MBA Students Horse Around to Build Teamwork and Leadership Skills

On a sunny day in November, the eight principals of Neeley & Associates MBA Consulting were sitting tall in the saddle, some of them not so comfortably, using horsemanship to hone their leadership skills.

The idea behind HerdWise, a program in Willow Park, is to help business leaders better understand what is expected of them as leaders, become more confident in their leadership skills in different situations and experience how others view them as leaders.

The principals of Neeley & Associates MBA Consulting, second-year TCU MBAs who lead first-years in paid consulting services for clients, enjoyed getting off campus and into a new and different setting to see how team dynamics are affected by adapting quickly and effectively to challenges.

The principals of Neeley & Associates MBA Consulting (L-R: Tigran Abovyan, Marshall Robinson, Anneke Talsma, Ed Riefenstahl, director of experiential learning, Stacy Rajavong, Nishant Maller, Adam Seibold, Al Carey, Nick Martin and Dr. Larry Peters) are second-year TCU MBAs who lead first-year MBAs in paid consulting services for clients. The experience let them get off campus and into a new, different setting to see how team dynamics are affected by adapting quickly and effectively to challenges.

Neeley and Assoc group shot















“Horses can sense intent,” explained Nick Martin of his experience. “If you intend to lead them through the gate, they will go with you. If you are afraid of the obstacle or unsure, they will balk. In a leadership setting, it’s important to set goals, but it’s equally important to walk through them with your team with the intention of finishing them. Similarly, you ought not to set goals that you have little intention of following through.”

For example, Nick struggled to get his horse to walk over a tarp.

“Once I decided in my mind that we were going to walk over the tarp together, the horse trotted across the tarp with no difficulties,” he said. “It's amazing the power you have once you decide to do something and make a full commitment to it.”

Other key take-aways that students listed on the evaluation form for HerdWise included: “Be aware of your environment and your team, truly listen to what is going on and adapt when necessary.” “Plan and get buy-in before starting.” “You don’t always need to lead from the front.” “Use different techniques to drive, motivate and encourage others.”

“I plan on adopting many of the techniques I learned working with horses, such as being present in the space, speaking softly, having a clear head and acting with intent, to my own team of first-year students,” Nick said.

“It was clear that the students enjoyed learning in a fun environment and working with the horses,” said Ed Riefenstahl, director of MBA experiential learning, who coordinated the opportunity. “Many had never been on a horse before, so it was refreshing to get them out of their comfort level to experience how interacting with others can affect your leadership style.”