When horses greet each other, they extend their noses out to exchange breath with the other horse. This is an exchange of their scent and cellular signature. When horses have been separated from one another for a time, they go through this formal greeting ritual all over again, even if they have known each other for years. What horses understand is that when we have been separated, who we are has changed. We need to learn about each other, all over again.
As we begin the process of returning to working together in person, we must be aware that all of us have been changed by our time apart. Rituals and relationships will need to be renegotiated. Some people are looking forward to being hugged by their colleagues. Some people are dreading being physically close to others in an indoor space. For some, returning to a workspace may feel like a loss, for others it may feel like a gain. Honoring these differences will influence how we create, rebuild, and strengthen relationships at work. Attention must be paid.
When clients come to work with our horses, the first thing we teach them is how to say hello to a horse. We show the three options. Then the client’s job is to approach the horse and discern the horse’s preference of the three options. The practice is in giving your attention to the one you are connecting with and choosing a greeting that honors their preference and needs. As the horse experiences the client listening to them and respecting their need, trust between the two starts to grow. It is a beautiful process to both experience and watch.
At TeachingHorse, we have a saying, “Connection before direction.” As leaders, we must be as deliberate about creating environments for people to connect as we are about setting priorities and agendas for moving forward. Healing from the pains of the pandemic will not happen through self-care alone. Our healing will be determined by how we reconnect and care for each other.
June Gunter, Ed.D., is the Co-Founder and CEO of TeachingHorse, LLC. Established in 2004, TeachingHorse offers a unique approach to leadership development that is inspired by how horses lead their herds. Our mission is to bring horses and people together to discover more effective ways of leading that create healthy communities. TeachingHorse has worked with over 5,000 leaders from around the world to develop skills required for moving confidently through uncertainty. June has worked in the field of leadership and organization development for over 35 years and holds a Doctor of Education degree in the field of Adult Learning from North Carolina State University. She is also the Co-Founder of Go-od Consulting, LLC.
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