In my long involvement within the field I seldom undertook management responsibility. However, I have been in the position of being managed and I certainly knew when I was being managed in such a way as to feel supported, valued, recognised for my experience and knowledge, encouraged to be creative and provided with the backing that meant that those I was working with got a fair, transparent and empowering deal. I also knew when I didn’t get that sort of management.
One of those that fitted the former, positive, management style was one of the last Managers I had working within a local authority. Deirdre was also a lover of, and worker with, horses. Perhaps that is why she was such a good Manager – she understood horses.
Yeah, OK, she understood horses. Doesn’t follow that she should be able to manage though, does it? Perhaps it does? Where does the word manage come from? Turns out that it is of Old French origin: manege, meaning the handling and training of a horse! Well, well, well.
What can Managers learn from this? Is there anything that horse trainers and those working with horses can offer the Manager of social service and community development organisations? I think there is. I decided to do some research and seek out the advice (via the Internet) of a few that dealt with horses. Here are just a few of the words of advice, straight from the horse (handler's) mouth:
- Ask your horse. No horse likes to be forced to do something.
- The quickest way to teach a horse is to go slowly.
- All horses are capable of liking, even loving, you; but first they must respect you.
- Horses are wonderful learners. They learn from everything the trainer/manager does. They will learn the correct way and the incorrect way (if you do it that way).
- Horses will do as you ask, if they trust you.
- Allow a horse to accept your leadership rather than demanding that you be it’s boss.
- The best horses to train are often the strongest in the herd, once they have accepted your leadership. That is because they understand the qualities of a leader.
- If a horse is hard to handle then someone has trained it that way.
- Horses are perceptive. If you’re having a hard day then the horse will pick up on this and not perform well. If you want to work with the horse, its best to come back another time when you’re not going to burden it with your problems.
Finally, a word about mann – this is an Old Germanic word which has given us the words man, human etc. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is the etymology of the verb “to manage”. There’s a lot more horse-sense to its true derivation.