Manager's Corner: Performance Choices and Horse Lessons

Manager's Corner
Performance Choices and Horse Lessons

My husband and I helped a friend move her horses to a new stable recently. Neither of her horses had ever been loaded on a trailer before, so she was terribly nervous about this "adventure" facing us. She'd had visions of her horses panicking, bucking, kicking, whinnying for dear life, and forcibly being pushed and pulled into the trailer. Instead, one horse walked right on as we calmly talked to her during the loading process, and the other walked on the trailer calmly after only 10 minutes of being offered "choices." The choices we offered that horse were: 1) to stand still while we tapped her hind-end with a crop like a pesky fly, or 2) to move forward and not be pestered. The choice was hers. If she stood still, we pestered her; if she moved, we didn't. She made the choices and we followed up with the consequences. However, we had limited her choices and we were consistent in displaying what the consequences would be for each choice. We had structured the choices to make the one that helped us achieve our mission more attractive than the one that hindered it. We gave her the choices, and let her decide. After 10 minutes of being pestered, she decided it was easier to just walk on the trailer and eat some grain - so she did. No panicking, bucking, kicking, pushing or pulling. She chose the least annoying option. Easy for her; easy for us. Clear and consistent communication with clear objectives helped us all enjoy our adventure.
I thought of this horse lesson recently while talking with a client. He was recounting how the performance level of his employees had increased over the past 12 months. He stated that our work in helping to change his management style from one that was dictatorial, to one that was more collaborative had supported a performance increase in his production staff. His new collaborative style gives his employees more control in offering enhancements to their respective processes and in modifying procedures to test their theories. However, the employees are given clear objectives to meet. They even have input in establishing some of those objectives. They have more choices in how they perform their respective job responsibilities - as long as their objectives are met.
The employees all know why each has the objectives they each have. Each employee knows how his or her job fits into the overall structure of the company and how each position can move the company towards its vision. Each employee knows the Company Values. There are no surprises. Each employee can choose to help support the mission of the company or not. If they do, they are given more opportunities for growth, learning, and experimentation. If they don't, they have the option of changing their performance and staying with the company, or finding a new position in a different company. Again, the choice is theirs. Clear and consistent communication with clear objectives helps my client and his team enjoy their adventure together. There are fewer surprises, fewer conflicts, and much more cooperation and success. What choices are you offering?

Liz Weber of Weber Business Services, LLC. WBS specializes in Strategic, Business, and Succession Planning, as well as employee and leadership training. Contact: or 717-597-8890.