Friday 21 November 2014

Carrot and stick approach: Still a proven concept in leadership!

Last month, during one of my officer-training seminars, I had a new experience regarding leadership behavior by training with horses.

What was the exercise?
Take a horse by its leash around a parcour and fulfill little tasks like walking forward and backwards together. It sounds like a simple task in theory but in reality it can develop challenging.

What is the background of it and why did we do this?

Horses are sensitive animals. They are shy and always prepared to run away. They mirror your leading behavior unfiltered and in a clear way back to you.  They are an instant feedback system. Let me give you an example: You want that your horse move forward. You give the command and even push the leash.

No movement at all!

Most people start now stroking the neck of the horse to make it more comfortable. This is not the way to do it. With such a behavior one actually promotes the action: "I did the right thing - I will not move!"

This means by not leading the horse in the right way, the wished behavior f.e. going backwards will not happen.

Depending on the age of the horse and thus its experience with humans, it starts questioning their leading. Horses see humans as animals with an alpha-status, but they still question this status at any time.

How are they testing you ? 
The horse tries to bite the leash: It tries to get control of the situation. It wants to find out whether you are really the boss or just a playmate.

What should you do to stay in control?
The right reaction is to straighten the leash and continue walking. Show the horse the way and it will follow your orders as well as it gains you respect.

Nowadays most of our leadership is focused on the strategic side of business: Decision making and figure out future market possibilities. The time we can spend on the "shop floor" is reduced and leadership decisions must be quick and accurate. Leaders have to stand in the front and understand their employees.

What were the lessons learnt:

1.      Most of the leading situations with employees are based on intuitive leading: Recognition of action and reaction of the employee in all kind of situations for achieving the aims. In addition, in terms of expressing your way and giving tasks to your team, a certain
level of energy is necessary. When you look like a potato bag, it is quiet hard to express, convince and communicate the tasks. And it is even harder for your team to trust you.

2.            You as a leader have to be willing to have the ability to assert your tasks. When you give up - it is easy for your employee to get control of the situation. And in the future it will be harder for you to regain respect from your employees.

3.           Take care of your non-verbal communication: The way you appear to the people is telling them if you are able to manage situations f.e. when you tell your employees that the situation is under control but your body shows stress symptoms like sweating and heavy breathing,  they will clearly see otherwise and they will be not willing to follow your lead. A simple advice: As a leader you have to stay relaxed!

By applying those lessons, your daily leading will be improved!


H.R Juster

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