Can you lead a horse to water?

I came across a website offering a leadership seminar based on horse whispering.  That looked interesting to me – I like horses.

I gather horse whispering is more about listening than whispering.

The professional horse men and women who practice this skill understand how to read the body language of horses and have usually spent many years studying the psychology of the horse.  I gather nervous horses learn that it is often a wise move to stand still near a ‘safe person’, than attempt to run away from a dreaded situation.  It is all about winning trust!

To gain a horse’s confidence you need to learn when to be still and quiet and just leave things to the horse. They sense the underlying state of mind of a person, so it is impossible to bluff a horse.

Yes, I can recognise this and how horse whispering could teach us something as leaders!

Leadership isn’t about shouting the message to get your vision across.  Yes, you do need to communicate it frequently and clearly.  But it is as much about listening to the responses you get back from your people, as telling them;

  • What signs do you have that the vision in your head matches the one in theirs?
  • Have you listened to their reservations?
  • Have you got answers to the questions they ask?
  • What can you learn from your most valued asset, your own team?
  • What is their body language telling you.
  • Yes, they are telling you they are enthusiastic but does the body language match the words?

As for the nervous horses, well, when faced with significant change we all get nervous!

Horses are prepared stand near a safe person they trust when they are nervous.  Do your team have enough trust to stand with you as you go through your major change?

I hope you don’t try bluffing your people; you won’t get away with it! Don’t even try it!  If horses can understand your underlying state of mind, so can your team.  Times of change are times for authenticity and honesty, otherwise your most precious horses might bolt and you certainly will not be first past your own particular winning post!

So if anyone has been to a leadership seminar based on horse whispering, I’d love to hear from them.  Does anyone know of other courses based on our relationship with animals?  I’m interested in all, but wolves would be a particular favourite of course!


Wendy Mason works as a consultant, business coach and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you – email her awendymason@wisewolfconsulting.com or ring ++44(0)7867681439

Leaders on the front line – taking criticism

As a leader you stand out from the crowd and, guess what, none of us are perfect.

When you are under the spotlight – even when the light is being shone by your own relatively small group – sometimes, you will receive criticism!

Some of it will be fair and some not.

If you learn to deal with it positively you will soon be able to stand back, see what is valid, and ignore the rest.

You will be able to use it to your advantage and that of your group!

There are characteristics that make us better and worse at dealing with criticism.

  • Mental Attitude  – Positive people don’t let criticism take a grip. Instead they look on the bright side, try to learn from it and then move on. When you are feeling negative, you can feel it deeply and begin to obsess about it. It can erode your morale and that of your group, so stay positive.
  • Courage – As Winston Churchill said “It takes courage to sit down and listen”. It will disarm your critics if you listen to them attentively and with openness. In those circumstances they are much more likely to give you a balanced view that could provide valuable feedback.
  • Hierarchy – Be prepared to listen and learn from criticism from any part of your organization and from customers and suppliers. It sometimes helps to regard it as free consultancy! You’ll be amazed how much respect you can gain from quite junior members of your team if you are prepared to listen and respond positively to their ideas including their criticisms. Disappointed customers respond well to being given a hearing and an apology for an honest mistake.
  • Emotional Intelligence – Being able to relate with positive emotion to your team is a key ingredient in inspiring them to success. That includes being able to recognise and acknowledge their emotions even when they are mad with you. Recognize it for what it is; empathise with it. Answer it positively and then move on. Have the grace to say sorry if, as a result of your action, someone on your team has found their work more difficult!

As for me, I have always been pretty thin skinned and found criticism quite challenging to deal with. But over the years, I’ve managed to train myself to take a far more balanced view. I would love to know what your experience has been and how you have dealt the criticism you have encountered.


Wendy Mason works as a consultant, business coach and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you – email her atwendymason@wisewolfconsulting.com or ring ++44(0)7867681439

Leading Change – Not Another Version of Wonderland – Scenario Planning Part 2

The White Rabbit in a hurry

If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?” Alice in Alice in Wonderland!

In scenario planning, scenarios provide a way to think about the uncertain aspects of the future particularly those that seem most unsettled and worrying.

Building and using scenarios can help organisations explore what the future might look like and the likely challenges of living in it.

As I explained in my last post a scenario is a story that describes a possible future. But no one view of the future will be correct. So scenario builders create sets of scenarios. These scenarios address the same questions and include everything that is likely to persist from the present into the future.

Each scenario describes a different way that the future might play out.

Scenarios are based on educated guesses and intuition and they need to be supported with very good information and strong analysis!  They are very carefully crafted structures.

But they are written as stories so that they can make that future seem vivid and compelling.  Without that, the real value in determining how the organisation might respond will be lost!

Using graphics, images and illustrations makes scenarios more comprehensible. They are particularly useful when the scenario needs to contain a lot of complex statistical information.

Scenarios  are not predictions – they are a way of dealing with uncertainty but no one has a crystal ball.  Factors will change!   But they provide a way to have a conversation about the future at strategic level.

Scenarios are a way to consider the potential implications of different events.  They mean teams can think through possible responses.

They provide a great way to get a group in the same room and using the same language.  This can be for a possible future or to help with thinking in a common way about current events.

Scenarios support a positive conversation about how to deal with future uncertainties and for making more successful strategic decisions

In my last post I mentioned that Shell has used scenario planning for quite a while! Well they have produced ‘Scenarios: An Explorer’s Guide’ for people who would like to build and use scenarios, and also for those who want to enhance their scenario thinking skills.  I will be providing a very simple guide to scenario planning here on Friday.  But if you wish, you can download the Shell guide at this link.

  • Leading Change – Your Vision in an Uncertain Future – Scenario Planning Part 1 (wisewolftalking.com)
  • Is Your Agency Doing Scenario Planning? (threeminds.organic.com)
  • Scenarios: mapping the possible (cognitive-edge.com)
Wendy Mason is a performance, programme, contract management and change specialist. She works as a consultant, business coach and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you – email her atwendymason@wisewolfconsulting.com or ring ++44(0)7867681439

Leading Change – Your Vision in an Uncertain Future – Scenario Planning

Image via CrunchBase

Every successful change programme starts with a vision of the future.  But where is your vision going to come from, when the pace of change is continuing to increase?

Scenarios are now widely used by governments, businesses and voluntary organisations to help them plan for the future. This can be done on a large or small scale; as part of a wider planning exercise or on their own as a way to develop thinking inside the organisation.

Scenarios are not simply snapshots but fully fleshed out stories of potential futures.  Each is researched in detail to allow the reader to fully imagine themselves in this future world and consider how they would respond.

Scenario Planning was first used by the Rand Corporation in 1948.

By the 1970s the technique had been further developed and was being used by the Royal Dutch Shell Company.

As faith in traditional planning tools weakened, interest in scenario planning grew stronger.

Both Sam Palmisano at IBM and Steve Jobs at Apple have used scenario planning successfully to help their companies deal with global change and uncertain futures.

Many organisations plan for the future or, at least, for a future that they believe or hope will happen.  Usually, this future is based on ‘best’ or ‘worst’ case projections of current trends.  And surprise, surprise, it often bears an uncanny resemblance to the present state;

  • Customers will continue to do and think as they do now!
  • They will make similar choices to the ones they make now!
  • Supply chains will stay the same!
  • Competitors will offer similar products and services!

So the organisation itself will continue to do more or less the same as it does now!

This approach works best in stable, predictable environments!  But for most of us now, that stable and predictable environment no longer exists!.  We are all facing greater uncertainty and experiencing more change than ever before.

We need an approach that helps us to

  • Make sense of what is going on,
  • Spot new trends and events
  • Prepare for that uncertain future
  • Make changes to what we do and how we work  ,

Scenarios are a tool that we can use to help us imagine and manage the future more effectively.

The scenario process highlights the principal drivers of change and the uncertainties facing organisations today!  It explores how they might play out in the future.

The result is a set of stories that offer alternative views of what the future might look like.

Through discussion, they allow us to explore what we would do differently in each scenario.  Then we can identify success criteria, consider new ways of working and define new relationships.

With each scenario, the factors, and how we might respond to them, will differ!  But we can practice what we might do and begin to plan for it!

The discussion about scenarios can help groups build a shared understanding of how to respond to the increasingly complex changes taking place in the world about us.

The great strength of scenario planning is that it can be used to look at today’s challenges from a different perspective. The process of identifying and examining how current factors and trends might play out in the future helps us focus on the likely impact of those trends on our own organisations.

Quite often, participants find that the impacts are going to be bigger and happen sooner than they had realised.

Ultimately, we can use scenario planning to help anticipate, prepare for or manage change.

I’m going to consider this theme further this week.  But if you have experience of scenario planning and its impact on your organisation, can you share it here please so that others can benefit

Related articles

  • Is Your Agency Doing Scenario Planning? (threeminds.organic.com)
  • Rehearsing the future [Guy Rigby] (ecademy.com)
  • 4 reasons why an increased pace of change means greater unpredictability (rossdawsonblog.com)
  • 1o Ways to be Better at Visioning (wisewolftalking.com)
  • Kotter Model Step 3: Create a Vision for Change (wisewolftalking.com)
Wendy Mason is a performance, programme, contract management and change specialist. She works as a consultant, business coach and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you – email her atwendymason@wisewolfconsulting.com or ring ++44(0)7867681439