Managers learn Hollywood-style horse whispering

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The Independent Online

Horse whispering, the art of taming stallions made famous by Hollywood, is the latest technique to be taught at one of Britain's most prestigious business schools.

Horse whispering, the art of taming stallions made famous by Hollywood, is the latest technique to be taught at one of Britain's most prestigious business schools.

Senior executives will try to tame an unbroken horse during a course in corporate management at the Manchester Business School. Experts believe that using the techniques made famous in the bestselling novel The Horse Whisperer, and the hit Robert Redford film that followed, will train captains of industry to communicate more effectively with their staff.

The art of horse whispering, where an untamed horse is coaxed into accepting a rider using body language and eye contact rather than the lengthy process of breaking in, was promoted by the American author Monty Roberts.

Academics believe the techniques pioneered in the deserts of the southern United States will help managers to abandon old-style aggressive techniques, and increase productivity by winning the confidence of employees and persuading them to follow their lead.

Staff at the business school have already tested their theories using videos of horse whispering and tapes of bucking broncos being broken in, rodeo-style. They have enrolled Kelly Marks, a leading English horse whisperer, to run the sessions.

The development is the latest in a series of methods used by management schools to encourage team building and make managers think differently about organising their firms. Professor John Arnold, director of the business school, adopted the new technique after watching a horse whisperer in action.

He said: "It's quite amazing. By using this technique, they can get a saddle and a rider on a horse in 30 minutes, rather than the normal breaking-in technique, which takes weeks to do.

"In most organisations if anything goes wrong, somebody gets told off or punished in some way. The essence of horse whispering is that every time you do something right, you do something positive.

"There are all sorts of ways of teaching people, but the majority of things we do are about adopting an approach which is about co-operation rather than coercion, encouraging self-learning and producing leadership by invitation."

Professor Tudor Rickards, the school's professor of creativity and organisational change, added: "This goes right to the heart of our believe in how personal development takes place. You can't just tell people to change their behaviour.

"The only way to develop creative things is to experience them. This is dragging people into areas you can't get at with chalk and talk in the classroom."

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