I run road and trail races from time to time. When the starting gun goes off, I take off with everyone else, usually going faster than I normally run. I eventually settle in and find my pace. If I don’t, I hit a wall and have a very bad day. It doesn’t mean I’m not competing. I am. It means I have to find a way to sustainably compete in order to go the distance.
We have to do the same in business. We have to find a way to compete in a sustainable way. I have had coaching clients who get caught up in the pace of business being set by others – superiors or external market factors. With compensation and bonuses tied to hitting a number and growing revenue or market share, it’s no surprise that we get caught up in trying to get more and more done in the same number of hours and days we’ve always had.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t race. I’m saying we need to get smarter about how we race. I look at the decisions some leaders and teams are making and have to ask, “Is this sustainable?” “Can the amount of energy and time being expended last for more than a quarter or year?” My short answer is “no. It’s not sustainable.” Even if we hit the target we are aiming at, the experience of achieving the objective is dissatisfying at best, devastating to a team at worst. Relationships get damaged, health gets compromised, morale goes down and engagement and performance drops.
During a race, runners make decisions to expend more energy to overtake someone or get to a milestone in a particular time; but unless you’re an elite runner you don’t sprint for an entire marathon. It’s just not sustainable.
When the call comes from the top to double down and chase growth, the obvious solution (to put more time and energy into the same timeframe) isn’t always the optimal solution. Sometimes it may be; most times it’s not. The optimal solution is to remember how to run smart.
Don’t get caught into the frenzy that happens at the start of a race. Take a moment and attend to where you are now and what your experience is? What is the smartest way to respond to what you’ve been asked to do? What are the obvious gaps? Imagine resetting your strategy and execution game plan to move toward your objectives in a personally and professionally sustainable way. What adjustments might you make to how you spend your time and energy? How might you shift how you engage your team and leverage resources? Move forward with a plan that is sustainable for you and your team.
Don’t just run the race. Run YOUR race.