Remember when you were a kid and your parents took you to the country or to a mountain town for summer vacation? You probably camped out, rode bikes, sat around the campfire, and went horseback riding.
Here’s what I remember most about going horseback riding: it was very boring unless you were in front. If you were in the middle of the pack your horse’s nose was pressed up close to the butt of the horse in front of him, and you soon realized that you were going to stay in that same order because your horse wasn’t getting off that trail. They were trained to carry you on a trail ride and that is exactly what they did. All. Day. Long.
Can you imagine having that horse’s job day after day? Yet how many of us have fallen into that job trap? We wake up, eat, put on our saddle, put our work on our back, and follow the ruts in the trail.
Do you know what makes a great trail horse?
• They don’t have a mind of their own. They will keep their head down and follow the horse in front of them. In their mind there is no reason to see ahead. Walking the same trail every day is what they know to do.
• They don’t buck the system, so it will be a calm ride. It takes too much energy to buck. They’re safe, predictable, and do things just like they have always been done.
• They are lethargic. Even when a spunky tourist is on their back they don’t giddyup. Nah, they know the drill and have no intention in letting the new rider change their pace.
Ha ha! Well, if I were a career development coach for horses I’d have my work cut out for me with trail horses. They are hard to change because they don’t want to change. They know the drill, and they’re irritated by anyone coming in trying to change their comfortable routine.
How to Giddyup
So what if you find yourself in a trail horse environment? What the heck do you do to get out of that head-down trail riding rut?
• Pick your head up and look around. Stop assuming that the old way of doing things is always the right way. Recently, one of our teammates changed the way she did her job just because we gave her the freedom to think outside the trail. As a result, she saved the company a tremendous amount of money and is now someone I consider a race horse, not a trail horse.
• Buck the system! Ha ha, well ok, I’ll give caution to this advice because not all leaders like it when “their” system gets bucked. However, it is my opinion and experience that a system never bucked will never enjoy a thrilling ride.
• As a leader or a teammate, if you feel you’ve become lethargic, then make note and take action quickly! There is nothing more career-ending than becoming lethargic. If someone doesn’t decide to end your career for you, you will still limit yourself with an inability to do great things in your career because you’ve accepted the trail ride.
With all this said, there is one really exciting part of the trail ride. It’s when you turn your horse back around towards the barn! Wahoo! Katie bar the door! (That’s southern-speak for “watch out!”). There’s feed at that barn! Reminds me of casual Fridays when the company pays for lunch. Ha ha.