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Considering communication in the workplace with Sam Real stories from visitor's experiences at Hush Farms. Authentic Communication helps people explore leadership styles

Real Stories

Hush Farms helps people to contemplate change.

The stories below are recent examples gathered from a simple two-hour session exploring workplace challenges with horses. The experiences helped a team make changes for the better. These stories and many more like them represent the every day successes of Hush Farms.
Find My Voice

Lost in the workplace, looking for recognition

One member of a group explored personal feelings of frustration in the workplace, believing they were over-looked for promotion and that no-one listened to their ideas. They also felt that everyone "spoke over them” at meetings. They wanted this situation to change.

The activity involved the individual instructing members of their group to build a structure from obstacles. They were invited to describe what each item represented in the workplace – i.e. Board Room, networking events, interview panels and presentations. At the outset, though they appeared to enjoy issuing instructions, they were extremely doubtful whether anyone would listen to them.

Taking hold of the horse’s lead rein, they stepped forward, expecting the horse to follow, but the horse didn’t move. Through a process of inviting the individual to consider options and reflect on how to change the situation in order to achieve the end goal, the participant decided they should talk to the horse with words of encouragement. The moment they began talking to Sam, our Welsh cob, the horse lifted his head and looked towards them.

They were then invited by the Equine Coach to explain to the horse what they were going to do next  – walk through and over the obstacles and stop at a given point. This gave clarity for both the individual, as well as the other group members.At the conclusion, the individual said they were "thrilled” to have been successful in instructing the members of the group and to have led the horse through the obstacle course.

Their Key Learning Points: 

  • By moving physically through the metaphors of significant psychological barriers in the workplace, they gained a feeling of confidence, allowing them to see that it’s possible to overcome these perceived obstacles.
  • When deciding their personal limitations, they learnt not to jump to conclusions, finding that they could influence the horse that was initially perceived to be too daunting.
  • Speaking up to give clear explanations serves to build clarity for themselves, as well as that of their colleagues.

Personal Revelation: They recalled being bullied at school about their tone of voice. They had forgotten that this was when they decided to remain quiet and not speak up. They were satisfied that this situation could now change and, as a result, they could achieve everything that they wanted to at work.

Resulting Actions: They decided to attend training in ‘Presentation Skills’.

Connection & Relationship

Our Survey says...

A group of four people chose to explore ‘Staff Surveys’ to find a solution to engage the workforce in the process. They considered there was a lack of staff confidence that anything worthwhile would result from the surveys.

The Equine Coach invited the group to contemplate what was needed to achieve staff engagement in the survey process. As a result, they agreed that they needed to build momentum with consistent and frequent communication and interaction with the workforce.

Their obstacles in the arena involved a series of poles, spaced at regular intervals, for them to walk over with the horse at a fast pace.

One member of the group led our Welsh cob, Sam. Taking hold of the lead-rein, they walked forwards with Sam following at a distance. They walked several meters away from the poles to try to get enough space to build up speed and lead him over. But each time, Sam moved slowly, keeping a distance behind them and barely increasing his pace.

The group invested a lot of time in discussing the situation, to design and build the structure that  represented their obstacle, leaving little time to complete the activity of walking over the poles. Added to this, Sam was distracted and didn’t engage with the group members; this was the only time that this happened during the whole two-hour event. The horse’s lack of engagement was particularly symbolic of the scenario that the group had chosen to explore.

The most poignant moment that served as a key learning point for the group was what happened next... When Sam worked with the next group, the first thing a member of group did was to speak very clearly to him, using his name and stroking his head. Instantly, Sam transformed into an alert state and worked with a higher level of energy than before.

Their Key Learning Points:
  • The group recognised that it’s possible to invest too much time studying the systems involved in a process, at the expense of ignoring the workforce. 
  • The distance between the horse and the person leading the horse meant that Sam wasn’t working in harmony or at the same pace – yet another metaphor, representing the negative impact of keeping too much distance between staff and management.
  • Engaging the workforce requires personal contact and may well benefit from offering recognition and reward for efforts, (stroking the horse was agreed to represent a form of reward).
  • Time and Resources are restrained, which limits the potential to succeed in this task.
  • Future approaches to engaging the workforce require more resources. 
Personal Revelations: The group members had all made assumptions, at the outset of the task, that it wasn’t possible to succeed in engaging the workforce. Consequently, they chose to focus on systems rather than continuing to interact at a personal level with the workforce. 

Resulting Actions: They would review plans for the next staff survey and re-assess the resources needed to succeed, including ways to interact with the workforce at a personal level. They would also design frequent and consistent interactions to provide regular updates for the workforce, highlighting achievements that have resulted from survey contributions.
Management Style

A barrier to performance

The group involved two managers and two members of staff. The scenario focused on how systems and the management style are proving too regimented, preventing the workforce from performing to their full creative potential.

The activity involved building an obstacle course with poles on the ground, first forming a box and then with other poles pointing into the box, representing the managers' input. The whole team walked alongside the horse and led it into the boxed area. They proclaimed that the boxed area represented the systems and managers at work, restricting the workforce from functioning to their full potential. 

Next, a manager stepped out of the boxed area and lifted a pole away, leaving an opening for the horse and the team to walk through. The team said this represented 'freedom', allowing the workforce opportunity to do what they are capable of achieving. Questioning from the Equine Coach helped the manager admit that the pole they had lifted was, in fact, their own management style, which was hampering the situation at work.

The other manager expressed their concerns that if they relaxed the control systems and at any time permitted the workforce to choose how they work, what they do and how long they take to do it, then the business would be vulnerable to reduced levels of productivity.

When the end pole was lifted away, the horse made a loud noise to make contact with other horses. It was an excitable noise and could have been spurred by the raised energy of the team members at the prospect of barriers (or systems), being reduced at work.

Their Key Learning Points:
  • The group agreed that working together in a physical and outdoor environment, with the distraction of animals, helped them to feel more able to express their thoughts, concerns and ideas, more so than in a classroom situation.
  • Working with horses encouraged a feeling of camaraderie – a sense of 'we’re all in this together'.
  • Managers and staff shared different perspectives of the same situation. This helped to build a shared understanding and to instigate discussions around possible solutions involving 360° views.
Personal Revelations: The managers recognised how management styles can have a negative impact.

Resulting Actions: When individuals gain personal revelations at an Equine Assisted Coaching event, time is given during the one or two days to explore, on a one-to-one basis, developing understanding of cause and effect. It also provides time to consider alternatives and to test them out with the horses.