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It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

I know that the phrase, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, is a tired old cliche… but it just seemed to be appropriate for this moment. 

And I can speak with some authority on the matter, at least, because I ran a few marathons back in the good old days: I’m talking about the days when only runners ran marathons, and climbing Mt Everest was only for climbers, not entrepreneurs who could afford to pay to be carried up to the summit!

With the sustained, relentless pressure of performing as a leader in today’s business world, combined with the expectation that you’ll also perform in every other area of your life, it’s incredibly easy to burn out.

That’s why it’s so important to have long-term strategies that make your life sustainable. Strategies that, even when you hit the peaks of pressure that ebb and flow, you know how to manage your way through it.

During my corporate career, I worked out how to manage my time and energy, without having to sacrifice my performance, and without having to become one-dimensional by ignoring other facets of my life.

The answer to avoiding burnout, like most problems we face in business, is better leadership. There are a lot of things you can’t control, but improving your leadership capability is completely within your control. 

Becoming a better leader pays you back in so many ways, reducing your own load, while getting the most from the resources available to you: 

  • Individuals and teams improve their performance 
  • You make better decisions that don’t need to be revisited
  • Accountability for results is clearer, and can be evaluated easily
  • You can put stronger boundaries in place to preserve other areas of your life 
  • Your people will be able to access you more easily for support
  • Your ability to execution on anything is greatly enhanced 

The two core leadership capabilities that come into play here are:

  1. Your ability to focus on value; and
  2. Your ability to work at the right level.

Your ability to focus on value controls the volume of work that enters your pipeline. If you have a profound understanding of value, and you can rank all of the potential projects and initiatives on the basis of the value they will create, then you’ll be able to make smart choices about what to do, and what not to do.

You’ll only do the things that give you the biggest bang for buck. And when this happens, you’ll realize that the Pareto principle is alive and well. 80% of all the value your team generates is encapsulated in the top 20% of all the work they could potentially deliver.

Working on the highest-value things is the start of your process. And remember, value comes in many different forms–it’s not limited solely to financial value. But to protect value, and not take on unnecessary work, you have to learn how to say “no”: a critical leadership skill!

The second core leadership capability is working at the right level… so many leaders dip down into their peoples work, because often it’s just easier to just roll up your sleeves and do it yourself, than it is to lead someone else to do their job to the right standard.

If you stay in your lane, and set the expectation for your people to do their jobs properly, there’ll be times when they don’t deliver. But in the long run, you’ll reap the value:

  • Your own leadership skill increases, making it easier to get the best from your people;
  • Team capability increases, as your people learn, grow, and get better;
  • Individuals have greater autonomy and control over their environment;
  • Decisions are made closer to the action, not pushed up the line to where people feel comfortable.

You enter a virtuous circle.

How does this help your ability to handle sustained pressure for long periods? You only work on the things you should be working on… you don’t overfunction for the people around you… and you build your team’s capability to multiply and enhance output.

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