Compete Like an Ironman

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This weekend I was in southern Utah, visiting my daughter who is in school there. We arrived in town the same weekend as the Ironman 70.3 St George. The views these athletes enjoyed are spectacular, including Snow Canyon and the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. Apparently the bike and run courses are two of the most challenging, with high climbs and epic descends.

This grueling Ironman race is similar to the 100 days of hell that landscape contracting can feel like in the spring and summer. In both pursuits, the effort put fourth and the results achieved are extra ordinary.

The main difference is that the Ironman has all the endurance, pain and intensity wrapped up into a single day!

We can learn a lot from these champion athletes competing in the Ironman. Here are a few proven tips from these courageous men and women; following these will help ensure your success this year.

Mentally Fit: Being physically fit allows you to compete, but to win, you must be mentally fit, too.  It is not about working harder, but about the spirit with which you undertake the work.

It is your job as leader to keep your people’s spirits high on rainy days, on hot days, on long grueling weeks, and on jobs that take a long time.

As leader, you must also keep your own spirits up. I have always found that staying active and exercise keeps my spirits high and my emotions grounded. Protect your brain and body chemistry by staying active.

Positive in all things: It is common to have setbacks and downturns; athletes can fall behind early in one leg of the race, but still catch up by the end of the day to win. The key is to bring a positive view to every challenge; you can do this two ways:

  1. Turn negatives (“this is going to take twice as long as we budgeted”) into positive statements (“we will make this client proud and earn their referrals”)
  2. Turn negatives (“we are in trouble because we lost our best employee”) into questions (“how can we pull together as a team and keep production on track?”)

Break down your goals: Don’t get over whelmed by your goals (like completing a 70.3 mile course in the top 1% of the pack.) Break them into bite-sized chunks steps; for example: returning all clients calls within 4 hours, or getting out of the yard on time with all tools and materials needed, or getting a certain amount of work done before lunch.

If needed, break these chunks into even smaller steps. Simplifying your goals allows your team to develop repeatable best-practices around the basics. This strategy helps win Ironman races and will help you win as well.

Challenge your limits: Don’t accept past standards as your limit. The 4-minute mile was a long-standing mental limit until Roger Banister broke it. The same goes for your own limits. Use progressive raising of goals to set a new standard. For example, you may have needed 35 minutes to get out of the yard, ask your team to reduce that time to 25 minutes and empower them to figure out how; once achieved, set a new goal and aim for 15 minutes.

This is applicable to all facets of your business. These days it is called Continuous Improvement. For athletes it is recognized as pushing both physical and mental limits, in order to create new standards.

Failure is ok: Failure is a normal part of pushing oneself and trying new things. If you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying. Always take time to assess your (significant) failures, and then move on quickly. Don’t skip this learning step.

Jeffrey’s Breakthrough Idea: The leader has a similar role to the athletic coach. You are the thermometer; keep your spirits high, remain positive, and push the envelope of your team.

Take action: With your team, take time to assess how things are going on a regular basis. Constantly assess the wins, and the health of your team. Take time to review any meaningful failures, and keep the team focused on the next goal. Identify areas for continuous improvement, where new higher-performance standards can be established.

A few photos from our Utah trip:

With my daughter, opposite Kolob Canyon. Notice the snow still on the peaks.

Biking near Zion. A couple days before the Ironman.

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