This has been a mantra I’ve lived by since the days of running marathons in the early 90s, to helping get my kids ready for Army and Navy boot camps. As each was getting mentally and physically ready to attend their respective basic training, I would repeat the phrase over and over especially on our training runs. Now it holds a place on my triathlon jersey as a constant motivator to keep improving as a triathlete. It is in this context the mantra was recently put to the test and got me thinking about its relevance in a broader leadership setting.
- Start Steady ~ In the local sprint triathlon earlier this month, I was even more committed to a steady start in the swim as I have ever been. It was not about talent, rather finding a pace that was in keeping with this being a sprint, but not burn myself out as I had done in previous years. The same can be said of leaders who are navigating the waters of change and helping their teams achieve new levels of performance. Creating a pace of change that keeps the team in the forefront of their industry and/or markets yet not so fast as to hinder their ability to quickly adjust course based on evolving market conditions. It relies on the attitude that mentally calibrates the right level of steadiness allowing the team to sustain success. Result: Personal best triathlon swim time!
- It's a Process ~ Over the years, the transitions from the swim to the bike and from the bike to the run have taken on greater importance. These are akin to the continuous process improvement mindset effective leaders embrace every day. A mindset that embraces Dr. Deming’s Plan-Do-Act-Check Cycle applies to triathlon transitions as well! Always looking for ways to reduce the time it takes to move to the next event. Result: Personal best in both transitions!
- Handle the Unexpected ~ Riding the momentum of a good swim and transition to the bike, the first lap of the two-lap bike course was also in personal best territory. At mile 9, the unthinkable happened. Trying to avoid another rider on a turn, I hit the curb and crashed off the bike! In shock and needing minor medical attention from the EMTs, my first thought was my race is over. Leaders always face the prospect of hitting unexpected obstacles. The key is how the leader, and their team, handle the obstacles. Do they abandon the plan in the face of obstacles or do they adjust their plan to overcome the obstacles and meet their original goal? Result: finished the bike portion and continued racing!
- Finish Strong ~ The decision to keep racing was largely driven by an intrinsic need to finish strong! I have admittedly struggled in past races completing the run without walking during portions of the 5k course. Now, sore and bearing a wicked case of road rash, this would test my mental ability and desire to finish strong. Effective leaders know this concept all too well. They are driven by clearly defined goals such that they know exactly what a strong finish and success looks like! It is clear in their mind and is clearly communicated to their teams as well. Result: Third best personal time in a triathlon 5k run!
While still recovering from the bike crash as I write this, I cannot help but see the correlation to effective leadership, especially the mental mindset required to be disciplined in the face of competition and setbacks. More importantly, the impact it has on those around us, whether they be fellow competitors, family and followers. The journey continues…!
How is your steady start as a leader helping your team finish strong?