Taken for a ride - People management

Some years ago I thought I’d try horse riding. I went to my local stables and, as a novice, was allocated a docile nag whose name, Killarney, I still remember. Our group of inexperienced riders all lined up and we were then led up to the training field. Well not quite all of us. Killarney’s equine instincts had clearly identified me as a greenhorn and so he just ambled back into the stables with me on his back and stood there chewing the hay or whatever. As I didn’t know how to get him into reverse I had to just sit there until rescued by some 12 year old girl who asked me what I was doing and said that it wasn’t funny.

I went back the next week. A different trainer asked us who had ridden before. Having been there the previous week, and being sometimes inclined to take things too literally, I said that I had. He said he had just the horse for me. This horse was the opposite of Killarney. It was like going from a Lada to a Maserati. I had learnt the previous week that you have to dig your heels in hard to get the horse to respond. Doing that with this horse resulted in it charging off at full gallop jumping everything in sight. I was just desperately clinging on while dodging low hanging branches. I did not return for the third week.

What has this to with people management? Well these people were running a business and they lost a customer because their staff were not properly organised or trained, showed no empathy with their customers and failed to communicate effectively. They relied too much on inexperienced and very young volunteers and showed a total disregard for health and safety issues. No-one actually checked our respective experience or gave us any kind of induction or safety instructions. There seemed to be no prescribed training programme and no supervision.

Staff training is critical and so is effective communication. People too often forget that the meaning of words is within us and what you might be thinking does not automatically transfer to the receiver’s brain but gets interpreted by that person.

The fact that I had ridden before did not make me a rider.