A Team of Stallions

I had the good pleasure of attending Cavalia’s Odysseo in Atlanta yesterday evening and the performance was riveting! Our tickets came with a tour of the stables and an opportunity to ask questions of the show’s Equestrian Director, Benjamin Aillaud, and my thoughts this morning center around an answer he gave to a member of the audience who asked about their training regimen.

M. Aillaud spoke about the training for the riders and acrobats, but it was the training for the show’s 35 stallions and 36 geldings that most piqued my interest. The training apparently took 1-3 years, depending on the horse, the greatest challenge being not teaching the tricks and sequences, but in maintaining their interest in performing. He mentioned – and here is what fascinated me – that 1/10 of their training time is spent practicing the routines and learning new cues and 9/10 of the time is spent on developing and refining the horses’ attitudes…a ratio that is I imagine required when working with 35 stallions in such close quarters.

I couldn’t help but draw parallels to an area in which I spend much of my time and energy: management. As a manager I find that most of my time is invested in fostering an environment that is conducive to the encouragement of positive, stable, nurturing and inspiring attitudes in those with whom I have the privilege of working. I’ve come to realize over the years that when you and those with you have the right attitude, anything can be accomplished. Moreover, accomplishment can be equated with fun…a rare relationship in this day and age.

When you surround yourself with high performers, with people who have dedicated themselves to excellence, there tends to be a lot of creative and kinetic energy floating around the office. That energy can spiral out of control very quickly, so it is important (as I imagine it is with the stallions at Cavalia) to manage it wisely. How to manage it is as much an art as a science. Here are a few approaches you might want to consider if your find yourself in the situation of managing a team full of star performers:

  1. To keep them interested, you must provide them with work that challenges them. Boredom is the root of many ills in both horses and people. This is especially true of high output, high energy people.
  2. How you handle the busy times is just as important as watching the low energy, potentially boring times. High energy people are particularly good at riding the waves of energy that move through an organization, but you have to be careful not to let the energy spin them out of control. They can do a lot of damage in a hurry.
  3. Look to balance the high energy people in your organization with the “steady-Eddies.” Both are essential to maintaining balance (did you notice the ratio of stallions and geldings?) and to creating noteworthy performances.
  4. Involve your high performers in the training and mentoring of others in the organization. This is one of the keys to overcoming the gravity of mediocrity and the siren’s call of entropy in organizational development.

If you get a chance to see the show, I would highly recommend it. In the meantime, if you would like to hear more about how we are working as a group of companies to create a spectacular working environment, feel free to stop by for a visit some time!

10 thoughts on “A Team of Stallions

  1. Pingback: Stallions show | Jeffsussman

  2. Ricardo B.

    The parallels are stunning! Proper attitude will always steer you in the right direction, so it’s good to always reflect on that when dealing with a challenge.

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  3. Joshua

    I would give anything, nay, everything….for such a blessed opportunity.
    I hope those whom you manage realize they are the most blessed people alive!!!

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  4. Colin

    These are really great things that you have come up with as a manager, but I think that they can also be of use to those of us who are managed as well. If you understand the principles that a good manager will use to keep their team engaged and productive, you can do a lot to assist them in their goals. Being able to articulate your views accurately to a manager while at the same time providing solutions is something that I think they value greatly. Being a good team member is an art as well, and I think is vital to the process.

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  5. Thanks for sharing. Interesting to see that 9/10’s of the time is spent on refining the horse’s attitudes. Sounds like a good thing for all of us to keep in mind in how important it is to continually cultivate attitudes that keep us inspired as well as those we are with.

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  6. Doug

    A balanced mix of people is possible over time. I find attitude is something that isn’t negotiable, high energy or steady eddie an attitude of concern to do the best job to serve our market is a must. I think attitude is the level where boredom and complacency begin. Hire for attitude and train for competency.

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