Best known for building Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast and establishing it during the last recession, June Burgess has been Director of several successful companies during her 25 years in business and is no stranger to leading an organisation through uncertain times.
Since selling the Hotel in 2015, she has focussed on developing her innovative leadership training where she brings together the three main strands of her life – her business experience, her equestrian experience (she competed for Ireland over 60 times and produced the bronze medal winning horse at Rio Olympics) and her many years of implementing sports psychology techniques that enabled her to compete as an amateur against professionals – and win!
Her approach is rather different to the norm in that it involves a series of interactions with her team of world class horses. Equine Assisted Leadership (EAL)
WHAT IS EQUINE ASSISTED LEADERSHIP?
Through a series of ground-based exercises (no riding required), the participants are required to apply certain skills and the response from the horses provides totally accurate feedback on how clear and effective their personal leadership qualities are. Participants not only discover more about themselves but also how they are perceived by others. Once this is established, each individual has the opportunity to alter their approach and test the result. Whilst this is totally new in NI, similar programs for corporate leadership and team building have been mainstream in the US for years and are growing in Europe and the UK. Many of the largest UK companies find this approach to leadership training extremely effective including CISCO, Warehouse, American Express, Hilton, Bupa, BBC, Citigroup, to name just a few. June has been travelling to Amsterdam each year to work with Philips who are advocates of this type of training. Even the All Blacks have undertaken leadership development with horses!
WE ARE OFTEN ASKED, “WHY HORSES? WHY NOT OTHER ANIMALS?”
With their prey instincts and hypersensitive awareness, horses size people up instantly and accurately and provide honest, accurate feedback, completely unaffected by role or position.
They respond immediately to signals both intentional and unintentional, creating experiences which get to the core of issues quickly, powerfully and effectively.
Interacting with horses at liberty demands the same personal qualities that make for effective communication and relationships in work and life – awareness, clarity, focus, intention, problem solving, credibility, connection, commitment, respect and trust. As extremely canny herd animals, horses only respond well to congruent leadership and instinctively challenge weak leaders.
Human-to-human communication is 93% non-verbal yet most education and training concentrates on what is being said – the 7%. Horses are adept at picking up and responding to human intention and non-verbal communication. They don’t understand words, so you can’t smooth-talk, cajole, guilt-trip or hoodwink them. And they’re big and powerful, so intimidation is not an option.
Working alongside a horse, in spite of any fears, generates confidence and provides insight for dealing with other intimidating and challenging situations in business and life.
Horses for People is located at June’s home – a private horse farm in Comber, 20 mins from Belfast on a 50 acre site known as Ballygraffan in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with views over Strangford Lough.
Living in such a relaxing environment and surrounded by horses and wildlife has always been June’s secret weapon in tackling stress and maintaining a balanced perspective on life and business.
Thus, in addition to transformational personal insights, individuals who attend workshops, which run over one or two days, are able to step away from daily stresses and relax and recharge in peaceful surroundings.
Leaders don’t fail because they haven’t enough theory. They struggle because they don’t get the opportunity to develop and practice the skills that make them more effective. At Horses for People, participants come face to face with their leadership challenges through engaging with the horses and are coached to overcome them and then the changes they make are reflected back by the improved reactions from the horses.They also learn a great deal by watching how the horses communicate with each other and interact as a herd.
With that in mind, the majority of the course takes place outdoors in an all-weather arena with the horses but we also have an indoor conference room for post-exercise discussions. Standard group size is 8 people for a one-day workshop and social distancing measures are in place.
The emphasis is on transferring all learnings directly to the workplace but previous participants have commented that the skills acquired have been equally beneficial in other aspects of life and relationships.
June is a certified Life Coach (ICF) and full member and partner of EAHAE – international accreditation for HAL. She has studied HAL in USA, Germany and England and was recognised by the Joint Armed Forces Soldiering On Awards in 2018 for her leadership courses.
THIS TRAINING WORKS – IT’S PRACTICAL AND VERY DIFFERENT FROM TRADITIONAL, THEORY-BASED APPROACHES. BEFORE WE GET TOO COMFORTABLE BEING REMOTE FROM ONE ANOTHER, THIS IS A UNIQUE WAY TO DISCOVER HOW YOUR BEHAVIORS AFFECT OTHERS IN THE WORKPLACE AND HOW A FEW SIMPLE TWEAKS CAN ENHANCE COMMUNICATION AND PRODUCE AN INFINITELY MORE HARMONIOUS AND INNOVATIVE WORKFORCE.