October eNews

Leadership through the eyes of a Horse

Hi {ContactFirstName},

I was contracted in 2008 to develop & present a Leadership Conference for Women using horses for an Association in Indiana. The program honors an advocate to women in business and an avid horsewoman who had passed. What a beautiful way to honor someone who gave so much of herself to assist others.

The past 3 years, 45 women joined us for 2 ½ days of fun, experiential learning, and exploration that pushed them outside their comfort zones to increase awareness and develop a deeper level of leadership.

One theme continues to emerge and becomes stronger each passing year – the desire to learn how to handle emotions in the workplace. More and more leaders come to us with tremendous stress, ridged bodies, inability to breathe deeply, and basically burned out.  In minutes of talking with them it became clear each has a tremendous amount of emotions locked inside of them. 

This awareness begs me to question – Have companies becoming so sterile that emotions have no place at work? 

I have been a student and proponent of Emotional Intelligence (EI) for years, yet it seems the message and value of EI has gotten lost or has no place in the world of work. Or maybe business owners and leaders haven’t heard about EI yet? Whatever the case, knowing and understanding EI is critical and important to the bottom line.

Understanding your emotions and their triggers leads to clearer thinking and better decision making. Research has proven that we feel before we think. We have more neurons in our gut than in our brain. If we only pay attention to our thoughts we lose ¾ of the data available to us in making better decisions. So if we are unaware of our feelings and their triggers, our thinking can be flawed because of an “Amygdala hijacking” (based on neuroscience and published in books by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee).   

In a webinar given last week by Daniel Golman he stated the 5 main Business amygdala hijacking (which are also many of the reasons people leave companies) as:

  1. Condescending behavior
  2. Unfair treatment
  3. Feeling unappreciated
  4. Not being listened to
  5. Unrealistic deadlines

When you have any or all of the hijackings listed above, performance declines, people become burned-out, are easily upset, become ridged and stuck, are grumpy and cranky – all which affect the bottom line. Not to mention moral of the whole workforce goes the way of the leader! Our Social Brain interacts with another which activates “mirror neurons” creating an emotional contagion, much stronger than the flu bug that runs through a company.

The book “Primal Leadership” linked leadership to company climate and to business performance. They found that the climate (how people feel about working in a company) accounts for 20 – 30% of business performance. The climate of a company is traced to the actions of one person in the organization – the Leader. The mood of the Leader is not a private thing; it affects everyone in the organization and directly affects the bottom line profits.

Still think EI is a touchy feely subject with no place at the office?

Hows the bottom line of your organization? Not as good as you’d like? 

Think about the leaders in your company. Are they aware of their emotions, understand the triggers, have a place to express themselves and to feel heard, are deadlines realistic with consideration to outside influences that change them, do you/they recognize the “try” of employees, do you/they discuss what is going well? If not the whole company could be losing out on the bottom line not to mention the customer base. For every 1% improvement in the organizational climate, there is a 2% increase in revenue (Primal Leadership, pg. 15)

What can you do as a leader? Become aware of your emotions and their triggers, talk to people, make room for emotional understanding, encourage people to relax and take their vacation time to recharge (yes, without checking in via voice mail, email, blackberry or taking their laptops with them to finish a project), reward the “try” – the effort, encourage positive, non-judgmental, non-blaming communication, recognize perfection is an illusion and focus on what went well, teach people to breathe deeply – it helps eliminate stress, be the leader you want your people to be and model the behaviors.

Don’t know how to start, try seeing yourself through the eye of a horse! 

Sue E. Thomas
Professional Certified Coach

Visit Our Blog and Our Website to learn & see how
"HorsePower:  Transforming the Personal and Professional Arenas of Your Life" 

   Enjoying Buffalo                                          Leadership walk at cermeonial alter

Lesson’s through the eyes of a horse:

  • My experience in the past has been that if you throw a group of women together we sometimes let our judgments of others on this team overshadow the material. Not this time!
  • I learned that using my voice is always the most effective form of communication and I have gained more by really listening to what people are saying. There are gray areas everywhere, find out how to benefit from them.
  • Truly getting the difference between judging and observing. That fact alone is life changing. I've read it, I've heard it, but I experienced it here and it was an "aha!" moment.
  • I learned that it is ok to let my guard down and be who I truly want to be, not what others expect me to be. The last activity and speaking with Sue beforehand gave me the courage to let go and Mary was very supportive in pushing me in the ring.
  • I do not always need to control.
  • I don't have to have all the answers. I am not responsible for everything. I need to be happy with myself. Don’t' be so afraid or have fear stop me from succeeding.
  • Awareness of myself and how I feel.
  • The blind fold activity demonstrated a great deal about leadership & following, being in charge and being led.
  • Observe people more and not judge. Oftentimes we judge people without knowing the entire story.
  • It is ok being me – I can be vulnerable and show the soft side of me – get rid of the old tapes.
  • Weakness is not bad but may show that you are stronger. Don't sweat the small things. Don't assume. Ask questions to understand the statement. Share the strengths.
  • I learned to ask for help and that it was ok. I also learned that I should enjoy the moment and not minimize it.
  • I learned the distinction between observation and assumptions and judging.
  • I do a decent job of thinking outside the box when faced with normal workplace occurrences. However, not the case when in a new situation – this reaffirmed that I need to work on this.
  • If you don't clarify – you are stuck. Ask questions and don't be afraid to challenge people, things & rules.
  • Consider the emotions and practice realizing they are there and understanding what they are.
  • Who is moving whose feet – for me this has become a good “go to” tool to use when figuring out a situation.
  • When my energy is negative or unstable it affects the energy of the group and other individuals.
  • Don’t expend so much energy on the corporate life, save some for the family. It’s my everyday life!
  • I must be focused and balanced for me to be effective in my work and family life. I have a voice and can make a difference without sacrificing my stability or what I have to offer others.
  • I push too hard and maybe for the wrong reason. 
  • I have a voice – I can assert myself in unhealthy situations to protect myself and make a statement.
  • I am always sending my staff out without clear consistent executable directions or am I putting them between Deana and a wall with no help.
  • Trust because your first impression of someone isn’t good, do not discount them.
  • Taking in/understanding that most often when I’m frustrated with something it’s because I’m putting all my energy in the wrong place.
  • I can’t find myself until I quit giving conflicting signals on what I need. It’s okay to ask for help.
  • I miss the “try”. I have never even considered rewarding the effort when a project isn’t successful.
  • My behavior will control/direct the reactions of others. I need to work on awareness of the interaction, acknowledge reactions; I need to not keep my thoughts bottled up.
  • I have to appreciate the try and it helps to have support from other people.
  • I have to face my fears instead of hiding from them.
  • Reward the try. Stay calm. Breathe. I am a type A – this will not be easy but will have huge benefits.
  • When I was in the ring with Spirit and Sue, Sue was able to get me to be truthful and honest at which time Spirit came and stood by me.
  • Respect & love myself first before others can. Set my boundaries.
  • I don’t go after the things that would make me happier because of the fear of the unknown and I get overwhelmed/frustrated and change my plan. I want to work on not doing that just because I can’t control the future.
  • I don’t have to continue to work until I’m exhausted – I choose to look for the try and only give energy when needed.
  • Use the tools available to me to get the same (or better) results without expending so much energy.
  • I feel a sense of a release or energy that comes out of me when I complete a task. I learned a lot from the obstacle activity. This may or may not be a good thing.
  • The closer you allow yourself to get to others, the easier it will be to get out your feelings and emotions and the less energy you spend, the better and calmer the results.
  • Less activity = more results. Will fulfill items on my bucket list.
  • I often spend time focusing on others never thinking about myself. I also often feel like I can control everything – adding much more stress to my life.

   Learning together                                                Filling a dream, embracing JOY.

Grazing hoses are calming

Sometimes you find energy & support where you can!

 Mary finds peace leaning on Quartz         Sue rests on "Star Gazer"Quartz

October 2010

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