Effective training, whether people or horses, takes the right personality using the right technique for the right personality. Let me say that again, it takes the RIGHT personality using the Right technique for the Right personality. In other words, the person doing the training has to be of the right frame of mind, and MUST understand, and train to, the personality of the trainee. This may be a little confusing so, as I often do, I’ll use my wife’s horse training to clarify for us humans.
A good horse trainer will always use the first lesson to get to know the horse. Horses, like people, have distinct personalities. Unlike people, horses are big and strong and can hurt you if you push the wrong buttons. Because we respect their size and our ultimate goal is to produce a good horse, we pay attention to who we are dealing with and train accordingly. Some will respond to training like second nature and some require warm up and praise to build confidence just to leave the stall. And the sooner you begin to understand the horse, the sooner the real training can begin.
When it comes to personality, horses, like people, can generally be grouped in to four categories or styles:
• Challenging; Prideful, Territorial, Strong Sense of Self.
• Social; “Official Greeter”, Interactive, Easy to train.
• Fearful; Guarded, cautious, looks to another horse or a person for strength.
• Aloof; Independent, Delayed or Dull responses, Tends to ignore commands.
Our Challenging horse was Faith. Faith would meet you head on in the round pen but once she understood you were serious, would perform better than her peers to prove her superiority. In the alternative, our Social horse Miss Fitz will go along with just about anything we ask her to do as long as she is getting the attention. We might use different adjectives to describe people personalities but you get the idea. Each personality has specific preferences and tendencies that we look for and use in our training techniques. Each has its advantages and challenges but understanding the horse allows us to set expectation and get the most we can out of a session and, ultimately, out of the horse. This applies to our people too!
So how does this change our approach to training? Regardless of personality style, you must always deal with the behavior that your horse presents: If he is distant and removed, you need to get his attention; if he is confrontational, you need to establish your authority; if he is distracted and inattentive, he needs to pay attention and respond to you; if he is worried and mistrustful, he needs to be reassured. And we adjust our approach, not our goal, by assessing our trainee before we begin.
Each personality style is unique and some horses ( and people) exhibit a combination of traits. None are bad but this IS where the personality of the trainer comes in. Not all trainers are well suited for all trainees. And, we prefer to train the horses we get along with and wish we could avoid the ones we don’t. Sound familiar? But effective training is really about bonding so it is important that we know ourselves well enough to understand what WE need to do to bond with our trainee. A good trainer understands themselves and who they are dealing with and THEY adjust accordingly. We don’t expect the horse to change color, we change color to fit the horse. Is it tough to do this, you betcha! And many good trainers fail miserably from time to time when they are working with a challenging fit. But in the end, our goal is to produce a good horse, not to prove that we are superior and if that means changing OUR approach so be it. The alternative is to risk ruining a potentially good horse, not to mention the time and aggravation we could go through for nothing. The same could be said for our “potentially” good people.
Fortunately for our people training we have some great tools that we use to clearly identify who we are, who we are working with and how to maximize our training effort with them. I use DiSC assessment in coaching and training to help individuals and teams understand how they can work most effectively with others. The assessment identifies the personality preferences and tendencies we exhibit in our interactions with team members, family members, each other. It shines light on who we are and how we are likely to interact by defining our styles as: Dominant, influencing, Steady, and Conscientious or some combination of the four.
The DiSC assessment is inexpensive and easy to perform. The results clearly outline the trainees strengths and challenges and provide direction for improving performance. Managers who use DiSC assessments, understand how to maximize training for each team member. And, because it is internet based, it is a great tool for remote learning and self-paced training. DiSC assessment provides a solid foundation upon which to build a great training program and ultimately a great team.
If you are not familiar with DiSC assessments I would like to encourage you to learn more on my web site at www.paisanoperformance.com/DiSC. I am a believer in the validity of this tool. We don’t train horses without assessing their personality first and, with a great tool like DiSC, there is no reason we should try to train our people in the dark for all the right reasons.
If you are building your team and need help with assessment, coaching, or performance evaluation, call me and lets discuss a plan. Summer is a great time to assess your training needs and schedule your fall and winter team training.