As a manager and athlete there is no shortage of advice out there.
Magazines, books, podcasts, TED Talks, websites, seminars, consultants; counsel comes fast and furious. Our challenge is to keep the white noise in perspective and remember our personal style defines us.
A few months after my first triathlon I returned to Harriman State Park for another crack at the course. I had my new bike, wetsuit, triathlon shorts and shirt, the works. At the race a guy was selling cushioned socks. I picked up a pair and felt softness like never before. I knew these were the most comfortable socks in the world, so I bought them and put them away for another day.
Never try anything new on race day…never!
A few days later I took my new socks for a test drive and my feet were in heaven. My blind allegiance to the ‘never new on race day’ advice read in one of my biblical magazines postponed what would have been a joyful race day run.
‘Nothing new on race day’ remains great advice. I ran alongside a poor soul during the 2011 Ironman Lake Placid who had taken salt pills for the first time that morning because someone told her she needed the sodium replenishment. She was hoping to qualify for the World Triathlon Championship in Kona but was reduced to a slow walk/jog because the pills made her sick. Her dreams dashed, she ate from a bag of potato chips.
First time salt pills on race day = bad idea.
At best, this is advice and must be treated as such. When we blindly internalize suggestions and guidelines we become defined by something other than our instincts. This is never good. The most amazing managers and leaders regularly look at the status quo and ask why, bring common sense and personality to the table, break rules, and push boundaries.
When was the last time you heard someone say, “They followed the rules to greatness”?
Our relationship with personnel policies conjures similar questions. Too often I’ve seen people’s common sense and intuition take a back seat to a written policy. Policies are like any other guidelines or advice; some are necessary and helpful while others are outdated and divisive. You must engage your judgment – who you are at your core – to know the difference. When you reach a conclusion that things must change, as a leader and advocate for your team you must speak up and act.
- Do your policies support or thwart your people?
- Are vacations regularly denied?
- Is there a general feeling of haves and have nots?
- Are there policies that when brought up cause managers to groan, i.e. dress code and cell phone guidelines?
If so, instead of living with the mediocrity, put your stamp on some overdue change.
While you’re at it, conduct a judgment audit on yourself. For one week write down moments when your actions or those around you clash with your instincts. Review your list and ask yourself why. Are your actions – athletic and professional – rooted in your own mind and heart, or someone else’s?
You can learn from, collaborate with, and teach others, but at the end of the day you own your greatness.