What I learned about leadership from riding horses in Wyoming

Sometimes I get my best sales leadership inspirations when I’m completely disconnected from the day to day.

I spent a week last summer at the Hideout Ranch (Shell, Wyoming population 83) riding horses in the Big Horn Mountains. People come from all over the world to experience the phenomenal riding  – on the Hideouts extremely well trained horses.

One afternoon I attended a horsemanship clinic led by Tom Bercher, the Head Wrangler of the Hideout.  The clinic described “authentic horsemanship” – how the Hideout picks, trains, and cares for its horses.

Tom was raised in western Arkansas and literally has been riding horses since he could walk. He started breaking / training horses when he was 12 years old.  Even though Tom possesses an incredible amount of experience and acumen, he is constantly seeking knowledge to improve his craft.

I found interesting parallels between Tom’s work as a wrangler and mine as a sales leader.  The most obvious – you must pick the right ones (horses, people), train them how to do the job at hand, and put them in a position to succeed.

My big “aha moment” occurred when Tom discussed how to properly ride a horse. Horsemanship is about getting your horse to do what you ask it to do.

Every horse has it’s own personality and will challenge a rider. Many riders like to  “micro-manage” and dominate their horse – trying to get a result by force and anger. But this type of approach puts horse and rider in conflict. Horses are very sensitive animals and can become unresponsive when a rider is tense and or incompetent.

My key take-away from Tom – horses don’t want to be dominated, they want to be led. To lead, a rider must approach the horse with confidence, know where they want to go, and be competent at his / her part of the partnership – knowing how to get on / off, directing the horse on where and how fast to go. A rider must trust that the horse will do its job – if given the leeway and guidance to do so.

Reflecting back on my sales leadership career, there has been times when I was dominating, not leading my teams…and the results were not good.

Thanks Tom for a great lesson on horses, leadership, and life.

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