Because our two youngest boys run high school track I’ve attended a lot of track meets over the past few years. And because I’ve never ran track, I’m learning a few things about proper running.
One of the things I’ve learned is that to run fast you need to lean forward, or as I’ve heard coaches yell to their runners – “lean in”. And from a layperson’s perspective I take this to mean your head and chest should to be stretching forward towards the finish line.
I’ve also learned that a runner needs to be forward leaning right out of the blocks, from their first step right through to their final step at the finish line. Each step, each movement of their entire body, needs to be aligned forward if a runner’s to run their best race.
Now it’s important to understand that this is not a reckless way to run but it’s the posture that puts a runner in the best form to reduced injuries and increase speed. In other words, leaning forward is the best short-term and long-term posture for winning.
Unfortunately the concept of forward leaning has begun to have a bad reputation in military, political, business and other leadership circles because it’s been misapplied. Too often the concept’s used as a guise for aggressive and, and often, reckless strategy.
So let me suggest that truly forward leaning (not reckless) leadership and organizations have these three characteristics in common with runners. They:
- are focused on the finish line
- have all their resources such as money and time, and most importantly, their people (energy, hearts and minds), aligned to race their best time
- are disciplined, intentional and thoughtful in both their planning and in executing their plans
In other words forward leaning leaders and organizations are running their races in a way that achieves victory.43.928283-85.286682
The Hard Work of Momentum Change
At the end of 2012 I had a physical exam. And as I expected everything turned out fine except my cholesterol levels. I anticipated that my LDL cholesterol might be high because of our family history and because, over the last few years, I’ve committed the two sins of managing cholesterol – eating whatever I wanted to and not exercising consistently (thus my weight was also at an all-time high).
So when the doctor suggested I go on medication I told him I wanted six months to straighten out my eating and exercise regimen to see if I could correct my high cholesterol naturally. He agreed, so I have until June to see if I can improve my cholesterol levels.
Now, even though I won’t find out until June if my cholesterol has lowered, I have had other, more visible, gains. For example I’ve lost 18 pounds and reduced my mile splits (running is my exercise of choice) by minute and a half. As a matter of fact it seems that the more weight I lose the faster I run and the faster I run the more weight I loose.
You see my physical health is now experiencing positive momentum. But before I started to focus on my health, its momentum, I have to admit, was steadily, but discernibly, going in the wrong direction.
This got me to thinking; my health momentum parallel’s an organization’s momentum. And just like my health, organizations are either going forward or going backward, they’re never standing still.
And like taking charge of my health, a leader’s job is to build the organization’s forward momentum.
But as I’ve learned over the last few months, reversing downward momentum is hard work. It requires goals, investment, focus, discipline, constant and timely feedback on performance, and the tenacity to stay with it until the momentum’s reversed and beginning to go in the right direction.
So what’s the momentum of your health, your life, the organization or team you lead? If it’s headed in the wrong direction maybe it’s time to do what’s required to get that positive momentum going again before you have to take the hard medicine.43.928283-85.286682
Running for Clarity
For years I’ve been a runner. I run because it’s a simple, inexpensive way to stay in shape. Running is also an excuse to be outside, regardless of the weather. As such I’ve never owned a treadmill because, when I’ve had the opportunity to use one, I’ve found them to be well… torturous.
I have also discovered another significant benefit of running – when I run I find better solutions to pending problems, gain new perspectives on relationships, have better focus on a message that needs delivering or pray with more clarity.
The only reasonable explanation I’ve heard for this phenomenon is that running, with its physical rhythm of moving and breathing, especially outside, clears the mind of the clutter that can so easily cloud our thinking.
When I’ve had periods when I’m not running or not running much, I see a decrease in the quality of my thinking, especially around complex issues. On the other hand, as I look back on the last 30 years of my life, I can almost connect every good decision I’ve made, or idea I’ve had, to a run I’ve taken.
Now running isn’t for everyone. But doing something that includes the following three elements is a must if we’re to have any hope of experiencing clarity of thinking:
Rhythmic physical activity
That’s so simple to do it requires no thinking to do it
And keeps any potential distractions away
Such things as biking, walking, swimming or rocking in a chair (my 2nd favorite activity after running) can create the right combination of these elements as well.
So whatever the activity, making the effort to do it on a regular basis will de-clutter our minds and give us the clarity of thinking that’s necessary to deal with the complex world in which we live.43.928283-85.286682