This summer my family was inspired by a friend who was competing in the Olympics in London. We started running a few miles every day, and by the time my vacation was over, I was hooked. This running thing was kind of fun.
I’m far from a natural athlete, but how hard can it be to run? Even after a couple weeks, I was still feeling aches and pains and gasping for air by the end of my run. If I was going to keep up this running thing, I was going to have to find a way to make it easier.
So with summer vacation behind me, I decided to join the Running Room (RR). I’d heard of them before, and I’d read tons on the Internet. If you want to learn how to be a runner, then the RR is the place to go.
Ann Menardi is the Manager of the RR near my home. She was so encouraging and supportive that I felt I could overcome any challenge that might present itself. I got the right shoes, the best socks, the prettiest jacket and the high-efficiency waist-pack. I was ready to go. I enrolled in the Learn to Run program and once a week I would go down to the RR store and learn another aspect of the ‘right’ way to turn into a runner.
As I became more educated on something I thought I already knew how to do, I began to think about the number of times that leaders make assumptions about what people do and don’t already know. How many times do we promote someone who is technically good at their job into a leadership position. We assume that because they can do the job well, they can effectively supervise others who do that job. But the next thing we know, the leader is being called into the HR office because their people are complaining about them, the employee survey scores are low and the turnover of their top performers is high.
Maybe more of us should take the strategy that the RR takes. Sure, we all know how to run, but do we know the BEST way to run. Do we know how to warm up properly so we don’t injure ourselves on our run? Do we have enough nutritional knowledge to contribute to our success as a runner, long before our feet even hit the pavement? When those cramps hit in the middle of our run, do we know the quickest ways to get those muscles to let go so we can finish the run?
Sure, we all know how to supervise, manage and lead people, but do we know the BEST way to do it all. We’ve all been followers, but that doesn’t mean we know how to be leaders.
If you lead people, have you taken lessons in the basics of leading and managing people. Have you learned the foundational concepts of verbal and written communication? Do you know what the two key questions are when it comes to managing performance? Have you learned the personality preferences that drive an individual’s motivation? If you haven’t taken some good quality coaching in the basics, then you’re rusty, and it’s highly likely that you’re not as effective as you think you are.
I’m not sure that I’ll be a great runner at any point in my life, but by learning about the basics I was able to do a 5km run in a very respectable time. Of course, if you ask my son, who ran with me, if my time was respectable, I’m not sure he would agree. But I started, I finished, and I felt great that I had a good run. Can each of us say the same thing about our leadership race?