the opportunity to get his footing and show his place in the company.

Then when you’re ready to ride, your grip the reins tighter and start with your commands. You need to make sure that your verbal commands (tongue clicks and actual voice) match your body language and mental control (yes, apparently horses can read your mind). If you want the horse to go into a canter (slower than a gallop) yet your body language says otherwise (pulling on the reins tight, thereby holding the horse back), you’re only giving the horse mixed signals. They start to go into a jerky canter and as a rider, it is not comfortable to sit. Sometimes after prolonged mixed commands, the horse will start to go in completely different directions than you want and then you get frustrated. After much kicking (your heels) and whipping, your horse may go for a little bit more, then he will slow down again. You are both frustrated.

Just like a boss/manager, we need to give clear precise commands. Whether we work in an office or just as a parent in charge of our children, we can learn to give commands as a horse rider. We need not only give verbal commands, our body language also plays a part. We cannot expect our subordinates to execute something well if we do not show them how to do it our way. We must also treat them with respect and have confidence that they will execute our orders in their own timely fashion. They must know if there are any consequences of not following that order by following through with it.

As a parent, I’m also a manager. When I tell my children it’s time for dinner, I give them clear instructions that for example, the table must be laid, glasses and drinks on the table and my own body language shows that I start putting food on the table. I tell them the consequences if those orders are not followed through and go through with those consequences if they breach the orders.

Just as in horse riding, my instructor reminded me:

  • Give clear precise commands

  • Show consistency in tone and body language

  • Follow through with your order

  • Be relaxed even though you have to be in control

  • Have confidence that your horse/worker will have the sense to do it on his own

  • Have confidence that you’re doing your best and look out for each other

  • Be prepared for any unexpected outcomes beyond each other’s control

I hope you can take some sense from this. I am certainly enjoying my lessons even though I think I’ve done well so far. We’re never too old to start re-learning.

If you like this article, maybe you’d like my earlier article also based on horse riding?

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