What horses can teach business leaders

You can accelerate your business with horsepower, says Equus Coaching expert and founder of TrueYouMe, Kelly Eide
What horses can teach business leaders
Known as Equus Coaching, leaders develop the ability to read clues in their environment, set strategy, form cohesive teams, sustain performance, maintain communication, and course-correct in uncertain times.
By Jola Chudy
Sat 29 Jun 2019 03:27 PM

“To lead is a verb,” says Kelly Eide, the founder of TrueYouMe (TRUE), which helps businesses achieve their potential by spending time with horses.

Known as Equus Coaching, leaders develop the ability to read clues in their environment, set strategy, form cohesive teams, sustain performance, maintain communication, and course-correct in uncertain times.

“When you learn to calm and lead a horse, you learn how to calm and lead yourself,” says Eide. “I hope participants leave with a sense of being in peace with nature and awareness of their personal leadership blueprint.”

The ground-breaking course, which has been attended by the region’s leading banks, corporates, education institutions, as well as privately for one-on-one coaching by CEOs, is based on a premise that in nature, leadership is important for survival. Animals, particularly prey animals such as horses, are happy to follow a good leader.

“When you are clear about what you want and fully aware of what’s happening around you; when you focus on leading your experience rather than controlling others; the way you lead is magnetic and powerful. And just like animals in nature, people will be happy to follow a clear, calm, assertive leader,” says Eide.

Another important element of leadership, she points out, is survival.

“No animal is responsible for another’s motivation; so all members of the herd are always leading their own experience and constantly assessing the others in their environment. As they lead together, a horse is happy to follow a competent leader, but they do not sign a contract for life. The instant there is a void in leadership; they’ll step up and fill it, because it is a matter, literally, of life and death.”

Physical communication methods

Since animals don’t have the capacity for language that humans do, they rely on more physical communication methods. And what are the animals looking for in these measurements? Balance. Consistency. Congruence. Something they can count on to keep them safe.

“The energetic presence that causes a horse to connect with you and choose you as its herd leader is the same energy that causes people to hire you, invest in your brilliant ideas and deeply value your unique contribution. Combine an understanding of your energetic and nonverbal communication with technical business skills such as financial modelling, strategic planning or marketing and you have a powerful leadership toolkit at your disposal.”

The experience with horses uses the resources of your whole being; mind and body, adds Eide. It calms your nervous system and opens your awareness to the patterns, beliefs and behaviours that make up your unique leadership blueprint. Then coaching, both during the equine session and following it, helps you to design the best way to engage, or improve, your leadership skills to make things happen. “If you are willing to accept 1,000lbs of direct feedback from a horse you would be amazed at how quickly you can change something you’d like to change or amplify a quality which is really impactful for you.”

Eide’s expertise is the culmination of decades of corporate work; she has an MBA in Finance and a Black Belt in Six Sigma (a specialised approach to corporate performance improvement and management. She is currently also working on a Year of Tolerance initiative and organizes luxury adventure and corporate retreats around the world, including an experience in partnership with the Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley resort in Australia. Her career has included areas such as corporate strategy, performance and organisational development. “Then I met the horses,” she says with a smile.

“My first experience with Equus Coaching was a revelation. I spent two minutes with a horse and there I was with all my behaviour patterns. Could the horse see through me or was it simply the perfect mirror to show me what was present consciously and unconsciously? As soon as I explored a change in my thoughts, the horse changed, our relationship changed, the options available to me changed. I remember wondering why nobody had ever taught me this before. As I went deeper into the world of Equus Coaching I realised that it fulfilled the desire for meaning, impact and purpose that I had always craved. It’s common for clients to say, 'I think this has changed my life' because the experience is that profound.”

Custom-designed

Companies can book in for transformational workshops that take place over one to three days as an away day or a more immersive retreat. Sessions are custom-designed with clients to address organisational challenges and to develop competencies in individuals or the team as a whole. TRUE also offers Private Equus Coaching – powerful one-on-one sessions for CEOs who want to invest in personal development.

“Private Equus Coaching is like rocket fuel for leaders. It’s the deepest, most personal way I work with clients. Private Equus Coaching is the most impactful way I work and I want everyone to experience it,” she says.

There is scope to find out more before committing to a booking, advises Eide. “We can come to your office – although sadly without the horses – and deliver a keynote-style introduction or short interactive workshop; we also offer short demonstrations with the horses on site.”

There are many common challenges that businesses and leaders bring to TRUE. The current business climate, reveals Eide, has seen a rise in clients looking to manage fear and the unknown, to be able to lead through change and make courageous decisions. “My clients seek to develop emotional and tactical agility so that they are both resilient and able to adapt; they want to build trust and relationships that will help them come together as a team.”

The businesses that Eide works with are as varied as the issues facing leaders today. She has created a two-day workshop with a university during a time of organisational change, coached an investment company CEO and worked one-on-one with leaders during high-stakes situations. Her clients are effusive about the transformations efffected.

“Walking into the paddock I was sceptical; I didn’t think that 10 minutes with a horse would teach me so much about myself,” writes one. “It was the incorruptible honesty of the horse’s reaction that made me face my own actions and attitudes with the same honesty. This was the best workshop I’ve ever attended in my academic life,” says another.

Amongst the companies reporting improvements after attending Equus Training at TRUE is the after-sales service team of a luxury automotive company, says Eide.

“They wanted their employees to be confident in setting customer expectations as well as resilient in the face of a high-stress environment. Each participant approached the activity with the horse in their own unique way. One took the friendly approach petting and cuddling the horse, one tried a more command and control approach, still another struggled to find the energy to interact with a dominant horse. You can imagine how these different patterns may have played out with clients.

"While being coached through the equine activity, each participant explored a variety of alternate approaches and then left with a practice to take back to the office when they met that familiar challenge. A week later when we met at their office for group coaching and follow up, the team leader reflected that she had seen improvement in each individual but what surprised her was how they had begun to really support each other after bearing witness to each other‘s unique challenges. They had become a herd.”

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