Corporate Leadership

A unique and innovative workshop incorporating falconry to enhance leadership understanding and performance.

Leading North West business psychologist and university lecturer Anita Morris has teamed up with Cheshire Falconry, the region’s top falconry centre to develop a ground - breaking new concept in management training using birds of prey.

Hear what Anita has to say as to the reasons why she has chosen to use Cheshire Falconry in her management training courses.

Why are you using birds of prey as part of a management training course?

If you look at the over 4000 year history of falconry, it was used to develop leadership skills in different cultures around the world. Often royalty were trained in falconry not only because it was considered a sport of Kings, but also because Kings and Princes were leaders of armies as well as countries and needed to develop leadership skills.

A human being cannot impose his/her wishes on birds of prey and the birds have no instinct to follow a human. It is therefore only through the skills of the falconer and his/her understanding of his/her charge that the desired results can be achieved. No two individual birds of prey, even those of the same species, will have the same temperament and react in the same way. This means that the falconer has to understand every individual bird he/she might work with.

This has strong links with leadership. Falconry is noted as being the most difficult and challenging of all the hunting sports. If you talk to those in leadership positions in industry, and in other areas such as politics, you will hear similar comments to those of the falconer. Management is a skill, but leadership is an art.

Why are you working with Steve Birchall and Cheshire Falconry?

When I first met Steve I sat and talked to him about the birds he works with and the falconers who work at Cheshire Falconry. It became very clear that Steve actually applies his understanding of falconry to running a successful business. I was amazed at his level of knowledge and expertise in working with birds of prey. He truly understands every aspect of the birds, from practical aspects like feeding and housing to a detailed psychological understanding. He is able to tell you about how a particular species might act and react, but he also understands the temperament of each individual bird.

When we talked about the falconers who work for him, he clearly has the same detailed understanding of them as individuals too. He recommended some books to me and in one of them Nick Fox, a well known falconry expert, states that ‘Falconry teaches humility and fortitude, it enhances the spirit, it improves fine judgement and gives the falconer a sense of oneness with nature’. When you meet Steve and have the opportunity to talk to him at length about his work, it becomes obvious that this is a man who embraces the lessons he has learned in his many years of working with birds of prey.

The facilities at Cheshire Falconry are excellent and Steve has been incredibly supportive in helping me with the practicalities of organising the leadership development programmes, as well as providing a lot of the content. The site is very accessible even though it’s in a rural setting, which is great for my business clients. The facilities such as catering and parking are really good too.

What makes YOU able to run leadership development programmes, what is your level of expertise?

Like many psychologists I’m uncomfortable with the term ‘expert’. There is an implication that it means I know more than you and therefore creates a power situation. I prefer the term ‘specialist’, really.

From an academic perspective I have been interested in and have researched the whole area of leadership for some time. I have a background in industry. My first degree is in business and after graduating I worked firstly as a management accountant before moving into sales and marketing, mainly in manufacturing industry.
I did have a brief sojourn as marketing manager for an executive coaching company, which first introduced me to leadership development. It highlighted to me that I wanted to work in this area, but wanted to do it ‘properly’ and with integrity.

I found out what I needed to do to work at the level I currently work at and planned my future development. I knew I needed the credibility of working at a senior management level and so went back into industry to get management experience and work myself up to the level of director in a large manufacturing group. I then left, did a further degree in applied psychology, then a Masters in occupational psychology, and also some specific training and qualifications in coaching and related topics. I set up my company and have developed an impressive client base. I suppose that my unique selling point is that I have both business and psychology qualifications, plus both business and psychology experience. There are very few people in my field who can say that.

I run a number of leadership development programmes, as well as coaching senior managers. I continue to have links to academic institutions and am a visiting lecturer at LJMU. This helps me to keep up to date in the research and development of leadership theories and development approaches. I liaise with academics on a regular basis, but prefer to work in an applied setting. My links to industry and my work with organisational leaders is as important as my links with academia. This combination allows me to facilitate the desired results for my clients.

Isn’t the falconry link just a gimmick?

Perhaps some people might think that, especially considering how easy we could link concepts and beliefs given the proper resources. For instance, some researches point to the booming car hire kerry industry in Ireland as related to the country's boom in tourism. If these two can be linked, surely it's easy to make up connections about predatory birds and leadership right? However, read almost any book on the psychology of birds of prey and any book on leadership, and you can’t help but see the links. One of my specialist areas is emotional intelligence and I remember laughing when attending a ‘meet the birds’ event Steve was running. The falconer, Rob, said that we couldn’t work with the Eagles that day, because they were in a ‘narky mood, and you don’t want to work with a narky Eagle’. Falconry is about communicating in very difficult circumstances and to communicate effectively you need to understand the impact of emotion as well as what is being communicated. Rob obviously has an in-depth understanding of the emotional states of the birds he works with. Again falconry is a perfect way to get these messages across.

There is a lot of research that supports the effectiveness of what is termed experiential learning. By seeing and experiencing new ways of working, new approaches and ways of behaving, it’s often easier to learn. If people also enjoy the learning experience, it has a greater impact. It’s often easy to get stuck in a comfort zone, so handling a wild animal can help to take you out of your comfort zone and see things from a different perspective. Falconry is a fantastic way of doing this.

The programmes we have designed that incorporate hunting take things even further. The hunting aspect really helps to impact on communication skills and on the strategic perspective of leadership, plus it enhances teamwork.

For me as a leadership development specialist, this is some of the most exciting and enjoyable work I do. I get to work with people who really are experts, as in the area of falconry their knowledge is arguably unrivalled. The delegates who attend always add to the events, bring something new to every workshop. If you attended the same workshop twice, you would learn something new and different at each event. I also get to work with some remarkable wild animals too, and am always somewhat awestruck and honoured to have one of these magnificent creatures on my arm.

Further Info: About our Corporate Team Building or to book a place on a course, call: 01606 882223.

For any enquiries or further information about our falconry experiences please call: 01606 882223 we look forward to hearing from you.