5 for 5 blog – Marathons and Sprints

28 Nov


Marathons are long. Sprints are short.

The training is different. The mental prep is different. The exertion is different. The recovery is different.

Earlier in my career I used to work in a product development based organization. I always equated that to sprinting. We would focus on developing a new product. We would launch. And we would then pick up another product soon after, often in quick succession. There were very clear beginnings and endings and time to review how you could do your work better in the next project.

Today, my work is much more like a marathon. Every year is a marathon except instead of resting months between marathons, we begin again each year. We have to start fast at the beginning, stay strong throughout the year, and have enough stamina to finish the year well. Again in a service based organization, one marathon starts as soon as the previous one is done. In a physical marathon, normally runners are recommended to space out their entries to between 12-16 weeks apart to give the body full time to recover and to resume training.

In a service organization, there is no such break. Even more present in my mind is leading a team of “marathoners”. Even more difficult is if the previous race has been tougher than normal. How do you help keep “marathoners” motivated to “do it all again”:

Have a strong purpose

One of the most critical functions of the leaders is give people the WHY of their organization. People will continue to show up and run hard if they can see WHY their contribution is helping to make things better. Don’t let people’s work become routine. Connect their actions with a strong purpose and how they individually contribute to success.

Help with their development

No one wants to run the same time or distance without getting better. Connecting people with a strong purpose is critical, but helping them improve their skills and competencies that makes them even more effective is contributing to the WHY is equally important. This is a hard job as the leader, especially in large organizations, but at a minimum start with sharing what you are learning. Then listen carefully to what your team want o get better at. Then connect them with as many opportunities as possible.

Create breaks

We have written about this before, but model taking breaks (vacations, long weekends, etc.). Even though each year is a marathon doesn’t mean being constantly “on”. Don’t email on weekends and off hours. Actually take time off. Set the right expectations that enable your team to stay strong for the full race.

Run with them

Communicate regularly. Help ensure they are clear on priorities.. Avoid fire drills.  Recognize great work…..each of these let your team know you are in it with them. This more than “misery loves company”. This is truly about the fact that “together is better.”

Good luck. Run hard.

Here are this week’s 5 for 5 articles:

Why You Need to Embrace ‘The Suck’ – by Chris Dessi

Frog’s 5 Steps To Predicting The Future – by Mark Wilson

The Big Question: Are You Better Than Yesterday? – by Chad Fowler (via Tim Ferriss)

Four Times When Aiming For “Good Enough” Is A Great Productivity Strategy – by Kate Boogaard

United has created a new flying class that’s even worse than economy – by Leslie Josephs

All the best, kevin