Animals can teach people in the business world so much!
I recently had a situation where I was coaching a frustrated business owner who was at his whits end about retraining his employees constantly. I let the owner vent for a bit, but then tried an analogy to help him view things from another perspective.
Without our conversation pertaining directly to his situation, it was easier for him to view things from a clearer, less emotional perspective and figured there are a couple more business owners who might need to see this too.
The beauty of using animal analogies is that animals are just more honest humans: they know how they feel and what they want, and they will let you know it!
When I first started training my horse, Sham, I had to get him to drop his head. This may seem unimportant but if he was carrying his head too high while I was riding him, it created tons of strain on his back muscles and would eventually cause injury if he didn’t learn to drop his head. The way my instructor helped me train him, was a specific cue through the reins.
This was all our lessons consisted of for months.
Walk/trot around the pen, get him to drop his head with the cue, let him stop and pet him and love him and let him know that was what I wanted. Repeat. Different speeds, facing different directions, while turning in tiny circles, etc.
I didn’t fully understand the capabilities and special moves that mastering this tiny skill would unlock in the future until I had the opportunity to experience it personally. Sham and I had many long afternoons where we flew together. He was my pegasus.
Beyond a chance to relive my childhood summers, it relates perfectly to humans.
I had to train Sham not just to break an old habit (traveling with his head up), but to perform consistently, even when distracted with other commands or cues.
Sometimes, we forget that, as humans, we deal with the same thing. Old habits from past employers or our experiences growing up.
The next time you’ve spent the last four hours of your afternoon not understanding why your employee isn’t understanding what you want them to do, think about this for a minute: are they having to break and retrain an entire habit to be able to do what you want them to do?
Patience is our greatest asset when training animals, or a team member.
If you’ve ever potty-broken an animal (or a kid), you know it’s the same thing. Constant repetition, and constantly watching for cues that the animal (or kid) has to go to the bathroom so you can reinforce the RIGHT place to go.
Sometimes your animal (or kid) even does great for a while, and then has an accident. In that moment, it’s not wise to start yelling at the animal because he/she will only start to fear the end-result (going to the bathroom), instead you have to gently shepherd them.
There’s going to be a lot of repetition. You’re going to have to remember to set guide-lines and be focused enough to make sure that they know when they’ve stepped outside those guide-lines - no matter how long you’ve been training them or they’ve been doing their job.
What was interesting to me was, as I shared this analogy with my client, watching the realization dawn over both of us that this same concept was easily applied to how we each managed ourselves.
Sometimes Entrepreneurs forget that we are our own boss, and we often forget that we are often the most demanding boss we have ever worked for.
As entrepreneurs, we tend to be overly critical of ourselves and feel like we have to have a faster learning curve. So often we beat ourselves up for not being slicker, or not having learned that lesson last time. But we have to remember that we are human too.
A little patience with ourselves goes a long ways.
Four Key Takeaways
Whether you are learning how to guide yourself in your business, training animals, or managing your employees, there are four key takeaways to remember.
Be patient in the early parts of training.
Remember that you might be retraining old/bad habits, so be patient when you or your employee struggles with learning something new. It’s okay to struggle! The only thing that isn’t okay is not trying.
While you need to be patient, you must always be vigilant. If something is being done wrong, you must notice it immediately and then…
Provide Guide-Rails, Always!
Any time that a step is taken out of line, you have to be right there with the guide-rails - no matter how long you or your employee has been doing it. The guide-rails are there to reinforce those positive habits you’re trying to train into your employee (Or yourself!).
Get An Outside Perspective
This one is extremely important!
As we advanced in lessons, Sham started to raise his nose more as my focus wandered to other parts of riding like correcting my posture, looking where I was going, keeping my chin up, etc. If my instructor hadn’t let me know when Sham was raising his head again, I might not have noticed in time to keep him from resetting his old habit. It is the same with humans. We might not notice the bad habits that we or our employees might be struggling with or reverting to, which is why getting an informed outside perspective is so crucial to management.
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Stephanie Scheller is a TED speaker, a two-time best-selling author and the founder of Grow Disrupt: a San Antonio based company dedicated to disrupting the way the world does business through training. In just under a decade, Stephanie has been behind the scenes with nearly 2500 small businesses. She has worked in groups and one-on-one to create total business transformation & help business owners live the life they got into business to create!
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