Who are you?

running-alone

You are what you do when no one’s watching.

On the Ironman Lake Placid run course, there are ample opportunities to slow down, walk, rest, even drop out of the race. At mile 13.1 there’s a fork in the road. To the right, the finish line and Mike Reilly’s comforting voice audibly excited as he gloriously anoints faster finishers ‘Ironmen.’ To the left, a second, painful 13.1-mile loop.

In each of my seven trips to Lake Placid, this moment falsely presents itself as a choice. My inner voice always suggests ending the insanity. It tells me my family and friends would understand, that this was crazy to try again anyway. Stop, turn right, give it up…

Of course stopping is never a real consideration. I always have and always will turn left at the halfway point and finish the race.

Then there are those moments alone in the trenches on Riverside Drive fighting the temptation to back off, slow down, take it easy; moments that define your Ironman journey.

In the office there are as many opportunities to cut corners and take the easy path.

Perhaps you’ve heard trouble brewing but decided to let it go. That phone call you don’t want to return, that paperwork you half-read then signed, the article you didn’t read, the performance appraisal you threw together at the last minute, the snap decision made in the midst of a crises.

Self awareness is key to overcoming this disease. Once we admit we’re corner cutters we can focus on a concerted effort to do the distances and tasks necessary to fulfill our destinies. Strengthening our ability to be honest and encouraging to ourselves is worth the effort.

Knowing yourself is key to success, allowing you to be your biggest critic and fan.

Opportunities to train look like this:

  • The next time you exercise, commit to surprising yourself with something extra, whether it be during or after your workout. Push yourself harder, go further, dig deeper than ever before. Make the commitment, then follow through.
  • At work, commit to resolving the next issue that arises by the end of the day. Let it happen randomly, consider it, reconsider it, then make a decision you’re ready to defend.
  • Sign up for a race that will push you harder than ever before. Put it on your calendar, then raise the bar on your training even if it’s just a little. Set yourself up for success.
  • The next time you come across a snap decision opportunity, put the brakes on. Tell those involved you really would like to sleep on it. Quickly write down your gut decision, then consider the alternatives later on. Give it the night, then see if you’re decision was altered in any way over time.
  • Recognize those moments when you’re faced with a choice that shouldn’t be a choice. This is when your self awareness needs to kick in big time.

When you begin doing the little things right, when no one’s watching, the larger issues will fall in line.

Remember, whether training, racing, or leading, someone is always watching…you.

Don’t stop

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I set out Sunday, July 28th on my seventh Ironman Lake Placid journey, to challenges known and unknown.

One goal was to find inspiration for a blog post, and in perfect form Ironman came through for me.

I was on mile eight of the marathon when I looked up and saw one of many inspirational posters. These stirring signs dot the landscape, evidence that loved ones were here the day before ensuring we would have reason to smile another mile.

This poster in particular had not survived a passing rain shower well, its upper corners folded toward the middle. Being a classic rock aficionado, I knew all too well the simple words placed on the placard. However, the sagging corners blocked several letters, sending an adjusted message:

on

to

Believin’

I vowed not to disappoint Journey, but was struck by exactly what I was believin’ in. It brought up two questions: How does what we do as athletes and managers reflect what we believe in and how do we communicate these beliefs to others?

I believe in myself, that I can overcome anything. I believe there is truth in endurance, that these journeys to push the boundaries of my physical, mental, and spiritual limits enrich and teach me, making me a wiser, better person.

I’ve spread this message in many ways throughout my athletic career, and am proud to say in doing so have shared and learned so much.

I believe in inspiring people to follow their path, whatever their direction may be. I believe in the power of listening and guiding people along their way as opposed to forcing and pushing.

This has always been evidenced in my approach to colleagues. If someone truly does not want to be on the team, it’s my job to make their transition easy. If someone wants to move up the ranks, ditto.

I communicate this by action and in my management training sessions. It’s a style that brings the best out in people, including myself.

On occasion when my belief system and expected actions collide, it’s time to pause and take a look at what the problem may be. Does the system need to be tweaked, or have I failed to see another angle?

Take a moment to write down your core beliefs. Then, take a look at your athletic and professional life and see how everything intersects, parallels, or diverges. Are you moving in the right direction?

Ultimately, we’re more fulfilled and happy when we live one life and don’t need to be the personal us, professional us, social us, parental us, etc.

Thanks for the bent sign, Ironman – I’m on to believin’!

Free yourself, success will follow

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I believe in a holistic approach to athleticism and management. For me, the power of the mind-body connection has been as undeniable as the effectiveness of a diverse training regimen.

Too often athletes and managers embrace a known comfort zone. They run and ride the same route, hold the same meetings with agendas updated from last week, go through the same gym routine with the same weights, handle the same disciplinary issues again and again until a policy is developed to formalize their now mundane response.

If this is you, you’re losing fitness, effectiveness, and your mind is becoming stale.

Now wait George, I work hard and my mind’s engaged. That workout I do after work keeps me in shape and helps me unwind. I’m on the go all day long and hardly have enough hours to get everything done.

I’d be more impressed if I didn’t have higher expectations for you. Others can be mediocre or good, you can be great.

Never mistake activity for productivity.

So, here’s the secret; it’s the difference between a To Do list and measuring your progress. A To Do list is a treadmill that keeps turning…forever; items on the list, off the list, on, off…Measurements graph our progress on our journey from good to great, motivating us to keep going, change our course, and respond to challenges.

A few great measures are:

  • Use your favorite ride or run course as a test once a month. Perhaps you want to see if you can go faster within the same distance, or maybe you want to go a mile more. Document your progress so you can see how you’re doing and make plans to keep improving.
  • Invest in an employee satisfaction survey, or enter your workplace in a Best Places to Work competition, find the sample questionnaire and make sure you’re hitting all the bases. Measuring employee satisfaction makes it a business priority.
  • Explore new approaches to your athletic and professional life. Take risks and get outside of your comfort zone by venturing into the weight room, volunteering to chair a task force, or hiring a coach to take a look at your form. Commit to one outside-the-box effort a month, then make it a way of life.

Our minds and bodies adapt to routines, which is why we must change things up regularly. Remember, stale is stale, whether it feels like hard work or not. You’re capable of so much more.

The Start

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I’ve never known anyone who exclusively races.

It’s been my pleasure to cross paths with so many wonderful people along my athletic path. We share a love of our sport and desire to do it whenever possible. Whether we’re following a training plan or letting the wind dictate the day’s direction, our active moments are cherished. 

I race to train, embracing the lifestyle, not merely a series of competitions. 

What’s the parallel in management?

Ask yourself…

  • When and how do I practice management?
  • What form does my management ‘training’ take?
  • When I do train, is it one-way communication, with me the one receiving?
  • How does my management style reflect my lifestyle?

The basic principle of improvement by practice fueled by passion applies to athlete and manager alike. 

In order to be the best manager you must practice, out loud, with others, frequently.

Athletes and managers who train with stronger colleagues progress quicker. When we surround ourselves with people whose strengths are complementary to ours, we raise the bar for everyone. 

Let’s get started:

  1. Identify a team of managers who are willing to train together. Find them at work, online, or in your circle of friends. Reach out and make this happen – people will appreciate it.
  2. Set a meeting time and discuss your idea. Get your training partners onboard.
  3. Bring to the table your own strengths and challenges. Self-reflection is key to success. Only when we know ourselves can we make a real contribution.
  4. Set personal and group goals. There should be time set aside for discussion, role playing, webinars, book discussion, etc. The possibilities are endless, which is why you need a plan for yourself and the group.

Begin at the beginning, get the group together, and you’re on your way.