S2E7: Jude Jennison reads ‘Leading Through Uncertainty’; Creating The Framework

Chapter 7 of my book Leading Through Uncertainty is called ‘Creating the framework’ and is the one skill that all the CEOs I interviewed cited as being important. When clients enter my gate, they enter a place of uncertainty. The only thing they know is that they are about to get feedback on their leadership skills from a horse. There is nothing sensible, normal or certain about the situation people find themselves in and the levels of self-doubt and anxiety increase as they question everything they know about their leadership.

If I handed you a piece of rope, I’m pretty sure you would be able to hold it but if I put a horse on the end of the rope, it changes everything. Except of course it doesn’t because you know how to walk,. How to build a relationship, how to lead and the horse knows how to walk. All you need to do is bring all of it together.

Here is an extract from chapter seven: 

“How do I lead (the horse)?”
“Does it matter which side I lead from?”
“Can I talk to the horse?”
“Do I need to go clockwise or anti-clockwise round the arena?”
“How do I hold the lead rope?”
“Am I allowed to…?”

I often face a barrage of questions from clients when they arrive at the stables for a Leadership with Horses session. They are faced with the uncertainty of an unknown environment, with a new team, with a species they don’t know or understand.

I set clear guidelines around physical safety so that people can manage their own safety, and I explain that it’s their personal responsibility to determine their boundaries of emotional safety. That often comes as a surprise. I provide clear instructions on not standing behind a horse in case it kicks and not allowing a horse to chew clothing, but how people lead, how close they stand or what they tolerate is their responsibility because everyone will have different boundaries.

The need for certainty and clarity in moments of uncertainty is great. At one end of the scale, some people respond by asking lots of questions, terrified of making assumptions and getting it wrong. They need to know exactly how to do something to avoid failure. This can lead to paralysis and slow down the process of getting going. The fear of stepping out of the comfort zone prevents them from doing anything that they don’t know how to do. If they are not sure how to do something, they hold back, unwilling to risk failure or their safety. There is a desire for someone else to articulate the boundaries and provide detailed guidelines to create a level of certainty and safety.

At the opposite end of the scale, other people dive in, with no knowledge or understanding, no framework and no clear idea of the expectations. They may make assumptions that are invalid or impose boundaries that prevent them from succeeding. They may not pay attention to what is happening around them, causing them to go off track, leading to prevarication and chaos. Sometimes, they have no boundaries, requiring me to repeatedly point out physical safety issues. 

At one end of the spectrum is paralysis through fear, at the other is chaos and a lack of safety. Somewhere in between lies the framework for your leadership.

©2019 Jude Jennison. All Rights Reserved.

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