December, 2008 News

Taking the Reins: Horse Sense for Challenging Times

Stress on the job and at home, fueled by recent financial upheaval and political change, leads to raw nerves, short tempers, and spinning minds. Yet in challenging times, when fear, anger and frustration run amok, a healthy dose of horse sense can help you stay centered, turning crisis into opportunity.

These days, when statistics show the undeniable importance of emotional intelligence, or EQ, in successful ventures of all kinds, from scientific and medical fields to marketing and manufacturing (see The Statistics are In… section of this newsletter), adults must find ways to make up for what our educational systems neglected to teach us: namely the social intelligence, nonverbal communication, and leadership skills needed to create innovative solutions to 21st century problems.

NewsA variety of workshops and multi-week programs at the Epona Center in 2009 will offer tools for dealing with the changing economic and political climate. “During a time of budget cuts and lay offs, we’ve actually seen people valuing what we have to teach all the more as competition for jobs increases and competition for business rises exponentially,” says Epona founder Linda Kohanov. “The ability to remain calm, collected and innovative in the face of radical change has never been more important. It sounds strange to some people at first, but horses provide the most powerful and efficient way to learn emotional fitness, nonverbal communication, team building, and social intelligence skills. And with increasing numbers of companies actually testing for EQ during the interviewing process, it basically boils down to this: The next job you get—as well as your ability to keep the one you currently have—is increasingly likely to hinge on high EQ over high IQ, training, and experience. The good news is that, unlike IQ, the raw intelligence we’re born with, EQ can be increased, most efficiently through experiential learning.”

Linda has seen people’s lives change overnight from the skills they’ve practiced in a single workshop: “After all if you can set boundaries with, motivate and gain the cooperation of a 1,000-pound being, it’s amazing how much less intimidating even a 200-pound co-worker, boss or employee can seem, let alone your 10-year-old son or daughter.”

Linda herself accessed valuable skills in dealing with an aggressive supervisor when she bought her first horse in early 1992. “I not only learned how to stand up to unreasonable demands,” she says, “I was actually able to gain greater cooperation and respect as a result. I thought, ‘Wow! My horse was the one who taught me this!’ And so I began to explore how my growing herd could teach these same skills to others.”

NewsAmong her recent clients: a manager for a nation-wide construction firm, a class of University of Arizona law students who explored how to deal with clients in heightened emotional states, and a major aerospace company that regularly sends its up and coming executives to the Epona Center as part of a year long leadership training. During a poll of the engineers and HR professionals who attended the 2007 program, in fact, experiences at Epona were cited as the most valuable part in the company’s diverse roster of training modules. Despite budget cuts in many departments, the organization found the funds to send these same students back to Epona for advanced work in 2008 and brought Linda in for an on-site presentation to top executives on emotional intelligence skills in the workplace.

Still, you don’t have to be a major defense contractor to benefit from Epona’s thorough, yet fun, emotional fitness and leadership training programs. Linda has developed special two and three-day versions of a new introductory workshop: Taking the Reins: Horse Sense for Challenging Times. Those who want the full range of Epona’s experiential activities and unique tools for boosting EQ, social intelligence, team building and leadership skills can attend the four-day Pioneering Spirit: Leadership for the 21st Century program.

Coach Training through the Way of the Horse

At the most advanced level, the multi-week Coach Training Through the Way of the Horse offers International Coach Federation core competencies for people who want to become certified professional and/or life coaches. The program is co-facilitated by Linda Kohanov and ICF certified coach Lisa Murrell, author ofInspiring Real Change—Using Systemic Experiential Learning to Develop Systems, Teams and Individuals. Lisa, who is also an Epona Approved Instructor, works with corporate clients worldwide, offering strategic planning, team and individual coaching. Her clients include Miraval, Pfizer, Club Med, New York University, JP Morgan Chase, and the World Economics Forum. “We’re very excited about this program,” Linda says, “as it offers people who want to step into a new career, namely executive and/or life coaching, a way to study the theories and develop the skills experientially with the horses, in the beautiful mountain retreat setting of Apache Springs Ranch, no less. But we’ve been gratified to see that people already working as executive coaches and consultants find the program valuable, as well as Epona Approved Instructors who want to diversify.”

NewsTerry Murray, an executive coach with Performance Transformation LLC, joined the 2008 coach training program at Epona, and has been pleased with the deepening of his already sophisticated coaching skills, and the validation the horses have given him for some cutting edge theories he’s been exploring through a book he’s writing on the subject. “A fundamental attribute of Authentic Leadership is presence,” he says. “Working with horses at Epona enables an executive to reconnect his or her mind, heart and spirit, elevating self-awareness and presence. The nonverbal, non-judgmental interaction with the horses delivers an experiential learning model that is exponentially more powerful than traditional, developmental modalities.”

There are currently four spaces left for the 2009 program, which starts January 19. For more information, click the link above.

The Statistics Are In…

Ignoring emotional intelligence in the workplace costs you time, money, jobs, productivity, personal advancement, and a significant edge in the marketplace!

  • When L’Oreal hired sales people with high EQ, they proceeded to generate an average of $91,307 more per year, resulting in a net increase of $2,558,360 the first year. They also showed 63 percent less turnover during that time period, representing significant savings for the company.
  • A large beverage firm noticed that half of newly hired division presidents left during the first year, usually due to poor performance. When the company hired presidents based on EQ competencies, the turnover rate dropped to six percent, and the new hires outperformed their targets by 15 to 20 percent.
  • The US Air Force selected recruiters with high EQ, resulting in a threefold increase in the number of recruits while generating a savings of $3 million annually.
  • A manufacturing plant instituted training in emotional competencies such as listening and helping employees solve problems. The results: Time lost due to accidents plunged by 50 percent, and the plant exceeded productivity goals by $250,000.
  • A medical malpractice insurance company analyzed doctors most likely to be sued. Researchers found they could accurately predict based on tone of voice alone: Doctors who sounded dominant were at highest risk for lawsuits, regardless of intelligence, training and years of experience. The vast majority of those who sounded concerned were not sued—even when they made significant mistakes.
  • A UC Berkeley study followed 85 Ph.D. candidates in various scientific fields over a 40-year-period, assessing two critical career outcomes: prestige in the person’s chosen field of science, and overall level of professional success. High emotional intelligence was four times more important in determining success than raw IQ and training!

Kohanov’s New Book to Explore Innovative Leadership

“Developing your own EQ competency is hard enough,” Linda says, “but learning how to coach your employees in emotional intelligence skills—let alone colleagues, spouses, and children—is the ultimate challenge. I can certainly speak from experience on that issue, and at times those experiences involved a lot of confusion and frustration.”

Her background includes managing a radio station, organizing major music and arts festivals, and most recently creating an international organization of Epona Approved Instructors, as well as the Epona International Study Center, with a staff expected to create a congruent and nurturing environment 24 hours a day. “These leadership roles have been anything but easy,” she admits. “Fortunately, I’ve actually learned a few things in the process. And I’ve come out the other side with some valuable information.”

Linda, in fact, recently signed with her publisher New World Library to write her fourth book on the subject. Tentatively titled Pioneering Spirit: Leadership through the Way of the Horse, she explores innovative 21st century leadership models, many of which she learned from the horses themselves. In this new project, she’ll explore integrating professional and personal life, body, mind, emotion, and spirit, as well as the joys and pitfalls of authentic community building and the potential of work as calling.

Book Recommendation: Coaching for Emotional Intelligence

During the research phase of developing the book, Linda also found what she considered the “missing link” in her previous work.

“My new favorite book on EQ in the workplace is Bob Wall’s Coaching for Emotional Intelligence,” she reveals. “In it, he cites some of the latest studies on EQ quoted above. Most importantly, he creates a straight forward way to have brief yet powerful coaching conversations with people on emotional intelligence issues that I had previously considered too personal or inflammatory to address with people outside a more formal counseling model, which certainly isn’t appropriate at work. It’s made a great difference for the Epona staff, as well as people who’ve attended recent workshops. As a result, I’ve decided to bring Bob Wall in as a guest speaker at the Epona Center.”

Bob Wall will team up with Linda during the February Pioneering Spirit workshop to offer students the latest information on EQ testing as well as conflict resolution and of course, his EQ coaching model. “I actually took the Simmons EQ Profile, which Bob will offer to and interpret for all Pioneering Spirit participants,” Linda says. “It was the most nuanced, insightful test for evaluating my strengths and challenges as a leader that I’ve ever seen. I was able to put the information to work immediately and have experienced more clarity and assertiveness in my professional and personal relationships as a result. This test, which more and more companies are giving to management prospects in deciding who to hire, is a remarkably detailed assessment, and it is remarkably fast and easy to take.”

For nearly 29 years, Bob has specialized in gathering detailed behavioral information through intensive interviews with leaders, their peers, and direct reports.  This has enabled him to provide leaders with the detailed feedback necessary to expand their self-awareness and understand the impact they have on the people who work with and for them.  He uses The Simmons EQ Profile, a highly sensitive measure of EQ, to supplement his work in helping leaders understand and develop the personal qualities and competencies associated with EQ.

“When I encountered Linda’s books describing horses’ unique sensitivity to incongruity in how people feel on the inside versus how they attempt to present themselves to other people, I knew I had discovered a kindred spirit in the study and coaching of people in developing EQ,” Bob says.  “Developing accurate, congruent self-awareness is the critical first step in developing EQ, in oneself and in others.

“The mastery of EQ is of paramount importance in determining success, in our personal and professional lives.  In hi-IQ professions and in complex work environments, EQ accounts for up to 80% of the variance in differentiating star performers from their peers who are just as intelligent and highly trained.  As for leadership, EQ is now known as ‘The 90% Factor.’  Intelligence and training get you in the door.  EQ determines your ultimate level of success.”

To bring out the best in your staff or students, Bob insists, you must learn how to provide the highly personal coaching necessary to help them develop their mastery of EQ:  “But you can’t give to others what you haven’t first mastered in yourself.  I am thrilled to have the opportunity to collaborate with Linda and her horses in developing the EQ of participants in The Pioneering Spirit Workshop and to be able to offer an intensive workshop in how to apply what you’ve learned about yourself in working with others to expand their EQ.”

In addition to his involvement with the Pioneering Spirit workshop February 2-6, 2009, Bob will also be offering a one-day workshop the day after (Saturday, February 7) for anyone who would like to learn more about his EQ coaching model: How to Make Difficult Conversations Easy: Practical Strategies for Managing Performance, Resolving Conflicts, and Bringing the Best Out in People. This indoor seminar (no horse activities) is open to people attending the Pioneering Spirit workshop (who may add the additional day for reduced rate of $200), as well as anyone who would like to learn a valuable method for dealing constructively with EQ issues with employees, colleagues, and even family members. The $250 fee includes lunch and materials.

For more information on Bob Wall and his work, click on

Why Horses?

“It’s now commonly recognized that only ten percent of human communication is verbal,” Linda observes. “And yet we’ve virtually become mesmerized by words as our social and educational systems teach us to ignore the nonverbal dimension of relationship. How many times have you seen a parent listlessly tell a child to ‘clean your room or else,’ with absolutely no result? How many times have you asked for space in a relationship and had someone become even more invasive? How many times have you seen that the so-called boss isn’t really in charge of a situation, no matter how logical or intimidating he tries to be? Understanding what we’re saying to each other is icing on the cake compared with everything else we’re communicating.”

“Imagine if a supervisor asked us to complete a project with only 10 percent of the information available to us, if our schools were only committed to teaching 10 percent of what we would need to be successful in life. And yet that’s precisely what’s happening as we overemphasize the spoken and written word in business, education and relationship.”

True empowerment, Kohanov emphasizes, involves engaging that “other 90 percent,” that dimension of nonverbal intelligence so grossly underdeveloped in modern society. And horses, she found, are remarkably efficient at drawing attention to the feelings, intentions, and perceptions behind our words.

Through a series of specially designed activities, participants deepen awareness of personal challenges, core feelings and areas of bodily tension that inhibit their ability to reach their true potential. A tremendous boost in self-esteem and confidence comes from learning how to establish boundaries and direct a thousand pound creature through mental focus, presence and clarity of intent. These skills, which can be difficult to teach in a conventional classroom, business coaching, or counseling session, have far ranging applications linked to increased success in personal relationships, career and parenting.

“I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen people quietly ask or tearfully plead for respect, but their body language says ‘Walk all over me,’” she says. “When such a person steps into the arena with a horse for the first time, he or she may try to seduce, bribe, or even guilt-trip the animal into cooperating, but those empty words have the opposite effect. The inability to engage a confident presence through emotionally-centered, empowered body language creates a vacuum that unconsciously invites others to take advantage. The horse either ignores this person or moves him or her around, taking charge of the relationship, just like the person’s employees, spouse, and children are apt to do. Yet as participants are coached in how to set boundaries and motivate the horse, they find that this magnificent animal is just as happy to cooperate, and a real dance of mutual respect and co-creativity begins. All of this happens through interactions that can be thrilling and deeply moving, a powerful way to learn.”

“The true pioneers of the 21st century,” Linda insists, “are those who figure out how to tap the vast resources of nonverbal intelligence. In this respect, horses provide the ultimate shortcut—as they always have. For thousands of years, these sensitive yet powerful beings carried our bodies around the world, allowing us to explore terrain we would have struggled to traverse on foot. But there was something much more profound happening in these interspecies associations. Learning to form effective working partnerships with those horses provided the most elusive yet important education a human leader could acquire—that ‘other 90 percent’ exercised at a wholly nonverbal level. And that ‘other 90 percent’ is precisely what we need to develop, consciously, if we’re serious about finding solutions to the challenges of our complex, now global society.”

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