The specific challenges of living life as a woman and 4 tools that help turning them into opportunities.


Transition? By this, I mean a state of change in people’s life. It can be self-induced or come as an external input. Transition is a period when people leave their comfort zones. They leave the areas of their life where they feel knowledgeable and experienced and are able to manage day-to-day tasks without extraordinary efforts. They don’t necessarily feel happy within their comfort zone but they feel quite safe. Transition challenges our safety. We step into unknown territory and experience anxiety. And exactly here, in this new and not-so-comfortable space, we grow and learn! If we manage to give phases of transition a meaningful purpose for our life, transitions become priceless boosters of fulfillment and transformation. Transitions may be triggered by a new job, a pregnancy, by getting married or by loosing a loved-one, by moving to a different environment, by becoming a mother, etc.


Why women? The prevailing role of women in industrialized societies requires many transitions men typically do not need to make. The mere ability to give birth as well as actual motherhood is –in my humble opinion- the decisive reason for a series of “women-only” transitions. Typically, these life transitions and the implicit decision-makings are compromises between a professional career and being a mother and wife. Women  – from adolescence to post-meno pause – face the challenge of walking a fine line between their role as supporting mother and wife on the one hand and the successful professional on the other. Does any of this sound familiar to YOU? If yes, we are in a dialogue. If no, continue reading nevertheless. Who knows what’s in for you.


 We see 4 stereotypes of today’s adult women:


  1. The professional woman with kids and working husband.
  2. The single women with kids and a job.
  3. The single career woman.
  4. The full-time mum and wife being the backbone of her family-also known as "the strong women behind a successful husband".


Sounds like women have choices! Well, a closer look reveals the flip sides of each type- also known as “Women, know your limits!”:


1.     Type 1: Typically overstrained and stressed-out but with the comfort of financial safety.

2.     Type 2: Typically stressed-out and ignored by society and with financial issues.

3.     Type 3: Typically panicking at the age of 40 but financially safe.

4.     Type 4: Typically lacking acknowledgment (except for mother’s day) and hopefully financially ok.


Listening to women’s narratives even reveals that many never made a conscious decision but somehow find themselves in one of these categories. Quite often, they feel deprived of the life they once dreamed of. More often than not, their dreams shrivel to unrecognizable memories in the face of daily choirs. For women in the middle of motherhood and/or job, re-defining their life presents a tough challenge. And women entering retirement after years of attending to children, job and husband first, often find themselves clueless what to do with their life once the children have left the nest and things become quieter.


Social reality and subconscious compliance to social expectations make women transit from one life period to the next without actually feeling that they have a true choice.


Can we change this? Absolutely! We can. We can deliberately decide how exactly we want to spend our next life sequence. We can develop a master plan according to what we truly want for our life. And then, we can steer the ship even through rough sea without getting off our course. Life transitions become periods of readjusting the steering wheel. Transitions become opportunities to course-correct and learn. How can we do this? I’ll come to it in a moment. Before, please bear with me for an important key element of our success:


Women do 80% of the work in the world. They certainly deserve much more support from husbands and from society. But if society (or husbands) turns a blind eye, helping ourselves is our first and only option to change things for the better. It is ‘acting versus re-acting. And since women are natural team players, reaching out to ‘sisters in arms’ and to professionals, e.g. coaches, is worth a try. Don’t you agree?


Each sequence in life and OUR decision on how to configure it has far reaching effects. Each transition requires us to adapt and offers the chance to grow and to find purpose in what we do. And each transition begins with a question: Who am I?


Surprising? Well, think about it: If I do not know who I am, I don’t know what I need in order to lead a meaningful life – meaningful in the sense of personally getting value and satisfaction from what I do. If you are a nature person, deeply connected to and inspired by nature, living in a crowded metropolitan environment will make you unhappy and even sick. If you are rooted in cosmopolitan live style, you will suffer making a living from self-made goat’s cheese in the French Alps. We need to know who we are before we are able to make sustainable choices for our life.

Not easy to answer, though. However, if we don’t take the time exploring and finding the answer, we may pay a high price. Before we even notice, we find ourselves on a path that simply is not ours.


Ladies, here are 4 tools that help you to become clear about WHO YOU ARE and how you want to spend your life:


Once you have completed these exercises, YOU will be able to consciously enter into your next transition. You will be able to make the best of a transition that is externally applied on your life. You will be able to trigger a transition when you feel it is time for a change.

The exercises need undisturbed time. Plan for a couple of hours. One advise from my side: Don’t start debating with yourself. Follow your gut feelings and your intuition.


1.     Sit down with a huge white piece paper and start a mind-map around the nucleus “I am…”. If you are not familiar with mind mapping, simply write it down.  Include colours (they stimulate our brain), draw pictures (they stimulate your brain), and allow thoughts and ideas to surface even if they seem to be weird. Give permission to your “self” to think and feel anything that pops up. Listen to your best self. Ignore your inner critic. If the critical voice is too loud, stop! Go and ask friends and family what they see in you. Metaphors often come to mind. Note them down and explore what they mean for you. Take your time.


Use the following visualization and questions to approach the topic.


2.     Remember a situation in your life when you were 100% happy and fulfilled. A situation when the world was yours! You felt strong, almost invincible. Everything was just right, the environment, the weather, the light around you, the sounds, the energy of the place, all just perfect. Try to relive this peak moment of your life.

What is this situation about? Who is with you? Where are you? What is the colour of the air? What is important? What is your achievement? Who are you?

Note down your memories and mark the elements that contributed most to your peak experience. It is quite likely that these elements are still of great value to you. Which ones are still present in your today’s life? And which ones are being subdued by your present life? Are you still the person you were during your peak experience? What is different? Do you feel there’s need for re-balancing?

3.     Discover what other values are truly important to you. Write a list of things you deeply hate. Then define their opposites, e.g. I hate when people try to get a ‘free ride’ disguising it as something else. I value ‘give and take’ and integrity. Try with passion. Avoid any copy-paste. Defining values easily can become jotting down all socially respected values that come to mind. But these are not necessarily YOUR values. Check carefully.

At this point of the exercises you have discovered and defined values that are non-negotiable for you. You’ve also gained a fairly good idea of who you are and of who you want to be for your next decade(s). The values and the vision for yourself build the core of your personality. Next, condensate them into a life purpose statement.

4.     Once you assembled the value list and your core personality, you want to apply it to the context of your life. For this, we need to answer a second question: What is my purpose in life? It is your personal mission & vision. Answer the question “Who do I want to be in order to do what I want to do?”. Draft a statement that consists of 2 elements: First, the element “I am…” and second, the element “I (will) do…. By connecting the 2 elements of “be” and “do”, you link your authentic personality to what you want/value in life. The result is a compelling guideline for your life path. Here are some examples:

I am a facilitator by writing books that make kids dream big dreams”.
            “I am a harbor providing shelter for abused women.”
            “I am a rocket that propels start-ups by coaching them into their best-case business scenarios.”

As you notice, all examples are connecting the “I am” part to a specific action. Beware of thinking small here! You want to create a purpose that is meaningful! Take your time and check: What is truly true for me? Not one life purpose resembles another! They are as individual as we are.


It is never too late for a meaningful transition. Like any other complex project, it needs strategy, planning and careful execution. My appeal to you is simple: For your next transition, start with the strategy first: Take your time to focus on your life purpose and your values. This will be the beginning of YOUR transition towards a fulfilled and meaningful future that will make you happy.


Dear fellow women, we are the decisive element in our lives. Let’s stop self-limiting.


Cheers with appreciation,

Verena Risse



P.S. Here’s a bit of my own story: 18 years of investments banking, fully-fledged, career driven, successful. 2 kids, 1 husband. Overworked, stressed-out. The subprime banking crisis merges nicely with my own and triggers a phase of revulsion. This is when I first hire a coach. Today (4 years later), I provide horse-assisted leadership workshops in Indonesia and work as a leadership and life coach. It makes me smile every day.








How do I improve? Getting rid of limiting beliefs.

Everyone faces obstacles and inner critics in daily business and private life. Typically, we want to overcome the obstacles and typically our inner critic (this nagging voice of doubt inside us) tells us why our strategy will face serious limits. The inner critic is -more often than not - a very mighty force that slows down our learning and sabotages our success. It feeds on (bad) experience and limiting beliefs. Very often, we are not even aware of the inner sabotage. Instead, we tend to overestimate outside hurdles on our path:


My team needs too much micro-mangement, that's why I will not reach the annual target.

The capital markets are volatile that's why our company-story doesn't fly.

If only I earned more money I could retire earlier.

My networking skills are non-existing, that's why I'will never make it to director of sales.


Limiting beliefs easily become self-fulfilling prophecies. Therefore, if we want to improve, the 1st step we need to take is LIBERATION. Not so easy as limiting beliefs have become part of us, they are hidden and often come in disguise. Hiring a professional coach will help us to detect them, check if we still need them, and in case we don't, throw them over board. During this process, the void they've left will naturally be filled with our present visions and targets. Promising, isn't it?


Indeed, getting rid of self-made limitations is a tremendous relief. But how can we actually do this?


The keywords are "emotion" and "reflection" and "experiencing". Limiting beliefs ALL cause a kind of anxiety in us. Sometimes, we are even afraid of certain situations. To get rid of anxienty and fear there's only one way: We have to face them (very emotional), reflect on how they influence us, and experience that we survive them. Once, we realise that they neither killed us nor are of any use to us, they start loosing power. By this time, our personality has already grown immensely. Now, we can start exploring territory that was beyond our reach before we shook off our inner critic.


The second step is to explore our options and possibilities:


How can I combine micro-management with my annual target?

Which elements do I need to add to the company story in order to make it stand out?

What is it that makes retirement attractive? If money was no issue what would I do with my time?

What does it mean to network? What is my ideal networking style? How can I apply it?


And the 3rd step is gaining experience and strengthening our new 'muscles':


Practise, Practise, Practise.


Yes, we can manage to do step 1-3 ourselves. It will take quite some time and effort and especially step 1 might be tricky as our inner critic will do anything to avoid unmasking. Did you ever try to be your own tennis coach? Hiring a professional coach for self-development is a well worth short-cut. Professional coaches are thoroughly trained in walking us through the process. They require effort, commitment and money from us and in return they deliver value: We improve and widen our range. We become more effective. We become better leaders. We save precious time.


If you like a free trial contact











Why Leadership Development with Horses?


A brief excursion into the world of leadership skills and horse sense.



What skills does a leader need?


Leadership is requested everywhere in our life, e.g. spiritual leaders, family leaders, sports leaders, communal leaders, politicians, managers, teachers etc.


The generally accepted view of leadership in the corporate world is that it represents one function of management: planning, organizing, controlling, executing and leading. Leadership thus is part of comprehensive management.


What is the core distinction between managers and leaders?


“Managers do things right but leaders do the right things.” Warren Bennis


Managers accomplish goals and have subordinates. Leaders develop visions and have followers.


If we agree to this distinction it is obvious that leaders need different skills than managers: the skills to enthuse people and to create visions.


But whereas the management skills needed for good planning, organizing, controlling and execution are widely taught and practiced, leadership skills are somehow presumed as being there naturally. This, however, is not the case.


What is the specific skill set needed for good leadership? Let’s approach this question by looking first at what leaders do in order to create visions and attract followers on their path of their vision.


Visions are created by a strong passion for something, mostly for something purposeful, bigger than ourselves, e.g. quantum-leap technological breakthroughs, equality, environmental protection, understanding the universe, educating our children, living a healthy live, generating a superior service to clients, etc. Visions also encompass individual values.


Many visionaries, famous or normal people, feel a strong drive to create awareness and eventually create a movement to bring their vision to life. They start sharing their vision, communicating it with peers, earning credibility and trust, experiencing failure and showing courage to stand up for what they are passionate about.


Good leaders dedicate a lot of time communicating with people in order to share their vision and inspire others. Once the spark ignites, leaders dedicate time to empowering people to become knowledgeable partners of their vision by helping them to understanding and owning it. Leadership is about supporting and nurturing people for their cause.


If we presume the vision is already in place, leadership skills boil down to




What does it take to communicate excellently, earn credibility and be respectful and respected?



                            Active listening (also to the un-said) - Curiosity


                                    Clear messages

                                    Courage (stepping out of the comfort zone)

                                    Allowing failure

                                    Self-correct and self-manage

                                    Making Choices




                                    No judgment


                                    “You are ok - I am ok” (transactional skills)









When was the last time YOU received training on these skills?



And if, e.g. communication skills are so vital to good leadership, why don’t we study it like mad? (see Tom Peters: “The project leadership excellence 42”)


How can horses help developing leadership skills?


Horses by nature have several characteristics that form a perfect leadership skill-training platform, mainly because they ‘force’ us to challenge our default behavior and focus instead on strategies for true understanding, authentic action and mutual respect. The table below lists –exemplarily for the skill ‘communication’ - horses’ and human default behaviour and points out the benefits of horse-assisted leadership skill training.












Horses “listen” and “talk” through body language.

Humans overestimate verbal communication and underestimate that 90% of human communication is conveyed with body language.


Focusing on body language instead of words boils us down to the nucleus of our message.


Horses are naturally curious.


Humans need to be curious in order to learn about and deal with the horse.


True curiosity is required trained and rewarded.


Horses are always in the here and now.


Humans tend to multi-task and find it hard to truly be in the present.

Training to be in the here and now. Increased sense of interaction, effective communication.


Clear messages

Horses react only to clear messages. Mixed messages are countered by turning away.


Before acting we rarely stop to reflect on what we want to convey!

Self-manage and to consciously send messages.


Horses only follow courageous humans/leaders.




We tend to avoid danger and failure. We potentially consider the horse as dangerous.

Train to overcome fear of danger and step out of the comfort zone. Here, expansive learning happens.


Allow failure

Horses don’t know the negative concept of failure. They just try again.


Failing for us often implies negative consequences. We avoid failure and miss out on learning from failure.

Learn to learn from failure. Horses always give a second chance or even as many as needed.



Horses do self-correct naturally as they want to comply with the leader’s request.


Humans do self-correct naturally if they have the time and space to do.

Self-correction happens in the very moment and creates success. Experimental learning at its best.


Making Choices

Horses make choices instinctively in every moment.


Humans make choices after a “thinking” process (in non-threatening situations)

Humans learn to trust their inner voice and decide on the spot. This is crucial for good leadership under stress.



Horses are always aware of everything around them.

Humans often ignore what’s going on inside and around them and simply stick to their agenda.


Humans learn to listen to themselves first and only then act congruently. They learn that everything has an impact.


The table shows that horses are mirroring our default communication style.  It also shows that we will not succeed in leading a horse if we do not change our default modus.


As an example, let’s look at Presence. We all know how it feels to being only half present: Your subordinate enters the office while you are typing an important email. You ask what you can do for him still continuing thinking about the next sentence of your email. You feel somehow disturbed and unwilling. Eventually you look up and start dealing with the matter. On the other hand, your employee feels he’s disturbing, feels unimportant and unappreciated, fears a negative reaction from you, finally gets your attention and leaves the office slightly perspiring. Even if understanding is eventually reached, respect, curiosity, trust, credibility, empowerment, awareness, self-management are lacking. The result is most unsatisfactory for both parties.


In a leading exercise with a horse the lack of presence luckily does only have one single impact and this is on you: The horse will ignore you. No pretense of interest, no cooperation, no hard feelings. Left alone and unattended by the horse, its no-nonsense behaviour will very quickly propel you into the here and now: You will focus and try everything to get the horses’ attention.

In a human-to-human relationship this un-judgmental reaction of the horse is hardly possible and so isn’t our learning from it.


Besides the horse being a mirror for our action, horses are also mystical creatures that allow us dreaming and stepping out of our normal pattern of behaviour (Gerhard Krebs, Founder of HorseDream). Horses ignite emotions in us and make us feel truly connected. Leadership thrives on connection.


To summarise:

Leadership training with horses is a highly effective way to intense experimental learning and training of core leadership skills.


Additional remark:

The feeling of leadership we develop during the exercises with the horses will stay with us as a tangible and retrievable memory of how leadership feels. And on top it is a lot of fun.


The Art of Leadership training helped me to deepen my insight into different leadership styles and how to effectively employ them. The instant feedback provided from the horses in this training, supports the learning in an exciting way.” (Risk Manager, Insurance, 12/2014)




Thank you for your presence during this excursion.