When I’m not consulting with our clients, you can probably find me out swimming, cycling, and running. I am an amateur triathlete and every year I join thousands of other weekend warriors to get some exercise and seek the thrill of competition – in my spare time. While I was on a long run one day, my mind began to wander a bit and I found myself thinking about the similarities between being coached to prepare for a triathlon and the guidance and strategies that we develop for our clients.
A personal example is probably best. A few years ago, I decided I wanted to have a podium finish in my age group at a local triathlon and knew I had to drop several minutes off of each leg of the race to do it. That was my vision, but having limited experience, I did not know how I would get there. So, I joined a team, hired a coach, and dedicated more hours to training than I ever had. At the beginning of the season, I reviewed my goals with the coach and he put together a personalized training plan based on his experience, but also made adjustments with my input.
At a high level, the plan laid out the months before my “A” race in phases to build a mileage base and iterate through periods of higher intensity and rest. Then, for each week and day, he created specific targets I would have to meet in order to achieve my goals. Early in the season, I was encouraged to join a training camp to dedicate four days to training that would create a strong foundation to build upon and uncover weaknesses that I would address during the full training program. To keep things interesting, my coach slipped in surprise sets, led difficult group rides, created friendly competition between teammates, and found new locations to train. He even provided a thorough, written strategy before race day that walked me through how I should approach each leg, which hills required patience, and where I needed to push myself extra hard.
When my colleagues and I are working, we get to be the coach, working for and alongside our clients. Businesses often have a clear vision of what they want, but have trouble figuring out how to make it happen. So, once we understand the goals and where the major challenges are, we work with clients to build a strategy, the “training plan,” combining our ideas and agreeing on a realistic plan. We lay out the timeline, what the activities are, and who will help along the way. We like to test new ideas to ease into big changes. We facilitate proof of concept activities that act as our “training camp.” The results determine what works and what needs to change so a strategy can be successfully implemented. It is up to each employee to improve business performance, so we make sure everyone knows the role they must play – when they will require patience and when to push extra hard.
In business, as in triathlon, an achievable strategy will prepare you to earn that spot on the podium. It may take a few tries and the competition will be tough, but there is no better feeling than accomplishing your goal – trust me!
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