Last year, I decided on a whim that I wanted to do a Half Ironman.
As I started to sketch out a plan, the enormity of the race started to sink in – a 1.2 mile swim, followed by a 56 mile bike, followed by a 13.1 run. I had a long way to go. I had never done a triathlon — not even a baby one. I had never swum a complete lap without stopping; my longest bike was 25 miles; and I hadn’t run in almost 2 years — and even then, my longest run had been 5 miles.
I reached out to Cris Howard, a college friend and accomplished triathlete who has finished 12 Ironman events and raced in the Ironman World Championship in Kona. Once I had her on the phone, I didn’t even know what to ask.
“You have to have a plan and then stick with it every day,” she said.
I was kind of disappointed. “Have a plan and stick to it” was in every training article and book ever published. There wasn’t anything insightful about it. Then she continued: “You will have great days and horrible days. There will be stretches where you will do everything you’re supposed to do and not see any results and not feel like you’re making any progress. Don’t quit. Don’t slack off. Keep grinding. It’s like you’re a sculptor working on a huge block of stone. You chisel and chisel, and little pieces fall off. Somedays you wonder if you’re making any progress; and then one day a huge chunk will fall off and you’ll have a breakthrough. You’ll see the results of all of your hard work. Celebrate it … and then keep chiseling — every day. Success is in the grind.”
Success is in the Grind became my mantra. I had it engraved in my Road ID bracelet and used it to remind myself of the necessity of commitment and consistency if I were going to reach my goal.
This is the exact same when it comes to leading your people. To unleash the full potential of your people, you need to have a plan and stick to it.
1. Have a People Strategy – a plan for getting the most out of your people. Having a plan seems basic and obvious – just like it did to me when Cris said it – but most leaders don’t have a plan for their people. They have a business plan, a financial plan, and maybe even a marketing plan, but not a people plan – which is crazy considering their success is totally and completely dependent on their people.
When it comes to completing an Ironman race, the feat is so challenging that most know they can’t wing it. Even elite triathletes have a training plan. When it comes to people, however, leaders often just wing it and expect to reach their goal. It is fascinating to think that the most successful endurance athletes who are only trying to improve the performance of one person – themselves – have a very specific, tailored plan for succeeding; yet most leaders who are trying to improve the performance of dozens or hundreds of people just wing it.
2. Stick to It. Developing a People Strategy is exciting, but it doesn’t do any good if you don’t act on it. As with training, to develop the full potential of your people, you have to do the work. You have to commit to the plan and consistently follow it. There will be distractions – client demands, a customer crisis, a merger/acquisition – but you have to stick to the plan and not let your people slide down your priority list. Like training, when it comes to your people, there is always enough time for them if you’re committed, and there’s always an excuse if you’re not. Leaders who are truly committed to their people and consistently prioritize their people are the ones who succeed – and whose businesses thrive.
Success is in the Grind.
If you want to learn about the most important aspects of a People Strategy and what success could look like, check out our 6 People Strategy Imperatives.
Before and after photos of “The Swimmer” used with permission of the artist, Stefanie Rocknak.