Organization & Leadership Consulting

Horsepower Management…Consider This

management and delegation in horse training

Management is essential. It is also inevitable. It cannot not be done. It can be done poorly, well, and even with abandon. However, it can never be abandoned because someone or something will step in the gap, even if it is the Second Law of Thermodynamics (meaning, the laws of physics and biology will take over).

Let’s break it down. The term ‘manage’ is a combination of two Latin words: manus (hand) and agere (to act). It means to take action in a hands-on manner in order to guide a process or an outcome. It was first applied to the act of training and guiding a horse. Given that, the parallels to today’s use of the word are abundant and helpful.

For centuries, the horse was humankind’s most effective machine (not to diminish the spirited nature of a beloved animal). It’s where the term ‘horsepower’ comes from, but you knew that. The horse has helped many a man or woman get a lot more work done than they could do on their own. But a horse cannot do the work needed without a human training and guiding it.

This work happens at peak performance levels when a certain set of principles are practiced with consistency…with limited “horsing around”, so to speak.

For a horse (or a human) to be well-managed, the manager must:

  • Define clear expectations and outcomes;
  • Perform initial training and mentoring (A new horse joined to an experienced team of horses learns the work more quickly and feels a part of something bigger. This may sound like personification, but it really happens.);
  • Provide abundant resources (food, water, space, “stable-keeping”, safety and security, etc.)
    • But not too much or the creature may become complacent and entitled;
  • Provide ongoing care and grooming;
  • Give access to expertise the horse does not have (fence repair, equipment replacement, etc. No horse can put on its own tack.)
  • Determine a customized balance of respectful mid-course correction and positive reinforcement;
  • Establish a built-in rhythm of restoration.

Marvin R. Weisbord, in his book Productive Workplaces: Dignity, Meaning, and Community in the 21st Century, states “Management is best conceived as acting in ways to make happen what you most believe in. It is at bottom an exercise of moral imagination” and “The game is deeply rooted in our own inner dialogues about freedom and control, initiative and dependence”.

Sound horse sense, right?

TurningWest, Your Guide to a Healthy Culture and Human Work Systems, is ready to harness up with you and your team as you seek to plow new ground or improve existing processes and culture. Contact us today!


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