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I’ve been trying to lead my horses around the round pen and get them to run. I ask them, show them, describe to them why they need to follow me, offer help, and hold them accountable. But still, they won’t do what I ask. It may be that they are distracted by requests for my manager and other dotted line managers, so I set priorities. Then I also ask why they are not doing what I ask, and they have very creative excuses. Do you have any other tips to help me lead my horses around the pen?
Dear Getting Nowhere,
Sounds like you have a real dilemma on your hands! It also sounds like you’ve devoted considerable time, patience, and attention to this issue. If I had to make a guess here, I’d say the one thing you haven’t offered is leadership. Yes, I know you are the de-facto leader of your herd. And I’m sure you’re a well-loved leader because it sounds like you truly care and want to see everyone succeed.
Here’s the thing that’s holding you back. When a leader demonstrates what needs to be done, offers to assist or help, and explains the consequences of not following through, she actually has to allow the consequences to occur sometimes. It sounds to me like you’re feeling a little gun-shy about letting out a big old buck and having your herd realize that you’re actually SERIOUS.
In the herd, we like to call these natural consequences. They are consequences that we don’t have to contrive. Remember when you were a kid. Your mom might have said something like: If you forget your lunch at home ONE more time, you’re grounded because I’m sick of bringing it to school for you. That is definitely a consequence. But it’s a contrived one that Mom probably had to really think through. Now a natural consequence on the other hand, requires no thought on your end. What if Mom said: I don’t want you to forget your lunch again honey, because otherwise you’re going to be so hungry. And then allowed you to actually go without lunch? That’s a natural consequence. And it’s exactly what your team needs.
I’m going to gently suggest that you are doing way too much managing of your folks and it’s made them a tad bit disrespectful. They are taking you for-granted, and hanging you out to dry. You need to assert yourself in a much clearer way, immediately.
One caveat to the last paragraph…frequently when we feel we have been ignored or disrespected we end up exploding. We lay down all kinds of boundaries and consequences that are confusing for folks around us. The reason horses don’t do this is because we act within the moment. We don’t stew on things for months and then explode. So, if you feel like you’re close to an explosion, don’t assert yourself yet. Get some support elsewhere first (like on the herd page) and then move forward from a place of peace rather than a place of anger.