Postcard from the Edge
Reading the Horse
There is huge value in stories, particularly when we derive the meaning and connection ourselves rather than have “designed” stories delivered to us to convey someone else’s message. My friend Steve Done is a master of this genre, and his normal vehicle is horses. Whatever the situation, he will have a horse story that makes you think.
One such was on our last call originated, appropriately enough, from the horse’s mouth and health with different ways of tackling dentistry with problem, or as they are sometimes termed, “B*****d” horses. Horses vary, from the difficult to the temperamental, to the easy. The horse in question here was was a cob, big, strong, and not to be messed with, and on a scale of difficulty from one to ten, perhaps a six. For several years, it has been dealt with by a vet via sedation rather than a relationship. The story was about how the teeth had got to a state where they needed to be dealt with by a specialist equine dentist. Instead of sedation, it became a matter of “reading” the horse and dealing with it on its own terms, building a relationship, and taking time to do a thorough job on a conscious animal. Personally, the thought makes my blood run cold.
The element that captured my imagination most was the part about “reading the horse”. Apparently, they run from “cold-blooded” - big, strong, sure of themselves and difficult to dominate - like a Shire Horse, to “hot-blooded” - skittish, unpredictable thoroughbreds, like Racehorses. Approaching them requires an ability to sense and respect them for what they are in order to get a good job done and avoid leaving the stable on an upward and painful trajectory. It requires confidence, commitment and mastery.
What if we treated our clients and customers the same way instead of anaesthetising them with presentations and statements of abstract best practices?
Deal with the unique, conscious, b*****d problem?
The organisations I like best are a lot like horses and need to be recognised, read and treated in much the same way, which demands the same qualities of us - confidence, commitment and mastery. Anaesthetising them with generic approaches is easier and probably more profitable but does little for their long-term health or our satisfaction. Dealing with important problems means dealing with the conscious organisation, not the comatose one.
To do the work that needs doing, sometimes we have to be prepared to take a kick or two.