What can a lawyer learn from working with horses on a Colorado ranch?
That’s what we set out to discover last week at The Summit 2017 as we took our attorney clients out to the Ranch for an afternoon of guided Horse Work.
No, there were no CLEs offered, no Bar Association signed off on the content. There were no pasty-faced old men droning on about the latest twist in proposed IRS regulations.
Our instructor was a big black horse named Cash, who would represent their law firm. Everyone wore jeans and boots, there were even a few plaid flannel shirts. Some were solo practitioners, some were partners in larger firms. Some had teams to support them, others did not.
But for a couple of hours on a sunny afternoon, they left it all at the office. They laughed. Some of them even cried. And they walked away with a better understanding of their own leadership style, where they may be missing the mark, and how they could do better. They were inspired to do something remarkable.
The day’s biggest challenge came for Team Two, as they struggled to cajole the big horse into a tiny box inside the round pen. This activity is aptly called, “Leadership in a Box.” Our hapless team of lawyers had to perform under a set of highly restrictive rules (not unlike tax law): they were not allowed to touch the horse, bribe him in any way, or use any equipment to force him into the box.
They had the advantage of having witnessed Team One’s attempt, who managed to get the horse into the box in less than three minutes flat!
But Team Two faced a few twists: their box was farther away, they were not allowed to talk to each other, and they had no designated leader.
For a long seven minutes, the big horse did not budge. Despite Team Two’s every effort to lead, push or distract him, Cash stood like a statue. Some feared he might have fallen asleep. The lawyers became increasingly frustrated, their energy levels dropped, and they finally abandoned the horse altogether – putting as much space as possible between them and their unmovable law firm.
Suddenly, someone remembered a hint they had been given earlier in the day. It was all about the power of positive energy and unwavering intention. She decided to take the lead. She raised her energy level and encouraged her teammates to follow.
When she approached Cash with renewed energy and her thoughts intent on the goal – something remarkable happened.
The big horse moved.
First, it was just a tiny turn of his head. Excitement soared. Everyone was encouraging Cash. Within seconds, the big horse turned around and walked purposefully across the round pen and right into the box. One foot, two feet, three feet in … but wait! He walked right through the box without stopping!
Another lawyer blocked his exit and effortlessly led him back into the box. The entire team rejoiced.
Cash was unmovable for seven minutes. During that time, the Team Two attorneys experienced a range of negative thoughts – from questioning the value of the exercise to frustration and discouragement. Some said they experienced a long-forgotten feeling: the helplessness of having no idea what to do next. For the first time in a long time, they were outside of their comfort zones, trying to do something for which they had no training, education or experience.
Some had pangs of empathy for their clients – the confusion, frustration and discouragement they feel facing legal issues for which they are completely unprepared. The attorneys also commented on their elation when a leader emerged and the problem horse finally moved. They talked of how their clients responded to this kind of leadership, and ways they could provide it.
Several remarked later that they need to rethink how even small changes call for renewed commitment to leadership in their law firms, how limited communication can stall a firm’s progress, and how “conventional wisdom,” does not always lead to success.
One lawyer said he has a new appreciation for the value of the struggle.
“Team One finished so fast, I don’t think it meant as much to them as it did to us. After struggling for so long, our success was more meaningful. I think I need to let my clients struggle longer to discover their own answers, without jumping in too quickly to solve all of their problems. If they struggle a bit, the solution will mean more and carry more value.”
But my favorite comment came today when I received this email from our client Mike Mastry of St. Petersburg, FL.
Hi Jennifer, I'm sorry I didn't get to say goodbye and thank you before I had to leave Colorado Springs on Friday. I want you to know that I had a great time, I learned a lot, and I've already implemented many of the ideas that I brought home from the Summit. I came back to the office raving about the work that we did with your horses and I've raised my prices by 10% (and closed 2 sales this morning at the new prices).
Give that horse a cookie, Mike!
The Summit 2017 is over, but we are already making plans for 2018. Meanwhile, we are now offering private firm retreats at Legacy Ranch, here in Colorado Springs. We invite you to come and even bring your team. You will spend some time with the horses, discover your story and plan your strategy. Who knows? You just might do something remarkable, too!
Visit us now at www.IMSLegacyRanch.com