The story of a race horse

When I decided to write this article, I had in my mind the image of a horse, the most noble among animals on the planet, both gentle and powerful. I am very fond of horses, and for some time now I promised to myself to take on some horse riding, a promise that this year I am bound to keep. However this is not about my passion for horses. This is because I see a resemblance between race horses and the specialists inside companies, both categories highly praised for the value input they bring!? 


The price of ‘’beauty’’ 

So, we have a company, an organisation which is made of various departments. In any of these departments we count an expert or more, depending on the size and nature of the department. The expert(s), the specialist, will be pictured here as “race horses”. They are the ‘’core members’’, or the people that one rely on, when a fast reaction is needed in solving critical problems. People rely on their knowledge and they can act as role models in approaching work, learning new things, analyzing problems.  All the people are important inside an organisation, you might say. This stands true.  However I want to put the focus on the specialists here. Let’s take for instance the technical specialists (since I am dealing with their recruiting for some years now). They are very structured and detail oriented people. I like how they get involved in their projects and how you can see the passion when they talk about their work, be it design or quality or sales. They are the race horses. They will be there, driving from the beginning, they will be there to pull all the way through the implementation,  and they will be there to deliver. 

In this process, the maximum of your race horse will always be demanded. So, you have to be very careful with this ‘’animal’’: they are very sensitive to ‘’disease’’. These people are the working type, are the types that you normally do not see hanging around at ease, in your companies. They might appear as not the most sociable types of people because their world revolves around solving problems, and they get very absorbed in doing this. They are always there to do two things: solve issues and improve their knowledge in order to be prepared for future ones. However they are not alone, for a specialist relies on the help of the people around. A specialist expects the same type of involvement from others as is expected from him/her. Of course, all of us have a certain level of performance, but nothing makes a specialist more sad than to see that his/her involvement (work) can be mocked,  and therefore let alone to solve everything, including the work of others. The “race horse” is going to take on a lot of workload because, well, you know how they say, “because he/she can”. They can do it and they can take it. But for how long? How long can a specialist compensate for others’ lack of interest?  How long can you rely on your “race horse” to run, to pull, without getting him tired, without him ‘’kicking’’ you back? 

The most dangerous disease that can imprint on a specialist is summed up in the following creed of the management philosophy: ‘’whip the horse that pulls’’. And normally this is being done by the jockey, or better said- by the wrong jockey! (In my mind the jockey is the manager).

Whipping your “race horse” everyday, might get you as far as the horse can bear. During this time you might give him the “good food”, the “proper attention”. Every now and then you might  even give him a little bit of resting time in order to heal, you know, from all the whipping. However, if you ignore the signs of fatigue accumulated from all the pulling for the mules also, than you should expect to be kicked or thrown away from the saddle, eventually. When this happens it means that your horse’s endurance limit was overreached by the toxicity of your working place.  Don’t be surprised when that happens because it is a problem of when, not a problem of how. 

The descent

The whipping might get you in two places: to fall down hurting yourself but your horse is still ok. Get back on the saddle and move forward. This is a happy case, when accidents happen but they are viewed as lessons learnt. What can be done though, when after the fall your horse is broken? Well, when things go bad in a horse racing contest, and the horse is badly, irreparably injured, you know what happens: the suffering animal is shot in order to end its misery. How about when your specialist is worn out, your ‘’race horse’’ is done, and he kicks back, what can you do?  What do you do? Who rode the horse might have provoked the injury in the first place, I say. For some organisations breaking down a ‘’race horse’’ is not admitting that one has ridden the horse crazily, but that something is wrong with the horse himself. So, let’s get rid of the broken horse. A torn apart horse has no place left in a company with a perfect so-far image. Yes, the truth is that there are organisations that prefer to shoot the wounded horse rather than mend the problem. It is much simpler and not so painful for the organisation. (Approach: ‘’we have 100 people waiting at the door’’).

Consequences: LinkedIn posts “If You Think It’s Expensive To Hire A Professional To Do The Job, Wait Until You Hire An Amateur.” 

Other organisations tend to mend the problem, not ignore it. A race horse is not something that you just parade with, when you need it, and after that you put it back, in your backyard to carry stones. A race horse is made for racing and it requires special treatment. Not privileged! But special. 

In the end remember: whipping the horse that pulls, especially the load of others, with disregard to the horse’s health, will lead you nowhere. And not even the biggest amount of external training, or LinkedIn quotes will supplement the loss of a valuable “race horse”. Surely, just getting a new horse will not solve your problems!

Author: Cristina Manaila CEO brightANTITY


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