NIKKI KAGAN, ISRAEL & LESLIE KAGAN, USA
Nikki & Leslie Kagan
Based on more than 35 years of combined experience as management consultants and corporate facilitators, Nikki and Leslie Kagan offer corporate leaders a unique and highly effective approach to leadership and team development through their HorseSense programs. Their custom-designed programs help individuals and teams to effectively increase self-awareness with respect to leadership styles and the ways in which to influence or impact others, expand their “repertoire” of leadership approaches in order to be flexibly responsive as appropriate (i.e., being able to lead, partner, or follow effectively), develop an understanding of leadership presence that is “embodied” and experienced on an emotional level, not just known intellectually; and learn to self-manage relative to their leadership performance and self-evaluate relative to progress in cultivating desired leadership competencies.
Lessons From The Picadero: Paying Attention to Your Attention (June 2011)
Nikki & Leslie Kagan (June 2011)
LESSONS FROM THE PICADERO: PAYING ATTENTION TO OUR INTENTION
The picadero – much like a round pen with corners – is a place where we can explore our own truths and look in the mirror of how we relate to others. With our equine partner, we have the opportunity to experience the impact of our presence – our emotions and energy – on others. This experience can be a very powerful metaphor, as was the case with “Susan,” a participant in one of the corporate HorseSense programs we facilitated recently.
Susan is the Office Manager for an executive search firm in the northeastern United States. She had never been around horses before our program, and seemed to be enjoying her interactions with them very much. Still, she entered the picadero with some trepidation, gripping the flag tightly in her left hand, unsure of how to proceed with Chip, a large Appaloosa gelding who was a veteran of a number of our programs. Susan approached Chip in an attempt to establish a connection with him. Dropping the flag to the ground between her own and Chip’s front feet, she held out her hand in silent gesture of “hello”. Chip expressed mild interest in the flag, nosing it lightly, and ignored Susan.
We watched as Susan tried more affirmatively to connect with Chip, moving closer to him, tentatively stroking his neck with her right hand, holding the flag aloft in her left hand near Chip’s head, and occasionally shaking it. When these gestures produced no obvious connection, Susan began to wave the flag at Chip’s left haunch, then his shoulder, then his haunch again – trying to get him to move. Chip stood perfectly still.
Susan’s efforts became increasingly disjointed and remained without effect. It was painful to watch her frustration visibly mounting. After a very long few minutes of being ignored, Susan turned away from Chip looking dejected. She lowered the flag, lowered her head and said, “I just don’t know what to do.”
Nikki joined Susan in the picadero and asked her a few questions. “What would you like Chip to do?” “How would you describe what you’ve tried so far?” “What else might you try?” With a few words of encouragement about the importance of setting your intention and concentrating on being clear when asking for what you want, Nikki stepped out of the arena and left Susan to continue.
Susan seemed to draw inward and we all watched in silence. Then she took a step back from Chip and snapped the flag energetically behind him. Chip raised his head and shuffled forward a few steps. Encouraged, Susan repeated the vigorous snap of the flag. Once again, Chip responded by moving forward a few more steps. Then the dance began in earnest. With each step that Chip took, with each snap of the flag, we could see Susan’s confidence grow until both horse and human were trotting easily around the picadero together. Susan was grinning from ear to ear, carrying herself lightly and openly, radiating excitement and energy.
After a minute or so, Susan stopped trotting, lowered the flag and, having accomplished her objective, moved to leave the picadero, not noticing Chip following behind her like her newest best friend. We motioned to her to turn and look, and then asked her to stand by Chip for a picture of the two of them together.
Once the picture was taken, Susan left the picadero and walked past the group, clearly moved by her experience. Without speaking, Leslie placed a hand on Susan’s shoulder, and Susan started to sob. Leslie asked, “Do you want to talk about what’s coming up for you?” Susan nodded and explained that her experience with Chip mirrored her experience in the office with staff. “I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings at work, just as I didn’t want to push Chip with the flag. But they don’t pay attention to what I’m asking for, and I end up feeling frustrated. I see now that I’m so concerned about being nice and getting along with everyone that I don’t really ask for what I want. I don’t want to hurt their feelings, but I end up feeling hurt because I’ve been unclear and they don’t respond.”
Leslie asked, “How did Chip respond to your clarity?” Susan answered, “It was great. Everything flowed so easily after that. We had a great time! This was a huge lesson for me in asking clearly for what I want.”
Not every picadero experience is so profoundly insightful, but the opportunity is there for those who are willing to engage with what they see when they look in the mirror of their equine partner’s eyes.