Feel, timing and balance. You can’t improve on those three words when working with a horse. You can’t have one without the other and each builds on the previous in an ongoing progression.
Feel is about the relationship between two individuals, it is the give and take in a conversation. Timing is about when to ask, when to listen and when to just sit. Finally, without balance nothing else works.
In my world, leadership and horsemanship are inextricably linked. So feel, timing and balance could also describe the role that Dave Mowat has played at ATBFinancial the past eleven years.
Timing is everything. Dave recently announced he is set to retire in June 2018 as President and CEO of ATBFinancial. The timing of Dave’s departure is most interesting, Dave is leaving when everything feels good. Through his tenure ATB’s assets have grown to $49.6 billion from $20.3 billion, revenue has doubled to $1.5 billion and branch footprint grown by 9%. That is quite an accomplishment in an economic environment that has been anything but great in Alberta for a number of years.
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.
Horses have always been a part of his life. From the age of 12 Buck Brannaman has been starting horses, before that he was an accomplished trick roper. The past 35 years Buck has lived most of the year on the road crossing the United States, visiting Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and even Japan sharing his experience and helping people better understand how to get along with their horses. In 2011 the film Buck documenting Bucks life and work, launched to critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival.
Buck is a leader in the horsemanship field and I have watched his progression as a teacher through the past dozen or so years. I have always said to be good with horses you have to be great with people, Buck is both. My annual trek, with and without horses, down to listen, learn and ride with him in Montana has become part of my own professional development.
After a long day in the sun, with temperatures well into the mid 30sC, as is typical of his good nature Buck agreed to answer a few questions.
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.
It may be a bit easier to understand after watching Micheal Sikorsky‘s Walrus Talk on Innovation. Early in the history of documentation writing was one long script with breaks only appearing at the edge of the page. With nothing but time capturing knowledge through writing was the domain of Monks and it stayed that way for quite a few years. Though as more learned to read and write spaces began to appear to make the messages more meaningful and easier to understand.At least that is how Sikorsky, founder of Robot’sNPencils, introduces the invention of ‘The Space’.
“I understand you are scared. I appreciate there is an experience behind your fear. I am asking “What behaviours have you seen demonstrated by the horses that would suggest that you need to be concerned? ”
Therapy is not something that I do with The Natural Leader programs, so when I encounter someone who has been traumatized with horses I do not have the degree to back me up. I can only go with what I see. Leadership is about demonstrated behaviour and a conversation I am quite comfortable with, so behaviour is where my focus lies.
Fear can be a great motivator, a tool for learning or it can paralyze us. What I hope for those who are fearful is that they can recognize how fear, or the story, that is holding them back from achieving more in their career or life.
Too afraid to even enter the arena, a participant of a recent program had been watching her peers go through a series of activities with the horses. Before heading up for lunch, I asked if she would be willing to connect with a horse together. I was searching for the invitation she would be comfortable with. Even with that offer, she was hesitant, in fact she flat out refused.
She had shared her story of trauma by horses with the Wranglers and was keen to let me in on the details. I expect she had also told everyone else on her team. Repeating the story not only re-traumatized her, but words of acknowledgement from others appeared to reconfirm her fear.
You can’t tell someone “Don’t be afraid”, so I was looking for the question that would help her step out of her comfort zone. What she had seen – the demonstrated behaviours or facts, rather than what she had believed to be true – the story. When she admitted she had seen nothing that confirmed her fear, she offered that coming into the arena with “one” horse might be okay.
In The Natural Leader programs “Everything is an invitation. An Invitation can be accepted, modified or declined.” I was thrilled she was willing to take that step. I had picked Big Jim. Though large in stature Big Jim is the image of calm and quiet. Still concerned, the introduction was short but she acknowledged she could be beside a horse. She left the arena one big step closer to change.
That afternoon, she volunteered to be the observer. Perhaps it was sharing those observations with her team that helped her believe she was ready to participate. Her smile and the change in her body language that followed suggested the relief that came with the belief she could do this, as her confidence grew so too did her participation.
She needed others to see and believe what she had believed impossible. Leaders are given that responsibility all the time, opening the door to allow someone to step through and experience the change they are seeking.
“If you talk to any good horse trainer about how they got to where they are, they’ll admit they’ve made some mistakes along the way. And if they’re worth their salt, they’ll probably tell you that the lessons they learned making those mistakes were invaluable.” Clinton Anderson
“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing that makes you good.” Malcolm Gladwell