Column: What we can learn from horses

What we can learn from horses (..and perhaps from fishes) When an organization (or perhaps better: the people within the organization) needs to change and it's going to get tough; then there is usually said: 'You can bring a horse to the water, but you can't force him to drink. I dare to challenge that.

As a former groom at endurances, I have other experiences. An endurance is a tough match; a horse needs to drink during the endurance. Not because of the 'vet controls' (veterinary control before, during and after the endurance), but because it's good for his health. But horses are habit animals; when they are not at home, there are many reasons why they should not drink: 'it doesn't look/taste like home', 'maybe there is a crocodile in the water', 'there is so much to see here, can't find the time to drink' etc. Of course you literally can't force the horse; you will lose only because of the strength and weight of the horse. But you can persuade and seduce him and take care that all the circumstances facilitate him to drink. We for example found out that our horses did want to eat during the match, so what did we do? First we took a can from home (it looks and smells familiar), put in some water; then we put some apples and carrots in the water. Finally talking on a reassuring way. And see, the horses did eat and at the same time drank a little.

Perhaps it's not for nothing that the word 'managing' comes from the equestrian. It's French (menager) and means 'le soigneur d'un champion'. The manager takes care of the horse; so that the horse can live and perform under ideal circumstances in order to become a champion. It's the same with manager in a human organization; a manager is creating all conditions for a favourable climate, where employees can fully exploit their capacities. So managing is the creation of conditions allowing others to achieve the desired results. Or more in business terms: optimization of human talent in the framework of the corporate strategy. Even in situations of change, you as a manager can seduce your employees to change. Are there other animals where we could learn how to cope with changes? Perhaps.

In difficult times, with some resistance in the organization, sometimes a manager can sigh with grief at: 'why isn't everybody move in the same direction. That would be a lot easier'. However, you must realize that 'only dead fish swim with the flow'. You also need people who keep you and the organization sharp.