I’d like to ask you a question: are you looking where you’re going? It might sound like an odd question but I believe that a lot of people, teams, and organisations aren’t looking where they want to go and could benefit massively from some simple changes to their focus.

 

I’d like to illustrate the point with an Olympics-related metaphor, but one that hasn’t been written about a lot; Dressage. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it and it was a delight to watch rider and horse in perfect harmony. I used to ride a lot and compete in dressage (at a very basic local level), so I appreciate the skill all the more.

 

In my dressage lessons, sometimes ridden without a saddle to help me develop my balance, I learned a very simple but valuable lesson that sticks with me as a reminder today: Where you look, you go. It worked like this:

 

  • To go straight on,  sit upright, hold your head up high and focus on a point straight ahead in the distance. The horse, a very intelligent animal, will pick up on these signals and go in a straight line.
  • To turn, again just look where you want to go. As you turn your head, your whole body will shift slightly and the subsequent movement of the reins,  seat, and legs will be picked up by the horse who will dutifully go in the direction you want.
  • Want to fall off? Easy; spend your time worrying about falling off and looking at where you don’t want to go, the ground. Where you look, you go.
  • Want to totally confuse the poor horse? Easy: just give loads of conflicting signals about what you want and where you want to go! It might sounds odd, but it is a common mistake in beginners that they’ll simultaneously give signals to tell the horse to stop, go, turn left and turn right!

 

Where you look, you go. I believe this applies equally to people, teams, and organisations and I want to challenge you on where you’re looking.

 

  • As a person, where are you looking? Are you focusing your thoughts, your energy, and your efforts on a successful outcome that your eyes are firmly fixed on? Or, do your eyes keep getting distracted by shiny new opportunities or, worse still, are you spending time worrying and focusing on what you don’t want? Where you look, you go.

 

  • If you’re part of a team, are you all looking in the same direction? If I interviewed each member of the team about what success looks like for the team, would I get one clear direction or several conflicting ones? Are your team meetings clearly focused on where you’re heading?

 

  • From an organisational perspective, lets start with the assumption that your employees are all trying to do what they think is the right thing for your organisation and are all making the best of what they think is available to them. So, are you making it crystal clear to everybody where you’re heading, so they each know where to focus? Don’t forget that people will figure out what’s important not just from what you say (such as a written mission, vision, and values), but from how leaders behave, where your focus is, who you reward and promote etc. So, are you an organisation that makes it really clear about where you’re heading and what you expect from people or are you a bit more like the beginner rider who is constantly sending conflicting signals about what you want?

 

Where you look, you go. Are you being intentional about where you’re looking?