S2E11: Jude Jennison reads ‘Leading Through Uncertainty’; Building Trust

Chapter 11 of my book Leading Through Uncertainty  is called Building trust. We can choose trust and yet in uncertainty we often don’t trust either ourselves or other people. Fear takes a hold when we lack trust in our capabilities. The moment you trust you can create your own safety, fear subsides.

The chapter begins with a story of how Gio integrated into my herd of horses on arrival. Of all the horses in the herd, he is the one who chooses trust as a starting point for every interaction. As a result, he rarely gets scared and when he does, he uses relationships to support him.

Here is an extract: 

““Gio walked calmly off the horse lorry and stood with his head held high, surveying the environment. How would he integrate with the rest of the herd? It was uncertain – both for him and me. I badly wanted him to integrate without a hitch. There was a lot riding on this moment! As a prey animal, it is stressful for horses to move to a new yard. Their safety depends on their ability to integrate into the herd. I had no reference for how Gio would behave. He walked calmly off the lorry, trusting me and trusting himself. He was vulnerable. He could have panicked and tried to retreat, but that would have rendered him less safe. It may be counterintuitive, but Gio created his safety through trust and vulnerability.

His sense of calm as he stepped off the lorry helped me to trust him in return. We built mutual trust in that instant, as I realised he would not throw his 700 kg of weight about. I also trusted in my horsemanship and leadership capabilities. I knew that I could handle him if he panicked. My calm sense of trust provided an environment for Gio to relax into. We co-created trust, both being vulnerable in the process.

Tiffin and Kalle stood in the field at the end of the paddock watching from the other side of the gate. Gio sensed he needed to win them over. He walked calmly and confidently down the paddock towards them, past Mr Blue and Opus on the other side of the fence. Tiffin grew as tall as he could as Gio approached. I was thankful the gate was between them as I watched to see what would happen. Gio walked over to Tiffin at the gate and dropped his head to the floor to show he was no threat. He was building trust and respect. Tiffin stood still, taken aback. He had been ready for a fight. He dropped his head to the floor as well and they sniff ed each other through the gate. Th e first meeting had gone well, albeit with the safety of separate paddocks.

Three days later, I stood watching the horses. It was a scorching hot day. With the sun beating down, all of the horses were dozing calmly with their eyes half-closed. Was it too soon to integrate Gio into the rest of the herd?

The previous horse to arrive on my yard had not integrated well. He had been dominant and aggressive in the herd as well as with my human team, and he had left the yard a year later, leaving everyone exhausted. It had been a challenging process that created stress for me and my team (horse and human). Now here was Gio attempting to integrate. I desperately didn’t want to put my equine herd or human team through a similar experience. I had a choice – to trust that Gio was different or to be anxious about his integration into the herd. I chose to trust him. I opened the gate, feeling slightly nervous. I didn’t want anyone to be injured. I had to trust that Gio would show sensitivity to the herd, trust that the rest of the herd would not hurt him, and trust that if I needed to separate him again, I could step into the herd and do that safely. By being calm and trusting Gio, I created an environment for him to relax further.

Gio was skilful in how he moved towards the herd and moved away again when he felt he was too close. He sensed into what the herd needed, continuing to edge nearer over the coming days until within a week he was fully integrated. Th ere was no ego, no jostling for position, just a continuous ebb and flow of movement as he gradually built a foundation of trust and became a valued member of the herd.

©2019 Jude Jennison. All Rights Reserved.

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