Leadership Lesson from the Trainer of the Budweiser Clydesdales

Recently a friend posted a video on Facebook showing how the Budweiser Clydesdales are trained to do things like play football (remember that awesome Super Bowl commercial a few years ago?)  Their trainer uses mostly two methods and the first brought to mind something as leaders we often don’t do enough of – acknowledging others  when they do something right.

The Art of Acknowledgement is a key leadership skill.  When we acknowledge a person we are calling forth what is true about that person. For example – “Excellent presentation this morning Steve.  It’s obvious this project is very important to you” or “I see where you worked late last night to finish the proposal Maria.  Your commitment and enthusiasm are greatly appreciated.”  Notice it’s not about what they did, but what you see to be true about them – they value their work, they are committed, enthusiastic.

An acknowledgement is not a compliment.  A compliment is something you admire about a person and they are easy for people to shrug off – “Nice tie Sam” – “Oh, it’s an old one.”

One of the key things about acknowledgement is that, because it is what the person knows to be true, it sets the stage for trust.  The person you acknowledge relaxes and is then more apt to accept your guidance.

Like any leadership skill, you must use it often to become proficient. Look for an opportunity to acknowledge at least one person each day.  Notice not just the action, but what you see to be true about that person – they are courageous, empowering, supportive, flexible, focused, creative, etc.  Observe the response you get from the person. Ultimately it will result in your excelling at the most valuable leadership skill of all – bringing out the best in others.

The second method the trainer uses?  TREATS!  We’ll save that for another day.


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