Leadership is NOT a Wardrobe Issue

Leadership is NOT a Wardrobe Issue. Considering starting a business with horses? or Perhaps you have been building a business over the years and need some inspiration?

This book was a delightful surprise for me. Nancy’s knowledge and approach to horses and horsemanship is complete and thoughtful. She then applies this awareness and understanding to her leadership programs. Her explanations and exercises are concise and creative. She caused me to think about these parallels in my own non-verbal horse/human communications. I definitely learned something, and hope that Nancy will not mind if I occasionally borrow some of her words in my clinics. Highly recommended.
Ellen Eckstein, CA, USA – Bringing it Together

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Leadership is NOT a Wardrobe Issue covers 4 areas

• The Business of offering Leadership with Horses,
• how an indepth knowledge of Horses & Horsemanship has influenced the work of The Natural Leader;
• Activities to complement your programs with lesson plans, coaching conversations and the lessons learned along the way;
• Coachable Moments – this section applies to those one-on-one conversations with horsemanship concepts. Coachable Moments draws from the experience Nancy has gained starting horses over the years connecting the two through questions.

What you will find in more than 100 pages of
Leadership is NOT a Wardrobe Issue?

Why Does it take a Lifetime to Learn?
• The Idea for this book
• It’s not a One Size Fits All Deal
• How Did you Get Here?
• What is the one thing you want participants to walk away with?
• An Invitation

Applying Horsemanship Principles to Leadership
• What is Horsemanship?
• Interpreting Behavior
• A Horse’s Perspective

Benefits of Leadership through Experiential Learning
• Experiential Learning
• What is a better Question?
• The Awareness Wheel
• Critical thinking
• Feeling vs Acting
• Emotional Intelligence
• W.A.I.T.
• Safety first

The Business of Creating Great Programs 
• Why Leadership Development programs fail
• Barriers to Success
• Providing Value
• What TED can offer
• Things Learned Along the Way
• How can this book help you?

In lesson plan format with Notes from the Arena – lessons learned along the way delivering leadership work

Coachable Moments
Whether you are doing one-on-one work or working with an individual within a group. Sometimes you need to pull out a specific concept or idea that will resonate for that individual.


Leadership is NOT a Wardrobe Issue Nancy will provide any additional supporting materials to help you get to the next step.

eBook – digital download

prices are in Canadian dollars; Canadian clients GST will apply.

Read More

Facilitators Guide Creating Exceptional Leaders through Learning with Horses

Facilitators Guide Creating Exceptional Leaders through Learning with Horses – one or two day program outline.

Download an excerpt of Creating Exceptional Leaders

Creating Exceptional Leaders through Learning with Horses. The Facilitator’s Guide reflects our learnings from four years of programs partnering the concepts from The Leadership Challenge® with activities with horses. Presented at The Leadership Challenge Forum in Chicago August 2009.

eBook – $79.95 Cdn. 

Looking for more reference tools? Check out The Games People Play with Horses and In Business to Define


A Culture of Safety

SafetyCulture“most of us are taught to think of experience as coming from the outside in, psychology and neuroscience shows fairly dramatically that experience mainly comes from the inside out. We each created our own experience and therefore, people involved in the same event can have very different observations, thoughts, feelings and wants about that event.”1 Gervase Bushe

Over the past year I’ve had the good opportunity to work with a number of teams from the oil and gas industry. All the organizations they work for state they operate in a culture of safety, but watching people in action gives you a better sense of compliance versus a safety mindset. Safety isn’t about what not to do, but rather about how to do something safely.

Working from the “inside out”2 is a concept that shows up very clearly when working with a horse. “Never walk behind a horse.” advice almost everyone seems to be able to provide, but a perspective that relates more to how we walk behind a horse than whether we should. Evolution has provided horses with panoramic vision so their range of sight is almost 360 degrees, they absolutely can see you. Acutely aware a horse reads their measure of safety not only from the physical surroundings but through the actions of others, so how we walk behind them does make a difference.

While it isn’t always easy to tell where a horse is looking, their eyes are on the side of their head, a good indicator of where their focus of attention is are their ears. A horse’s body language will indicate their level of concern, in effect they let us know exactly what they are thinking.

In comparison our physiology restricts our peripheral vision limiting what we see to that which is in front of us and we also often falsely believe that we are good at keeping our thoughts to ourselves. A truth that clearly defines itself when we consciously prepare for the “what if’s” about working around a horse, the more likely we unknowingly wear what we are thinking. Horses have taught me a lot about safety.

While Bushe is exploring experience through the lens of the organization his findings of workplace experience is no different that what horsemanship suggests, our thoughts influence our actions. How we respond to what is presented, or how we interpret our safety, the impact is the same, others see what we miss and actions can easily be misinterpreted.

Just as Bushe suggests the more conscious we are of our own personal safety, the more likely our thoughts translate into unintended actions, perhaps we get hesitant, move slower or have a rigidness to our posture. While we may be thinking “I’m just being careful.” our body language changes the experience for someone else.

My awareness in working with horses has developed over time with a lens of safety built into everything I do. Many actions I am no longer conscious of, it has simply become how I do things. My experience has helped me develop a level of comfort working in an environment that others would perceive as risky.

Telling someone what not to do without information about why is no different then telling someone to not be afraid around the horse. A useless piece of advice without the why. Information helps us develop the awareness we need to be safe through our actions. The more open the dialogue is around safety versus a checklist of what not to do the more likely people gain comfort and competence to create the culture of safety.

1 – Bushe, Gervase -
2 – Leading from the Inside Out – was the name The Natural Leader launched under, so a thought I have carried with me


A Ringside Seat

For two days I had been working hard at achieving the flow of the activity, but the goal of a soft feel and fluid motion remained elusive. As Jack and I continued to muddle around the arena, a voice came from outside fence “Would you mind if I made an observation?”

I had to stop and turn to where the voice came from as it was certainly not one I knew. “Please”, I responded as I was pretty sure any suggestion could improve on where we were at. With a single question, what had been painfully obvious to others was finally clear to me. The difference in outcome, nothing short of remarkable.

I was riding in a clinic with horsemanship master Buck Brannaman, but it was my ringside consultant who opened up the greatest possibilities for me that weekend. As horsemanship is all about our own behaviours, it was Chris’ simple suggestion that had helped me to adjust mine. The Zen saying: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” fits as that one observation has lead to an ongoing dialogue with a friend willing to share his experience and wisdom.

While it may simply be a case of semantics, a term or a title can be everything. I was beginning to believe I was uncoachable however, being mentored is totally appealing. Founded in Greek Mythology, even the word mentor conjures up an image of admiration. Off to fight a two decade long war, Odysseus left his son Telemachus in the charge of faithful friend Mentor, to raise his son to be an honourable, truthful and courageous man.

Corey Olynik captures that appeal in his book “The Mentor’s Mentor”. The first chapter One Conversation Many Installments introduces the concept beautifully. Olynik’s view is the Mentor plays many roles through that Conversation. A role that begins as a Confidante and listens without judgement; is a Role Model with the experience to share, a Guide to help a protege see things for herself, a Tutor to facilitate learning, a Coach to bring accountability to the relationship and ultimately the overarching role of a Sage who keeps his eye on the vision.

Since that day last summer our conversations have covered many topics family, death, politics, the environment, the weather with a thread that always returns to horsemanship. Chris has some wonderful experience to share and his suggestions have greatly enhanced my learning and progress, he has asked the tough questions that make me think about my next step and overall he understands the ultimate goal we both seek in our relationship with our horse.

I have found yet one more Mentor to my horsemanship and leadership journey. Chris, it has been an unexpected and fun conversation, with what I hope to be many installments yet to come. Thank you.

How Hard Can It Be?

That had to be my thought as I picked the colt out of the pen, a nice looking, well put together red dun. I was told he was maybe three or four but there was no touching him to confirm such a guess. I paid for a “belt” according to the register receipt. We drove him through the loading chute and into the trailer, he was now my project.

Getting him out of the trailer and into a stall was also relatively easy – open one door, then the other and in a flash he was in the barn. In a matter of hours his world had been turned upside down, the horse was literally vibrating in the stall. My expectation was let him calm down, feed him, shower him with love and surely he will come around.

After a couple of days in the stall it was not getting less dangerous to handle him, he made it clear he had no intention of letting me near. The slightest move on my part ran through him like a bolt of electricity. Having started numerous younger horses I admit maybe this one was a little more than I had anticipated and prepared for. Not a fan of keeping a horse in a box I decided to put him into the smaller paddock. With space to move he would not feel so trapped so connecting should be easier and safer.

What followed was a series of days where I had to concoct ingenious ways to get him from one location to the other – I still couldn’t touch him. I also began to fully appreciate why one should design their pens, paddocks and round pens on paper first. It was through this process that his name came to me – everything was about doing things in very small pieces, there was no rushing anything and giving him time to process requests was something I had to allow. He was the colour of peanut butter so Rhys’ pieces he became.

After a few days of panicked departures and abrupt turns he was starting to slow down, wait and look to me. I was not, after all, trying to kill him.

Years later we have come to an agreement and I admit it has not been an easy ride. I had to decide that one of us must change. Together we had a few really tough days, we both survived because I stopped worrying about failing. He still has his ya-buts, is quick to point out an inconsistency in my behaviour and finally is willing to give something an honest try. Rhys may not be able to hold it together through a new experience but he looks to me for the support and confidence he lacks.

My experience with Rhys is the perfect parallel to what starting a new business has been like. I took on something few would, started a process where my previous experience seemed all but irrelevant and suffered numerous bumps and bruises along the way. The learning I have gained from both is about me, how I manage change, approach adversity, develop a perspective on the odds, handle frustration or fear of failing.

Whether starting a new business or a horse they require tenacity, an unwavering belief you can learn something new, a steadfast willingness to learn from mistakes unyielding optimism and time. Neither are something you can short cut to the finish. Both are about developing awareness, relationships and trust. So I am thrilled to report like my experience with Rhys, The Natural Leader is doing better than ever this year.

A Year of Great Expectation

A year begins with great expectations. It may be a resolution, a hope for better things to come or plans to change. Inevitably we look forward and focus on what we want to do differently however a new year also provides the opportunity to reflect and acknowledge what we have accomplished.

In a previous article, Why Positive Change is Hard I quoted David Rock on The New Science of Change. Rock suggests that our brain is wired to avoid change as learning requires new circuits to be created in our brains and that is energy intensive, referring to existing patterns isn’t. The brain’s natural default is to use less energy.

Rock uses a simple metaphor for brain development “New circuits are like delicate seedlings, requiring careful watering and care.” and suggests the solution of a mere ten seconds of reflection a day to help develop new circuits. That 10 second rule is the reason that posting a quote, a phrase or a reminder on their desktop, fridge or mirror is so effective in helping us achieve a goal. The simple act of repetition helps the brain develop the new circuits required to develop a new behaviour or habit.

We are naturally resistant to change and ironically don’t like to admit it. It took me a long time to recognise I am a creature of habit. I don’t believe my answers to many of the psychometric tests taken over the years honestly reflect that, but you can’t argue with absolute proof, ten years of feeding horses two to three times a day no matter the weather is routine.

Stepping outside the comfort zone of routine is harder than I expected. My natural inclination is to come up with the reasons why I might as well not bother going to that event in town be it weather, traffic, time, I’d have to change, it falls about the same time I should be feeding or I haven’t paid yet so no big loss. Trust me I have become the master of excuses. So this year my resolution is to reach out to the many I have made virtual connections with. New or renewed, one person at a time, I am making that commitment. While social networking may be huge I’m still a fan of the power of personal connection, that is after all, what we speak to in our programs.

Sometimes creating a new habit is easier than we think it might be. When all appeared to be overwhelming for me as a teen, my mom suggested that I write down a list of the good things I could be thankful for in one column and what was bothering me in the other. Needless to say the list of good things was lengthy and the four items on the bad, didn’t seem quite so daunting. It is a simple task I continue to carry with me – My expectations for 2010 were many. I have succeeded with some, fallen short on others but acknowledging what I have achieved goes a long way to inspiring what I can do this year.

Last year I :
• created a Year of Inspirations ebook (if you didn’t receive a copy I would be happy to send it to you)
• completed & launched the facilitators guide – Creating Exceptional Leaders through learning with horses (it is for sale on my website)
• helped raise over $26k for Inn from the Cold (a non-profit foundation for homeless families)
• participated in the first Canadian Cowboy Up Challenge
• started four 3 yr old colts and continue to bring them along
• worked with two horses for friends (I am most proud of how well that has worked out)
• produced a monthly newsletter & (almost) weekly inspiration
• continued to develop 11 other horses
• nursed two horses back to health from rather ugly looking injuries (one my fault; one I inherited)
• added two new horses to the herd
• added four new clients to my horsemanship coaching
• travelled to Montana for a Buck Brannaman clinic
• read many new books on horsemanship
• expanded my leadership library and reading
• completed the script for an online video (the taping will now have to be a 2011 activity)
• completed numerous sketches of the herd
• added three new clients to my corporate programming
• ran three successful sessions for the University of Calgary
• ran a pilot for the Rotary Club of Calgary Stay in School program
• launched the Lead Mare mentorship program for youth
• ran the first Yoga for you & Your Horse session
• offered two conference presentations
• spent three days with six horses down at the Stampede grounds
• continued to feed, trim and care for the herd now totalling 17, 365 days of the year

If I can do that, the simple act of reaching out seems to be an attainable goal.

Implementing change begins with recognising what you are good at and building realistic expectations from there, then create the reminders you need to accomplish them. So I have posted a question for myself – Who am I connecting with this week on my desktop and to begin the year I have created another ebook. A Year of Great Expectation is a compilation of essays, quotes and images from newsletters and inspirations from the past year.

“Consistency is the tool of learning, yet variety is the spice of life. Too much consistency is too boring. Too much variety is inconsistent.” – Richard Winter

Is there a Drama Queen on Your Team?

Ever worked with a drama queen? You know the one who has a knack for creating a crisis or constantly seems to be at the epicentre of chaos?

My drama queen? A 16 year old female, the key difference just might be, my drama queen is a horse. Despite the years of experience, wisdom and leadership skill I have gained, Zoe is very good at sucking me into her emotional vortex. Always ready to teach me something new, Zoe pointed out my default to manager when she most needed, a confident and clear leader.

It was a familiar ride down a road we have traveled a thousand times, yet every bush, sound and falling leaf became a serious distraction. I was so busy managing all the “Ya But’s” and “OMG’s”, we surely would be in a froth by the time we hit the small stand of aspens a kilometer into the ride.

As the emotion of frustration rose in me – it dawned on me, Zoe was doing exactly what she ALWAYS did, and I was responding just as I always had. I was so busy managing and worrying about another exhausting ride that I was blind to what I was doing in the moment.

Thinking back on all the clinics, horsemanship tips and leadership knowledge I have gained over the years, many things came to mind. The thought that rang true “the horse will keep you busy if you don’t keep them busy”. It was my job to get her focused – I had to have a clear vision for both of us. I had to give her something more compelling to help her be successful. As I started asking questions, the frantic jig turned into sidepassing, backing and repeating patterns. We stopped, teetered back and rolled over on the haunches each task bringing us ever closer to that terrifying stand of trees. The occasional distraction reappeared, but when her head bobbed up and neck stiffened I found something new for her and we started the whole process again.

The ride that began feeling like I needed every ounce of my strength, was changing. As Zoe started to see a purpose to my requests she engaged with her responsibilities. She started finding the answers to my questions with less and less effort. The ride became less like work and more enjoyable, for both of us. We were beginning to dance to the same tune.

In the midst of that foreboding stand of trees I could feel her look to me for direction. With the lightest go forward request, we moved off. From the road we traveled onto the quarter section stubble field. We circled at a walk, trot and a lope, the open space no longer daunting. She was soft, we backed turned and then the biggest reward of all, we walked home, loose reins swinging in time with her stride.

As a manager she had kept me busy, as a leader I was able to help her focus and together we accomplished far more. Here’s to recognising the drama queen on your team can actually help you be a better leader!

“you are trying to help the horse…use his own mind. You…present something and then let him figure out how to get there.” Tom Dorrance