Intentions and Results

Many leadership programs have executive role models share how they lead with the next generation of leaders.  I was fortunate to arrange many such forums in my career. During one of these sessions one of the most loved and effective leaders at a Fortune 100 company shared how he achieved both engagement and accountability.  He constantly asked himself “Is my behavior was getting the results I intend? He emphasized this meant not only the business results, but the effect on his team’s motivation and engagement.  He was ruthless and vigilant in getting and acting on feedback he received about how he led to ensure his intention for his behavior and the perception of it was aligned.     

It takes courage to find out if your behavior, as seen by your team, matches your intention in both results and style.  It takes commitment and tenacity to change it if it does not.  

One way I learned this was not in business but riding the trails with my horse Echo. My intention was to enjoy our interaction and have a great outdoor experience together.  At times I was too busy getting Echo to go in the trailer, telling him what to do and where to go, and fending off horseflies to meet his needs for interaction, direction and support.  Sometimes my intention was is not met, and Echo was not excited to go trail riding again any time soon. At the end of the day, to achieve my intention and get the results, I learned to provide the direction and support Echo needed while staying on task with a sharp, discerning, and empathetic eye. How we ride the trail may be different than I plan, but we achieve our goal and we both enjoy the ride. Applying this insight to my leadership back on the job was a game-changer for my team.  

Is your behavior matching your intention-not as you see it, but to those you lead?

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Relationship & Leadership

Normally when I turn Echo out he leaves to graze with his herd, often at a run. Lately when I've turned him loose he has stayed with me, letting me do some accupressure, and even following me back to the gate to let me know he would like to be with me. A couple times I have taken him back and saddled him up for another ride.

For a horse to prefer being with a person over grazing with thier buddies is the highest complement. It says he feels safe and more comfortable in our presence. Being followed this way is such a blessing and a gift. It is inspiring and very humbling. The irony is not lost on me that it happened when I stopped "trying". Leadership at its best!

Horse Wisdom: Present Leadership

Mindfulness and living in the present is a hot topic. In his book “The Untethered Soul” Michael Singer states that we spend far too much time and energy to “resist one of two things: that which has already happened, or that which hasn’t happened yet.” He makes a strong case for consciously letting go of all this and focusing on living in the moment as the path to true happiness. Eckhart Tolle echos this in his bestselling books “The Power of Now” and “A New Earth: Awakening to your Life’s Purpose.” Tolle emphasizes that letting go of our mind's incessant chatter about past and future frees us to enjoy life. As leaders, we make better decisions and are more effective when we are truly in the moment with those around us.   

Horses are great teachers of mindfulness because they always live in the present. As soon as a danger is past, they go back to grazing. After a lion has attacked and moved on, they don't dwell on the reasons they got attacked, worry about the possibility of a panther in a tree 3 miles ahead, or try to figure out why lions were invented in the first place. Horses also demand fully present leaders. As herd animals, their lives depend on the leader who constantly watches out for predators, leads them to water and food, and protects them from natural disasters. The second the leader loses their focus another horse will take over or its every horse for himself, which is far more dangerous.    My horse Echo teaches me this every time I am with him. The second I “check out,” he gets the message that I have lost the capability, intention, or motivation to take care of us, and his instinct is to take over. I could tell you many fun stories (NOT) of when he led us both. This isn’t bad behavior, it is simply clarifying “who is leading who.” Once Echo is sure of my leadership, he is free to focus on what I am asking him to do.

Imagine if we brought this clarity to our leadership with humans. It may be worth asking if those who follow us know we are fully present with the capability, intention, and motivation to lead them at all times. Do they completely trust we give them our full attention and best decisions for every situation every time they need us?  If so, they can focus on performing their best at what we ask them to do.

The reward of leading and living in the present is tremendous freedom, the bonus is better decisions and more joy for ourselves and those we lead. By noticing when we “check out” and bringing our awareness back to the present moment, we can lead with more clarity, and focus our knowledge and power on getting our team where we need to go. Our "herd" will benefit from always knowing who is leading who and where they are going, so they can focus on doing their best work.     

 

Horse wisdom holds many gifts for us, especially as we lead others. Every day I thank Echo for helping me to unwrap and enjoy the “present.”