My husband is a racehorse trainer, which means I spend my life around my favourite creatures.  I have ridden since I was just a few years old and can’t imagine my life without horses.  The bond between horse and rider is something so special and it never ceases to amaze me how we can build a level of trust that means our mount will do just about anything for us.  Now, of course horses are basically flight animals and some people might argue that by using physical punishment, it is simple to create obedience, but I would beg to differ.

If you really want to achieve the best possible performance for horse and rider, whether you just enjoy gentle riding in the countryside, are keen to win a trophy at the local show jumping competition or have the dedication to achieve a gold medal in international 3-day eventing, then the truly great partnerships are all about building trust through patience, encouragement and clear communication.

Now what does that remind me of?  Well of course, it is also the basis for outstanding leadership.  Truly great leaders want to develop people to be the best that they can be and interestingly helping individuals to improve their skills and performance starts with encouragement, patience and clear communication.  Explaining clearly what your expectations are and then ensuring that you regularly appreciate their progress and results, seems to frequently be a missing piece of the jigsaw and instead people that I meet on our programmes say that they get very little encouragement and feedback from their boss, other than when they make a mistake.  They always know when they are getting it wrong!

Employees may not respond well to a pat on the neck, a tweak of the ear and an edible treat, but regularly letting them know exactly what they are doing well and telling them how that impacts you and the organisation positively, is a huge contributor in developing more of the behaviours and improvements that you want to see, just as it is with my four-legged working partners. 

When did you last tell each member of your team just what a difference they make?

Emma Littmoden is a partner at leadership programme provider, The Living Leader.