Mar
07
 

Running is like leading – 5 key steps towards winning the race

Running is like leading – 5 key steps towards winning the race

I went for a run this morning. It was tough. I’m not sure why. I haven’t been running all that often – I never actually run all that often – but I have been running. But today my three miles were challenging.

As I kept my legs moving, I reflected back to when I first started running. Or started running this time. I had jogged at times for exercise, mostly in college, and then determined that I hated it. It hurt and I hurt while doing it. And then my daughter became a varsity runner for her high school, and I decided that I wanted to be able to run with her, so I determined to try again. And I did. I started running and it was hard. But I didn’t hate it and I was able to run with her (albeit much slower than her). So I kept going and it became somewhat of a skill. Or at least an exercise choice.

As I remembered my beginnings of running well into my 40s, I was hit with the similarities of when I first had to manage people. And I thought of my clients, and their challenges with managing people. They seem unrelated, and yet both exercises (running and managing) require, at first:

  • muscles that we may not have used before and that may protest when we first start using them;
  • skills we don’t have, and may not even know we don’t have; and
  • a willingness to be bad at something (and sometimes look stupid) as we run and manage with “bad form” – until we learn something new.

With these similarities in mind, as I tried hard to keep my mind off the toughness of my run, I realized that there are simple steps and mental shifts that helped me move through the challenge of first running, that can help my clients move through the challenges they face.

  • Go slow at first – It’s okay, and even expected (although not always expressed) that we don’t necessarily know what we’re doing when we first start out. It’s okay to go a little slow, take it easy at times, and break up your runs with a brief walk (or the parts of your management job that most challenge you with the aspects that are easier for you to excel at.
  • Ask for guidance – I asked my daughter how to hold my arms, how to place my feet on the ground, where to look, how to deal with shin splints and tired muscles. A leadership strength is being willing to admit what you don’t know and being open to asking for, and following, advice to improve.
  • Don’t give up – It’s that simple. Don’t give up. Keep trying and trying to improve. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Good things are worth working for. There’s a reason there are clichés written to keep us in the game. Stay in the game.
  • Pace yourself – Pace yourself both in not pushing too hard so that you don’t run out of steam, and pace yourself by finding someone stronger and more experienced than you to run with (and mentor you as a manager and leader). When my daughter runs with me, she may slow down, but I run farther and faster and stronger than I ever do alone. There must be other managers or senior leaders around you who can cheer you on and challenge you forward.
  • Notice your wins – Each run may not be my strongest, but I can notice each little improvement. Similarly, each management task may not be the smoothest move, but when we call out small wins, things we’re getting better at, and accomplishments along the way (or find someone like a colleague or coach to call them out for us), we build our muscles and our determination.

I finished my run today – not my strongest but still done. And I enjoyed that wonderful feeling of accomplishment (being done is still my favorite part), and the reflection on what kept me going in the first place, that can also keep me going in the hard times each time I hit the road.

How have you faced challenges – particularly the challenges of leading as a new leader?
Please leave a comment to share.

For support and guidance as you “run your race,” contact Lisa at lkohn@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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What People Are Saying

stephan   |   09 March 2013
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Reply

Lisa,

What a fantastic analogy for leadership. Great post, thanks for sharing

Lisa Kohn   |   09 March 2013
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Reply

Thanks Stephan. I think there are tons of analogies out there, waiting for us to find them!