Don’t look at the tree!


A very wise paragliding instructor once gave me some very sound advice.  He quite simply said ‘Don’t look at the tree’.  The tree in question is on the edge of the landing field right in the centre of Interlaken, Switzerland.  As tourists sit in the surrounding cafes and bars sipping tea or having a beer, soaking in the spectacular surrounding and views of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, paraglider pilots are trying to land in the field in front of them.  Nothing could be more embarrassing or dangerous than to crash into this tree, which is why you tend to look at it. 
Experience has now taught me that when you look at something as you are about to land, ‘it’ develops some sort of magnetic attraction which causes you to end up in it, on it, or through it.  This is not good if the ‘it’ in question is a bog, pond, hedge, field of wheat or a cow!  These are awkward but not usually life threatening. So don’t look at the tree makes a lot of sense.
When organisations set about their flight to improvement everyone has an overwhelming and natural tendency to start to compile a list of all those things that might go wrong.  The starting point is often to highlight all those ‘trees’ that you might crash into.  Trouble with ‘the board’, ‘the unions’, ‘planning’.  Where is the money coming from?  We won’t have enough time.  Then there is the biggest tree of all, a mighty oak with branches covering your landing zone … ‘they won’t like it’.  ‘They’ are anyone and everyone.
My paragliding instructor didn’t leave me with paranoia of hitting the tree, he is a brilliant instructor and gave an even better piece of advice which was ‘keep your eye on your virtual landing spot at all times’.  There isn’t a big red spot in the middle of the field to aim at so you have to choose a spot on the grass ‘your virtual landing spot’ and aim at that. 
When we start an improvement programme we need to keep our eye on what we want to achieve.  Always have the end goal in sight.  If you do that then there is every chance you will achieve what you want.  If you get distracted and start to look in the direction of your ‘tree’ then that is where your focus is and that’s where you’ll land.
Just to set the record straight I’ve never hit the tree in Interlaken and luckily the cow moved at the last minute but that was close!