Development: A Runner’s Perspectives

Every year I set a running goal. In 2013 it was to run 2500 km. Tick. In 2014 I reduced it to 1500 km but elected to focus on getting faster.

In the last few months of 2014, to be honest, things hadn’t gone as planned so I was a little off track. There were a number of very good reasons (excuses) I could give for this but in the face of impending failure in December, I returned to my goals and figured out how much I needed to run each week as the end of the calendar year was fast approaching.

The word “Eek!” came to mind and probably explains why I was up at 5 a.m. the next day ready to recapture my past running glories.

As I started to run, I was reminded of how much I love those early morning runs by the beach and the personal sense of achievement that comes with hitting those goals. I was smiling but kicking myself for my running hiatus. Having been so disciplined for so long, what went wrong?

At the end of 2014 we ran a series of client sessions on accelerating development in the workplace. While the setting and context for this was very different, the discussion prompted me to reflect on my own situation and the things that helped and hindered my ability to achieve my personal running goal. In turn, those insights enabled me to draw some parallels between the factors that drive development and achievement of goals in the workplace.

Focus drives focus

"5 lessons from a runner that drive development in the workplace"

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As much as we might cringe at the idea of a plan, there is no question that focus and measurement drive us towards our goals and achievements. In running, my goals and measurement are housed and delivered through an app called RunKeeper. I set that annual goal on January 1st and I track it through the whole year, watching my progress and changing my performance as I go. Without this direction it becomes too easy to lose focus and get distracted by other seemingly important priorities.

Plans are important. Our Global Leadership Forecast found that more than half of leaders surveyed don’t have an up-to-date development plan. Furthermore, it found that leaders who do have a plan in place are far more likely to be engaged and committed to their organisation.

Who owns the goal?

To ensure I reached my goal by the end of December, I worked out that I needed to find about 25 hours to dedicate to running. No biggie. But why am I going to make time for those 25 hours of running to happen? Because it’s my goal. I set it, I own it.

Too often when setting goals we rely on others to determine what is important and what is achievable. As a result, we often lose interest before we have even started.

Our Global Leadership Forecast also found that having clearly defined competencies required for success in key leadership positions had one of the strongest impacts on effective development, leadership strength, and financial performance. That’s the ‘’what’’ (tied to the business), but in development—the goal is the “how” (turning it into leadership behaviour) and that’s what leaders own.

Confront who you are

Inevitably, I will bring some things that enable me to reach my development goal and some things that might get in the way. Some of these might be personal characteristics and traits while others might be skills or abilities. Whatever they are, I need to understand them, leverage the things that enable me to be successful, and manage or work on the things that could get in the way. In the case of running, I am using my current ability (you may have guessed I run often) and that feeling when you first hit the pavement to fuel my passion to get back into the game. My challenge is to work on my mindset—to remove the excuses. I love my early runs. Maybe taking my swimmers and finishing it with an ocean swim will help change that mindset. Focusing on both will help me achieve that goal.

In a 2014 DDI study of more than 5000 assessment participants, 90 percent found the process valuable for their development and learnt new things about themselves based on the assessment. The study found that the opportunity to confront who you are builds a positive energy and inspires us to really review our own capability and drive individual development and growth.

Don’t go it alone

Lucky for me, I have a coach for the next month. I’ve set my target speed so my app “coach” lets me know when I am above my target and when I am slipping. Furthermore, I am using my connections on RunKeeper to fuel my focus—quite simply I don’t want them to see I have failed!

Whatever the circumstances, there will always be others around to provide support, coaching, motivation, inspiration, and accountability. There is no need to go it alone. As you ”confront who you are” don’t forget to ask the question, “what help do I need?”

For organisations, not only does this mean your leaders won’t feel as though they are out on a lonely, scary limb, it leads to better retention. Another finding from the Global Leadership Forecast indicated that when the manager is effective at developing leaders, those leaders are more likely to want to stay with the organisation.

Passion and purpose

Ok, so I’ve worked out the kilometres I need to do and I’ve worked out how much time I need to spend running, but how am I going to keep momentum on this? Because it’s important to me. It’s important for me as a person to set goals and achieve them, and it’s important to my health and well-being—so I’m going to do it.

If you can’t find some sense of purpose or passion in what you are doing or the goals you have set, sticking with them will always be difficult. When the behaviours, skills, personality, and competencies you are held accountable for are linked to the business, then you will understand how your development will support and grow it. This link can be a pretty powerful motivator and engager of your personal, measurable impact.

Feeling passionate about your own development yet? I hope so. I hope my renewed enthusiasm for my own development is proof that a development plan can be incredibly engaging and motivating. I know I can achieve that last 250 km, too. I found my passion, I made a plan, and I started to take action!

So, are you wondering if I actually did it? You bet I did! On December 31st as I was punching out my last 35 km, it was hard yet satisfying, and the whole time I was thinking I could never have accomplished this without having a focused plan. I also realised it was never about the number of kilometres I ran; it was about setting a goal, achieving it, and challenging myself. And probably most importantly—by putting in extra effort I now know I have the capability to push myself and get there. I can’t feel my legs, but I can do it! And yes, that beer on New Year’s Eve was even sweeter!

Check out our Global Leadership Forecast for more great insights into what leaders value and how HR’s role is changing.

Samantha York is a marketing consultant at DDI Australia.

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