When I was a young girl, I dreamed of being an Olympic figure ice skater. It was my passion and my dream, until I was distracted by other things. When I wasn’t practicing, I was on the ice in my imagination. I spent hours on the ice practicing. I wanted to learn all that I could about figure skating and listened intently to my coach’s instructions. The first big hurdle for me as a young skater, or anyone who aspires to figure skate is the mastery of two basic skating moves: “stopping” and “falling.” If you fail to master these two, you’ll never get the opportunity to try more advanced moves like the toe loop, the flip, the Lutz, the Axel and the Salchow.
What audiences really like, and why people tune in to watch during the Winter Olympic Games, are the spinning variations and combinations. People wonder how someone can spin multiple times rapidly and then recover to proceed to the next move in the program.
Why don’t ice skaters get dizzy? The simple answer is that they do, but they get used to it and the levels of dizziness changes as they advance. There’s a process they use to advance to the next point in the program despite the disorienting effects of dizziness. They find their focal point. Failing to find the focal point always necessitates the immediate use of the two fundaments moves in this order, first “stopping”—and if that fails, “falling” – but there’s a way to avoid needing to use either one of those moves.
Here’s how skaters master finding their focal point: they begin and end with a focal point out ahead of them in mind. The skater knows where she is going before the move begins, and she knows where she is going to be after the move is over. “Spotting” is the process of having your eyes on a fixed point while spinning to reduce the dizziness during and after the spin. Notice, the next time you are watching figure skaters, that the skater maintains eye contact with some point in the distance. When the spinning move is complete, you’ll notice that the direction of the skater’s gaze during the spin is the direction where she will skate to next. A focal point on which to focus is absolutely necessary to maintain balance and prevent a disastrous fall for the skater.
What is true about figure skating, I learned to be true about an organization’s culture. How you determine and communicate that focal point and purpose determines how persuasively team members and those who buy your product or service will buy-in to your vision. Transformational leaders must know not only where to go and what to focus on, but where others in the organization are looking and why they are looking in that direction. Unlike figure skaters, businesses prefer a straight path and avoid “spinning” or abrupt changes in direction. Yet, adversity and obstacles happen constantly in business, which can cause the organization to “spin.” It’s a good analogy because the organization encountering a tail spin creates its own type “dizziness”. If everyone continually has their eye on the focal point, the disorienting effects of unexpected events are minimized.
In a transformational culture, leaders must have their “finger on the pulse” of the organization at all times. The leadership must know how to achieve alignment that is not coerced, but motivated and inspired, in order to freely make the shift to a common focal point for the organization. It’s how to reduce the spins and increase the wins.