Newsletters

OF HUMANS AND HORSES

9/1/2010 -

“If God gave Wyoming to the wind, he must have given my heart to you forever and ever.” Ian Tyson.

The road going east out of Jackson, Wyoming, heads you in the general vicinity of Yellowstone National Park, past vast fields of simmering sagebrush, herds of pungent buffalo and elk and cattle and the dismissive snort of the occasional lone moose. The great granite peaks of the Grand Tetons tower over your left shoulder and seem to move with you into the bright silver blue of the wild western sky and the immense basin that the settlers called Jackson Hole unfolds gracefully in front of you, beckoning you to follow. Mornings are always crisp in the valley, no matter the time of year, and it was early on one of those crispy mornings that we found our way eastward, moving over gentle rolling hills, framed by craggy mountains, into the verdant emerald glow of Buffalo Valley and on to the Diamond Cross Ranch to spend some time with a new friend.

His name is Grant Golliher and he is a cowboy and tamer of horses, although not in the usual sense of the profession. Grant is a Horse Whisperer. Instead of hopping on the back of a bucking bronco and riding him until he does your bidding, Grant uses other, gentler methods aimed at gaining the horse’s trust and respect until, usually within a very short time, the horse obeys his commands because he wants to, not because he’s forced into what Grant calls a “slave mentality.”

Grant looks like he just stepped out of a John Wayne movie, with his jeans, chaps, mustache, piercing blue eyes and white cowboy hat. He lives on the Diamond Cross Ranch with his wife Jane, a ranch that has been in Jane’s family for four generations, ever since 1901, when her great-grandfather immigrated to the valley from Switzerland. Just off the highway is a great red barn inside of which is a corral where Grant trains horses. Some horses are young and come with a tablula rosa. For them, the horse whispering techniques are more easily absorbed and you can look into the horse’s eye and actually see the trust build and the fear vanish over a period of about two hours. Others are “troubled horses” who have undergone some sort of trauma. If a horse has been abused, says Grant, he never forgets it, but he may be able to overcome it . . . . there’s a lesson there somewhere for us would-be cowboys . . . . Grant helps the horse confront his fears and learn to deal with them. The horse knows that he can walk away whenever he wants but he chooses to confront and overcome his fear, on the basis of trust and respect. There’s another lesson there, would-be cowboy or not . . . .

To gain the respect and trust of the horse, Grant points to his “Three C’s” – Calmness, Confidence and Consistency. He says you must remain calm, even in the face of danger, because your calmness will radiate to the horse. On the other hand, the horse can immediately sense when a person is tense, threatening or bad tempered and will react to you as an adversary. Grant says that you must also display confidence. The horse must know that you are the person in charge and that you know exactly what you’re doing. The horse will not follow a trainer who displays any sense of hesitancy or apprehension. He must know that you are the leader and are in charge. You can be the horse’s buddy later but you must be his boss first and he must understand this relationship. Grant goes on to say that you must be consistent in your behavior toward the horse, always reacting in the same way, always rewarding the horse for the slightest movement in a positive direction, so that he horse always knows what to expect.

· Horse Sense for Managers.

It occurs to me that Grant’s “Three C’s” of horse training make very good horse sense for managers because, among other reasons, a manager’s attitude radiates outward to those around him or her. When I walk into a company, I can immediately identify the personality temperament of the CEO, based on the general attitude of the employees I see – happy, sullen, friendly, calculating, don’t care, whatever . . . . It is an inviolable principle that the manager of an organization sets the tone for all of the rest of the employees. If we play this out just a bit, maybe we come up with the following ideas for good and effective management . . . .

Be Calm.

Managers must remain calm, particularly in the face of adversity. Someone once said that anyone can be successful when it’s easy, but the person who can remain calm in the face of adversity is the person who will ultimately prevail. Everyone meets adversity at some point, sooner or later, and it is the way in which we handle it that is the difference between success and failure. I have seen some managers blow sky high when confronted with unanticipated difficulty of some sort and, believe me, this puts all employees on edge and makes the workplace miserable, reminding me of what one wag said, with apologies to Rudyard Kipling, “If you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, you obviously don’t understand the seriousness of the situation.” On the other hand, I’ve seen managers who, no matter what the difficulty, remain cool, calm and collected and this attitude is projected onto all around, allowing employees to reach higher and further than they ever thought possible. The best example I know appears in the movie “Apollo 13” in the brave actions of Gene Kranz, Jim Lovell and the entire NASA staff and crew.

Be Confident.

Managers must have confidence that they can get the job done, no matter what the circumstances, no matter what the challenges. In his book, Good to Great, Prof. Jim Collins taught us the importance of the Stockdale Paradox – confront the most difficult facts imaginable, but know that at the end of the day, you will be successful. One of the characteristics of the “High D/Type A” personality temperament is an unshakeable self confidence, not in an abusive or arrogant way, but confidence in your own ability to succeed and overcome, no matter what the obstacles. We find this kind of confidence in the world class athlete who wants the ball at the end of the game, and knows that he can make the shot, score the touchdown, hit the home run. Your employees will look to you to inspire confidence. As Coach Lombardi taught, “Confidence is contagious; so is lack of confidence.” Managers, particularly new managers who have been promoted from the ranks, often wrestle with the thin line between being the boss and being a friend. If Grant is right, as I believe he is, then we have to be the boss first and a friend second. It’s ok to be an employee’s friend but, at the same time, they have to know that you’re the boss or, as Grant says, “They have to know that you write the checks.”

Be Consistent.

In Human Resources, its not so much what you do as how you do it. Employees have to know that you will be consistent in your treatment of them, complimenting them and their work wherever possible and administering discipline, where necessary, on a consistent and systematic basis. For the most part, with some exceptions for bad character, employees will behave at work in proportion to how they are treated by management. We should offer genuine praise and appreciation liberally, and when discipline is necessary, it should be progressive, fair and consistent. This is one reason why employment rules and regulations are necessary – employees need to know where the boundaries are located and that there are consequences for playing outside the lines. Rules and regulations must be enforced fairly, equally and consistently. A good question for self examination might be, if your employees were asked on an opinion survey, “Are rules enforced equally among all employees?,” how would they respond?

· Terminat hora diem; terminat auctor opus.

Well, we know that being a supervisor or manager is a tough day’s work. In fact, management was listed number one on a recent list of “most stressful jobs.” Stress experts tell us that the amount of stress in a person’s life is in direct proportion to the amount of control you have over your life. Managers can control many things, but they can’t always control how other employees behave, whether they come to work and how well they perform their jobs. This creates . . . stress . . . and it takes a strong and determined person to be a good manager. If you’re good at what you do, and I’ll bet that you are, my guess is it’s because you have a strong dose of Grant Golliher’s “Three C’s,” and that not only are you good with your employees, but you could go out and train a few horses, too.

Visit Grant and Jane at the Diamond Cross Ranch at www.diamondcrossranch.net. If you have an event and you want something really special, talk to Grant. And if you’re out near Buffalo Valley sometime, drop in and see Grant and Jane – and tell’em Sandy sent you!



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