Monday, 17 August 2009

Why cowboys didn't name their horses!

I was listening to Radio 4 yesterday,actually to a programme on the brilliant, talented and witty Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain, (, when one of them made a comment that cowboys never named their horses - in case they had to eat them later.

It got me thinking about how scarce resources can contrive to create a similar sort of practical callousness in organisations too. I am currently pondering the long-term effects that such defensive mentality will have on the people, their loyalty and levels of engagement in the aftermath of the current economic conditions.

In contrasting but connecting thoughts, I did two greatly pleasurable work assignments last week with forward-thinking managers of talented teams in hotels. Both groups were independent of each other, but the motivation for getting together was the same. They were driven by a wish to get together, nurture their team and to plan their strategies for their new fiscal year. Both businesses have a version of a balanced scorecard to guide their strategic planning.

In both groups, the work they did together revealed the same theme - their route to profit and success is directly through their people. Their independent and collective intelligence was telling them that now is the time to get closer to their people - to lead, direct and manage them as authentically and consistently as they can.

In theory, they all "knew" this to be the case, but it was interesting to explore the degree of management hold-back that had surreptitiously crept in as a form of defence. A great example of knowing not being the same as doing or being.

These insights triggered questions for myself, and my hunch is that they are relevant for other business leaders...

Firstly, what nameless horses are currently "hitched" to your metaphorical business posts? Remembering that hitching is a specific quick-release, non-secure and temporary knot for tethering horses so that they can't run away. (Another method is "hobbling" where they are tethered so they can graze, but can't lift their heads, so they don't go very far!)

A brief review of the past year also revealed that, whilst trading has been extremely difficult and some tough decisions have been made this year, there were some fabulous nuggets of achievement and success to be celebrated too. Some of these were lying forgotten and abandoned in the long grass.

What shiny successes and achievements are out there hidden in your own version of the long grass that could benefit from some recognition?
Now might be a good time to name them.

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