Michael Millward joined the BBC Radio York Drive Time show this afternoon to tell them about the Northern CIPD conference that he had attended in York over the weekend.
The Conference theme was positive people so many of the key note speakers and those in the individual seminars had chosen to discuss how the levels of positive attitudes amongst employees often depends on how engaged they are with their employer.
Mr Millward explained that employee engagement might sound like just another HR buzz word, but essentially it can be defined as how interested an employee is in their work and indeed how much they care about doing a good job.
Many studies have identified that highly engaged employees are more productive and take less time off as the result of sickness than employees who can be described as less engaged.
The conference was held at York racecourse, which gave the organisers the opportunity to have Sarah Kreutzer from Learning to Listen, do a presentation on how the techniques that some people describe as horse whispering can be used to demonstrate employee engagement and leadership.
Obviously Michael just had to have a go!
The horse was a former show-jumper and eventing horse called Paco.
Sarah had demonstrated two different leadership techniques using Paco, the first leading from the front showed how Paco would simply follow wherever Sarah walked. The second was leading from behind in which Sarah encouraged Paco to move forward and even to change pace from just behind him.
It all looked so easy said Mr Millward who was set the challenge of getting Paco to jump over a small pole in the centre of the parade ring, by leading him from behind.
But he had not taken account of Paco having a mind of his own and more interest in eating grass than being led from behind.
The more Paco resisted and found that walking around the pole was much easier the more frustrated Mr Millward later admitted he was getting and also the closer he was getting to Paco.
This proximity was the problem; horses are herd animals and gather closer together at times of danger.
Once more round the parade ring said Mr Millward to Sarah, but this time keeping a bit more distance between him and Paco.
Wow! Paco went exactly where he was supposed to and jumped over the low pole.
The lesson explained Mr Millward was that as managers we often delegate a task to an employee and then instead of letting them get on with it we over monitor them. Although what we want to do is be there if something goes wrong, the message that we give our employees is that we do not trust them. They start to feel nervous and resort to the activities that appear to be the easy route and techniques that they are most familiar with.
Let go! Give your employees some freedom and just like Paco they do exactly what you wanted them to do.
It just takes a bit of trust, to create an engaged employee.