Being an observer of people is a fundamental skill for the modern riding school manager.
One of the members of the Facebook group I run said: “Many yard owners think they are setting out to look after horses. When actually to be successful they are looking after people”. This is spot on. It runs across managing your customer relations through to staff members.
In this blog, I want to discuss the role you have to manage your team in more detail. It fascinates me that horses are used as a tool in the corporate environment, to teach team dynamics. Yet rarely used within a yard environment in the same way. What a waste of our key asset!
As a manager, you need to ensure all your staff are working at optimum performance level. This is challenging as each individual has a different performance button to press.
At a basic level. Although I don’t like labels! You could start by looking at your team to work out the introverts and extroverts. Or where they sit on the scale between. Introverts internalise things and need drawing out. Extroverts may need to listen and self-evaluate more. An Ambivert is someone who is balanced between the two and could lean to each side.
But note: Some introverts have become expert extroverts (learnt behaviour) to fit it. Don’t always assume and make judgments at face value. Their behaviour can be a front to a very different personality behind the scenes.
I am an introvert, but during my teenage years, I did become louder and more aggressive to fit it. So I know how easy this can be hidden within young people. You can appear in one way, but away from others, you collapse from exhaustion. You are putting on a front, but at some point, you accept your true self.
Our industry has many young people working in yards and stables. As their manager, you will recognise many are not yet fully developed in their own skin.
Taking take time to find out about your individual staff, is the key to unlocking their true potential. It will build rapport. In time, and with consistent effort, this will lead to loyalty towards your brand and business.
Introverts can be easily overshadowed by an extrovert. So don’t assume that just because someone is quiet, they don’t have drive, ideas or valuable contributions. They need to feel comfortable enough to contribute. They need time to plan their thoughts and to build up the courage to share them with the team.
As introverts don’t like to be put on the spot, you may have to handle them differently. So give them the heads up on what you need from them ahead of time individually. This allows them time to consider and prepare. Or give them a chance to reflect on things before they have to come back to you. They may prefer to do this in writing rather than verbally too.
Extroverts are good assets to team dynamics. Helping to relax the atmosphere, and inject some humour into working life. They can work better spur of the moment but can be less sensitive to the needs of other team members.
They could get wound up by an introvert who does not make eye contact going about their work. Considering this behaviour as rude. It’s important to encourage introverts not become too insular, and acknowledge others.
Working with their individual traits
You can use the information you glean about your staff to plan procedures. Designing them to best fit the individuals.
Here are some examples:
Look at how you structure the tasks in a workday. Introverts often need jobs that involve getting their heads down in peace at the start of the day. Whereas extroverts are more motivated working as part of a team.
Work out how to give your team members flexibility to manage parts of their workdays as they see fit. This will foster responsibility and pride in their work.
Encourage extroverts to socialise and share ideas when they feel compelled to. Put them at front of house to meet and greet to use their positive traits.
Give introverts the freedom to take a break from the team to recharge.
Team building between Introverts and Extroverts
It’s important for each team member to understand how different personalities drive performance. As mentioned before our horses are a great tool to use for this (using an experienced facilitator). But there are also ways you can do this in a regular meeting setting too.
A good way is to play team building games to encourage each of them to talk about their gifts and talents. What motivates them, and how each of them makes a contribution based on their strengths? Get staff to write this on pieces of paper then pull them from a hat. Read out each one and the team has to guess the member of staff who this relates too.
If you are seeking input from staff members to improve your services or processes. Try encouraging team members to write their ideas and suggestions on slips of paper. Then put them all up on a whiteboard for everyone to read and discuss. This avoids people having to jockey for airtime with the extroverts. It also gives you as a manager a balanced viewpoint.
A balanced team will harness strengths and skills of the introvert and extrovert. Be wary that a team of too many extroverts can suffer from ego issues. While a team of too many introverts can lack dynamic. So make sure your recruitment process is allowing for this balance.
There are many advanced tools managers can use to help build their teams. Both using horses and in a classroom environment. Do you need some support in this area? Sometimes it is easier for someone with an outside perspective to start off the process.
If you would like to ask me any questions please do get in touch.