Neal&Cato1I was transitioning out of my position as executive director of Groundwire when my board hired Amanda as a transition coach. I had resigned my position, and planned to spend my last six weeks as executive director working to position the organization for success in moving forward. I wanted to do it as professionally as possible, avoiding drama and negativity.

I was in a challenging position and I needed an
outside perspective.

Amanda worked in the office and also led a leadership with horses session for me. She was very direct. She didn’t let me get away with anything, and she encouraged me to get through the transition with the highest integrity and impeccability. I had planned to give short notice and then work from home, but Amanda urged me to be there in the office even though it wasn’t easy. I did stay in the office, and I learned how important it was to stick with the challenges instead of trying to avoid them—how to live within them without participating in them.

Amanda also pointed out where I was avoiding conflict and when I needed to step up and deal with it. When a difficult choice or conversation would come up, I used Amanda as a sounding board, talking through my approach and receiving feedback on how to rise above the situation and stay as professional as possible.

I’ve now learned how to better prepare myself for conflict situations and how to deal with them.

My most enjoyable and valuable coaching experience, by far, was my session with the horses. During the session I made an immediate connection between my own energy, how I was holding myself, and how the horses were responding to me.

It was the first time I had ever made the connection between my physical presence and my leadership effectiveness.

I began by walking Cato, Amanda’s buckskin gelding, around with a lead. This came easily, so Amanda challenged me to try it without the lead. He wouldn’t follow me. Amanda then asked me to bring awareness to my posture. I realized that I was walking a bit timidly with shoulders down and hunched forward.

After working with my posture, my energy and purpose also needed some awareness. As I tried things out, I kept seeing the reflection of how I was portraying myself in Cato’s reactions. Eventually, I took a deep breath, stood straight, looked forward, and started walking. And Cato followed! By the end of the hour I had both horses and a donkey running around the arena with nothing but body language! It was a remarkable experience.

It wasn’t difficult to make the logical leap from my connections with the horses to how I was showing up in the office.

Neal&AmandaLeading Cato worked when I was firm, strong, and looking ahead. My lesson was to show up strong, confident, and aware of my energy. I also learned how much awareness, connection, and focus on subtle things it takes to be a strong leader—simple things like how I stand, talk, and walk. Mine were out of sync with each other, and Amanda helped me learn how to discover what was out of sync and to align it all in the same direction. She taught me how to act in new ways that I hadn’t considered before.

Amanda is a very strong and direct coach and her connection between coaching leaders and using horses is powerful. The parallels with the horses are incredibly enlightening and more effective than a lot of the leadership training that I have previously experienced. Someone could tell me how I affect others, but to see the immediate reaction in a horse ten times my weight is a concrete lesson. It’s one of the few times in my life that I have received a life long lesson out of immediate gratification.

I now wish that I had utilized Amanda’s coaching earlier. When I began working at Groundwire it was my first time in a non-profit organization and the previous executive director had been there for nine years. Amanda could have helped me make the jump from foundation to non-profit as well as help the transition flow smoothly with staff.

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