Horse Tales: Dissing Jake

Touch_Jake_PasserAn uber-coach and friend of ours, Michael MacNeill has a wonderful saying: “All you want to know about life you can learn from horses.”

Here’s a wonderful example of Michael’s axiom that relates to every organization, both large and small.

I have three horses, Jake, Touch and Passer. Jake is in charge. Where he goes the others follow. When the horses move from their comfortable paddock to graze on the property, it’s Jake that expects to be haltered and led out first. Neither Touch nor Passer even need to be haltered as horses are herd animals and naturally will stay together for protection, a trait that has served them well for millions of years.

I didn’t mean to, but I dissed Jake.

I let Ron halter out Touch first, forcing Jake to play second fiddle. He let me know as only a horse can, that was completely unacceptable behavior. Rather than follow Touch through the gate, he stubbornly clung to another path and ended up outside of the fence. From there, he decided to go on a romp through another property. Calls to bring him back when unheard. Finally, I had to get another halter and go after him. After an arduous hike in the high grass, I finally found Jake waiting under a distant tree. Waiting to be recognized as the proper leader he was. By me.

Having made his point, he let me halter him and was, with the other two horses gazing on, proudly led back to the original opening and into the property.

Lesson: Don’t diss the leader in front his followers. By allowing Ron to halter Touch first instead and lead the herd into the pasture, I upset the natural balance of their organization. It was only by showing Jake respect–after he had let me clearly know my behavior was unacceptable—that the situation was corrected.

So what kind of team leader are you? Do you encourage others who work for you in front of their subordinates?  Are you conscious that there are relationships between your subordinates and their own? Or are you the type to speak your mind irrespective of audience as if your organization below you was completely flat?

If you are the latter, I can tell you this: While your direct reports may be too “professional” to show the disrespect and hurt they’re feeling, they are burning inside.

Just like Jake.

Trish Damkroger

© 2013 Benza Executive Development. All rights reserved.

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