Race Horses

Sometimes you end up with a racehorse on your team. Maybe you were even one yourself at some point in your career. You know who is a racehorse. They run fast, they are 100% focused on the goal, and they never seem to lose energy, innovation or drive. They treat your business like their own, and they never shy away from responsibilities or challenges, no matter how impossible they may appear to be. These are the people that will work hard for your success along with their own, as long as you lead them in the right direction.

Main rule: Never put a racehorse in front of a plow. You have other people on your team who enjoy routine work, following and repeating set processes. Racehorses are those people who discover new ways of doing things, and then they move on to other challenges. Repetitious, routine work will make them miserable, demotivated and lead them to look elsewhere for new possibilities.

Second rule: Always have their back. A racehorse will step on toes in any organization as they push through the tough projects. They can run what seems like 100 mph if they do not have to worry about internal politics, intrigues or games. If you are loyal to them, they will pay you back a hundred times. If you do not protect them against envious colleagues, people resisting change or someone having a bad day, they will slow down, start to worry about the little things and lose their motivation.

Racehorses are rarely good at corporate politics and want to be focused on the task and challenges at hand. That is generally a good thing, and over time you can teach them tips and tricks on how to get people engaged, without pushing too hard, or how to be politically savvy. However, this is a long process that requires their trust in you. Earn their trust, and they will give you the world.

When racehorses become leaders themselves, things must change completely. Most of what made them great running solo will work against them when they have to perform through others. The drive and motivation, fixing everything yourself last minute, have to give way to dialogue, coaching colleagues and empowering the team. They never can or will sell out when it comes to execution and they should not. They just need to focus on other people meeting deadlines before their own. The team comes first.

Far too often we come across racehorses promoted into leadership roles who act as if they still run solo, putting themselves first. They will often take the most fun and challenging projects themselves while leaving all the “boring” stuff to the team. They will make sure they present to top management or the board instead of letting their team members shine. They tend to talk more than they listen, provide answers instead of questions and either micromanage or ignore the team’s requests. In the end, they often discover the team’s performance is suffering without understanding why.

If you are a racehorse who has become a leader, pass the baton on to the next racehorse and surrender your Lonestar status. Focus on working for your team, and they will work for you, making you an even greater star than you were on your own. If you cannot or do not feel like you can make this transition, let someone else be the leader and focus on being the best racehorse out there.