If you’ve read any of my books, you know I consider the most important part of riding to be having a good relationship with the horse, a relationship based on mutual caring, trust and respect.
I’m not the only one that thinks this way, and not just about riding. Not long ago I was watching Fareed Zakaria on CNN interviewing former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill about his time as the chief of Alcoa aluminum. O’Neill had come into the job at Alcoa with no experience in the metal industry.
At the time he took over, Alcoa was kind of trudging along, not doing badly, but not doing great either. Their safety record was one of the better things they did, industry wide. They had just under 2 injuries per 100 workers that caused the worker to miss a day of work, as opposed to a national average of 5 injuries per 100.
So what did he do first? He said, “We’re going to concentrate on safety. People who work at Alcoa should never be hurt at work. One per hundred is one too many. We should have zero injuries.”
Everybody said “Whaaat? The guy is nuts! First place, our safety record is already great, and, second, working with hot metal is dangerous. People are always going to get hurt!”
Being CEO, he got his way, and guess what? Not only did the safety improve even more, but production went up, and over the years of his tenure the company went from a $4 billion company to $38 billion company. A 900 percent increase!
His business philosophy was very simple: every individual is important. If you let employees know that the company considers each of them important, and that the company cares about and respects the needs of everyone, from the first VP to the newest employee on the floor, they return the favor. Everybody tries harder to help the company to succeed, and succeed it does.
I have been saying for some time that working with horses and riding should be a life lesson, especially if you teach young people. Now as I think about it, even at my rather advanced age I am still learning the importance of that first basic, mutual caring, trust and respect. Whether it is with your peers, your students or your horses, it’s the foundation on which everything else is built, and which is the surest road to success.
Happy New Year!