…From Running Triathlons

Several weeks ago I ran a Sprint Triathlon in our hometown, something I’ve done for the last four years. However, what made this year special is I ran it with my youngest son who was running the race for the first time. Since it was his first race and our plan was to run it together, our motto for the race became “Start Steady, Finish Strong”. Undoubtedly, most of you reading this have heard of the famous Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii. The Sprint Triathlon is the shortest of the four official distances but still involves the same three events – swimming, biking and running in that order. So as I reflected on the race, it occurred to me the parallels between training and running triathlons with the leadership coaching I do as part of my practice.

When I first began competing in triathlons, I viewed them as separate events in which to train. I was a competitive swimmer and runner in both high school and college so it was natural for me to train in each event as I had before. This is no different when we find ourselves approaching new professional and personal challenges by relying on the skills and knowledge we developed from our past. Even when we set goals for ourselves to improve in an individual endeavor, it is still the past that governs our execution unless we consciously make a change. And as I realized my training regimen wasn’t enough, I needed to make a change – in my attitude regarding the race itself!

I had to change my mental approach to the race to ultimately achieve my goal. I actually made two changes. First, I changed my mental approach to the race from three individual events back-to-back-to-back to one race with five aligned competitive pieces. I say five because the transitions between events are really mini-events in and by themselves as the clock continues to tick during the swim-bike and bike-run transitions. Secondly, I realized I could not do this solely based on my own experience. I reached out to accomplished tri-athletes and read blogs from others who were also trying to optimize their triathlon experience. These two changes helped me align my actions to accomplish my overall goal.

So what does this have to do with leadership? How much are we relying on the experiences of the past to deal with today’s challenges? Are we going about change alone or are we reaching out to others to help us develop new leadership attitudes? Is our business a series of disparate, misaligned goals preventing us from achieving our ultimate objective? These are questions all leaders should regularly ask themselves.

I recently read a quote from Fred Lebow, founder of the New York City Marathon, a race I’ve run twice who said, “In running, it doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack or last. You can say ‘I have finished’. There is a lot of satisfaction in that”. As my son and I completed the triathlon, I had no idea where in the pack we finished but I do know we Started Steady and we definitely Finished Strong!

How are your goals aligned for a strong finish?

Lead Well!

Rick Lochner