Even though I have been riding horses for more than 40 years, I still take a riding lesson every week. It is here that I remember and experience first hand how small changes can make a big difference in the comfort, willingness, and performance of my horse, Roxy. The better I get, the better my horse gets.
This is how leadership is. Becoming a better leader helps those you lead become better as well.
These two small changes, that leaders can make in themselves, yield results whether leading a large company or a small family:
If I’m to be honest, I must admit that for a long time, even though Roxy was “talking” to me, I didn’t really want to listen to my horse. She communicated to me, through her resistance, that she didn’t like the way I was doing things, but I simply chalked it up to her being a crabby mare and demanded that she be the one to change. After all, I was the “leader.” I had to ask myself, “Was I really leading if she was not following?”
Like my horse, most of us simply want to feel heard. If you’re dealing with someone who’s continually resisting your efforts, instead of brushing them off or ignoring them, what if you make it a point to give them your undivided attention? Slow down and really listen with the intent to understand. When we feel heard and valued, we’re much more willing to go the extra mile.
Every organization has roadblocks, tight spaces and bottlenecks–places where growth is stifled because of narrow thinking, ideas, or ways of doing things. It can be a hard pill to take if you, as the leader, are the one creating the bottleneck. Practicing humility may not fun, but it is very necessary in a leader.
I recently discovered during one of my lessons, that a very small shift in how I was sitting had a dramatic effect on my horse. The new position made me feel out of balance but Roxy was smoother and more powerful as a result. My willingness to see myself as the one who needed to change meant that Roxy was better able to do her job at a higher level.
Getting results worth noticing
Now that I’ve made changes in the way I think and ride, my horse is definitely happier. Is there a challenging relationship you are dealing with at work or at home? Are you willing to look at yourself and make the change before asking another person to? When you open yourself up and truly listen to the feedback, you obtain the ability to see how you can do things differently. Although it may be physically or emotionally uncomfortable, making the sacrifice will get better results.
We often hear the saying that the only person you can change is yourself. My horse, Roxy, has certainly been patient in waiting for me to learn this lesson. When I was finally willing to slow down, pay attention to her feedback and adjust myself, our relationship and our results improved.