Seven things I’ve learnt about change and leadership from my four legged friends

Love is a much neglected issue in working in any groups

A while back I sat in a meeting and watched a group, of otherwise quite decent well-meaning people, tear into each other and completely trample out the final embers of a relationship that could have been so great. Nobody was listening to each other and the air was fizzing with all the supposed slights, grievances and offences that had apparently been caused.

It was a sad missed opportunity.

I’m sure a psychologist would have had a field day. This was a group of people who were all hurting for various reasons; but without firm loving leadership they had descended into the behaviour of children who really probably just needed a way of managing their own feelings. Don’t all of us grown ups sometimes just need that above all else?

Whilst disappointing, this situation provided me with a fantastic insight into what happens without firm boundaries, good leadership and a way of containing natural human emotions. It’s true that we often learn more from failure than success.

We need to work on our own behaviour first

As somebody fascinated by change and innovation, I want to show up as the best version of myself and when appropriate take that leadership role. We can do so much more together than alone. But I passionately believe that we need to check in on our own behaviour first and foremost and this takes hard, consistent, challenging lifelong work.

I coach others, so I need a rich array of tools to draw from. This month I’m focussing on one of my biggest and first loves – animals and most especially dogs and horses. They have so much to teach us about being an authentic effective leader.

  • A dog/horse will not follow you unless you know where you are going and can clearly signpost the way.
  • If you want real behaviour change, you need to deploy continual patience, understanding and love. Do not forget the love bit – we all need a bit of this and those who deny this are kidding themselves and missing out on one of the real reasons we are all here.
  • A dog/horse knows when you don’t like it or you’re scared of it. It will never follow you if it picks up either of these things. Animals are sometimes scared of their own power – humans too…
  • It takes time to develop trust; but this is the single component that can unleash the possibility of mobilising people to follow your lead. Never, ever trample on this trust – it is so hard to win and so easy to lose.
  • Step into their “shoes” – understand the language that they can understand and try not to give mixed messages. Those tiny, fine movements that a horse responds to demonstrate clearly the critical importance of non-verbal communication
  • Horses/dogs know instantly when you are trying to cajole, bully or manipulate. It may work in the short-term – particularly bullying – but you better hope that they never get the upper hand as the revenge will be swift and bitter.
  • Taking time to understand the animal’s personality is the key to unlocking their potential. Acting with love, authenticity and integrity is the only longterm way of leading the pack/herd.

Have a wonderful day

Debbie x

Apple-box Media provides coaching and training in leadership, communications and change. For more We also provide a free communications audit service.

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