Throughout my career I have read A LOT of leadership books. In reading each book I have tried to take away the one or two things that I felt I could apply to make me better as a leader.
It has been a tough road as I have read the books, incorporated the concepts and realized that there isn’t necessarily a correlation to becoming a better leader and one’s ability to rise to “leadership positions” on an organizational chart.
The big “aha” moment for me a few years ago, was when a group of us attended a leadership workshop based on the “Leadership Challenge” by Kouzes and Posner. It really brought home to me, that I need to be the leader I would want to follow regardless if it equates to me ever becoming CEO of a company.
I have also found over the past few years that…
· slowing down
· eating right
· getting enough sleep
…are key components to my own personal leadership success. I have always fancied myself a change agent, but the question was, could I put my money where my mouth was, and not only apply my change agent philosophy to my work life but could I do it in my personal life.
That put me into full project management mode…
· break down the problem into bite size pieces
· set a reasonable goal (just lose a pound a week)
· make the changes necessary to maintain the changes beyond it being just a goal but a true life change.
What I found, in losing 50 pounds in 52 weeks back in 2009/10…
….was that I could combine my quest for good health and fitness with my need to over think things and clarify my leadership thoughts. As I ran my five miles every week on the treadmill, I found my mind wandering to my most significant moments of the week, and trying to make sense of what I was reading in the leadership books….how I could apply it to my own day to day leadership.
The missing ingredient was that my thoughts would come and go on the treadmill without a way to document them or get feedback on them.
I had been running and maintaining my weight loss for about a year and a half as well as taking time to write down my thoughts sporadically after each run but found I lacked the inspiration or structure to make it a part of my fabric.
Part of my success in the weight loss was that I would weigh in each Wednesday and post my results on Facebook for all my friends to see. I called it “Weigh in Wednesday (WiW)”. I found that knowing that I had to tell others the results each week – really helped keep me stay honest to the commitment I had made.
So how could I apply that sense of accountability and visibility to my leadership thoughts as well as maintain my workout regime?
The answer came to me one day on the treadmill and it was a bold, risky thought. What if I could find an “accountability buddy” to share my deep thoughts from the gym with… someone who wouldn’t judge me, who would be open to the wild & wacky over thinking I do and would give me feedback to help make the content more meaningful? I can’t explain why, but I found a mentor who was the SVP of Sales at the time and thought he could be the person that could not only handle what would come at him each week, but that we would both benefit from this leadership dialogue and journey.
To his credit, he did not disappoint and agreed to take on this weekly process of reading (and responding) to the “deep thoughts from the gym”. Somewhere along the way, we came to the conclusion that he did his best thinking on his patio with a cigar in his hand so we tagged his responses and offerings “Perspective from the Patio”. I don’t think he truly realized what he was getting himself into when he said it would be ok for me to share my writings on a weekly basis – but I believe this interaction made us both better leaders!
This process of running and writing back and forth lasted 3 years and resulted in
– 150 articles
– 754 pages
– 660 miles on the treadmill (equivalent of Phoenix to Salt Lake City)
– Roughly 396,000 calories burned (or the equivalent of 1,118 Hamburgers)
Many times, I have tried to make sense of what was so special about this process…why it just worked. So I did some internet research on the correlation between exercise and the effect on your brain. One of the articles on the Live Strong web site said:
”Exercise isn’t just good for your body, it’s also good for your brain. In recent years, studies have shown that exercise produces significant changes in your brain chemistry, leading to benefits such as an improved mood, decreased instances of mood disorders such as anxiety and depression and better coping mechanisms in times of elevated stress levels.”
I can attest to the fact that this process had an impact on me. It not only improved my overall well-being it also improved my approach to things.
So…To Sum it all Up…
I am not saying that everyone has to run 5 miles each Saturday…but I am suggesting that you find YOUR time…YOUR outlet…it makes a difference. Among a lot of other things….here are a few observations from the running and the writing that I did…
- While I was in the zone I was in the best shape of my life and it was easier to maintain that I could have imagined it would be
- I was surprised that I had something to write about when I got home from the gym every week. I don’t consider my life to be that exciting but I found some learning…some story each time that I am grateful that I captured (BTW – the majority of my LinkedIn posts have a basis from one of the articles from that time frame)
- I continue to be fascinated by the link between exercise and the ability to let your mind wander, explore and resolve conflicts. No matter how many times I tried to purposefully write the story of the week – my sub-conscience decided after about mile 3. Maybe it was a survival mechanism as my heart beat out of my chest and the body begged for mercy!
- I am grateful for how the process helped me to clarify my thoughts on leadership, who I am, who I want to be as a person and as a leader. Part of this isn’t just knowing who you are but being able to articulate it to others in a way that makes a difference to your team and to your organization.
Good, bad or ugly….we have to process it …figure out who we are…who we want to be…how it contributes to us living a wholehearted life!
Call to action for YOU: Find your combination of exercise, reflection and capturing YOUR learnings for posterity. It isn’t about how I did it…it’s about motivating YOU to find a way that works for YOU! I can’t wait to hear what you come up with….START TODAY!
Leadership Questions of the Week for YOU:
- What benefits have YOU found in your leadership journey from slowing down, eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep? If you are not doing it today, what is stopping you from doing it?
- How important is it to translate the commitment, dedication and process from our work change programs to our own personal change programs? (we say we don’t have time in our personal lives but we do…we just have to prioritize it…and surprisingly it will make our work life easier)
- Have you ever reached out for an “accountability” buddy to help you stay on track to your change and improvement plans? (almost like having a standing project update meeting)
- Is it important to have metrics and regular checkpoints on progress? What metrics, cadence and reporting have you used that have worked consistently for your personal or professional change programs?
- Have you found a connection between exercise and “aha” moments that you think you should capture or write down? How many times have you regretted not writing it down?
Thanks for reading and remember…..YOU make a difference!
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