There’s a story about a man who bought a horse from a rancher. He asked if he could have a test ride and the rancher agreed. “To make the horse walk you just say ”Giddap!”; to make it run though you must say “Geronimo” and to make it stop you need to say “Seventh Cavalry” instructed the rancher.
The man mounted the horse and said “Giddap” and the horse dutifully and sedately moved forward. Gaining confidence he instructed the horse “Geronimo” the horse began to run and each time he repeated “Geronimo” it went faster and faster. The man was very pleased until he realized that they were approaching a precipice at breakneck speed, and he couldn’t recall the instruction to stop the horse. At the very last moment he remembered “Seventh Cavalry!” and the horse came to a shuddering halt right on the very brink of the chasm.
The man, mightily relieved, mopped his brow and said “Geronimo – that was close!”
As organizational leaders we do this same thing to our people. When things are going well we push for even greater outcomes. When things start to go sideways we bring everyone to a traumatic halt. As soon as matters are under control we forget and we begin to stimulate action once more – without making the essential changes to our original heading. Whenever there’s a ‘prediction error’ – that is, things do not turn out exactly the way we expected – we need to pause, review, learn and adjust our perspectives and perceptions. And we need to do this together! If we don’t, we accumulate errors in our expectations and practices; this is frustrating at best and fatal at worst. There’s no great cost or inconvenience in learning from continuous review; the real costs come when we don’t take the time to learn.
If you think education is expensive, consider the costs of ignorance!
About the author: David Huggins MASc, FIoD, CMS is an experienced behavioral scientist and executive coach who’s dedicated to bringing out the best in individuals and groups. His insights and direct contributions have taken business leaders to elevated dimensions in performance. He can be reached through his websites at www.andros.org and www.polarisprogram.com