Are You Leading or Doing?


by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

Seven Financial Representatives (FRs) are gathered around a 60-foot round pen on a beautiful afternoon in rural Wisconsin as part of an Unleash Your Practice retreat. They are watching the eighth FR who is running alongside a horse inside the round pen, his feet gripping the sandy footing. He is short of breath and starting to sweat as he tries to keep the horse at a trot by running in a circle with the horse. The horse coolly trots around, studying the person, and not working particularly hard. Nearby, coaches study the interaction to gain a glimpse into how the FR tends to do things.

"Time is up!” says an Unleash Your Practice staff person.“Please come over to the gate,”she adds. Our team hosts 2-day Horsepower retreats to give FRs a chance to gain feedback on their leadership.

The FR walks over while the horse hangs back, casually chewing on some weeds poking into the pen. In just four short minutes, this interaction tells a story. I will ask the FR questions about his experience and share some observations to see if my hunches feel true to him. Once we uncover his belief system together, I will coach him to find a new perspective or belief that feels good and serves him better. He will have the opportunity to go back into the round pen and see what happens after he sets a new intention and applies his new beliefs.

“The way we do anything is the way we do everything,” says Dr. Martha Beck, life coach and bestselling author (who trained and certified the Unleash Your Practice coaches). As a Certified Equus Coach, I am trained to watch the interaction between the horse and the human and form hunches about what might be producing the results I’m seeing. The horse’s body language gives me insights about how much engagement, connection and trust has been built. The human’s body language, reactions and choices provide me with hints about the person’s inner world including his or her belief system, habits, presence in the moment, emotional state, how the person tends to do things and so much more.

Often the horse uncovers a person’s blind spots. This can provide life-changing feedback so that an FR can return to his or her life and practice with a tested, new outlook. In this example, after observing the first interaction with the horse in the round pen, my hunch was that the FR was overworking, likely under-utilizing his resources (such as his staff) and possibly believing “I have to do everything myself.” I saw that the horse was playful—trotting around curiously, but not turning to the FR for guidance or leadership. The horse’s body language showed that the horse was interested in being with the FR; however, the moment he stopped running the horse would, too. The FR was unable to ask the horse to walk, trot or canter on her own—even though the horse was capable of performing this task if partnered with someone exhibiting leadership.

This pattern is one of the more common ones that we uncover at our annual retreats. Many FRs believe the same things that this individual did. They spend the precious golden hours of their practice doing administrative tasks, micromanaging, working hard even if it is no longer productive and unable to delegate. Even though, in this example, the horse is better equipped to move her feet at the trot, the FR believes he has to “trot” too or she will not! He reported that this felt exhausting—just like his practice.

If you believe that you have to make people work or they won’t do their jobs, that only you can do the job correctly, and you lack trust when you delegate that things will get done you are probably right on all counts! We tend to get the results we expect

Through coaching (with or without a horse!) you can uncover these belief systems that no longer serve you. Once you replace what is essentially “broken computer code” in your brain, you will no longer replicate the faulty code giving you the results you do not want. As humans, we have about 70,000 thoughts every day. Most of the thoughts are not true, but we tend to believe them just because we have them. Some of them “fuse” to events in our lives and form beliefs. We take actions out of our belief systems and get results in the world that often reinforce the beliefs and make them even stronger (even when they are not helpful). 

While it may seem like magic, the more time you spend with horses the more you can learn from them. They freely give their feedback and will help you find your authentic self in a way that is truly life-changing and unique. You are invited to experience the power of turning to a horse for guidance.

Coaching Tip Just being around horses is deeply relaxing. We are just scratching the surface of understanding how the powerful electromagnetic field of the horse can affect our resting heart rate, blood pressure, stress levels and other physiological effects. While they can “read” our energy, they are also able to influence it. Many therapeutic programs exist for military veterans with PTSD, adults and children with disabilities, and even prisoners who are rehabilitating their lives. There are also many equus coaching opportunities available now for people who are looking for new ways to develop themselves personally and professionally.