I am a “can do” type of person, whether at home or on the job. Achiever and Responsibility are two of my top Gallup Strengths, and I’ve invested time developing these over the years. Given a task or project, I can easily jump in and go it alone, and forget that I can brainstorm, share the load, or allow others to assist. However, these strengths in overdrive can become liabilities when I’m working with a team.
I often see this “do it by myself” pattern showing up in Equus Workshops (coaching activities with people and horses). On one occasion, four leaders were working together in a herding exercise. The task was to work together as a team in the arena (with no verbal language), choose an obstacle or obstacles (cones, tarps, barrels, short jumps, etc.), and herd the horse over, around, or through them. At first they were having fun, working together, and then things got interesting. The horse was in the corner of the arena, not moving.
The senior leader was trying his best to move the horse, while the other three members of the team were in the middle of the arena trying to get his attention. From their vantage point, they could see that he was actually blocking the horse from moving in either direction, yet, they didn’t move closer to help.
We stopped to talk about what was happening and surprising information emerged – and not just about the horse in the corner. They each had a different idea about which obstacles they had agreed upon; they were not checking in with each other (eye contact); they were unsure about their roles; and the leader in the corner wasn’t connecting with them, which was frustrating.
What occurred in the arena was mirroring what happens in the office. Decisions are made in meetings and people leave with their own notion of how to go about the tasks, but they don’t check in with each other. The senior leader often takes much of the burden because he feels responsible for the outcome. He was able to experience, in the arena with the horse, how tiring this can be, and how it can block the progress. The team members were playing out their typical roles of staying in the background, thinking they could help, but not moving closer to let him know. At work, these team members would often talk to each other about how they could contribute, but rarely talked to the boss directly about their ideas.
The four leaders used the experience with the horse to create guidelines and intentions to consciously create more positive outcomes:
These team guidelines have become my inspiration (note the highlighted words)! Connectedness, Input and Empathy are also in my top five (natural talents that I’ve developed and practiced). When I’m working on a project with a team, I routinely stop and ask myself if I’m using ALL of my top five strengths, or do I have one or more in overdrive? This helps me course-correct along the way. Asking for help … and allowing it … also helps!
About the author: Renee Sievert is a Master Coach, Master Equus Facilitator, and a founding member of p.Link Coaching Center for Excellence. Renee and the p.Link team design equine-assisted teambuilding workshops where participants experience a new way of assessing their self-awareness, leadership presence, communication skills, and team dynamics as they interact with horses. Renee lives in San Diego with her family, and two cats. She can often be found at a ranch near her home, playing with her two horses, Rascal and Cooper.
Why does it work?
Regular coaching engages the left verbal brain so we notice and adjust our thoughts and behaviors. Equus Coaching™ (coaching activities with people and horses) merges traditional coaching with physical experience to engage the whole human system—mind, body, emotions, breath, presence, and energy. Human communication is 70% body language and energy, 20% tone of voice, and 10% words. The horses mirror our thoughts and emotions and allow us to see ourselves as others see us. Equus Coaching makes that 90% count.
Give yourself the gift of focused play with your colleagues, the horses, and skilled coaches. You’ll learn about yourself, practice better ways of leading, and go home with concrete action steps to make your life better. Your world may never look the same.