It is easy to get wrapped up in our drive for success. “Focus is critical”, we are told. “Keep your eye on the ball,” “don’t let your guard down,” “keep moving the needle,” and a hundred other clichés push us forward.

As leaders, when we push forward, we sometimes push the resources that can help us achieve success off to the side without even knowing it.

My client stepped into the arena that day by most accounts already a successful dentist. She had a thriving practice and a team who were willing to show up in a horse arena on a chilly morning to support her. But she had told me privately that she always felt she could do more, do it better, do it faster, push harder. Her drive was the catalyst to her success — or so she thought.

In the arena I had organized several obstacles. Bailey, a sweet red-brown mare, stood at the ready to embody the dentist’s practice. I gave my client a simple instruction, “Your task is to move your practice — the horse — through the obstacles in any order. You may not use a rope, you may not touch the horse, and you may not bribe the horse with treats or feed. You may use anything in this arena to help you as long as you don’t violate these rules.” I did not point it out, but she had a multitude of objects to choose from, including her own team, as I never said THEY couldn’t touch the horse.

My dentist client began by trying to herd her “practice” through the obstacles using only her hands and voice. Bailey moved here and there, but not where my client wanted her to go. My client searched for something that might help her. As her team watched anxiously, she tried many things, finally choosing a 4-foot pole with a flag at one end. My client waved the flag end of the stick toward Bailey forcefully and Bailey responded by trotting off with her head up in the air. My client again approached her with the stick raised and waved it at her, commanding her to cross an obstacle. Bailey again moved quickly to the other side of the arena, snorting her disapproval. This repeated for quite a while. Success just outside the dentist’s reach meant a build-up of anxiety and restlessness in her body. The stress was beginning to show in all her actions, making her more demanding in her movements toward Bailey.

In frustration, my client finally dropped the stick. As it hit the ground, Bailey lifted her head again, but this time not with anxiety or resistance. The horse’s acknowledgement of the dentist was immediate, she did a quick, excited happy buck, and then immediately trotted right over to my client.

The realization was immediate to the dentist as the horse (her dental practice) lowered its head in approval of her realization. “I am trying to do this all by myself,” she said. “And it’s not working.”

At this moment, her team spoke up from the sidelines, “We could help,” said her front desk manager. “Yes,” agreed the hygienist.

The dentist looked at them with deep recognition. “I need your help,” she said. The entire team entered the arena and together, they were able to guide Bailey (the practice) through all the obstacles with ease.

Many times we can’t see the resources we have around us because we are too “in the weeds.” One of the great enlightenments of the work I get to do with horses and dentists is to watch the absolute relief that comes when a dentist realizes they are truly not alone in their efforts.

I invite you now to look around in your life…are there resources you are not employing that could help you be more successful? Is your leadership style hindering you?