A leader schedules a workshop post-merger. She knows her team needs renewal, and wants them to refocus on maintaining strong relationships with one another and their clients. After engaging in a discovery process, team members enter the arena with several horses. The WorkHorse facilitators task the team to move the horses from one end of the arena to the other. Because the horses have no equipment on them and are free-roaming in the space, the team must decide on the most effective ways of influencing the horses to accomplish their task. As the team spreads out, one horse remains still in response to the teams’ attempts to cajole him with an empty bucket. Another horse in the arena moves backward every time anyone approaches. During this exercise, the WorkHorse team observes the shifts, patterns, and uniqueness in the horses’ behavior. Additionally, the WorkHorse facilitators notice how much space there is between each team member, and how little verbal communication is taking place.
“The horses don’t want to be with us.”
“That one doesn’t trust us.”
“This horse knows we don’t have anything in our bucket, so he won’t follow us.”
From these statements, powerful conversations begin to take shape about the building blocks of meaningful relationships, the role of trust, and how authenticity creates connection.
After seeing themselves through the lens of the horses,
the conversation develops:
“This is exactly how it feels trying to connect with our clients after the merger. So many of our clients are disengaged and are looking for opportunities to back out of our relationship.”
“No matter what we do to incentivize them, it’s just like that empty bucket – full of empty promises.”
“I wanted to ask my team members for help, but everyone was doing their own thing with the horses so I just stood back and watched.”
The WorkHorse facilitators ask questions allowing the team to become aware of the horses’ behavior, as well as their own, and invite them to brainstorm other potential solutions to their challenge. Then, they are encouraged to try again. This time, the people come close together, and circle up. In that moment, both horses look in the direction of the team with their ears forward. The team devises a new strategy and within minutes, both horses are walking next to the team members.
Afterwards, the team says:
“We are so accustomed to managing our individual relationships with the clients. But after the merger, our clients need more from us: as individuals and as a company. They need to trust that we are working together in partnership with them and have a plan to make our relationship last while growing their business.”
“The uncertainty of how to work with the horses mirrored how we are feeling about our uncertainty back at work. For many of us, we have been plagued by job insecurity during the merger. This has greatly eroded our trust of the organization and has let to us withdrawing not only from each other, but from our clients too. Being here today and interacting with the horses made us realize that we need to work on developing that trust between us if we are ever going to foster trust in our clients.”
From there, facilitators help the team capitalize on what they have learned, and translate their awareness into actionable strategies and tactics at work.