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Increasing consciousness of nonverbal communication with Equine-Assisted Leadership Training (EALT): An exploratory study

Notschaele, Iris (2011) Increasing consciousness of nonverbal communication with Equine-Assisted Leadership Training (EALT): An exploratory study.

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Abstract:Background: With the advent of a more philosophical research orientation since the second half of the last century, there has been more attention for the individual and his place in the world within the field of corporate communication (Matthews, 1996; Wicks, 2003). A popular subject in this this field is the study of leadership, in which, among other things, scientists try to discover what makes leader successful. Research has shown that interpersonal skills, such as nonverbal communication are an important predictor for a leader‘s success (McCall & Lombardo, 1983). Furthermore, these can also have an important influence on corporate performance (Bass & Yammarino, 1991); Church & Waclawski, 1999), motivation and culture (Goleman, Boyatzis & McKee, 2008; Sala, 2005). Because of this, it is important for managers‘ careers and corporate that they are conscious of their nonverbal communication. However, studies have shown that this counts for only 50% of all managers. De market for corporate training has acted on this opportunity by offering a wide selection of courses aimed at increasing managers‘ consciousness of their nonverbal communication. One of the newest forms of training is Equine-Assisted Leadership Training (EALT). The principle of this training type is that horses mirror the nonverbal communication of people, thereby making it more visible with the help of the trainer. Main research questions: In this study the effect of EALT in increasing consciousness of nonverbal communication in the corporate environment was studied through the following two main questions: - How does human-horse interaction contribute to increasing consciousness of non-verbal communication for participants of Equine-Assisted Leadership Training? - What is the effect of Equine Assisted Leadership Training on participants´ consciousness of their non-verbal communication? Method: To answer the main questions, two studies were performed. The first study aimed at explaining the role of the human-horse interaction in EALT. Using the Leary‘s Rose (Leary, 1957), an analysis was performed to see if these interactions significantly corresponded with human-human interactions. However, before this was possible a content analysis of 181 photos of horses was done to ascertain if Leary‘s Rose was useable to model horse behavioral patterns. The second study used interviews to investigate to what extent people thought they had learned something from the EALT training sessions. Three stages of interviews were held. The first directly before the training, focusing mainly on motivation and expectation towards the training, the second directly after the training, focusing on what was learned about nonverbal communication and how participants expected to apply it and the third stage of interviews was held four weeks after the training, focusing on how people had actually applied what they had learned. Results: The first study showed that human-horse interaction largely matches human-human interaction as modeled by Leary‘s Rose. This means that humans can indeed receive feedback on their nonverbal communication by using horses. In addition, findings confirm that horses mirror the behavior of humans. The results of the second study indicate that EALT has a positive influence on participants‘ consciousness of their nonverbal communication. However, instead of providing participants with completely new insights, it appears the training mainly reaffirms and sharpens the image people already have in a way that is confronting to them. In most cases participants indicate that the training helped them to better express themselves on the work floor and more accurately adjust themselves to their audience. In addition, a number of participants mentioned that the training helped them feel stronger during meetings. Conclusion: There are various conclusions to be made regarding the effect EALT has on participants‘ consciousness of their nonverbal communication. First, it can be said that the theoretical basis of EALT regarding the human-horse interaction is indeed valid. De mirror-effect of the horse can help people become more conscious of their nonverbal communication when assisted by a trainer. Second, people feel they learn something from the training and they can give clear examples of how they applied what they had learned on the work floor. In this sense it seems EALT succeeds in its goals. In the corporate world EALT can contribute to the development of manager-skills that are related to social growth and leadership.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:05 communication studies
Programme:Communication Studies MSc (60713)
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