It has been the perfect storm for me – being abnormally low on energy and physically tired, a busy coaching schedule, an even busier Vistage schedule, travel and a death in the family – all have conspired to keep me from my normal exercise program. I got back to running yesterday after not running for about three weeks. The weather was sunny and hot, 97 degrees, but worse, the humidity was very high. Here in Southern California, high humidity is unusual. My run was absolutely horrible. I was so noticeably out of shape that I felt embarrassed even though no one was around to see me struggling through the run.
Some of you will remember that it was only three short months ago on June 2nd that I ran my first marathon. I had trained hard for that event and was in good shape – for an old guy. While it wasn’t pretty, I did finish the 26.2 miles (yep, that’s me zooming across the finish line at what amounts to a fast walk.) It took me months of dedicated training to get in shape for the marathon. It took less than three weeks to lose all that training and to backslide to what became yesterday’s difficult four mile run. True, very hot and humid, but still . . .
I think the same thing happens in our businesses. We work hard on a significant change initiative. We seem to get the new policy or procedure running well and moving in the right direction. Then, one thing or another causes us to take our focus off the new marketing initiative, change process, branding effort, etc. And in no time flat, we find we are backsliding to our old habits.
I remember the times when my accountability partner and I would talk about the training in preparation for the race. We were focused on being ready for the event. We pushed each other. Then the big day came and went. After a couple of days rest, back to the easy running. There was no “initiative,” immediate goal or event to give me that extra push. I was running purely because I love to run and I know it’s good for me. Without that “extra incentive,” it didn’t take much to put me off my usual running schedule.
Perhaps the equivalent in our business world is hiring in the consultant (accountability partner) to help us through the difficult change initiative. I’ve served that purpose many times. It seems though, when I go back and check with the client, that the team backslides once the initial push is over and the consultant leaves. As leaders, I believe we have to consciously keep the vision of constant change and need for continuous improvement in front of our people. We have to watch for the signs of burnout or teams resting on their laurels. Building a culture of holding ourselves and others accountable for staying on mission is one of many responsibilities of a leader. And that is hard work; which is another reason to make sure we are creating leadership at every level of our organization.
I believe keeping things on mission is hard work for a small business. There are fewer people, fewer leaders and everyone is doing more than one job. Larger companies can afford to have one team resting while another picks up the baton of change and runs the next leg of the race. To effect that kind of teamwork in a smaller company requires that much more effort from all the people involved. So the questions are: Do you have a “training” plan? How will you keep the team on mission? Are you utilizing all the talent in your organization? Are you creating a Leader – Leader culture or one of few leaders having to make all decisions for the followers?