How Coaching with Horses Brings Excellence to Business

How Coaching with Horses Brings Excellence to Business

16 December 2020
One thing is to subsist as a company or business, obtaining decent results and managing to stay in the market against all odds, and quite another is to stand out, inspire and become a reference in a sector and an ideal place to work for its employees.

The company that I experienced...

At the age of twenty-one, and without having planned it, I entered the world of finance through a Spanish brokerage firm. Although it was not my first contact with the labour market, I can say that it was the job that marked the beginning of what would be a long and surprising professional career in international financial markets. During this time I had the opportunity to work for the most important companies in the industry, both nationally and for a couple of firms in the "City of London.

That stage came to an end by choice, not so long ago. Today I am grateful for the many gifts and learnings it provided me with, although I recognise that the ins and outs of the business world i got shown did not dazzle me enough to want to retire in it. Those professional years between Madrid and London gave me a rich and deep vision of the enterprise in very different contexts and moments, allowed me to know and be part of a varied range of teams and taught me to function in a variety of work environments and under different philosophies, in my country and abroad.

Employees working behind screens and telephones

Why do Many of Us Leave the Business World?

If I am absolutely objective, I realize that while it is true that from discovering horses in a new light, there was a growing impulse in me to reveal and render the mastery and wisdom of these amazing and sensitive animals to others, what really triggered my decision to take a radical turn was a moment of lucidity sitting in my office chair, in which I felt that I was disenchanted; more than a job that would give me, it had become a routine that drained my energy, and that I did not want any longer to be part of these teams or these companies as I had known them until then.

My first day at work always started with great energy and enthusiasm. Proactivity, professionalism and tenacity are qualities that have accompanied me throughout all these years in the various work teams. I believe I was a good partner and an efficient, resourceful and profitable employee. I liked the work itself and enjoyed giving a quality service to my clients who were always my greatest source of motivation and recognition.

Now, wait a minute. Should not motivation and recognition supposed to be an important part of the nutrients that the company provides to the employee so that he or she remains happy and content working for it?

No Leader, No Team

Now looking back, I understand that I missed inspiring leaders, equable and exemplary who knew how to make a team. I often wondered where that boss was who was able to get the very best out of each one and make every piece of the puzzle fit perfectly and feel relevant. Or that one with enough humility and self-confidence to put the success of the team before his particular moment of glory. I also believe that coherence, integrity and empathy were often lacking and ego, individualism and greed overtook.

Today I know that if I had felt cared for, my work and involvement valued and respected enough, and my personal interests protected within the company, I would have probably maintained motivation to continue for some more years to carry out my work and successfully produce for them...

Chart concerning work motivation

Happy Employees Perform Better

Throughout all these years, there were also some companies in which I felt satisfied and cared for, with managers for whom i was not simply a number that invoiced another number, but who took into consideration both the individual with his or her personal circumstances and concerns, and the employee whom they made feel a fundamental part in the development of the company and a partner in its success. And that, funnily enough, came back to the company transformed in good performance and loyalty.

This confirms that there are formulas in which to reconcile the personal and professional parts of the human beings who make up the teams, without sacrificing the results. Or rather, maximising the performance, and substantially favouring the level of commitment and the working environment. Therefore, if already with a very questionable human management and leaderships with a wide margin of improvement, some goals can be achieved, how much better would be the results and development of the companies if they invested in having motivated and happy employees!

Horses and Their Way of Leadership

Surely one of the most recurrent and stimulating images for most people, when talking about horses, is that of herds of them moving harmoniously through vast prairies as if they were a whole... In reality, this is the way they live and interrelate in their natural habitat: in society.

Horses are gregarious and social beings that group together to form herds to better protect themselves from threats, as well as to get water and food. As they are animals of prey and are constantly on the lookout for predators, they require perfect and effective organisation within these herds so that in the event of danger, they can all flee at the same time to safety, guaranteeing the survival of the group and its young.

Herd of galloping horses

Hence, in those specific situations, individualised actions seeking to satisfy private desires or instincts cannot be allowed: that would automatically be relegated to second place. In fact, the movements they carry out pursue a single objective or goal common to all the members of the group at that moment, and to do so, they demonstrate an excellent coordination among them, of a solid team cohesionof a refined and efficient communication and a state of absolute presence that we would already want for ourselves, many human beings.

In addition, a very inspiring and groundbreaking piece of information has been provided by the renowned ethologist Lucy Rees after years of observation, about leadership in horses, is that there is no single leader in the herd, but that leadership is a dynamic phenomenon that is exercised by the individual with the highest motivation, at a given time, in a given circumstance.

And for Humans, What is Leadership?

It is perhaps one of the most named and sought-after skills when it comes to achieving optimum team performance. But do we really know what it means to be a good leader?, Can we recognise the key qualities that make us a motivator and an inspiration to others? or do we often associate them with people who are notorious, successful, authoritarian, charming, overbearing, with command, controlling and manipulative?

If we take a look at those that have been considered great leaders in the history of mankind, we found a list of personalities from different parts of the world and cultures, in which many shared the struggle for human rights, some were Nobel Peace Prize winners and others defended non-violence or equality of human beings. All of this makes me think of qualities such as humility, solidarity, equanimity, empathy, listening, good example, action, self-criticism, humanity, recognition, appreciation, respect, gratitude, desire to improve, ability to mediate, dialogue, initiative and many more things.

If we boast the finest objectivity, and look around us in our work environments and teams, throughout our professional lives, how many of these or similar profiles have we encountered? how many of them have been considered "our leader" and have earned our respect and admiration? what degree of satisfaction and happiness did we derive from being part of those human groups pursuing the same goal? and as employees or followers, how much were these values instilled in us as key elements of success?

Therefore, it is not surprising that many organizations with future vision, openness to the new and with a high degree of maturity and awareness, have realized the need to implement and promote concepts and principles among their workers, which in another era would have been unthinkable or considered a waste of time and money. Fortunately, many of them have chosen to invest in their human resources and are committed to new and sometimes even revolutionary methods and disciplines that propose new approaches and infinitely expand the possibilities of development.

What is the Added Value of the Horse in Business Training?

When we are going to work with a professional team, the entire day's programme is designed based on a series of aspects previously specified by the client because they either need to be strengthened and consolidated, or because they need to be observed, investigated and perhaps modified or replaced. For this purpose, we prepare a series of dynamics, games and exercises according to the needs of the team, in which we propose tasks where, although horses play a fundamental role, it is undoubtedly the people, the protagonists who are challenged, who have to face difficulties and overcome obstacles in order to reach an objective.

In these scenarios that the horses and the group are going to recreate, the metaphor between what happens on the track and what is experienced on a daily basis is constantly used. With this we achieve a more neutral distance from reality, a more objective vision of our own role and that of the team, and the participants become spectators at times, what allows them to see "the bulls from the barrier". In addition to all this, the horses, as the hypersensitive and sentient beings that they are, continually bring extra information to bear on each situation generated, through their reactions, behaviour, body language and interaction with the group. Best of all, we feel unjudged in front of them, our stress level is lowered and our emotions are often unblocked and our mental clarity increases.

They respond to coherence or incongruence of the beings around them. They advance or stop, they come closer or move away, they make the task easier or more difficult, they flow with the team or freeze, they bring their attention to something concrete, they play, they tangle or knock down objects that have been chosen by the team to designate values, aids, emotions, adversities of the path... And with this, they invite us to reflect, to question and to weigh each step of the process and the process itself. As well as our attitude, our behaviour, our thoughts and our emotions.

Another factor intrinsically linked to these animals and which favours in humans an assertive response, serenity and balance, is the horse-time that is required at the moment when the relationship with them is established and a symbiosis or mutual collaboration is sought. This translates into a sudden change in our mental scheme: urgency, impatience, immediacy, demand, excessive pressure, etc. are no good here. so it becomes necessary to explore new methods, different rhythms, tools that we might have discarded and above all, to go out of our comfort zone to investigate more creative options.

To sum up, these would be some of the differential values provided by the horse in executive coaching:

  • Invites to openess: Being in the presence of horses, outdoors, in a relaxed and dynamic environment, helps to minimise barriers, rigidity and resistance that would not be achieved in other contexts.
  • Healthy environment: Since it takes place entirely in open spaces and in contact with horses, it takes us away from the frenetic rhythms, pollution and agglomerations of the city, and connects us with nature and its harmony, with all the health benefits that this entails.
  • Facilitates emotional management: The very qualities of the horse lead to a series of physiological, chemical and energetic changes in the human being that result, among other things, in the unblocking of emotions.
  • Reduces stress and anxiety levels: With the side effect of predisposing to learning and integration of experience.
  • Experiential coaching: All comprehensions, awareness, reflections are the result of what has been experienced and put into practice through the interaction with the horses, thus being recorded in images, sensations, etc.
  • Immediate impact learning: Since horses make you work with your emotions from start to finish, it is the limbic system that processes all the information and thus is recorded in the memory in a profound way.
  • They demand clear communication, precise and convincing limitsHorses do not understand "yes but no", they need clear, clean and consistent messages to act, so working with them becomes an ideal laboratory to test all these skills.
  • They call for creativity, improvisation, conflict resolution, decision making, etc.: etc.: As they are living, spontaneous and unpredictable beings, they constantly provide unforeseen scenarios that break our patterns, which are transformed and require a broad, flexible, imaginative and dynamic response capacity.

¡Quién sabe! Quizá en un futuro no muy lejano, coaching with horses has expanded enough so that many teams have opened up to the experience of learning with this methodology, have been able to benefit from the awareness and understanding that horses provide, and have become happier teams; perhaps many companies have seen the effectiveness and improved results derived from this type of experiential and visual coaching and horses have become indispensable and usual " partners " in the professional development processes for organisations; Or perhaps one day they will become an indissoluble part of the human resources or training departments of leading companies, or simply stand as the guides or "gurus" par excellence of human beings to regain their wisdom, understanding and natural balance. ...Can you imagine it?

Useful links

Off Site Meeting to get to know your colleagues better - by Blog Adecco

Laura García de Castro is a consultant in Transpersonal Mindfulness with a specialty in Integral Health and Development from the University Miguel de Cervantes. She is also certified in Horse Coaching by Equilibri.

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