The Surprising Lessons that Horses Teach us About Developing Transformational Relationships

Dr. Susan Cain Training & Development

By Susan Cain, Ed.D., LCSW

There I was at a brand name Chicago Company with a sales team the other day showing them, of all things, a video of a horse being trained. I was asked to talk with a group of sales professionals about the topic of building transformational vs. transactional relationships. What type of career suicide was I undertaking, you ask?

It all started with a book I co-authored with Debbie Roberts-Loucks called Horse Sense for Leaders; Building Trust-Based Relationships. We were struck by the interesting metaphor of an untrained horse able to accept his first saddle, bridle and rider in under 30- minutes without force.

 How would it be possible, we wondered, to template this trust-based approach for use in human-to-human relationships? To speed up the process of trust? To ensure strong connections in important relationships? So Debbie and I went to work. We interviewed Horse Whisperer and New York Times Best Selling Author Monty Roberts, who discovered his force-free horse training approach called Join-Up®.

We borrowed the analogy of joining-up with an untrained horse (see video here; in under 30-minutes to think about how to speed up the development of trust in human relationships. We thought about the value of moving from transactional to transformational relationships and the necessary role that trust plays there.

We came up with a conversation-based approach to developing trust, faster, in human relationships. While this is not rocket science, we decided it is a useful approach for having important discussions:

cli_graph1-6Back at the sales team meeting, we talked about how to be more effective with clients, how using a transformational approach might look, and we even role-played the approach. We talked about how to gauge client trust levels, slow down to stop pushing at them, and start assessing client needs first. All in all, a useful session thanks to horses and Monty Roberts.

Find our more about our new book, Horse Sense for Leaders; Building Trust-Based Relationships on our Facebook page at

Buy the book on Amazon at

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Dr. Susan CainThe Surprising Lessons that Horses Teach us About Developing Transformational Relationships