Janice Webster is Senior Vice President Human Resources at Solium. For over twenty years she has been enabling high-performing organizations to excel. She admits these past three years have changed her through what she has learned from the two horses she and her husband now own. In this interview Janice explores what horses have taught her about herself, life and work. You could say it has been a fast ride!
Horses are sanctuary for the President of Arnett & Burgess Pipeliners.
Carey’s story with horses goes back a long way. When she was seven she brought home a riding lesson brochure and announced she wanted to ride. “My grandfather thought he’d start me off with a month of lessons to see if I was really interested. I never let my parents quit.”
Carey was hesitant on the question about how many horses she has “they’re a little like potato chips you can’t have just one.”
Terri Holowath attained the title in 2015, winning every event she and her horse Jade (Red Hot Jade) entered in the National Reined Cow Horse Association Tour (NRCHA). Not bad for a part-time rider in the non-pro two rein working cow horse category. Her other full-time position, Managing Partner/CEO with Catalyst LLP in south Calgary, Alberta.
This interview is a slight deviation from my conversations with leaders about what they have learned from a life with horses. Simply because every once in a while something worth sharing happens in The Natural Leader programs. Aside from the odd trail ride, Steve’s experience with horses is not a whole lot broader than the day he spent with us. What showed up for for Steve that day speaks to the power of leadership learning through horsemanship.
We’ve all heard the statement “if you want something done ask a busy person.”
If you want it done really well ask Ingrid. She is what you might say, one busy woman. In the past two decades Ingrid raised three kids, bought an ailing horse publication and turned it around and has been involved with a variety of community activities. Nowadays she serves on the board of the Alberta and Canadian Cutting Horse Associations as well as Stampede Western Performance Committee.
Then just when some people are thinking of slowing down, Ingrid and her partner Dean Ness embarked on a new adventure, opening Cody & Souix in Inglewood, Calgary. The store offers a blend of modern west clothing and a curated selection of artists and artisan work. For Ingrid it is much more than a store, Cody & Souix represents a lifestyle that speaks to frontier ideals such as individualism, a life outdoors and protecting the remaining wide open spaces of the West.
Ingrid also rides cutting horses.
I had to trust her, I was reaching to pick up a back foot. It had taken the better part of a year to get to this point and if actions reflect thoughts, trust had to be visible in everything I did. I had to trust me.
Pheobe joined the herd when a divorce required the assets be divided. Her trip to the meat pen was intercepted by a friend who put out a call for anyone willing to take on mares in foal. My offer to take a couple was clearly emotional as the logic of taking on four more horses typically requires planning.
News feeds have been all a buzz about Melisa Mayer’s recent decision to eliminate remote work at Yahoo. As I write, one online poll suggests people are evenly split as to whether they agree with Mayer or not. The comments are full of strongly differing opinions, so one could say the decision is an emotional issue!
Some sources state her decision was based on a tendency to use statistics, that she had been monitoring remote workers VPN access. Other sources say it’s simply an effort to strengthen the brand and reposition Yahoo for the mobile generation.
Having worked at one of those upstart internet companies I have a sense of the work. People all over the globe could be part of a team. VPN access could only be a small part of the real issue as much work is done on a local machine, uploading data/code to the main server as needed.
This news is hot on the heels of an amazing discussion I had over lunch at a friends last week. The topic “when women have worked so hard to get into a position of power Why then are they not even more supportive of other women?”
The discussion flowed from one example of a senior manager who was ready to get rid of a woman on her team. When questioned as to what were her reasons, it was revealed the subject was indeed one of the best performers, provided superior work, never missed a deadline and excelled at every way. My friend somewhat taken aback over how venomous the statements came out, through a few more questions revealed the anger stemmed from the freedom that the contract employee was able to enjoy. The contractor came in for meetings but mostly worked from home. While I may have forgotten the exact questions, the response sticks in my mind “I paid my dues, she should pay hers!”
So my question to Mayer would be “Is it really about getting the work done, or is it a Matter of Trust?”
I understand the Yahoo decision isn’t a gender issue though I can’t say I see Mayer’s perspective. Today’s Business Insider says it’s about culture so perhaps a change in work habits is required. A culture is defined by its leader, the foundation of leadership is trust. I may not know what it is to run a company like Yahoo but I am familiar with what it takes to trust others. For them to do their best, I have to trust myself first.
I’ve started enough colts now to see the connection between how I react to what is offered. Each colt may test me in a different way but it always comes down to how I respond. I admit sometimes it gets a little scary and yes my emotions can get the better of me, but if I don’t trust myself first, there is no way the colt will trust me. You can’t fake trust, or at least I have to admit to the fact that the colt will see it, if that shows up then I certainly have to be prepared for the worst.
I can only hope that Mayer is able to rebuild trust enough to change the culture she suggests is the problem with Yahoo.
So yes, it now is a matter of trust.
While my office may look a bit different, I am fortunate to include myself in that group. Loving what you do isn’t always easy and I am the first to admit that I now understand why people get jobs!
Acknowledging my excitement at signing on a client for a series of sessions this year, a friend responded with “it’s only taken you eight years to become an overnight sensation.” I had to laugh at the absolute truth! No wonder so many people give up on their dream of their own business within the first five years, it is hard work and often without a lot of immediate returns.
While the returns might not be immediate, the benefits are many. Others who start a business typically pick up a past employer as a first contract, what I realised is the seven years prior to me leaving a job were focused on clients in the U.S. and Europe so my local contacts were very limited. That required me to step outside my comfort zone and get out to meet people. Past strangers I now call friends. I have learned more in the past eight years than my formal schooling years in total. And it’s all been relevant!
While I have always been pretty good at setting goals, managing time and completing activities, the reasons I fit so well into the role of managing programs. That skill has proven itself over in spades as I am not waiting for someone else to do something for me, but I am getting better at hiring others who will do certain things quicker than I.
I have learned so much about myself that it truly helps in how I connect and communicate with others and of that I am still learning. That knowledge continues to enhance my leadership and my horsemanship. Leadership and horsemanship it’s all the same to me and my job now is to help others see where the parallels lie for them.
My closing thought at a school presentation for grade eleven and twelve students considering their career path. “This career didn’t exist when I was in school. It was one that showed up for me as I developed the skills I would need to be successful. Just be open and journey you start out on may lead to totally unexpected destinations.”
I previously explored the notion of intrinsic or extrinsic reward in The Motivation to Change recognising that which motivates one individual might not apply to another. Risk taking has both intrinsic and extrinsic value. The ability to take a risk is always identified as an important leadership quality, yet it is more often than not viewed in a negative light.
Our capacity to see the opportunity in risk is defined by our personality, emotional strength, experience and our resilience. Managing risk successfully is a fine balance of all those qualities, lacking one or more can give us an over inflated view of our abilities resulting in risky behaviour.
It was the latter condition that was of concern for my traveling companion, Bette. The founder of Highbanks Society, Bette works with young mothers who may be there because of risky behaviour. Bette feels the challenge guiding young moms to make better decisions and see the consequences of their actions. It was especially poignant for Bette as one graduate of their program had taken on a job as a bicycle courier in downtown Calgary.
The young girl had only seen the opportunity in taking the risk not evaluating the cost of the risk as it related to being a mother, Bette was reflecting on all the life experience that suggested otherwise. The older we are the more we rely on our experiences and what we have learned through them. A challenge I have often heard in working with younger people is simply they have yet to benefit from experience and the learning that can come from it.
Recognising some personalities are drawn to the risk of experience more than others and providing an outlet for it is the basis of experiential learning programs. Providing a supportive environment for experimentation, reflection, adjustment and repetition is where we learn what our capacity and resilience for risk is. Experiential learning is also the foundation for leadership and team learning programs with horses.
Risk and opportunity are two things that go hand in hand working with horses. However, horses make it very clear that when you step too far outside our own comfort zone they rarely are willing to pick up the slack. Knowing how far you can go to push the boundary is where change happens, where the idea of taking a risk becomes a reward in itself.