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  • Writer's pictureGinny Telego

Debunking Stubborn


“That horse is stubborn!” This is a common point of discussion in our leadership and team development workshops when a horse does not seem to be interested in doing what is being asked.  Think for a moment about a time when you were communicating something to another person and they seemed to ignore you.  It’s very likely that your initial response is “That person is stubborn!”

When this comes up with our workshop participants, I start by asking what stubborn means and the common response is “He or she won’t do what I’m asking.”  My question back to them then goes like this: “Is the horse being stubborn or is it something else?”  Once this exploration begins, we can start to unpack the assumption that the horse (or person) is being stubborn and then come up with an appropriate plan for moving forward.  What are some other reasons that someone might not be responding to our request?

  1. Do they understand what we are asking?

  2. Are we communicating in a way that they can determine how to respond?

  3. Does that person feel safe to respond?

  4. What are the consequences of not responding

  5. Is what we are asking of them fair and reasonable? Do they have the skills and knowledge to complete the request?

  6. Is responding our request good for the relationship?

When someone isn’t doing what we think we are asking, the first thing we need to consider is whether or not we are being clear in our communication.  Often we have in our head what we want an outcome to look like but when we communicate it to someone else, their interpretation of our request does not look like what we had envisioned.

Horses are excellent teachers of clear communication as they require us to set a very clear intention of what we want and then follow through with confident direction.  Leaders participating in our programs very quickly realize that although they can envision what they want the horse to do, a variety of challenges – such as lack of confidence; over confidence; self-judgment; pre-conceived notions, etc… –  prevent them from actually communicating that vision clearly to the horses. And if it’s happening with the horses, it most likely is happening with their teams.  The key to overcoming these communication challenges is to set aside judgment such as “That person is stubborn” and develop the self-awareness to examine honestly whether you are communicating your vision clearly and in a way that team members understand.  Developing the self-awareness necessary to be a great leader or manager is not something that can be done in an online course or in a class room.  Being open to self-awareness takes risk. It requires being able to receive immediate, non-biased feedback about how you are communicating along with the opportunity to try other avenues of communication without the worry of offending someone.  It is very rare that another person can give the kind of non-biased feedback that is needed for leaders to be open to receiving the information needed to do something differently in order to get a different result.

If you find yourself labeling others as “stubborn,” I encourage you to go through the bullet points noted earlier in this blog and if you want to reduce your stress level by having more cooperation, find an experiential coaching program that provides a safe environment to gain the self-awareness that will make you the leader you want to be.

Ginny Telego is an Advanced Certified Practitioner-Corporate and Master Trainer with the Equine Experiential Education Association (E3A).  She is the President of The Collaboration Partners where she offers experiential leadership and team development programs to organizations looking to solve complex business challenges.

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