You have undoubtedly heard the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. In business, this can be a very maddening situation. You may have a horse in the form of a client, customer or collaborator, or possibly even an employee, who has the potential to be as good as a Thoroughbred. But sometimes that horse won’t take a drink.
This can be beyond frustrating for you- it has been for me. I have made people gobs of money over my career, which makes me generally pretty popular around the business folks. But every once in a while there is a horse with Thoroughbred potential, and when I take that horse over to the edge of the pond, said horse just stubbornly looks at its reflection in the water.
Now, horses aren’t the smartest animals around, but I don’t chalk this up to stupidity. It usually comes from a deeper place. It could be that the horse is intimidated. It could be that the horse has a big ego (assuming horses have egos, which in this thinly veiled piece, they do). It could be that the horse is afraid- afraid of breaking outside of its comfort zone, afraid that the favor is going to be lorded over it in the future or even worse, afraid of being as successful as it can be.
This horse could be a client that won’t take your business advice to improve their situation, a collaborator that engages you and then backs away from your project or an employee that can’t take the constructive criticism needed to get him to the next level. And yes, this can happen even when the horse has asked you help it find some water in the first place.
If you are a horse and someone leads you to that water, take the damn drink. Unless you have a really good inkling that the helper is going to hold the favor against you, realize that most people that offer help are doing it because they genuinely want to help you (and that helping you can also help them too- a win-win for everyone). Don’t forgo your potential because of your own insecurities. And don’t expect someone to chase you when you ask for help.
If you are the one doing the leading and the horse won’t take the drink, then you have to put the horse out to pasture. It is painful to see a prized horse rendered useless (kind of like how Jack Woltz felt when the severed head of his racehorse ended up in his bed in The Godfather) but life is too short to deal with a stubborn horse (or a stubborn ass, for that matter).
Will you be able to put your stubborn horse out to pasture?