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Shawna Schuh

Leadership Lessons From a 100-Mile Horse Trek

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Every year the Appaloosa Horse Club of America puts on a 100-mile horse trek. I just completed the first leg and it was my first time. What an adventure! And what a lesson in leadership!

When all the riders got on their horses on day one, there was much excitement, fear, nervousness and anxiety. After all, we were going to ride 20 miles that day, through uncharted country.

Some people nervously got up and got on. Their horse prancing and circling, upsetting those around them and getting agitated as we waited for the start.

Some were completely unprepared for the journey, and it showed. Their equipment was loose or falling off, their horses were out of shape and ungroomed.

Some, regardless of who was around them had a quiet confidence and seemed to exude an energy of calmness that helped their mount and others relax.

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And I thought, “That’s who I want to be. That calm, collected and prepared leader.” So I followed them, and my ride was outstanding. Not only that day, but all five days of this amazing adventure. 

“Before going into any situation, meeting, call, buying trip, whatever, take a moment and ask: Who do I want to be in this?”

The others? I think they had the ride they set themselves up for, and here is the secret I’m sharing with you. 

If only they had asked themselves prior to going: Who do I want to be in this situation? 

You can do this for your pet business when dealing with customers — especially unhappy ones — prior to meetings with suppliers and before any live event or expo. 

The answer you come up with will determine your outcome because you have control of who you will be, regardless of how others choose to be or react.

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This is how you create an exceptional experience. Before going into any situation, meeting, call, buying trip, whatever, take a moment and ask: Who do I want to be in this?

If you want success, you’ll lead yourself in this way more and more, others will gravitate to you in abundance, and the ride we call business will be exceptional every time.

Shawna Schuh  is a certified speaking professional, an executive coach, master neuro linguistic programming practitioner and president of Women in the Pet Industry Network. Email her at shawna@womeninthepetindustry.com.


This article originally appeared in the September-October 2017 edition of PETS+.

Shawna Schuh is a certified speaking professional, an executive coach, master neuro linguistic program- ming practitioner and president of Women in the Pet Industry Network. Email her at shawna@womeninthepetindustry.com.

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Shawna Schuh

Are You a Seeker or a Conquerer?

The seeker finds success daily; the conquerer attains it only at the top.

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SUCCESS CAN MEAN DIFFERENT things to different people, although the dictionary definition of success is: The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

For me, it’s shifted from a destination to the journey — or what I like to call an adventure — because for me, life, love, pets and relationships are all adventures, usually to undiscovered places or experiences.

As we travel forward in life, we can hold success out in front of us like a carrot for a horse, or we can experience the pleasant feeling of being successful every time we take an action step.

So when you have the aim to learn something, and you do … success!

When you set out to make a customer smile, and you do … success!

When a new concept is presented, and you learn it, use it and excel in it … success, even though the process, the adventure may not be not complete.

When we think and feel successful, we do the actions that produce the results we seek. We also skip the painful process of thinking: “When I reach X, I’ll be successful,” or, “After I have Y, I’ll feel successful.”

We can live more fully, more engaged, energized and creative because every action is a success when we move forward with the right intention.

Let me explain it further with two mountain-climbing analogies:

In one case, the climber is the Seeker: Every prep, every step, every hurdle and every experience is a success getting to the top, and more important, returning from the top of the mountain.

In another case, the Conquerer: Success is only at the top. This permits less focus on getting back down gracefully or safely. So success is measured only by being on top, by taking control and forcing it.

Stop and ask yourself whether you relate more to the Seeker or the Conquerer. I’m not going to judge you. However, in my work with wonderful, successful professionals, I do know the happiest ones are those who seek and experience that happy jolt of success every step, every hurdle and every sale they take or make each day.

How do you become a better Seeker?

1. Set up all the action steps to take you where you want to go.
2. Track those steps so you know you accomplished them.
3. Note your progress and celebrate how far you’ve come.
4. Bask in the fact you are moving in the right direction.
5. Embrace the knowledge that there is no top/end to attain.
6. Revel in being a Seeker because those who seek, find!

This feeling of success is truly wonderful. Being a Seeker reminds me that I am creating the life I live, and if I can do it, so can you.

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Shawna Schuh

What You Believe About Your Customers Influences How You Treat Them

Are buyers liars?

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THE OTHER DAY I caught someone in a lie. It was a little lie, a white lie they call it.

Here’s the definition of a white lie from the Urban Dictionary: “A minor, polite or harmless lie. A white lie can be excused because it doesn’t cause great harm.”

And this is where the slippery slope begins!

What do you believe about lying? Is it totally wrong? Or are little white lies OK since they don’t cause great harm? And what is harm, anyway?

How do you feel about your customers and clients telling you little white lies? Like: “I’m not really looking.” Really? They called or came in, right? Apparently they are at least looking …

Or what about us? If we leave out something that affects someone’s decision, is that harmless?

An example would be a little white lie that there is only a limited number of something, when in reality there are plenty more.

There is a belief that people are not honest when they deal with others, that most people are focused on themselves, on getting the best deal for their needs.

Though there is truth mixed in with most things, today I want you to really think about what you believe about your clients and customers.

The reason is, if we believe buyers are liars, then that will affect how we treat them. With suspicion, with uncertainty and with our guard up.

Shakespeare once wrote, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

And so it is with people.

What if we chose to believe, “People are neither good or bad, but thinking makes it so”?

What if we decided, right this minute, that:

  • All my customers are special.
  • All my clients want attention and guidance, and I know how to deliver it.
  • All of those who inquire about my business and services are looking for what I offer.
  • People are generally good.
  • Pets are the best thing about life (I know you believe this already!).

The bottom line really is: What do you believe about your customers? Answering that truthfully and determining that you will, from this point on, believe only the best will made a profound difference in your results.

If you already have this positive belief, ask yourself whether you are sharing it enough with your team and community. If not, there’s your action plan for this month!

I believe in you!

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Shawna Schuh

3 Leadership Aspects You Need Instead of a Title

Some people naturally step forward to lend a hand and take responsibility.

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SOME PEOPLE TAKE LEADERSHIP, while others are given the title. Think about that in your pet business.

A company hired me to work with its leaders, from the founder — who was a brilliant man who didn’t like titles since he expected everyone to feel ownership — to all the other C-suite leaders who also didn’t have titles.

I adored working with this team. They were innovative, eager to learn and grow, and we saw huge leaps in productivity and profit.

Because the top leader was carrying much of the burden, they hired someone inside their industry to join the team and take some of the responsibilities off his plate. You may have done something similar or said to yourself, “If I could only clone myself, things would be easier!”

The new hire, a man in his middle years of work experience, got a bit sideways with the top guy when he refused him a title. “What am I then?” he asked. To which the founder said, “Worry less about what title you have, and let’s get things done.”

This man — let’s call him Kurt — would not let this go. When we coached, he wanted to spend time second-guessing the founder. When he spoke to others,s he would lament, “If I had more power, I would get more done.” He was missing the entire point that a title doesn’t give someone power. Leadership does.

Several months later, Kurt is no longer on that team. It was painful for everyone since he was liked and respected, but he proved that he couldn’t actually lead (or so he thought) without a title.

Which brings me back to my point: Is leadership given or taken?

Think through this for a moment.

With a title comes what? More responsibility, more power, more money? Or is it your responsibility to lead regardless of those things?

You, like me, have probably been in some sort of group that was given a task, volunteering perhaps or in an association, and there are people who naturally step forward to lend a hand, take responsibility, to encourage and lead, though they were never given that job nor that title.

The others naturally follow, or if the person is a good leader, he works things through together, with everyone sharing and taking turns leading.

You, like me, have no doubt also been in a similar situation where the actual leader was not leading, not encouraging and where things ground to a standstill or much time was wasted.

If you are like me, you might have gently stepped in to sort it out and lend a hand, since that’s what leaders do. Everyone, everywhere, can be a leader. And you don’t need a title to do it.

What you need instead of a title:

  • Ability to see the goal or end result. (You know what needs to be done.)
  • Courage to encourage some type of collaboration. (You can join all the talent together.)
  • Skill in asking questions that bring people forth and safety for them to provide answers.

There are more traits great leaders have, but for today, what if you looked at your pet business and determined whether you have leaders because you’re providing a safe environment or title holders who are working simply because they were placed in that position? Is it time to hire more leaders?

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