As an avid trail runner, I’ve noticed that running often prepares me for the demands of the office. Of course the opposite could just as easily be said; the demands of the office often necessitate a run. And whether I’m playing the role of sports athlete or corporate athlete, performance management matters.
Some parallels to explain what I mean.
Showing up is the minimum threshold.
Trail: Truthfully, I don’t always feel like going for a run. But I make a deal with myself on those days. I’ll dress-out, head to the trails, and then just see what happens. And more often than not, I’ll fall into a steady peaceful run. The last time it happened, I ran my own personal half-marathon – just me, alone, in the woods, 13.1 miles. That’s a pretty good showing for not even wanting to go in the first place.
Office: Showing up to work in most cases is not only not optional, it’s only half the equation. Half of leadership is just showing up; the other half is what you do when you get there. The real measure of success comes in the form of a question: "what did I do today to move the needle…?” Performance is the expectation. Every time. Every day.
Be careful where you place your “spend”.
Trail: There is a finite amount of energy that I can expend on any given run. Given the temperature, the terrain and the estimated miles to be run, it’s imperative that I make smart decisions with my resources. Uphill with a headwind is grueling; a flat stretch with a tailwind is a gift. Knowing when to pull back (save reserves) and when to push ahead (spend a bit) is smart performance management.
Office: There is a limited amount of personal energy that I can expend on any given “issue”. Access to organizational resources is limited as well. Sometimes I have to let the trivial things go (even when they drive me nuts) in order to conserve the necessary energy to battle the bigger, more worthy fights. Knowing when to yield and when to rally is smart performance management.
You’ll make better decisions on the straightaways.
Trail: I don’t always know how many miles I’m going to run when I head out. But I do know that I never make a decision about mileage when I’m running up or down a hill. Never. A decision made under either of those conditions is skewed. The best time to make a decision is on the straightaways – when my breathing is even, my body is less fatigued, and my mind is clear.
Office: Peaks and valleys are a part of business. From either one of those viewpoints, I can misread the environment, and potentially make a knee-jerk decision. It’s only when I take into account the entire landscape that I’m able to make decisions that can traverse multiple terrains.
Sports metaphors abound when discussing performance management, and for good reason. There seems to be no end to the parallels describing what is revered and required to stay on top of your game. Case in point: Joe’s recent post, "Traction", looks at what it takes to win the Indianapolis 500. As it turns out, Indy drivers know a few things about performance management.
Success is the ultimate goal. Successful performance management is how I do it.
Originally published in Mason On Leadership, May, 2013
About the Author
Stacey Mason uses insight, perspective, and humor to move people toward greater self-awareness and thought leadership. Her platform Improve Thru Improv® merges business acumen with improvisational techniques to “play with how you think!” Raving fans of her work refer to her as “thought provoking, intensely self-aware, a wanna-be extrovert, and freakin’ hilarious!”