Banking and horses don't usually come up in the same sentence, but that’s no reason they can't go hand and hoof, especially when it comes to leadership growth and development. That's just what a Midwestern financial services institution discovered about two years ago when it decided to bring its leadership team to Wisdom Horse, a Minneapolis-based program in which executive coaches Lynn Baskfield and Ann Romberg facilitate participants, most often senior executives, through equine-guided learning experiences.
The first step in creating the custom Wisdom Horse experience was an in-depth phone call between Baskfield, Romberg, and the client to ensure the company's development needs were met. "They asked me a lot of great questions around what our objectives were, what we were trying to work on, and where we had been challenged in terms of our leadership," says a senior executive for the bank, "so they could custom design exercises specifically for us." The custom-tailored day of activities Baskfield and Romberg put together for the team was followed by a classroom session with a leadership consultant who helped synthesize the equine-guided epiphanies to enhance retention.
The team's Wisdom Horse day began with a game of cards—not black jack, poker or rummy, in case you were wondering—but one in which cards, each with a different horse and horse-related saying, were chosen at random. Participants then had to tell the group how what was written on the card applied to their leadership journey. "People were surprised at how the card they selected was the perfect card for them and the current challenges they were facing," the senior executive recalls.
After this reflective beginning, the management team moved onto an exercise that, like all the exercises that day, divided the group of approximately 20 learners into two halves. One half of learners would observe and offer feedback to the other, and vice versa. What they would observe and comment on wasn’t so easy that you'd necessarily want an audience watching you do it. The exercise required each of the two groups to convince a horse at one end of the corral to walk to the center of the corral, and get him or her to jump over an approximately two-foot barricade—all within 10 minutes, and all without talking or touching the horse. The one break from these rules was the option to call a time-out one time during the 10-minute period for a three-minute "team regroup."