I try to be consistent in my efforts to become a strong runner. I’ve competed in several marathons, ultra-marathons and Ironman triathlon events but have never really considered myself a true “runner”. Maybe it’s because I have a brother who qualifies for Boston almost as easily as he ties up his Nike’s. Or maybe it’s because I have never felt that “runner high” that avid runners claim to crave and enjoy.
This fall, after a poor showing at a race, I re-motivated myself to become a “runner”. To do this, I sought out more difficult courses for training runs. One of these courses includes a hill by my house about a half mile long and about 20% in grade (a highway onramp is about 7%). It’s painful running this hill but this hill has taught me.
The hill teaches me Focus: A runner must focus consistently on technique, a critical component to a successful run. Focus must be maintained for more than a few seconds or one hill, it must last across miles, and in some cases for hours. Many don’t think about running as something to be learned. But when technique gets sloppy efficiency diminishes, injuries occur, and overall performance suffers.
The hill teaches me Control: A runner must use control. When running this hill, charging too hard on the ascent will result in a shameful walk (or crawl) up the remainder of the hill and possibly throughout the remainder of your run. On the descent, allowing yourself to go too fast can injure your knees, hammer your quads and sap your energy.
These principles are easily applied to leadership.
Focus: Like proper technique for the runner, leaders have to be intensely focused on what they are doing and how it is impacting their overall objectives. This focus must be consistent. When leaders get sloppy meetings become diluted, objectives become murky and new projects creep in and threaten the strategic direction of the team/organization. This focus can’t only be for a meeting or for a day, it has to be constantly, maintained in good times and bad.
Control: Great leaders exercise control of their emotions, passions and expertise. When these things are not controlled, leaders can damage relationships, miss opportunities for innovation, praise, correction or communication around critical areas. A controlled leader is well positioned to help others accomplish their goals and reach new heights.
As a bit of a bonus, and perhaps most importantly, this hill teaches and reminds me about responsibility. There is no excuse for the way I run a hill other than me. Sure there are rainy days and wind and cold but anyone who runs the hill will have to face those. They aren’t inherent problems only for me. Some may tackle the hill almost effortlessly while others of us slog slowly up the hill mired by self doubt and aching muscles.
But in the throes of suffering, the hill asks the most pointed questions that only I can answer. Did I get enough sleep? Am I eating/fueling right? Should I have eaten that 2nd (and 3rd) donut? Have I stayed consistent enough to perform at a high level? Have I prepared enough, educated enough and sacrificed enough to tackle this hill and others? Are my physical abilities lacking or is it my mental toughness that fails me when things get hard?
Only you will know the answers; but the hills can teach you.
Greer Method Complete Coaching provides one on one coaching for executives and business owners. Through expert coaches, habit locking technology, and proven processes we help leaders create, manage, and sustain personal and professional performance.
Jared J. Greer is the founder of Greer Method Complete Coaching. He is an executive coach, 6-time Ironman finisher, marathoner, ultra-marathoner, husband, and father of four.