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Stepping Forward (or Backward) on the Right Foot

Build confidence by hightlighting an employee’s strengths.


After selling my company and moving to Georgia last year, I spent most of my free time at the barn with my horse, Smooch. I headed out to the barn with my husband one sunny afternoon for a much-needed training session. Smooch hadn’t seen me for a few days, so I knew he would be a little more energetic than usual.

After climbing in the saddle, we began our warm up walking laps around the outdoor arena. My husband had some new obstacles and exercises set up to challenge our horses and us as horsemen.

Smooch (my horse) is what’s called “forward”, meaning he likes to go…FAST. The challenge with him usually involves slowing him down enough to engage him emotionally. A bright horse, he doesn’t need much time before he grasps a concept or maneuver. Getting him focused is a task all its own, especially when other horses are nearby.

Lately Smooch and I have been working on moving his feet with pressure from mine. For example, I bend my right leg back, apply gentle pressure to Smooch’s side and he takes a step to the left with his right hind foot. Sounds easy, right? Since we’ve worked successfully on this before, I figured he’d have an idea of what I was asking of him. I quickly found out I was wrong.

As I applied my right heel GENTLY to his right side, he jumped and took off. So we spent the next five minutes turning circles until he calmed down enough to stop moving. I thought, “okay, Smooch is pretty sensitive on the right…let’s try the left.” After several more tries with little success, I was frustrated and ready to call it a night.

With horses however, like people, I never want to end a trainng session on a bad note. Smooch needed to leave the arena feeling like a winner, building his confidence and mine.

As I sat pondering my choices, my husband said to me, “Smooch backs up well. Why don’t you try moving his hind while backing him?” I took his suggestion and Smooch came through like a boss! Had my husband not been there, I might have given up, leaving Smooch and I both feeling like failures.

The same is true in business. Skillful horsemanship techniques are consistent with my best employee training tactics. I strive to highlight an employee’s strengths to build confidence. My goal is to lift people up, rather than leave them feeling as though they are lacking in some way.

When I notice an area in need of improvement in others, it’s usually because at one time it was the same for me.

Supporting my employees empowered them. Pointing out what people do well can sometimes be hard if there’s a glaring flaw demanding attention.

Coaching up person’s positive attributes creates opportunities to address areas in need of improvement. An empowered employee is open and willing to change. Sometimes taking a step backward offers opportunities for growth that might otherwise be missed!


Robin Aldrich is the author of Bootstrapped! Creating a Small Business on a Budget. Robin founded the Boomerang Business Project in 2015 to help other small businesses thrive through personal and professional development.

For more info, please visit Robin’s website!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my work. I wish you a blessed and prosperous day! ~ R.

Originally published at medium.com

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