Riding the Corporate Rocking Horse

Riding the Corporate Rocking Horse 150 150 Jason Lauritsen
Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress. 
– Alfred A. Montapert, American Author
Over the past eight months, I’ve been working through the transformation from corporate executive to bootstrapping entrepreneur.  Thankfully, I’d had at least some short experience earlier in my career in owning my own business, so I knew a little about what to expect.  Regardless of that, it’s been a major transition.  
As I’ve been asked to describe this experience to people, the one comment that I find myself making a lot is this: 

“Every action I take and every moment of time I spend has a specific purpose, and it feels really good.”  

The thing about this comment as I’ve thought about it more is that I’m speaking about my current experience in context of my corporate experience over the previous nine years.  And, when you read between the lines, what I am saying, at least indirectly, is that within the confines of a corporate job, there’s a lot of “work” done that feels like it’s without purpose.

In the past 8 months, I haven’t:

  • Gone to meeting with no apparent agenda with people who don’t want to be there
  • Shot off a series of emails or made any phone calls to cover my ass 
  • Spend hours creating reports that no one looks at or uses in any way
  • Created a presentation to justify an obviously needed expense because it doesn’t fit in an outdated budget framework created months ago when circumstances where different
  • Looked at a policy (or thought about if I’m allowed to do anything in particular)
This list is just a spattering of what we could call “riding the corporate rocking horse.”  It’s all about motion– feeling busy, playing at doing business.  Nothing on that list creates any value or drives any progress.  I knew that this stuff was part of corporate life, but I didn’t realize how much until I had to deprogram my day to day life through my transition to entrepreneur.  
When I wake up in the morning now, I ask the question, “what’s the most important thing I can do today to move the business forward?” and then I put energy towards making that happen.  The reason this works for me is that I am very clear on what my purpose is.  I have a plan.  I  know the plan.  
Having the perspective of my recent experience, I don’t think there has to be so much riding of the rocking horse in corporate.  Engagement surveys and management gurus have long told us that one of the most important things we can do is help employees understand how their job contributes to the organization’s success.  It’s become more apparent to me than ever before why this is so important.  But, I don’t think it’s enough to just know how your work contributes.  
In order to get employees off the corporate rocking horse, they need to know the plan (vision and strategy), understand the plan (why does this vision and strategy make sense), and have the ability to make decisions about their work towards making progress towards that plan.  They need to be able to say no to attending a meeting if it’s not clear how that meeting will promote progress.  They should be allowed to ask the question, “what’s the most important thing I can do today to help the business?” and then act on it. 
This would require leaders who can teach and coach and provide real feedback.  I think that if we all got off the corporate rocking horse and removed all of the “motion” from our organizations, the productivity and engagement we’d experience would be staggering.  Working with purpose feels good and it’s great for business.  
  • Vikrama Dhiman

    In all this talk of coaching, teaching, feedback, we miss one critical piece : shaking people up. Sometimes, in all this goodie goodie talk, people get an overtly "egoistic" "all is well" feeling not just about themselves but the overall business as well. It is important that negative aspects are discussed with frankness and without judgement. Tough leaders must be prepared to have tough conversations.

    For the first few years as a manager, I became a control freak. Then, a complete liberal. The results were complete disaster. I was focused more on my management rather my results. And only in my recent stint with Online courses on WizIQ, that I feel like the balance is coming.

    P.S. I have also become better at spotting talent and bringing it on board.

    P.S.2. Now need figure out how to now create the next generation leaders to take the team to next level.

  • Peter Borner


    Excellent point. I see this so often. In larger enterprises there are always a significant number of people that are either doing "busy work" or attending meetings for no real reason. Some of the firms we work with have daily project update meetings where the the project manager invites 20 or 30 people and drags the call out for hours on end. It always seems a complete waste of time to me.

    I agree that we need to be developing a new generation of leaders that can cut through this and start to move the needle.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.