I’ve been a leadership and business coach for over 20 years and a running coach for almost 10 years, and I’m just as passionate about physical fitness as I am about pushing yourself to new heights in your career. At first glance, the skills you’ll need when you lace up your jogging shoes might not seem like the same ones you’ll call on when you’re balanced in Louboutins in the boardroom, but I’m continually amazed how much they have in common. Succeeding as a runner and succeeding in business both require strength, grit, determination and, of course, balance!
Here’s a look at some of my favorite strategies I use as a running coach that I also use when coaching leaders. (And yes, they work just as well with jogging shoes as they do with high heels.)
Put on your shoes. Thinking about running will not make you run. Thinking about changing a career will not make it happen. Put on your shoes and get started. Identify the first action you need to take to get started to grow your career. Is it to have a talk with your manager? Or to update your LinkedIn profile? Whatever it is you need to do, get started with that first small step.
We know that people who block time on their calendar to run are far more likely to actually go for a run than those who just express an intention or desire. The same goes for the activities necessary to grow your career. If you block time on your calendar to work on the things you want most, you’ll be much more likely to make it happen. Whatever it is you need to do: research courses to build your skills, update your resume, or reach out to your network, it’s time to make time.
To become a better runner, you need to run. But to go out and run the same route, at the same pace, over and over again, is like going to work and doing the same things every day. To become a faster runner, and to be able to run longer, you need to balance and vary your activities. For example, you’ll need to stretch, do yoga, a barre class, or try weight lifting. The same is true for your career. Think about it: If you have 10 years of experience on your resume, do you want it to reflect that you’ve performed the same task everyday for a decade? Of course not. You need to gain a variety of skills, and your resume and LinkedIn profile need to reflect that. You’ll find a better balance and build different muscles the more variety you seek.
Set Goals And Measure Your Progress
Do you want to become a faster runner? Do you want to be able to run longer distances? Or do you simply want to be able to run regularly, without pain throughout your life? Similarly, do you simply want to receive a promotion, or do you have a long-term vision of and plan for your career? Either way, don’t underestimate the power of a strategic plan. Set your goals and define what activities are required to reach those goals. Those activities are the ones you should measure. For example, if you want to be able to run longer distances, you need to add mileage to your running routine. Measure each week how many miles you are running. If learning a new skill is what will help you reach that promotion, measure how many books, seminars, or other learning activities you must invest time in each month.
Run With Others
The best way to stay committed to any goal is to have an accountability partner or group — someone who will miss you and hold you accountable if you don’t show up to practice. The best way to improve your speed is to run with someone who is running just slightly faster, as it pushes you to run faster. Likewise, in your career, learn from others who are advancing their careers at the pace that you’d like to. What are they doing well? What did they do to get there? Connect with them, and learn from them. (And remember that this goes both ways, so consider what you can do to add value to your running partners and career partners!)
Warm Up Before The Race
A common mistake that many new runners make when running their first race is that they don’t warm up properly. Using the strategy, “I’m going to run 10k in a minute, so I should conserve all my energy for the race” is not helpful. Warming up helps you get ready to perform the best you can during the race. The same goes for your career. Take every opportunity you can find to “warm up” and try things out that may be helpful as you take the next steps in your career. Ask to join meetings as an observer, or help out on an extra assignment or two, so that once you get into that new role you are already “warmed up”.
See Hills As A Positive Thing
Many runners dread taking hills, but we should love them! The effort required to climb a hill makes us stronger. It builds muscles faster than when we’re running on a flat landscape. The same goes for our career struggles and hardships. In the midst of hardship, it’s hard to see the benefits, but our struggles are often our greatest learning opportunities. When struggling in your career, reflect on what you are learning and how you can use the experience now and for future challenges.
This might seem counterintuitive, but great runners listen to their bodies and give themselves time to rest and rejuvenate. The same goes for a successful career. In order to produce great results, you need to have the ability to take breaks and hit “reset.” There are many examples of people who successfully took their career to another level after taking a break. Take the chance to pause and reflect on what truly matters. See things from a new perspective. And then come back in full force, ready to win that race!
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