Tag Archives: good habits

What horses have taught me about being a good leader!

What horses have taught me about being a good leader!

I’ve been horse mad since a very early age, and I was finally allowed riding lessons at 8 years old.   The first few sessions were a bit shaky, with a few nose dives as I fell off on a couple of occasions, but I was determined this was my sport. Although I was not allowed my own horse until I was 15, I made maximum use of everyone else’s, and was soon competing.

At the time I was totally unaware of the skills I was developing and it’s only now, 30+ years later that I appreciate what horses have taught me about being a good leader.  When I first started in a leadership role it never occurred to me that being around horses could impacted on my career.  More recently my new horse has reminded me about being a good leader.  Here are some examples;

Preparation and Planning:

There’s a lot of work involved in caring for horses, and this can be less or more according to the type of breed.  For example a slinky thoroughbred needs more care than a robust cob type due to their different genetics and origins of the breed.  I’ve benefitted from the company of cob’s, thoroughbred’s and anything in between, over the past 36 years.

Planning all the necessary requirements of a horse into my already hectic day is an absolute must.  My children and my business activities also have to take priority, which means everything has to be planned and organised to perfection.  My horse would not forgive me if I failed to make time for the gallops or arrived late with her tea, and my family are not too great when hungry either!

The planning process includes everyone who needs to be involved, whether I’m planning the business requirements, family activities or horse duties, those who play a part will be included in the planning. I make sure I am clear and concise in sharing my expectations and I always double check everyone is prepared and understands their part, no matter how small.

Understanding Personality:

In the equine world the difference between the personalities of mares, geldings and stallions is well documented, suggesting that geldings can be managed, mares will negotiate, and stallions rule the roost!  However the personality of the horse is actually not so stereotypical, for example some geldings refuse to accept the lower status, and mares often have days when negotiation is not on the agenda.

Training ex race horses and unbroken horses has helped me to understand that there is so much going on inside someone’s head that we do not know about.  With people, we expect to be told they are having a bad day (how many of us will admit that to the boss?), whereas horses will not vocalise their feelings, apart from a whinny when they’re happy to see you carrying breakfast. It’s up to us, as leaders, to feel the changes, learn empathy and to be observant, look out for the signs of what colleagues are feeling.

Understanding mood swings and how personality plays a big part in leading teams is vital to good leadership, with a good leader having the ability to read the atmosphere, pick up on body language and distract away from major issues.   Taking time to learn about personality and how different types of personalities interact with each other can make major improvements in productivity and reduce the fight for power (either in the board room or in the paddock!).

Build confidence to improve performance:

I’ve spent many hours repairing ex racehorses who have experienced hectic athletic careers, and suffer mentally as well as physically from their extreme workloads.  Working with a horse to build trust and confidence through a safe environment helps to reduce the damage and stress, providing a nurturing environment to make subtle changes and improve performance.

I set achievable targets and allow for mistakes to build confidence.  Allowing time for practice of new skills or new ways of working, within a non judgemental environment, will nurture and build confidence. The smallest change should be rewarded immediately, increasing the move towards improved performance.    Good leaders use rewards effectively and genuinely, encouraging small steps of change to improve performance.

My latest horse love project has almost reached a year with me, straight from the race  track to my caring, empathic family, where she has repaired, grown in confidence, and learnt a whole new world of work and fun.

I have been lucky to work with some fantastic teams, both in the equine world and in business. I’ve watched them out grow their confidence issues and go on to achieve great careers. I’ve come a long way from those days of my first few riding lessons, and although falling off is still part of the action, my leadership skills are on top form.

I aim to be learning from horses for a long time into the future.

How I saved £114,748 in 52 minutes, and still made money!

How I saved £114,748 in 52 minutes, and still made money!

I am an advocate for a healthy lifestyle and the importance of using exercise and hobbies as a way of zoning out of stressful business issues and recharging your body and brain. Nevertheless, often zoning out means you can focus on solutions, and I thought it would be good to show you how I saved £114,748 in 52 minutes.

It was an extremely windy day one spring morning and I was trying to find an excuse to avoid my 10k run. Luckily, my run was temporarily halted while I eagerly answered a phone call from a colleague, which set my mind racing.

The challenge set during that phone call was to save the organisation some money, or it would close. Creating 25 job losses, and a whole range of services lost to people in need. I had to achieve this challenge, but how?

Thinking time was required, and as much as I try to find excuses for avoiding my run, I am a runner, and I knew it was time to run, time to think.

After achieving an Ok time of 52 minutes on my 10k run, I had the answers.
These were my suggestions (the calculations were completed later);

1. Cancel all subscriptions to magazines – with ipad and Kindles people can now read a whole host of magazines online, many e-zines and some journals are free. Make the most of them.

Saving £210 per annum.

2. Review and change phone contracts – 22 of the mobile phone contracts had not been reviewed for 4 years and they were paying outdated prices.

Saving £223 per annum.

3. Assess job roles, outsourcing and ask about voluntary redundancy – although this is always a last resort because no CEO wants to worry their staff and focus attention away from the business, the relationships between CEO, his PA and the staff were excellent which meant they were able to identify who wanted to work part time, who had additional skills and who was ready for redundancy.

Saving £27,212 per annum.

4. Send everyone home! Yes! Homeworking is now possible if it suits the work you do. In this case all staff were outreach with the exception of the CEO and his PA, yet the company was paying for 3 offices! The CEO starting working from home 3 days a week and shared an office his office with another organisation for 2 days a week, where the PA was based.

Saving £87,103 per annum, and 22.5 jobs, also gaining an income from the tenant and creating partnership opportunities with further income potential.

At the time it was difficult to know how the suggestions would be taken, and I did have some further ideas but they were not taken on board for this organisation. Not every idea works for every organisation and it takes discussion and negotiation to get it right.

My area of business is to help organisations develop and grow by sourcing income and establishing an effective long term strategy, which usually includes becoming more efficient.

Although I had every intention of avoiding my run on that cold windy day, I was brave enough to use the business issues as an excuse to zone out of the weather and focus, with the added bonus of reducing my 10k time by 2 minutes.

Thankfully my thinking is faster than my running!

Information overload or attempting to focus

I’ve just been reading through various articles on linkedin as I find it a good source of information, and sometimes I do get a bit distracted in all the fascinating pieces of information I find there!

Having read through Deepak Chopra’s post on ‘How to turn the tables on your brain’  I found myself checking off which of his mental habits I already do, almost without even realising.

Deepak talks about positive and negative input and explains that the difference between positive and negative input isn’t a mystery. For example, good sleep, moderate exercise, meditation, stress reduction, a balanced diet, and the absence of toxins like alcohol and nicotine should be seen as positive input to the brain. He also suggest that if you want to directly impact your brain to optimize its function, there are mental habits that make a huge difference, the important mental habits are;

  • Remain open to as much input as possible.
  • Don’t shut down the brain’s feedback loops with judgment, rigid beliefs, and prejudices.
  • Don’t censor incoming data through denial.
  • Examine other points of view as if they were your own.
  • Take possession of everything in your life. Be self-sufficient.
  • Work on psychological blocks like shame and guilt – they falsely color your reality.
  • Free yourself emotionally – to be emotionally resilient is the best defense against growing rigid.
  • Harbor no secrets – they create dark places in the psyche.
  • Be willing to redefine yourself every day.
  • Don’t be judgmental of yourself and others.
  • Don’t regret the past or fear the future. Both bring misery through self-doubt.
  • Pay attention to one thing at a time. Avoid distractions and multitasking.
  • Cultivate self-awareness through meditation, contemplation, and self-reflection.

Being able to develop these mental habits requires firstly a recognition of your current mental habits. If you’re new to reflection then it can be a difficult process to identify your positive and negative input, but can have instrumental life changing rewards once you start to develop the skills of reflection. Consider yourself from the view point of others, imagine you are looking at yourself on television, how do you look to the world, how do you act?

As I check off some of my current mental habits against those that Deepak considers, I feel a sense of progress, but perhaps not completely perfected my habits yet, and more work required.  It does help me to see that I am some way towards consciously making change to optimise my brain in an attempt to become more focused. However, now I’m tempted away by more interesting articles that offer ways in which I can become more focused.

Potential (very interesting) information overload!