I was having a conversation with one of my team leads yesterday. Have you ever had one of those moments when something someone says really strikes a chord? One of those moments when you think “Wow! Someone else feels the way I do!” It may be something you’d thought, but never heard someone else put into words; or just something that is rare enough that it stands out when you hear someone articulate it. But in that moment you feel the warmth of connecting with a kindred spirit, and a validation that not only does someone else value what you value, but for the same reasons. Such was a moment in my conversation yesterday, and I found myself remembering it with a smile as I headed to work this morning.
The conversation revolved around a staff member that is supervised by this particular team lead. This staff member is a very nice fellow, who very capably accomplishes the tasks given him – no more, and no less. The team lead, who is new to our organization, is trying to find out what this staff member would like to do in the way of development – and he is getting the same reaction I have gotten from this person … a simple shrug.
Our conversation turned toward motivation. I firmly believe that you cannot create motivation, you can only create an environment that nurtures personal motivation. This team lead agrees. He told me of an experience at a previous job. He’d asked his staff to write their list of goals and desired development opportunities. One woman came back to him with a long and detailed list. They worked together to flesh out the list and create a plan from it. Under his guidance, she soared up the organization (I know this, because she was actually one of his references, and attributed her success to him). Then came the ‘moment’ to which I previously referred.
The team lead said two things: “All she needed was for someone to listen to her, and help her find the path.” and “For me, the greatest pleasure in being a supervisor is to help people develop, and watch them fly!”
I felt a warm glow and was suddenly smiling. I had a flash of those employees that I’ve had a direct hand in developing – images of them before and now sped through my mind. A silly thing to get excited about, possibly – but I have found it exceedingly rare to have a supervisor or manager who truly cares, on an emotional level, about their employee’s development. There are some who like their employees to move up, because it can (in our environment) mean the rise of importance and classification of that supervisor/manager – but they don’t truly care about that particular employee. Then I’ve known many who find an employee’s development a threat – never let them know as much as you, or they may replace you! Or so their thinking seems to go.
As a supervisor and manager, helping my employees grow, improve, find confidence, and obtain independence has been my greatest pleasure. Those who have taken advantage of this support have moved up and are valued members of our organization. And all have attributed that, at least in part, to my support. However, remembering that moment yesterday brought a smile to my face for more than just that reason.
As I relived that conversation, and once again pictured the employees that I have helped learn to fly, my mind turned to the horses. The joy that I get from watching employees develop is like the joy that kept me focused on developing green and ‘problem’ horses. While my friends were seeking that next great horse, trained and ready for them to show, I was finding that next green horse who needed to learn its way in the world. While my friends were out competing and winning, I was home helping some broken soul be whole again. In part, that suited our financial situation. It was taxing enough to have horses in our lives, on a single parent’s income – show entries were an additional luxury. But it also suited my soul.
I have certainly competed, and have my share of ribbons. But when I look back, my best memories have nothing to do with a show or a ribbon. It’s gaining the friendship of a mare everyone had written off as useless. It’s taking a rogue mustang, deemed unrideable, and making him a lovely youth horse. It’s getting on a hot, nervous mare, who had dumped her own rider four times that same day, and after a few minutes of quiet work being able to jump a soft, easy, hunter-like round of fences. It’s taking my own mare, whose talent even I doubted, and turning her into the best dance partner anyone could imagine!
I miss being in the saddle, and I hope I will return there soon. But each time Tally takes a soft canter, where before she was tense and terrified; or each time Noble stays with me out of trust, where before he was terrified or thought running away was the answer; and each time I hear my mother’s excitement at some new response she got from Coffee – these moments make me proud of the individual at the center of it, the strides they’ve made, and the role I’ve played in their development.
People often look for the purpose in their life – why they are here, or how they can leave their mark. Thinking of that conversation at work, and the parallels to my life with horses, I’m finally very clear that my purpose is to help those around me realize their potential. That is truly my bliss!
Be good to your horses!